Red(Taylor’s Version) Is Here and Amplified! Get Ready to Cry to the Best Breakup Album! (Again)!

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

In the words of Taylor Swift, “I might be okay, but I’m not fine at all” show just how sad girl fall is in full swing, and Taylor’s version of Red just dropped. It is completed with the massively anticipated 10 minute version of “All Too Well” and a short film starring Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink. This re-recording of one of Taylor’s greatest albums, and my personal favorite, proves two things: 1. Taylor’s voice has gotten stronger in the years since Red and is very well demonstrated in Red(Taylor’s Version), and 2. Taylor Swift has ALWAYS been a lyrical genius. I’m not exaggerating when I say she’s arguably the greatest poet of our time. The way in which she navigates the stories of relationships and feelings by creating palpable imagery is incredibly relatable, and as a result, emotionally devastating. Her new tracks, written during the Red era but previously unreleased, from the vault, elaborate on the situations in existing songs from the album. The Jake Gyllenhaal call out is real, and we’re all asking, “Where’s the scarf Jake?”

I’m starting off with All Too Well(10 minute version) and the short film because they serve as the magnum opus of Red(Taylor’s Version). I’ve seen a lot of people saying that All Too Well(10 minute version) didn’t meet their expectations, and production wise, on first listen, I get that. The progression is definitely understated compared to the more audible guitar and drums that build up to the lyric, “Oh you call me up again just to break me like a promise so casually cruel in the name of being honest” in the previously released version of All Too Well. This version is very minimal in instrumentation, especially with her focus placed fully on the lyrics. The lack of big drums places emphasis on the bare sound of Taylor’s voice: vulnerable and bittersweet as she recounts her painful breakup. The pop sound of the backing track did feel a bit off on the first listen, but it’s really grown on me.

Lyrically, though, I’m in love with the 10-minute version. The newly added verses add detail to a story that has become one of the greatest breakup tracks of all time. Some of my favorite new lyrics are, “you kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath”, “it’s supposed to be fun turning 21”, “they say all’s well that ends well but I’m in a new hell every time you double-cross my mind”, and, let’s be real, the entirety of verses three and four. The way that she directly calls out her ex for having an issue with her being younger than him, the lack of attention and support he gave her, the way he stood her up on her birthday, and the way he manic pixie dream girl’d her by placing her on a pedestal and leaving when she wasn’t matching his idea of her is heartbreaking. Parasocial relationships are a real thing, but the deeper reason everyone listening to this album hates Jake is because we all know or have dated a Jake. Taylor is just the first to flawlessly describe the feelings that go into it. She really took her breakup anthem and call out, and turned it up to 100. 

Moving on to the All Too Well short film. My first thought was “yikes, this feels familiar.” Is it a rite of passage that we all have one of these relationships in our early 20s??? The casting of Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink mimics the age gap between Taylor and Jake back when they dated. The cinematography is beautiful and Dylan and Sadie’s onscreen chemistry is so strong. The argument in the middle of the film felt realistic and achingly familiar to me. Him missing her 21st birthday, referencing The Moment I Knew made me tear up, especially since my last relationship ended after a similar incident. With my experience,  The Moment I Knew was very close to my heart and I love the way this film tied back to that song. The gaslighting in the line, “I dont think I’m making you feel that way, I think you’re making yourself feel that way” followed by an apology that scratches the surface of what the fight is about with no mention of the emotional hurt caused by his actions is realistic and painful to watch. It’s a relationship without strong communication headed for an inevitable end. But true to life, there’s still ups and downs to come first. This film hurts in such a cathartic sense. 

I considered doing a track-by-track review of the album and detailed plenty of the  subtle changes in the previously released songs, but with Red(Taylor’s Version) being over two hours, I decided to simply highlight my favorites and rank the ones from the vault. 

Forever Winter deals with feelings of fear and helplessness that come when someone you’re close to is having mental health issues and is spiraling. There’s fear that Taylor will lose the person struggling, and she’s trying her hardest to be “summer sun for [them] forever” which is supportive and self-destructive in the same breath. At a certain point, it’s time to encourage them to seek professional help because no matter how strong the urge to save your loved ones is, the heartbreaking truth is they have to make the decision to save themselves. Being there for someone is incredibly important, but if you’re  in this type of situation, make sure you’re taking care of yourself before anyone else. 

The Very First Night is bouncy and fun, plus the rhyme scheme definitely adds to some very popular fan theories, ahem, Swiftgron, as numerous TikToks are pointing out. I like this song a lot because it’s an upbeat track that pulls you out of sadness and makes you want to dance. Speaking of dancing, Girl At Home has been completely changed. Now a hyper-pop dance song, Girl At Home could be a club track, or at least getting ready for a night out dance song. Come Back…Be Here also has a totally new backing track and the vocals feel stronger than before. I love when Taylor harmonizes with herself as the background vocals. 

In my opinion, I Almost Do has always been an underrated track. The updated version has stronger instrumentals than the original. The drums are bigger in the beginning, and Taylor’s vocals feel softer and sweeter. There’s a dejectedness in the lyric, “each time I reach out, there’s no reply”. The guitar picking towards the end of the song adds a new element that adds more dimension. Taylor really elevated this track by adding new layers. 

Let’s move into the tracks that explicitly call out Jake Gyllenhaal’s behavior. In The Moment I Knew(Taylor’s Version) ,Taylor sounds much more cinematic. She added new strings and a surging chorus that makes the sound feel enveloping. The references in All Too Well(10 Minute Version) made me connect the dots that the birthday party he misses in The Moment I Knew was her 21st, which makes him missing it so much worse. It also explains the exhilaration behind 22

Better Man follows Taylor yearning for a different ending, while recognizing that she’s grown from the experience and has stronger self-worth than she did with Jake. The song veers towards country, as Red was her first album fully recognized as pop, yet contained a variety of sounds as she crossed from country into pop. Taylor’s country twang is back in full force in I Bet You Think About Me. Taylor calls out her ex for being patronizing and pretentious, “chasing make believe status’ ‘, and not helping her feel welcome in his world while “laugh[ing] at her dreams”. She includes a nod to the We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together line, “you would hide away and find your peace of mind/With some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” with her new lyric, “I bet you think about me when you’re out at your cool indie music concerts every week” emphasizing that he never took her or her career seriously. Babe opens with “what about your promises?” which draws a parallel to “call me up again just to break me like a promise” in All Too Well. Babe has a smooth progression and a more uplifting tone, while being lyrically devastating and seeming to hint at him cheating on her. 

Nothing New is a pivotal shift on this breakup album. It’s an analysis of the music industry, and society’s expectations and double standards created for women. Taylor discusses the criticism female artists face and the fears of growing older and getting replaced by a younger woman. The fact that Taylor was 22 around the time she wrote this shows how ridiculous ageism is for pop artists. The lyric “how can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22” is a line that cuts straight to your heart. Phoebe Bridgers is the first woman featured by Taylor to sing more than just backing vocals in the song, and their voices are ethereal together, in my opinion. As a massive Phoebe and Taylor fan, this track is one of the best on the album.  “How did I go from growing up to breaking down” feels very much like being in your 20s. The feeling that time is running out, that you aren’t enough, that you’ll be replaced with someone new who does the thing better than you is a very human emotion and with the way this song is written it’s a gorgeous societal critique. 

My Vault Track Rankings

  1. All Too Well (10 minute version)
  2. The Very First Night
  3. Nothing New ft. Phoebe Bridgers
  4. I Bet You Think About Me ft. Chris Stapleton
  5. Better Man
  6. Forever Winter
  7. Babe
  8. Message in a Bottle
  9.  Run ft. Ed Sheeran 

In conclusion, Red(Taylor’s Version) is comparable to Fearless(Taylor’s Version). Taylor Swift is breathing new life into her beloved discography, and as she reclaims her ownership of her songs, the fans get to revisit songs we grew up with while exploring new, previously unreleased songs from each era. The vulnerability in her songs and her incredible lyricism set her apart. It’s an exciting time to be a Taylor Swift fan, and the fears she sings of in Nothing New are proving to be unfounded, as Taylor’s career is aimed ever upward and shows no signs of slowing down. 

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