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Sad Beautiful Magic: “Red (Taylor Version)”

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In Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)”, old and new songs infuse a nine-year-old album with a new perspective on growing and breaking up.

Just in time for “the autumn leaves to fall like pieces in place,” Taylor Swift released the re-recording of her album “Red” on November 12. The 2012 album was her first all-pop album. Released following a difficult and high-profile breakup, “Red” is a story about love, losing it, and finding a new beginning after grief. This is one of Taylor Swift’s most personal works, focusing on real moments and the emotions she felt in them. Upon re-recording, Swift revisited this period of her life and released a more mature, self-aware, and quaint version of an album that was arguably already a masterpiece.

Swift’s intention behind re-recording her songs is to repossess the music she has already created. So many songs on “Red (Taylor’s Version) ”sound incredibly similar to their predecessors. Songs like “Red”, “I Almost Do” and “Begin Again” stick to the script without anything exceptionally new in their vocal performances, their instrumental accompaniments or even their tonal inflections. In other re-recordings, Swift’s voice has matured and she sings with a fuller perspective. In songs like “Sad Beautiful Tragic” and “The Moment I Knew”, Swift has the opportunity to look back on moments in her life with a better understanding of the subject than she wrote nine years ago. It’s one thing to sing about grief right now, and quite another to sing these songs after experiencing so much more loss, hardship, love and success.

Sometimes, however, naivety is necessary for authenticity. There are songs that capture Taylor Swift’s youth at a particular point in her career. A lower song than the original is “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. He seems forced and loses the vindictive power he had on his first outing. Some songs are not meant to be re-recorded because they lose their flair over the years. Likewise, the re-recorded “22” is off-putting. Swift is a 31-year-old woman who sings on her 22-year-old, and the real excitement she had at that age doesn’t translate, especially in the chorus. Not all songs were designed to transcend the era of the early 2010s, but the goal of this album isn’t just to top the charts with new hits. It’s a revisit of songs people once loved and a revival of the work that means a lot to Taylor Swift and her fans.

However, there is more to listen to than the original “Red” tracklist. In addition to re-recording their old catalog, Swift is also releasing songs “from the vault” that have been stored since the album was first written and recorded. It’s incomprehensible how she kept these songs to herself for almost a decade, but they were an exciting and surprising addition to the re-recording process. Of the nine songs in the vault, a few garnered more attention than others. “Message in a Bottle” is a pop-synth dance track that’s undeniably a fun song, but it’s too shallow for an album full of emotional moments. More appropriate is “Nothing New”, a sad, brooding piece starring Phoebe Bridgers. This song includes the expected lyricism of “Red”. The album seems encapsulated in a single line when the two artists sing, “How did I go from growing to breaking up?” Balancing with this powerfully poignant song, of course, there must also be a diss track – a slot filled with “I Bet You Think About Me.” Starring Chris Stapleton and a few harmonicas, this song is catchy, catchy, and has already been turned into a music video starring Miles Teller. It’s a fun track because of its hilarious legends, but also because it’s a throwback to the beloved pop-country sound of Swift’s previous albums.

Re-recordings provide the perfect opportunity to celebrate those sounds, memories and even specific songs once dearly loved. So, finally, the red cherry on the sundae, the album bookend: “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (10 Minute Version).” This rendition is an upgrade of a song already widely regarded as one of Swift’s best. The ten-minute version doubles the intensity and storytelling of a heartbreaking breakup. Every moment is traced, of the hope she felt at first: “And I was thinking of the descent, any moment now he’s going to say it’s love”, of the horrible, overwhelming pain of “You just remind me of breaking myself like a promise. It’s hard to be so vulnerable in front of anyone, but Swift’s openness to the world is what makes this album special: in the excruciating sadness of this album is finds a girl, and while she may find a fresh start, her fans get to share this journey.

It’s unfortunate the efforts Taylor Swift had to put into reclaiming ownership of her music, but it gave her a unique opportunity to ‘start over’. Swift and her fans now have the chance to revisit the old favorites they remember “All Too Well”, presented in a new light. It’s a fun time to be a Taylor Swift fan, and if you’re not, it’s never too late to start with the “Sad Beautiful Tragic” re-recording of “Red”.

Class: A-
Artist: Taylor Swift
Release date: November 12, 2021

Image courtesy of Bandwagon Asia.


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