“Red” (Taylor’s Version) review: a new look on an old classic

Get ready to have a healthy cry over the rawness and emotion in Swift’s newest release

Leila Hewitt, Arts & Culture Writer

“Red (Taylor’s Version)” is the official rerecording of Taylor Swift’s “Red” album that was released in the fall of 2012. Remarkably, this is not her first rerecorded album – and for the better. The master recordings of every song she released, prior to her 2019 album “Lover,” were sold to record executive Scooter Braun. Every one of those songs, only with Braun’s approval, could be licensed out to anyone who paid him for it. Her rerecorded albums are a powerful attempt to reclaim copyright over her music and the way it is played.

The album has been wildly successful, in part from a strong promotion that sparked gossip about Swift’s past lovers and relationships, all topics for the album. In its first five days after its release, the album spiked on the charts and surpassed half a million units, making it the second biggest opening for any album in 2021 (right after Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy”).

“Red” consists of thirty songs with a bonus version of “All Too Well” which is ten minutes long. Her most notable songs from the album are arguably “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “State of Grace.” These classic songs were highly anticipated by fans and did not disappoint. 

The original 2012 album is constructed of numerous ballads about the trauma of failed relationships and breakups, something many members of her fan base relish her for. The rawness of her heart in many of the songs, including a cover of Little Big Town’s hit (made famous by Pearl Jam) “Better Man,” speak to Swift’s musical ambidextrousness in successfully writing and singing songs across genres. Her pop hits on the album even reveal a much greater depth in terms of musical composition and sound.

One of my favorites is “State of Grace” because its display of energy in both the vocals and the harmony is more significantly intense than the original recording. I soon discovered this was a running trend in her re-recordings; an increase in the quality of the instruments and sound effects utilized in her work channels her emotions with a greater impact on listeners. From the sound of her voice to the clear and vivid harmonies, her skills with music have clearly improved. 

From an uncritical perspective, I beg to differ that “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is outstanding because it is a reproduction of original content. Besides a heightened quality of sound, Swift’s new album is remarkable in what it stands for. The songs are the same beloved ones from 2012, as are all of the other re-recordings. What makes these songs unique has nothing to do with the songs themselves. Understanding the challenges that Swift has faced provides a new outlook on the re-recordings. You can tell that she has matured and sings with a new comprehension of her music. Fighting for what is essentially her entire career, the power and confidence in her voice allows us to acknowledge her struggles and her battle for ownership of not just her music, but also herself. 

I appreciate almost every song I listen to because I understand songwriters and musicians put a lot of effort into their art – especially to produce it. I am also aware that many people have specific music tastes and judgements. If you were a Swift fan before, you’ll still be a Swift fan after listening to Taylor’s Version of “Red.” If you’re not a fan already, then you will be because of her passion for taking command of her expression is worth listening to.