Taylor Swift opens up in “Red (Taylor’s Version)”


Taylor Swift releases a series of images from a photoshoot to promote the release of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” with a nostalgic vintage feel.

Avery Hamlin, Co-Editor-in-Chief

After a long album feud between Taylor Swift and her previous label, ‘Big Machine’ and its owner Scooter Braun, Swift is taking back her career. The feud began when Swift left the label. Her departure put Braun in full control of her first six album masters, prohibiting her to use old recordings of past performances for a Netflix documentary and using her old songs in the 2019 AMAs (American Music Awards) performance. Then, Braun sold her masters for a total of $300 million to an investment fund that has nothing to do with Swift or her team. Swift fought long and hard, rightfully so, for the ownership of her own master recordings but had no luck. In Oct. 2020, Swift announced that she would be re-recording her first six albums in whole, along with releasing songs ‘From the Vault’ (songs that hadn’t previously made the cut). 

Fans were beyond ecstatic to hear not only the new songs, but whether or not growth in her voice and songwriting would make for new spins on her old songs. Swift did not disappoint with the release of her first re-recording, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” which featured six songs ‘From the Vault.’

While “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” was the perfect beginning to her re-recording releases as it captures her youth and showcases her growth beautifully, fans were more excited for her pre-pop era release, “Red (Taylor’s Version).” The long awaited announcement was shown on June 18, 2020 and the actual album was released on Nov. 12, 2021. In her announcement, Swift promised 30 songs, including nine ‘From the Vault’ songs and a 10-minute version of her hit “All Too Well.” Even before the actual release, fans were looking for “easter eggs” (hidden hints) in every social media post and interview. Even the clothes or jewelry she wore seemed to lead to hints about the album. 

As a long-time T-Swift fan, it was pleasing to hear that most of the original “Red” songs were true to their authentic sound, because when fans listen to her older music, they’re looking for that nostalgic feel. I felt a little skeptical before listening to the re-recording because I already had such a high expectation from the songs already being classic hits. The only song that was slightly disappointing was “We Are Never Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version).” The backup vocals had a cheaper, more immature sound than they did before. Despite that one complaint, she overall stayed true to the roots of the song. 

Diving into and explaining “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” takes almost as much time as it did to write out the title of the song. A few hours prior to the release of the album, Swift released a short film to accompany the 10 minute version of the song, titled “All Too Well: The Short Film.” The film, written and directed by Swift, stars actors Sadie Sink playing “Her,” Dylan O’Brien playing “Him,” and Swift playing “Her, later.” Because the song is so long, the film could technically fall under the music video category, except that they filmed in a way that tells a very detailed story and goes beyond a typical music video. Halfway through the film, Sink and O’Brien improv a dramatic fight filled with desperate emotions as O’Brien completely disregards and “gaslights” Sinks feelings. A desperate, “sad, beautiful, tragic” love affair between the two play out for the length of the song and nearing the last few minutes, the film cuts to Swift standing in front of a crowd, reading her lyrics in novel form at a book release. 

The emotions that Swift conveys in this version of “All Too Well” doesn’t go without a backstory. Swift, as a song-writer and artist, is known for her exploitation of ex-boyfriends in her songs, even so that she sings, “I bet you think about me when you say ‘Oh my god, she’s insane, she wrote a song about me’” in “I Bet You Think About Me (feat. Chris Stapleton) (From The Vault).” While some songs don’t follow this stereotype, “All Too Well” (while never explicitly stated) is the call-out song of the century. The 10 Minute Version, according to Swift in an interview, are the original lyrics, sung and played spontaneously during a rehearsal soundcheck. Swift told her fans in an interview that she had been going through a very rough time (a breakup) and the ten minutes of lyrics spilled out of her exactly how they are in the song. When she originally released “Red,” a ten-minute song was unheard of and she hadn’t felt confident enough to release something so raw. Now, Swift is ready to reveal her true emotions of her breakup with actor Jake Gyllenhaal. She makes very specific connections to personal experiences involving the relationship including these powerful lyrics: “You said if we had been closer in age, maybe it would have been fine, and that made me want to die,” and “And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punchline goes ‘I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age’” These lyrics confirmed the Gyllenhaal breakup conspiracy for her fans. She even sings, “Just between us, did the love affair maim you all too well?,” suggesting a secret affair in the past relationship. What really ties the conspiracy together (as all ‘Swifties’ know, Swift loves a good easter egg and there are no coincidences) is the actor’s name playing “Him, later” in the short film, which happens to be Jake Lyon (his first name also being Gyllenhaal’s first name). 

This new version is the raw, real, angry and vicious feeling that is so personal to her; it is about a power imbalance in a relationship where, as a young woman with an older man, feels so manipulated that recollections of memories start to alter. For the last minute of the song Swift repeats, “I was there” and “you remember it all too well” almost like she is desperately holding onto and grasping the real version of her memories and not the ones that he makes her feel. The lyrics aren’t meant for her listeners but for her. 

Undoubtedly, the 10-minute “All Too Well” is the star of the show for the album (being the longest song to be No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and breaking a 50-year record), but what makes this album so unique is that every single song on the album is a masterpiece in its own right. Her duet with Phoebe Bridgers in “Nothing New (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” instantly became a massive hit. Bridger’s voice mixed with Swift’s song-writing style makes for the perfect duo that capsules feelings of nostalgia, youthfulness, simultaneously growing up and the insecurities that are tied with getting older. 

The awards and praise that Swift has gained from the re-release is not only impressive but transformative for the music industry. No one has ever done what Swift has decided to do. “Red (Taylor’s Version)” has broken her own record for the most simultaneous US Hot 100 entries by a female with 26 tracks from the album making the chart along with the album marked the most simultaneous US Hot 100 new entries (first in the history of the chart). In the first week of the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” it obtained 54.4 million US streams. After the amount of praise for that version of “All Too Well,” she additionally released the “Sad Girl Autumn Version,” recorded at Long Pond Studio. It’s safe to say that Swift is on fire as a female artist, single-handedly shaping and defining the music industry with her out-of-box ideas for song-writing, performance, political involvement, artist ownership and female empowerment.