Acclaimed musician and songwriter Taylor Swift announced on June 18, 2021, that she would re-record her fourth studio album Red, including 10 never-released songs in addition to the 20 original tracks. She releases the album Friday, Nov. 12.
Swift, 31, is one of the most influential female artists of the twenty-first century. She continues to reinvent herself and her music to this day.
On a personal note, Taylor Swift is my favorite musical artist, and Red is an album that I loved as a kid. I sang my heart out to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” at the age of 12, as if I’d been hurt in a relationship myself. I also remember dying of laughter to “I Knew You Were Trouble” goat remixes with my mom in our living room.
And a few years ago, my mom and I actually performed “Red” together at my guitar recital. That was a real full-circle moment. Obviously, there’s a lot of sentiment attached to this album for me, so I’m super excited for Red (Taylor’s Version).
A lot of excitement surrounds Red (Taylor’s Version) for “Swifties” and the general public alike. First, it includes 10 never-released songs that Swift wrote during the time of the original release of Red. One of these songs, “Nothing New”, features breakout indie artist Phoebe Bridgers, and another, “Run”, features original Red contributor and singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran.
Second, one of the most iconic and heartbreaking songs from the original album (“All Too Well”) gets transformed into a 10 minute (yes, you heard me right) extended version on Red (Taylor’s Version). And if that wasn’t enough, a short film starring Stranger Thing’s Sadie Sink and Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien accompanies the 10-minute masterpiece. The actors share the same age difference as Swift and actor Jake Gyllenhaal, about whom the song is written.
Third, the album is known for its fall aesthetic, so its release in the midst of the season must be no coincidence.
This isn’t Swift’s first dabble in re-recording her albums. On Feb. 11, Swift announced she would re-record her second studio album, releasing it as Fearless (Taylor’s Version). This being one of her most iconic albums, the project was well received by both fans and musicians worldwide. The new record included the 20 originals as well as six never-released songs deemed “from the vault”. Fans were delighted by Swift’s mature vocals as well as her ability to bring old feelings and emotions to life; Swift wrote the original Fearless album at 18. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was released on April 9.
After the re-release of Fearless, fans wondered which of Swift’s albums she re-recorded next. After weeks of fan theories and speculation, Taylor announced the release of Red (Taylor’s Version) on June 18, 2021. Red (Taylor’s Version) had an initial release date of Nov. 19, but the anticipation was so extreme that Swift moved the release up a week to this Friday.
Before discussing how important this re-recording is, we first must deluge in a Taylor Swift career retrospective; what brought her to re-record her previous work?
Taylor Swift began her career as a country singer, attracting listeners with a heart of gold and words that resonated with all ages. Her early music touched on motifs such as first love, first heartbreak, and the importance of family. Songs like “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Our Song” catapulted her into the spotlight at 16. Following the success of her eponymous debut album, Swift released Fearless, her first true country-pop album, in 2008. It included some of her biggest hits to date, like “Love Story”, “White Horse”, and “You Belong with Me”.
Following the success of Fearless, Taylor shocked the world with Speak Now in 2010, an album furthering her pop leanings, with heartfelt tracks like “Mine”, “Dear John”, and “Enchanted”.
Whereas Speak Now was still reminiscent of her earlier work, enter Red. Swift fully embraced pop-star status on this totally innovative album featuring some of Swift’s most popular songs, including the title track, “Red”, and radio hits like “22”, “I Knew You Were Trouble”, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. The album also included beautiful melodies (listen to “All Too Well”) with lyrics to match.
In 2014 Swift released 1989, which may be Swift’s best album lyrically, melodically, and conceptually (and it’s my personal favorite). 1989 continued Taylor’s work rewriting the rules of pop, with smash hits like “Welcome to New York”, “Blank Space”, and “Shake it Off”, among several others.
After the extremely successful release of 1989 and its equally successful stadium tour, the media began alleging “snake” behavior by Swift following a leaked audio clip of her apparently giving consent to Kanye West to use her name in his song, “Famous”. The two have had a rocky relationship since West’s infamous “I’mma let you finish, but…” in the middle of Taylor’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Music Awards. But in 2016, when “Famous” was released, Taylor denied ever approving of having her name in Kanye’s lyrics. Six months after the release, West’s wife Kim Kardashian tweeted out a video, later revealed to be edited, of Taylor on a phone call with the couple approving of Kanye’s vulgar lyrics about her in his song.
After a year of hiding from the media, Swift turned the harmful words into the smash hit reputation, with visuals and lyrics referencing snakes and betrayal. She used the negativity that once brought her down to build herself up again.
This edgy era received mixed reviews from the media as well, and even from loyal “Swifties”— her fanbase—which motivated Taylor to write a better and more cohesive record that she could be proud of, and soon she revealed Lover to the world. As the title implies, Lover explores themes of love, commitment and loyalty and honors Swift’s boyfriend of over 3 years at the time of the album’s release, actor, Joe Alwyn.
Less than a year after the release of Lover, the COVID-19 pandemic struck Taylor Swift with inspiration. In mid-July, Swift shocked the world by surprise-releasing her eighth studio album, folklore, a hauntingly beautiful work of fictional stories about heartbreak, loss and self-reflection. Swift then dropped evermore, a self-proclaimed sister record to folklore, less than six months later, expanding on the themes from the previous album. These albums were a shift of pace for Swift and caused her to regain some of the Swifties who have not listened to her music since her release of reputation, as well as garner a new fanbase comprising indie/alternative listeners. Swift gained respect from the music industry for not only releasing folklore and evermore in such a close timeframe and during a global pandemic, but also for completely shifting genres once again while still keeping her same fanbase despite doing so. folklore was so successful that it won Album of the Year at the 2020 Grammys.
You might be wondering: what’s the big deal with these rerecordings? Many might believe it is a quick cash-grab, but the choice to re-record means so much more than profit; it symbolizes ownership and taking back what is rightfully yours. In 2019, Republic Records sold her master tapes to Scooter Braun, a popular music producer, without her consent. Taylor does not legally own any of her music or have any licensing rights despite writing and singing practically everything that she has ever released.
Thus, re-recording her music is a way for Swift to regain control over what is rightfully hers. This sends a message not only to fans but to everyone in the music industry to fight for what is right and claim what is yours. This message comes across clearly in “Change (Taylor’s Version)”, from Fearless (Taylor’s Version), which is an anthem to standing up against those who bring you down.
“Because these things will change / Can you feel it now? / These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down / It's a revolution, the time will come / For us to finally win”.
It is also a way for Taylor to prove her strength and her willingness to stand up against adversity. I am beyond excited for this record, first for the nostalgia and second for the amazing symbolism and deeper meaning behind Swift’s time-consuming and monumental career choice.
So grab your favorite scarf and a box of tissues and get ready to settle down for the almost two-and-a-half-hour masterpiece that is Red (Taylor’s Version) on this Friday, Nov. 12. Can you feel my excitement?
And– even if you’re not a “Swiftie”, I hope you have a musician or a band that makes you smile and brings you undeniable joy and comfort. Listen to that artist today. Take a walk and breathe in the fall air, which is feeling more like a pre-winter chill.
(Iris Archer is a feature contributor for The Intrepid and is also a Taylor Swift superfan.)