Taylor Swift on the RED tour in 2013FLICKR/JANA BEAMER

Piercing the room like cannonballs, the drums that introduced the anthemic “State of Grace (Taylor’s Version)” resonated through my walls and blood with as much force as the very first time I heard the song – I truly never saw it coming. Red (Taylor’s Version) is a tapestry: Taylor Swift weaves multicoloured threads of raw emotion into an unforgettable exhibit, a chronicle of the maelstrom that is young adulthood. Originally released in 2013, the album then felt like a deep-dive into her profoundly personal world of reminiscence, restraint and recovery – her grievances felt current, like watching her stories in screaming colour.

“Every word on Red is grounded in sincerity and the reality of human experience”

Much like her re-recording of Fearless, the most notable changes are the immensely improved vocals, the clearer instrumentation, and modernised production. Despite this, Red (Taylor’s Version) feels like something much greater: Fearless is an album characterised by the innocent longing for chimerical fantasies, but every word on Red is grounded in sincerity and the reality of human experience. With this re-recording, her lyrics are reborn with the same unshakeable spirit that captured the hearts of listeners worldwide back in 2013.

Reliving the familiar songs on the album feels fresh yet imbued with nostalgia – the post-chorus breakdown in “I Knew You Were Trouble” brings the same shock, yet greater intensity than it did when it was a chart-topper. At the same time, the old album brings new meaning. Hearing these stories of a young woman enduring the tumultuous journey of love and loss through the voice of her older self brings a certain comfort, as we know now that she had the chance to ‘watch it begin again’, both in and out of her career. On the album, she never fails to remind us that there’s a way out of everything, which feels so refreshing to hear in times when pessimism always feels tempting.

Beyond the base album, there are some poignant reinventions of previously released songs. “Girl at Home (Taylor’s Version)” is a complete genre-shift from the original, embracing the pop sound it found itself leaning towards, while the acoustic version of “State of Grace” communicates a gentler yearning, with equal passion and less fire. “Ronan”, the moving story of a young boy who died with neuroblastoma, finally finding its place on an album feels particularly poignant, as it deserved to reach a much wider audience than it did when initially released. Both “Better Man” and “Babe” were songs scrapped from Red and given to other artists, so it does feel satisfying to finally hear them in the voice for which they were originally written.


Mountain View

Songs for Sad Girl Autumn

The remainder of the vault tracks each bring a new charm to every facet of Red. “Nothing New” is cynical and soul-crushing, criticising the music industry’s attitude towards young women, while “Message in a Bottle” is reminiscent of the pop style she makes the shift to in 1989. The folky “I Bet You Think About Me” is witty and biting, scorning a past lover and “Forever Winter” is an anxious ballad lamenting the miscommunication in her relationship. Aside from thematic similarities to other songs, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why these had been cut from the original album: each one stands out enough to feel fresh yet still slots perfectly into the maze that is Red’s emotional mood board.

“The pain expressed in the song feels simultaneously cinematic and intimate”

Though the others are all welcome additions, the most highly anticipated and outstanding of the vault tracks is undeniably “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)”. With subtler production than the shortened version, the unfiltered emotions are allowed to shine through Swift’s impassioned voice and resentful lyrics. The new verses extend and heighten an already deeply affecting narrative, with unexpected gut-punch lines including “But all I felt was shame and you held my lifeless frame” and “The idea you had of me, who was she?/A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel who shines upon you”. Switching between melodramatic metaphors and heartbreak grounded in realism means that the pain expressed in the song feels simultaneously cinematic and intimate. Surpassing all expectations, the final track of the album ends with fading echoes of the memories described in the song, back-tracking through the stories told throughout the entire album. It not only summarises the odyssey of Red but reminds listeners of the central message of the re-recording: the turmoil may be agonising at the time, and the memories may never fade, but the turbulence does settle.

The music video for "All Too Well" explores the dynamics of age and power in a relationship breakdownYOUTUBE/ TAYLORSWIFT

Red had already aged incredibly, with its timeless themes and countless anthems for modern youth, but Red (Taylor’s Version) refines a transitional pop masterpiece into a monument of modern music. Taking advantage of the original’s liminal placement between country, pop, and rock, each song feels more distinctively aligned to one genre, emphasising the sonic incoherence and genre-fluidity that characterised the album in the first place. Taylor Swift solidifies her position as the songwriter of a generation: the artist’s Midas touch transforms this drive down memory lane into an exhibition and tribute to love. What once was burning red is golden.