Many musicians have that one album, their magnum opus, the one fans point to as the pinnacle of their career, the distillation of everything that makes the artist great. Few are lucky enough to have more than one such album, but, with various sonically and visually distinct eras, Taylor Swift managed to become one of those selected few. The 2020 release of folklore may have given Swift’s artistic credibility a massive boost in more ‘serious’ music circles, but for many fans, 2012’s Red is the album to go to. A sprawling, 22-track, 90-minute release in its original deluxe edition (only made longer with the release of this re-recorded version), Red was a messy mish-mash of genres, spanning the stadium-rock of State of Grace, the yeehaw country of Stay, Stay, Stay and the dupstep-infused drop of I Knew You Were Trouble, which many saw as Swift moving away from her more typically country roots in a bid for even bigger pop success. At the time, Red was criticised by many for its lack of sonic consistency, but the result was an album that never felt tired, each song demanding its moment in the spotlight.
2021 proved to be the year Swift made good on her promise to re-record her previous works in order to claim ownership of her work, kicking things off with Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in the spring. It was a nice little appetiser for sure, giving the public a chance to revisit some of her classic hits, such as Love Story and You Belong With Me while also providing a few new delicious morsels in the shape of the From The Vault tracks. However, the main course was yet to come. Not long after the dust had settled on Fearless (TV ), Swift announced the autumn release of Red (Taylor’s Version), re-igniting love of the original album around the world. Red was perhaps the moment that Swift completed her rise to stardom, so it carries a lot of emotional weight with fans – and with good reason. It’s a wonder that when November rolled around, Red (TV) not only managed to live up to its own hype, but actually recapture the public’s attention and become another peak in Swift’s career.
The success of Red (Taylor’s Version) was heavily driven by the love for All Too Well, a song never released as a single, but nevertheless became a widely adored song from her back catalogue during the original Red era. Making a comeback in the form of a ten-minute long epic, the new All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (Ten Minute Version) not only stands as possibly the song with the most parentheses in its title, but also a brilliantly crafted microcosm of the Red album itself. The new version restores the original verses and extra bridges that had been left on the cutting room floor in 2012, and takes on a wholly new tone in the process. While the original All Too Well was a bittersweet classic, the new version constantly changes and shifts, at once angry, sad, spiteful and innocent. Red has always been a messy album looking at the messy feelings in the wake of heartbreak, but never before has its essence felt as distilled as it does here.
There are very few misses in the new From The Vault tracks – a much more solid offering than what came packaged alongside Fearless (TV). Sure Ed Sheeran collab Run feels a little bit unnecessary, but it’s decent enough. Phoebe Bridgers gets a chance to shine alongside Swift on standout Nothing New, a song that deals with some pretty heavy topics in the industry of celebrity, while Forever Winter is a lovely way to tie things together and focus on a different type of love before the now 30-track album draws to a close.
Red (Taylor’s Version) is more than just a re-recording of the original album – it genuinely feels like the final realisation of a vision Swift has held tight for ten years, and it was immensely gratifying to see it strike such a chord with the general public upon release. Somehow, Red has not just become Swift’s magnum opus, but it’s done it twice!