Red (Taylor’s Version) breaks records, breathes new life into 2012 hit songs

Sage Dunlap

Grab an old scarf, a warm (or iced) maple latte and some earphones. Released on Nov. 12, Red (Taylor’s Version) transports fans back to simpler, heartbreak-ridden 2012.  Breaking the record for the most first-day Spotify streams for any female artist, Red (Taylor’s Version) debuted as an instant hit. 

Red (Taylor’s Version) offers a new, invigorating interpretation of Taylor Swift’s 2012 pop-country album. The 30-track collection, a combination of old and new songs, reminds listeners of Swift’s successful transition from country sweetheart to pop sensation, incorporating new synths and stinging never-before-heard lyrics.

Now almost a decade older, Swift brings an undeniable vocal maturity to her iconic angsty anthems, costing some tracks the raw anger from the original recordings. One example is “I Knew You Were Trouble,” which now lacks the grungy, intense vocals that captivated the average radio listener in 2012. 

Despite the minor disappointing tonal changes, the majority of rerecorded tracks dazzle with more lush, detailed production. The acoustic “Sad Beautiful Tragic” sounds almost like it was recorded in a vacant ballroom, amping up reverberation on Swift’s vocals to create a more hollow, atmospheric sound. Swift transforms the previously lackluster bonus track “Girl at Home,” from a cheesy country tune into a synth-heavy, retro dance track — a revitalization fans will appreciate.

The last 10 tracks of the collection present “The Vault” songs, all previously unreleased works. Some new tracks recall Swift’s country roots. The deliciously bitter “I Bet You Think About Me” hits with stinging one-liners and bluesy harmonica melodies. On “Forever Winter,” saxophones and strong string arrangements culminate in a refreshing approach to a classic country ballad. 

Just like the original 20 tracks on the album, songs “from the vault” can’t fit into a single genre. Marking a keystone collaboration in Swift’s discography, “Nothing New” featuring alternative singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers showcases some of the most vulnerable, chilling songwriting of the entire collection. The song’s slow, solemn tone provides contrast to the carefree mood of “22,” while describing the same period in Swift’s life. Vault tracks like this one add context to songs from the original Red and add a new dimension to otherwise well-known tracks.

After patiently enjoying two hours of emotive, fun and heartbreaking tracks, listeners receive the much-awaited “All Too Well (10 Minute Version),” an extension of a lyrical masterpiece deemed Swift’s best song by many critics. This version, a roller coaster of a song, chronicles her three-month relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal. The ballad stands as a testament to Swift’s attention to detail in songwriting and her willingness to bare her innermost feelings to audiences. To the credit of both Swift and her producers, “All Too Well 10 Minute Version” stays compelling throughout its duration, gleaming with multiple satisfying crescendos and ambient backing vocals.

Throughout Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift paints a colorful story of heartbreak, new love and the realizations of young adulthood. With innovative production choices and emotive vocals, the decorated singer-songwriter transforms personal experiences into a universally relatable soundtrack.

4.5 red scarves out of 5