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Red

Single | RED (2012) | RED (Taylor's Version) [2021]

This article is about the song. For the album, see RED (2012). For the re-recording, see RED (Taylor’s Version) [2021].
“Red” is the title track of Taylor’s fourth studio album, RED (2012). It compares the emotions she felt in a relationship to colors. Taylor said that she decided to name the album after this song because its lyrics encompass the entire theme of the project. The re-recording of the song, “Red (Taylor’s Version)”, was released on November 12, 2021, on the album RED (Taylor’s Version).

Background and Production

Taylor released her third studio album, Speak Now, in October 2010. She wrote the album entirely by herself and co-produced it with Nathan Chapman, her longtime collaborator. The album’s sound expands on the country pop sound of her two previous albums, with elements of radio-friendly pop crossover that had been evident on its predecessor Fearless (2008). On Speak Now‘s follow-up, RED, Taylor aimed to experiment beyond her previous albums’ formulaic country pop sound.

Taylor initially continued working with Chapman in her career base of Nashville, Tennessee, until her creativity “started wandering to all the places [she] could go” while she was writing “Red”, the title track. Scott Borchetta, president of her then-label Big Machine Records, overheard the original production by Chapman and suggested a pop-oriented sound. After several failed attempts at the desired sound, Taylor asked Borchetta to recruit Swedish producer Max Martin, whose chart-topping pop tunes had intrigued her by “how [they] can just land a chorus”. Even though she went to Los Angeles to work with Martin and his frequent collaborator Shellback on three songs on RED, they did not produce the final version of “Red”. It was produced by Taylor, Chapman, and Dann Huff — a Nashville-based country producer.

«I knew I hadn't jumped out of my comfort zone, which at the time was writing alone and working with Nathan. ['Red'] the song was a real turning point for RED, the album. When I wrote that song my mind started wandering to all the places we could go. If I were to think outside the box enough, go in with different people, I could learn from and have what they do rub off on me as well as have what I do rub off on them.»

Taylor Swift

Release

To promote RED, Taylor premiered one album track on Good Morning America and released it onto the U.S. iTunes Store, each week from September 24 until the album’s release date of October 22, 2012, as part of a four-week release countdown. “Red” was released as the second promotional single from RED during the second countdown week, on October 2, 2012. The song was released to U.S. country radio as a single from the album on June 24, 2013, by Big Machine Records.

“Red” was Taylor’s final performance at the CMA Awards on November 6, 2013. That night, she received country music’s highest honor, the “Pinnacle Award” and was simultaneously saying goodbye to the genre that made her a star. Her performance featured an acoustic version of “Red” with Alison Krauss on fiddle and Vince Gill on guitar (both on background vocals), Sam Bush on mandolin, Edgar Meyer on acoustic bass, and Eric Darken on percussion. It was released for digital download through the iTunes Store by Big Machine Records the following day.

Lyrical Theme

The lyrics are about the conflicting emotions recollected from lost romance. In the refrain, the lyrics correspond its different stages to different colors: “losing him” to blue, “missing him” to dark gray, and “loving him” to red. Throughout the verses, Taylor compares her lost love to experiences including “driving a new Maserati down a dead end street” and “trying to change your mind once you’re already flying through the free fall”.

«I wrote this song about the fact that some things are just hard to forget because the emotions involved with them were so intense and, to me, intense emotion is red.»

Taylor Swift

Music Video

A music video for “Red”, directed by Kenny Jackson and featuring footage from Taylor’s “RED Tour“, was released on July 4, 2013. It was nominated for “Video of the Year” and “Female Video of the Year” at the 2014 CMT Music Awards.

Critical Reception

Upon its initial release, “Red” received mixed to positive reviews from contemporary critics. Rolling Stone provided a positive review, writing that the production effectively accompanied the “simple but effective” lyrics. Billy Dukes of Taste of Country gave “Red” a 4.5/5 rating, applauding the song for expanding Taylor’s musical versatility and songwriting capabilities: “[Toying] with colors like a skilled artist,…this song is her Sistine Chapel.” Marc Hogan from Spin felt the lyrics were memorable but said that the genre-spanning production made it unfocused. At the 2014 BMI Country Awards, “Red” was one of the award-winning “Country Awards Top 50 Songs.”

Commercial Performance

In the U.S., “Red” debuted and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated October 11, 2012. It was Taylor’s 13th song to reach the top 10 on the Hot 100. On the Hot Country Songs, “Red” peaked at No. 2 on the chart dated October 20, 2012, and was Taylor’s longest-charting song, spending 42 weeks. The single reached the top 30 of record charts in English-speaking countries, peaking at No. 5 in Canada, No. 14 in New Zealand, No. 25 in Ireland, No. 26 in the U.K., and No. 30 in Australia.

Taylor's Version

On August 6, 2021, Taylor announced that a re-recorded version of “Red”, titled “Red (Taylor’s Version)”, would be included as the second track on her second re-recorded album RED (Taylor’s Version), which was released on November 12, 2021, through Republic Records. Before it was made available on streaming services, she posted a snippet of the re-recorded track via her Instagram on October 23. When asked what she likes best about the song today, she told Amazon Music:

«The title track on this album is a song that I think really combines what I love of country instrumentation with my love of pop-rock sensibilities. This was one of those songs that was really a hybrid because it could be performed like a pop song, or a rock song, or it could be performed like a bluegrass song. It was one of those songs that made me think, 'Maybe I wanna be expanding what I'm trying to do with my music, sonically.' But lyrically, I loved taking all these metaphors of what it was like loving someone. You know, dirving in your Maserati down a dead end street. As a lyricist, I love to expand upon a metaphor, so that song is basically just a list of metaphors that all make sense about heartbreak. Saying, 'Losing him was blue, missing him was dark gray, but loving him was red.' To me that says everything that I wanted to say on this album, and so it was amazing to get to this with that particular song because it's one that I'm really, really proud of.»

Taylor Swift

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead end street
Faster than the wind
Passionate as sin, ending so suddenly
Loving him is like trying to change your mind once you’re already flying through the free fall
Like the colors in autumn so bright just before they lose it all

[Chorus]
Loving him was blue like I’d never known
Missing him was dark gray all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’ve never met
But loving him was red
Loving him was red

[Verse 2]
Touching him was like realizing all you ever wanted was right there in front of you
Memorizing him was as easy as knowing all the words to your old favorite song
Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no right answer
Regretting him was like wishing you never found out that love could be that strong

[Chorus]
Losing him was blue like I’d never known
Missing him was dark gray all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met
But loving him was red,
Oh red, burning red

[Bridge]
Remembering him comes in flashbacks and echoes
Tell myself it’s time now gotta let go
But moving on from him is impossible when I still see it all in my head
In burning red
Loving him was red

[Chorus]
Losing him was blue, like I’d never known
Missing him was dark gray all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’ve never met
Cause loving him was red
Yeah, yeah, red
We’re burning red

[Outro]
And that’s why he’s spinning around in my head
Comes back to me in burning red
His love was like driving a new Maserati down a dead end street

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General Information
AlbumsRED
RED (Taylor’s Version)
ReleasedOctober 2, 2012
Re-ReleasedNovember 12, 2021
StudioBlackbird (Nashville)
GenreCountry Rock
Length3:43
LabelsBig Machine Records
Republic Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducersNathan Chapman (original)
Dan Huff (original)
Christopher Rowe
Taylor Swift
RED CHRONOLOGY
State of GraceRedTreacherous
Single Certification
Hidden Message
SAG
Single Artwork
Music Video
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Original Audio
Original Demo Recording
CMA Acoustic Version
Diary Entry