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RED (Taylor's Version)

November 12, 2021

This article is about the 2021 re-recording. For the original album, see RED (2012).
RED (Taylor’s Version) is Taylor’s second re-recorded album, released on November 12, 2021, through Republic Records. It is a re-recording of her fourth studio album, RED (2012), and is part of Taylor’s counter measure against the changed ownership of the master recordings to her first six studio albums.
Held up as a classic, 2012’s RED is one of the best albums of all time, collecting critical praise for showcasing Taylor’s artistry and versatility. It is her bittersweet spot between the confessional heartache that defined her earliest songwriting and the stadium-pop grandeur that would inform her next trio of colossal LPs (1989, reputation and Lover). It was also the ultimate millennial breakup album, a touchstone of lovelorn devastation, fury, hope and reflection for all those suburban teens and twenty-somethings similarly figuring their shit out — the era of “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.”

And of course, RED was a commercial mammoth; seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, certified seven times platinum and earning Taylor her first Hot 100 No. 1 single in “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” It was the project that planted her flag as a mainstream monolith ready for further domination. All the while, Taylor herself regards RED as her only true breakup album. In the liner notes for the re-recording, she wrote:

«I’ve always said that the world is a different place for the heartbroken. It moves on a different axis, at a different speed. Time skips backwards and forwards fleetingly. The heartbroken might go through thousands of micro-emotions a day trying to figure out how to get through it without picking up the phone to hear that old familiar voice. In the land of heartbreak, moments of strength, independence, and devil-may-care rebellion are intricately woven together with grief, paralyzing vulnerability and hopelessness. Imagining your future might always take you on a detour back to the past. And this is all to say, that the next album I’ll be releasing is my version of RED

Taylor Swift
As Taylor continued her unprecedented run of re-recording and releasing her first six albums in an effort to own her masters (after a lengthy legal battle involving her old label Big Machine Records), expectations were high for RED (Taylor’s Version). And she delivered — as always: the new RED is even bigger, glossier and deeper than the original. It’s the ultimate version of her most gloriously ambitious mega-pop manifesto.
Table of Contents

Background

Taylor’s ongoing reclamation of her own music is well-documented: record executive Scooter Braun purchased the Big Machine label for 300 million dollars – a haul which included the rights to the master recordings of Taylor’s first six albums – after the label previously blocked Taylor from buying them for years. The result has been a domino effect of Taylor’s Version re-recordings that allow Taylor to own these newer versions of her songs; a movement that has been met with support from fans and kindred musicians alike. Some are calling it a turning point in the history of music ownership thanks to the spotlight it’s placing on label contracts, ownership of masters, and right of first refusal for artists. In short, it’s sort of a big deal.

RED (Taylor’s Version) marks Taylor’s second such venture, as Fearless (Taylor’s Veresion) dropped earlier in 2021 and included six new “from the vault” songs that were withheld from the original LP and its Platinum incarnation.

Release and Promotion

On June 18, 2021, Taylor revealed that RED (Taylor’s Version), the re-recorded issue of RED would be released on November 19, 2021. The album contains all 30 songs that were meant to be on the 2012 version. She also teased the original 10-minute-long version of “All Too Well” as part of the track listing. Looking back on RED, she wrote:

«Musically and lyrically, RED resembled a heartbroken person. It was all over the place, a fractured mosaic of feelings that somehow all fit together in the end. Happy, free, confused, lonely, devastated, euphoric, wild, and tortured by memories past. Like trying on pieces of a new life, I went into the studio and experimented with different sounds and collaborators. And I’m not sure if it was pouring my thoughts into this album, hearing thousands of your voices sing the lyrics back to me in passionate solidarity, or if it was simply time, but something was healed along the way. Sometimes you need to talk it over (over and over and over) for it to ever really be...over. Like your friend who calls you in the middle of the night going on and on about their ex, I just couldn’t stop writing. This will be the first time you hear all 30 songs that were meant to go on RED. And hey, one of them is even ten minutes long.»

Taylor Swift
Alongside the announcement, pre-orders for the digital album were made available. While appearing on The Official Big Top 40 on June 27, 2021, Ed Sheeran confirmed his involvement with RED (Taylor’s Version), saying he had already re-recorded “Everything Has Changed”. Taylor’s 2012 charity single, “Ronan“, was confirmed as a track on the album by her co-writer on the song, Maya Thompson. On August 5, 2021, Taylor finally posted a cryptic video across her social media, teasing a word puzzle. Clues found by online fans spelled out “Chris Stapleton”, “Phoebe Bridgers”, “Babe“, “Better Man“, and “All Too Well Ten Minute Version”. Concurrently, pre-orders for the physical album CDs went up on Taylor’s webstore. Before releasing any song from RED (Taylor’s Version), Taylor released “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)“, on September 17, 2021, a track set to appear on 1989 (Taylor’s Version), the re-recording of her 2014 studio album, 1989. She explained she saw “Wildest Dreams” trending on TikTok and thought fans should have her version.

On September 30, 2021, Taylor announced the album would be released on November 12, 2021, a week earlier than scheduled.

The Full Story

There’s plenty to be said about Taylor’s re-recordings but the primary appeal of these Taylor’s Version LPs is undoubtedly the new songs. Of this album’s thirty-one tracks, the first sixteen are comprised of original RED tracklist re-recordings, followed by five previously released b-sides; these previously unreleased tracks from the RED era, and a ten minute version of her renowned magnum opus “All Too Well“. Taylor explained how reworking the album gave her a unique opportunity for fans to experience these unheard tracks:

«There are songs from this album I call 'From The Vault' tracks because in my mind, there’s a metaphorical vault of songs I love. I write a lot of songs for each album and pare it down. These songs didn’t make it on the album because I wanted to have them on the next album, and then the next album was a whole different thing. So they got left behind. I always thought back about what would’ve happened, or wishing people would've heard those, but they belonged in that one moment. So now that I get to go back and revisit my old work, I’ve dug up those songs.»

Taylor Swift
The album is a highly rewarding listen for fans both casual and manic, bolstered by its excellent source material and Taylor’s steady hand in rewriting her own looping history, with a few thrilling footnotes tacked on.

Artwork

The cover artwork of RED (Taylor’s Version) depicts Taylor wearing a beige peacoat and a burgundy-colored “Matti” velvet fisherman’s cap, seated in a vintage 1932 Chevrolet Cabriolet convertible, with an autumnal background. Janessa Leoné designed the hat, which sold out on Leoné’s website.

Differences Between the Original and Taylor's Version

The original songs are intended note-for-note recreations, though the album’s production feels more open and airy this time, with less of the weighty compression that made for fine early ‘10s pop songs — RED was Taylor’s first work with mega-producers Max Martin and Shellback. And that Taylor is a much better singer now than she was ten years ago. Tone, power, texture; all of it has improved over the last decade, forging warmer and more even performances than in 2012.

From The Vault

The “From the Vault” bonus materials – that is, previously unreleased tracks from the RED sessions – suggest how the original version might have taken on a different cast. But they all entrench the album’s brutal obsession with time: how long it takes to get over someone; the shelf life of any young woman’s appeal; the pitiful plight of emotionally frigid ex-boyfriends forever doomed to stagnate in their obsessions with status over love. While Nashville veteran Chris Rowe handled production on all the original tracks, super producer Jack Antonoff and more recent partner (folklore and evermore) Aaron Dessner of The National split work on the new additions. One of them is the biggest selling point of this re-recording. It is what fans have been feverishly anticipating since 2012: the 10-minute rendition of “All Too Well,” which is accompanied by a Taylor-directed short film starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. It is the triumphant finale of the album, every verse restored.

Critical Reception

RED (Taylor’s Version) was met with widespread acclaim from music critics. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized score out of 100 to ratings from publications, the album received a weighted mean score of 94 based on 8 reviews, indicating “universal acclaim”; it is the highest rated project of Taylor’s career. In a rave review, Rolling Stone music critic Rob Sheffield wrote “the new RED is even bigger, glossier, deeper, casually crueler”, powered by Taylor’s adult voice. Helen Brown of The Independent stated RED (Taylor’s Version) is a “better, brighter version of a terrific pop album.” NME‘s Hannah Mylrea praised the album’s newly added tracks, and highlighted the sharper production quality and the “instrumentation being brought further into focus”. Consequence‘s Mary Siroky felt the expanded record functions as a closure to the original album, allowing Taylor to “finish the story on her terms.”

Sputnikmusic staff critic called the album “an absolute triumph” for the insight of its musical and lyrical approach, and criticized their own “immature” review of the album in 2012, confirming “Swift’s observations about love and life at age twenty-two were simply amazing”. Lydia Burgham of The New Zealand Herald asserted that “RED was always a tangled web of sounds and emotions” but its re-recording and inclusion of never-heard-before songs add more layers to the album, this time speaking “volumes about what the album means to [Taylor].”

Commercial Performance

Upon release, RED (Taylor’s Version) broke several streaming records. It became the most-streamed album in a day from a female artist on Spotify, with more than 90.8 million global opening-day streams, surpassing the previous record of 80.6 million by Taylor’s own folklore. Bolstered by the album’s strong performance, Taylor also became the most streamed woman in a single day — with more than 122.9 million global streams on the platform across her entire discography—and the first woman in Spotify history to amass 100 million streams within one day.

Impact

The Wall Street Journal stated that RED (Taylor’s Version) is “reshaping the music industry”, highlighting how the re-recorded songs are outperforming their original counterparts on streaming services, going viral on TikTok, and landing “lucrative” licensing deals for usage in motion pictures. The newspaper said, the commercial and critical success of Taylor’s re-recording venture has forced Universal Music Group, her own label, to double the amount of time that restricts artists from re-recording their works, resulting in a “shifting power dynamics in the music business.” Variety named Taylor the “Queen of Stream” for setting multiple streaming records with the release of RED (Taylor’s Version).

The Worthwile Fight

Looking back, Taylor’s observations about love and life at age 22 were simply amazing. The way she so vividly captured forbidden lust and temptation on a song like “Treacherous” is still astonishing, while brilliant observations about the downside of stardom on “The Lucky One” proved her wise beyond her years. It’s as Taylor recites on this album’s spoken message to her listeners: “Musically and lyrically, RED resembled a heart-broken person. It was all over the place, a fractured mosaic of feelings that somehow all fit together in the end. Happy, free, confused, lonely, devastated, euphoric, wild – and tortured by memories past.” Sometimes maturity, in music or in life, is simply about recognizing where you’re at – even if it’s a total mess – and mapping out a plan for where you ultimately want to arrive. RED captured Taylor in the center of that storm, a process we all endure in early adulthood, and she handled it with more wisdom and grace than most ever could. RED – both in its original form as well as Taylor’s Version – is another towering victory and an absolute triumph, furthering the worthwhile fight.
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General Information
ReleasedNovember 12, 2021
RecordedNovember 2020 – June 2021
StudiosKitty Committee (Belfast, UK)
Conway (Los Angeles, CA)
GenreCountry Pop
Length130:26
LabelRepublic Records
Producers
Taylor Swift
Christopher Rowe
Aaron Dessner
Jack Antonoff
Elvira Anderfjörd
Jeff Bhasker
Jacknife Lee
Shellback
Butch Walker
Dan Wilson
Espionage
Tim Blacksmith
Danny D
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) [2021]RED (Taylor’s Version) [2021]
Letter from Taylor
Album Certification
Tracklist
APPLE MUSIC BONUS TRACK
Album Artwork
RED Chapters
Related Content

All Too Well
(The Short Film)

RED Era

RED (2012)

RED Songs

The RED Tour

Taylor's Discography