Happy, free, confused and lonely: Taylor’s Version of “Red” paints a mosaic of heartbreak


Bella Nisperos

“Red (Taylor’s Version)” runs 140 minutes with 30 songs, 9 of which are “From The Vault.”

Bella Nisperos, Web Editor

After almost nine years since its original release, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” breaks hearts and elicits tears with it’s fuller production and added songs. 

On June 18, Taylor Swift announced she would be rerecording her 4th studio album, “Red”. After multiple attempts to regain her master recordings, Swift had already released her 2nd studio album, “Fearless”, in April, and planned to release the rest periodically. After teasing some lyrics and old photoshoots on her social media, fans and listeners alike patiently waited five months for the final recordings.

“Timing is everything,” is a phrase Swift is no stranger to. With the consistent fall imagery throughout the album, releasing the album when the weather is cold and the leaves are just falling matched the aesthetics of the album perfectly. 

The original deluxe recording of “Red” contained 22 songs. On Nov. 12, Swift released 30 tracks, including nine songs that were “From the Vault,” featuring artists such as Chris Stapleton and Phoebe Bridgers. Two included “Babe” and “Better Man,” both songs Swift wrote for Sugarland and Little Big Town respectively. Both sound so much more authentic with Swift on the vocals, especially since both fit like a glove inside the “Red” tracklist.

Two vault tracks that stood out to me were “Nothing New” and “I Bet You Think About Me”, both featuring artists other than Swift. “Nothing New” gave me a nice perspective of Swift’s life during the “Red” era, focusing on her feeling of the first time she was not a “shiny new artist,” as described in her interview with Seth Meyers. “I think it has a very female-artist perspective,” Swift says. The addition of Phoebe Bridgers, a younger artist, brought the message home. Additionally, the harmonies that she also brought to Lorde’s song “Solar Power” made an appearance, and added a new depth and musical glory to the melancholy song.

“I Bet You Think About Me” surprised me with the rebirth of her southern twang that I haven’t heard since her debut album. Stapleton’s raspy voice makes a perfect contrast with Swift’s creamy voice, allowing for more depth in the sound, a theme that carries throughout the entire album. 

Of course, the ten minute version of “All Too Well” was nothing short of perfect. “All Too Well” is part of my top 5 favorite songs, and a fan favorite as well. The new lyrics exemplified the existing ones– the war-like imagery with “Check the pulse and come back swearing it’s the same…After three months in the grave” only clarifies the existing lyric of “I know it’s long gone.” Other lyrics like “You kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath” and “Just between us, did the love affair maim you too?” make me wonder how those didn’t make the first cut. Needless to say, the impromptu endless stream of sadness and anger just make the song more specific and heartbreaking, ending the album with the very feelings it was trying to convey.

Taylor Swift

The songs that already existed on “Red” were only improved with her more mature voice, especially on ballads like “I Almost Do” and “Come Back…Be Here.” However, I miss her playful and youthful voice on the lighthearted songs such as “22.” The production varied in slight ways, giving it more depth by adding more bass and lower frequency drums. I can hear the difference especially on the regular version of “All Too Well”, with a more clear bass in the pre-chorus and chorus.  

In Swift’s post announcing “Red”, she wrote, “Musically and lyrically, Red resembled a heartbroken person… a fractured mosaic of feelings that somehow fit together in the end.” Overall, the vault songs gave me the missing puzzle pieces in her story, and the re-recorded songs only improved the clarity of her heartbreak.

 Before the re-recorded version, “Red” was not my favorite because I thought it wasn’t cohesive and told a confusing story. In my head, “Red” has two storylines: the “‘Holy Ground’/’Come Back… Be Here’/’Sad Beautiful Tragic’/’The Very First Night’” story of a right person at the wrong time, and the “‘All Too Well’/’I Almost Do’/’The Moment I Knew’” storyline of a miserable heartbreak and the reeling that comes with it. Now, the message Red is telling is as clear as the lyric in the opening song, State of Grace: “ Love is a ruthless game, unless you play it good and right.”