We’re Happy, Free, Confused, and Lonely at the Same Time: Taylor Swift Returns with Red (Taylor’s Version)


Olivia England, Featured Writer

More than 9 years ago, in 2012, singer and songwriter Taylor Swift released her 4th studio album, Red. This was Swift’s step away from country to a more pop-infused sound and featured hit songs “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” The album was praised by critics and fans alike for its songwriting and was also recognized at a multitude of award shows, with a nod from the Grammy’s for an Album of the Year nomination. It has also been featured on many end-of-decade lists.

Now she’s back for more. 

In June 2019, it was reported that Scooter Braun, a Hollywood manager, had bought the masters of Swift’s music without her knowledge. When offered co-ownership, she turned it down and announced that she would be re-recording her first 6 albums. She started with the re-release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), her sophomore album, in April 2021. She continues with Red

We start with “State of Grace,” a euphoric anthem, where powerful drums and dynamic guitar plucks accompany Swift’s lyrics of the highs and lows of new love. This re-recorded song sets the tone for the album; a much more clean and mature sound compared to the original. “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and “22” are fierce pop melodies that she’s become known for, while “I Almost Do” and “Begin Again” are reminiscent of her country roots. 

Red also showcases Taylor Swift’s songwriting artistry. The tracks “Treacherous” and “Holy Ground” portray intricate lyrics of heartbreak and recovery, something that is a major theme in Swift’s discography. “All Too Well” is another song that has been praised, with heartbreaking lyrics like “you call me up again just to break me like a promise” and “so casually cruel in the name of being honest.”

However, the highlights are the songs from the vaults. These tracks were written during the original creation of the album but were not released.  Red (Taylor’s Version) contains nine songs from the vault, with features including Phoebe Bridgers, Ed Sheeran, and Chris Stapleton. Two of the songs, “Babe” and “Better Man”, were originally given to other artists, but now sound more vibrant with the attachment of Taylor Swift’s voice. “Message In A Bottle” is very much a pop song and sounds like it belongs on her 80s synth-infused album 1989, while “I Bet You Think About Me” calls out an ex-lover dreading the release of any songs about them. “Nothing New” is backed by the lovely Phoebe Bridgers and reflects on the anxiety that is brought on by romantic relationships and the music industry. The last song is “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”, a much longer extension of the original, with lyrics that are even more gut-wrenching and sorrowful.

The release of the album was also accompanied by a short film directed by Swift. Starring actors Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf) and Sadie Sink (Stranger Things), All Too Well (The Short Film) is based on the fan-favorite song of the same title. It follows a toxic relationship plagued by gaslighting, age differences, and a “F*ck the Patriarchy” keychain. 

Through this process, Taylor Swift has managed to improve a classic. As she continues on this re-recording journey, fans new and old can marvel at Swift’s ability to capture an audience with her art.