“Musically and lyrically, ‘Red’ resembled a heartbroken person. It was all over the place, a fractured mosaic of feelings that somehow all fit together at the end,” Taylor Swift said in her Instagram post announcing her album, “Red (Taylor’s Version).” Since its release on Nov. 12, the re-recorded 2012 album has turned back time for Swift’s large following across the globe, evoking once again the heartbreak, joy, pain and angst that we first experienced nine years ago.
Second in her series of re-recordings, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” broke the record for the most streamed album in a single day by a female artist, previously held by Swift herself for ‘Folklore.’ She also broke the record for the most streamed female artist in a single day in Spotify history.
But the success of her re-recordings has implications far beyond the number of streams they get. She began re-recording last year, after her master recordings were sold to Scooter Braun — a talent manager at whose hands she received “incessant, manipulative bullying” in the past, according to her social media announcement. Since then, her recordings were sold a second time to an investment firm, Shamrock Holdings. Having been denied the opportunity to buy her masters back, Swift responded with her venture to re-record her first six albums. Swift’s battle against the sharks of the music industry have also inspired younger artists such as Olivia Rodrigo to retain full control over their masters.
Swift isn’t just bringing attention to the politics of an industry that preys on young artists. She’s also turned what started as a clever move to regain control over her life’s work into a cultural phenomenon, generating a resurgence of enthusiasm even though fans have heard much of the material before. Social media is flooded with videos analyzing the hints or “Easter eggs” that she leaves in her lyrics, as well as memes about Jake Gyllenhaal, whom the album is widely believed to be about. Walk into a Starbucks and not only are you very likely to hear songs from the album playing in the store, but you can also order a “Taylor’s Version” latte, her favorite drink — a grande caramel non-fat latte.
Swift also used this controversy as an opportunity to dive into her archives, releasing previously unheard songs that were omitted from the original album under the designation “From The Vault.”
Among the new tracks on “Red” is “Nothing New” featuring Phoebe Bridgers, a sincere acoustic ballad that offers a glimpse into 20-year-old Swift’s intense fear of becoming irrelevant as a female artist. Another Vault track, “I Bet You Think About Me” stuns with its accompanying music video, a narrative so nuanced that it could be a feature film itself, joining the ranks of “Blank Space” and “You Belong With Me.”
But the true treasure from the Vault is the ten-minute version of “All Too Well.” While “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” were the most popular songs on the original album, “All Too Well” became something of a cult classic. Now, Swift released the original, uncut version of the song — the version she wrote in the depths of heartbreak. Despite being ten minutes long, the track became #1 on Spotify’s global top 50. This is no small feat, especially in the TikTok era of music marked by 30-second clips and shrinking attention spans. Swift also wrote and directed a short film for the song. Starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien, the film profoundly captures the passion of her previous relationship and the intensity of her heartache.
Like the rest of the re-recorded album, the ten-minute version of “All Too Well” evokes the grief of 20-year-old Swift while simultaneously placing a more mature Swift in a retrospective conversation with her past: “I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age,” she sings, allegedly in reference to the nine-year age gap between her and Gyllenhaal, exactly nine years after the original album was released.
With the music industry’s penchant to quickly discard female artists, Swift has overcome the looming threat of irrelevance time and time again, seamlessly re-inventing herself with the release of each new album. Now she is unapologetically delving into the familiar, and she remains as influential as ever. If there were ever any doubt that Taylor Swift is a driving force in the music industry, the wildly successful release of ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ indisputably eliminates it.