The RED Era
Table of Contents
Shifting From Country to Pop
Taylor turned in 20 songs to her label for what would become RED. They were all further outgrowths of the pop-country sound she had mastered in her early years, as a teenager finding her voice in the Nashville scene. As she amassed a body of work for RED, she was writing songs about love and its fugitive presence, songs about relationships that swelled like an obsessive thought, songs that picked up and enhanced the smallest pixels of intimate detail as if they were scanning security footage in a crime procedural. When she strummed a chord, it shimmered and just hung there. It sounded like Taylor, an organic progression from her previous records.
Taylor had certainly done well trusting her instincts. She was the reigning Billboard “Woman of the Year”, an honor that recognized her sales (more than 50 million digital tracks and 22 million albums at the end of 2011, according to SoundScan) and multitude of awards (Academy of Country Music and Country Music Assn. “Entertainer of the Year”; Billboard Music Awards for “Top Country Album”, “Top Billboard 200 Artist” and “Top Country Artist”).
Painting the World RED
In August 2012, Taylor released “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” as the album’s lead single. An international success, it became her first No. 1 in the US and New Zealand. The song reached the top slot on an iTunes chart 50 minutes after its release, earning the “Fastest Selling Single in Digital History” listing in the Guinness World Records. She released the album’s second single, “Begin Again“, in October 2012. Other singles released from the album included: “I Knew You Were Trouble.“, “22“, “Everything Has Changed“, “The Last Time“, and “Red“. “I Knew You Were Trouble.” was a major international commercial success, peaking at No. 2 in the United States.
RED was finally released on October 22, 2012, incorporating new genres, such as heartland rock, dubstep and dance-pop. The album was a critical and commercial success, and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.21 million copies. This marked the highest opening sales in a decade, and made Taylor the first female to have two million-selling album openings, a record recognized by Guinness World Records.
RED hit No. 1 in more than 50 countries; meanwhile, Taylor won another Grammy (for “Safe & Sound“), and rocked karaoke with the Duke of Cambridge, after she had wrapped the North American leg of her “RED Tour” near the end of 2013. In the same year, Vulture wrote: “In an age of catastrophic music-industry contraction, Swift stands apart; sometimes she has seemed like a one-woman bulwark against the collapse of the traditional record business.” At the end of 2013, Taylor admitted that she “is loving this year. I am slightly terrified for this year to end.”
In 2020, Taylor said that in hindsight RED was her only real breakup album. She told Rolling Stone: