While Taylor Swift is known for telling people to calm down, no amount of reprimanding could have prepared fans for the release of “Red (Taylor’s Version).” The 30-track album contains all 16 of the songs from her 2012 album “Red,” with additional tracks from “The Vault” — songs written but never released at the time of the 2012 release — a 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” and a music video to “I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault),” directed by Blake Lively.
The re-recorded songs in the album are sung with the same passion as their original release nearly a decade ago, resulting in nearly identical covers of the original album. Slower ballads like “I Almost Do” and “Sad Beautiful Tragic” reflect the same heartbroken adolescent navigating the intricacies of love. Much like their melancholy counterparts, upbeat staples of the “Red” era such as “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “22” contained the same peppy rhythm that originally compelled fans to turn the volume up.
Introducing nine tracks from “The Vault” expanded these messages of love, heartbreak, and fame first explored in the 2012 original. From the collection of unreleased material, songs feature prominent names such as Phoebe Bridgers and Ed Sheeran. A standout is “Nothing New.” Bridgers joins Swift, and they describe the predatory nature of the music industry through a constant revolving door of artists.
Amid the warnings of the price of fame come tracks with the tear-jerking lyrics Swift is known for. In the twenty-second track, “Better Man,” Swift doesn’t hold back. She describes a heartbreak where she was forced to leave her partner, while also finding herself wishing they could have changed to be better for her. Ultimately, she realizes that her decision to run from the relationship was her only option. She reflects upon the effort she put into a failed relationship and accepts that she did the best that she could: “And I gave to you my best and we both know you can’t say that.”
In addition to the new trove of tracks, a nearly 15-minute short film for “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien provides a glimpse into the treacherous relationship of her then partner Jake Gyllenhaal. Released on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m., the video, which was directed by Swift herself, amassed nearly 30 million views in the first three days. It presents a literary quote from Pablo Neruda, explanatory sequence subtitles, and a lengthy argument scene in the middle of the video.
Accompanying the cinematic presentation of “All Too Well,” Lively made her directorial debut with a video for “I Bet You Think About Me” released on Nov. 15 at 10 a.m. Featuring vocals from Chris Stapleton, the peppy track details one of Swift’s past relationships, one in which Swift’s ex looked down on her. Recalling the relationship, Swift questions whether or not her ex still thinks about her. The opening scene unexpectedly introduces a suited Miles Teller and quickly transitions to a lavish wedding ceremony where Swift skillfully wreaks havoc during the festivities.
Motive Behind the Music
Developing such a wide range of unreleased material, Swift’s re-release breathes new life into an album that had been fading into the abyss of 2000’s music history. After her highly publicized back catalog battle with entrepreneur Scooter Braun, who initially bought and resold the rights to Swift’s first six albums, Swift chose to re-record her past studio albums. This move not only solidified her as the icon we all know her to be but reclaiming ownership over her catalogs.
By challenging the power dynamic that typically hinders artists from controlling their discography, Swift received support from old and new fans alike.
When re-recording her previous works, Swift not only paved the way for other artists who might later want to re-record their songs, but she ignited the fire of nostalgia for older fans and created a way for new fans to immerse themselves in the “old Taylor Swift” fandom. Streaming on all platforms, on the very first night, the album broke the records for the most-streamed album in a day by a female and the most-streamed female in a day in Spotify history.
Swift’s intention to redistribute her albums carries particular significance for fans and Swift herself. Following the release of "Red (Taylor's Version)," Swift thanked fans for inspiring her to reclaim her art, telling her fans across all media platforms: "It never would have been possible to go back & remake my previous work, uncovering lost art & forgotten gems along the way if you hadn't emboldened me. Red is about to be mine again, but it has always been ours. Now we begin again.”
After unsuccessful attempts to reclaim her music, Swift rose above the challenges between her and recreating her early catalog. While taking back ownership of her works was her goal, a side effect of her actions has been the renewed interest in her work by fans of all ages. Unintentionally, Swift has revived a fanbase that has stood the test of time. The novelty of Swift’s influence despite the many challenges she’s faced stands as a triumph for proud fans.
Beyond the Music
Outperforming its original counterpart, the album’s refined production had fans coming together to celebrate in solidarity. Amherst students were no exception to this rule.
At 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12, over 20 students gathered in the Ford Hall event space to celebrate and listen to “Red (Taylor’s Version).” Over a month ago, Stephanie Zovich ’23 the coordinator of the event, booked the space to provide a setting where Swifties could congregate and listen to the album “on a big speaker.” When entering, attendees were greeted by the album blaring loudly and red production lights that floated around the room, creating both a fitting ambiance and a nod to the album’s namesake. Together, students sat at tables and discussed hidden easter eggs, dancing and singing to the album.
One such attendee was Jess Butler ’23. While she doesn’t identify as the biggest Swiftie, she said that “[she’s] always liked [Swift’s] songs. [She] just never knew all the songs, but it’s cool to listen to all the new ones.” Her perspective is shared by many who are entering the fandom during a period of musical nostalgia and progress. “I think I have a greater appreciation for Taylor,” Butler expressed.
More than ever before, Swift has inspired unity among fans and rediscovered her sense of purpose, the motivation driving her to create music. As expressed in response to fans collectively celebrating the rerelease, on Nov. 13, Swift commented on Instagram, “THIS is what it’s all about, why I live to make music. The hope that maybe people might want to come together and feel things.” And with that, the love for “Red” begins again.