REVIEW: Red (Taylor’s Version) – Revisiting a Brighter Version of the Pop Classic

Written by Jessie Mearns

After Fearless earlier this year, Taylor Swift has released the second instalment of her re-recording project with the record label Big Red Machine – a 30-track version packed full of ‘From the Vault’ tracks and B-sides.

In 2012, the release of Taylor Swift’s Red immediately placed her into the sphere of pop, a major transition from her country roots. Whilst maintaining the hopeless romanticism and formidable storytelling of her early albums, Swift projected herself to new audiences, with ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ becoming a standout in signifying Swift’s establishment within the pop genre. With it’s combination of EDM (electronic dance music) and pop, it still stands as a catchy and satisfying hit back at exes. It was the album that, by legend, allowed Swift to embrace the new field of synth-pop.

Now, in 2021, with the re-recorded version of Red, we are transported back to the euphoria of listening to the album for the first time in 2012, and, like Fearless, not a great deal has changed. Swift’s voice is much richer and has matured greatly since the original recording, adding a deeper and shinier dimension to ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ in particular. Red once again draws on Swift’s innocent tales of heartbreak, rebuking Jake Gyllenhaal with the rerecorded ten-minute version of ‘All Too Well’, all remaining to sketch her stories in a pop-country ballad crossover.

The challenge with Red (Taylor’s Version) was always going to lie with how to make an already legendary pop manifesto even better. Some may argue the sequencing could have been changed, with ‘Holy Ground’ making a better second spot track behind ‘State of Grace’ but that’s a small detail in an already perfect ensemble of an album. The overlooked tracks such as ‘I Almost Do’ or ‘Sad Beautiful Tragic’ may have proven to be career highlights for other artists, but here are severely overshadowed in a lineup of pop perfection.

Fans can awe at the miniscule differences between the original and the re-record, but Taylor’s ‘From the Vault’ tracks – that is, previously unreleased tracks from Red sessions – suggest how the album may have adopted a completely different tone. Here these include a saccharine collection that are now seen among the newly added tracks; the intimate ‘Run’ another collab with Ed Sheeran, the beach-pop ‘Babe’ and the house mafia ‘Message in a Bottle’.

Those songs that fans have heard before maintain their bittersweet relationship with time; how long it may take to get over someone, the clock placed on women’s diminishing beauty and the doomed attempt to change ex-boyfriends’ obsessions with status over love. ‘Better Man’ still emanates it`s Nashville ensemble: daring to prove that defying men’s expectations may only be achieved by leaving them. Whereas ‘Nothing New’ continues to depict the cruel diminishment of women beauty in the public eye, though thematically very similar to `The Lucky One` it still proves to demonstrate a softly strummed vignette of time passing and self-awareness passing with it. The re-recording changes the game by collaborating with upcoming star Phoebe Bridgers, a slightly younger songwriter, she adds a new dimension to the song defying the concept of replacement in the genre. This, too, may prove to be one of Swift’s most powerful duets, placing a down tone on her usual brightness.

You can read Ella Johnson’s extended review on All Too Well (10 Minute Version) here

Jessie is a second year Geography BA student at Leicester. She is interested in politics, economics and science fiction novels. Find her on instagram at: jessieamearns_

Feature Image: Beth Garrabrant

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University of Leicester's Student Magazine

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University of Leicester's Student Magazine

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