Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ leaves fans reminiscent instead of heartbroken

From vault tracks to re-recordings of the original songs, Swift renews fans’ love for her fourth studio album.


Taylor Swift on the Red Carpet at the 47th Annual CMA Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn, Wednesday, Nov. 6th. (Via OlyDrop/Sanford Myers)

Eleanor Hildebrandt and Hannah Pinski

Taylor Swift re-recorded her saddest album this week and surprised fans with something we never could’ve expected: a happy version of Red.

Swift’s second re-recording was released on Nov. 12. Her autumn album, Red, follows Fearless, which was re-released on April 9.

The re-release gave listeners the opportunity to hear all 30 songs originally intended for Red, after Fearless’s 26.

Re-recorded originals

The newest version offers a more pop-centric cohesiveness compared to the original which had a mix of both pop and country songs intertwined. In the re-release, the songs have different intros and instrumentation than the original that gives the album a happier feel compared to its somber tone from the version that was first released.

One difference in instrumentation and vocals that was clearly noticeable was “All Too Well,” a song known to the masses as one of Swift’s best. In the first release, the instrumentation relies on the piano to drive the melody of the song. While the intro in the newest version has the same instrumentation as the original, there is more emphasis on the electric and acoustic guitar instead of the piano.

However, what is also noticeable is the change in the vocals. In most of the songs, Swift’s vocals have a deeper range and tone than when the album was first released. In the songs “I Knew You Were Trouble and “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” this is clearly noticeable within the first few lines of the lyrics.

These two songs didn’t have the same excitement they did as singles with this shift in tone, making them less exciting to listen to for the first time. While “I Knew You Were Trouble and “We Are Never Getting Back Together still aren’t skips, they aren’t the songs you want to listen to again and again.

But there are still some songs that sound almost identical to the original, like “Stay Stay Stay.” On the first listen, it was easy to question whether we were hearing the original or the new version. The only difference on the album’s ninth track is Swift’s laugh at the end, which was more genuine and softer, like “Hey Stephen from Fearless.

Some of the songs on the album that are often ranked last by fans and professionals from Red received reboots that might make people rethink their rankings. “Girl At Homereceived a more instrumental renewal that emphasizes Swift’s voice more and gives strength to the song.

The Last Time is a unique re-recording because listeners hear Gary Lightbody’s vocals mature with Swift’s. The softness returns to the song, and it sounds more even than the original recording, leaning on both artists’ skills.

While the newest version doesn’t encapsulate the same heartbreak and sadness as the originals, it reflects the differences in points in Swift’s life. Now, Swift is happier and she’s re-recording heartbreaking songs she sings with fans regularly at concerts simply to own them.

As Swift revisits the events of her 20s in this album, fans are transported with her. The ability to press play and listen to the same songs Swifties did a decade ago reimagines those moments in their lives and adds them to their current experiences in a way no one could’ve predicted.

Taylor’s Version, From the Vault

The beauty of the re-recordings is allowing fans to listen to songs that weren’t ever released. Red featured nine tracks “from the vault,” including two songs she sold to other artists. “Better Man and “Babe were originally sold to Sugarland and Little Big Town respectively.

For “Better Man,” some fans may have expected the song to have a country twang similar to Little Big Town’s version. However, and we shouldn’t be surprised, she took the song and reclaimed it as her own.

Related: Review: Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’

In Swift’s version, the sound of the soft acoustic guitar paired with her vocals beautifully, and effectively portrayed the sadness and message of the song. The opening lyrics, “I know I’m probably better off on my own than lovin’ a man who didn’t know what he had when he had it,” hit the hearts of listeners right away with a pain that only Swift can instill.

Phoebe Bridgers paired well with Swift on “Nothing New,” a song that easily shattered listeners’ hearts. It was haunted and quiet. The song is almost as emotional as the five-minute version of “All Too Well.”

One of the other features on the vault tracks was “I Bet You Think About Me” with Chris Stapleton. The song calls to 1989 mentioning how people comment on Swift writing songs about them. This is easily the most country song on the album, with a twang listeners remember from Swift’s debut album. Stapleton sings background vocals that pair beautifully with Swift’s long holds.

And finally, Swift released the original edition of her most soulful song:All Too Well (10-minute version).” And we weren’t ready.

This song starts the exact same way as the shorter version but adds lyrics we’ve never heard before. “All Too Well (10-minute version) hits us with “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath,” and a double bridge like we’ve never heard before.

Swift ends the song with a petering out of “I was there,” painfully and softly. “All Too Well (10-minute version) is the song where Swift’s voice simultaneously sounds the saddest and most mature. 10 minutes is long, but hearing the new lyrics interlaced with the old was a burst of serotonin we didn’t know we needed while being dragged through the mud.

This song’s similes and references to songs on other albums solidify Swift as one of the greatest songwriters of all time. And we won’t be over it for a long time.