Is Taylor Swift’s new ‘Red’ album better than the original?

Beth Garrabrant

Fact Box

  • Taylor Swift is a Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter known for her musical talent that spans genres (country, pop, rock, and folk) with 9 studio albums and two recently re-recorded studio albums. She is the only woman to win the Grammy for Album Of The Year three times.
  • Red,” Swift’s fourth studio album was released on October 22, 2012 with the lead single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”  
  • Swift released “Red (Taylor’s Version)” as the re-recorded version of her original album on November 12, 2021 with 14 new songs and the ten-minute version of one of her popular hit songs, “All Too Well.”
  • On November, 16, 2021, Rolling Stone’ reviewed Swift’s latest album, saying, “Red” was initially Swift’s “greatest album [...] until ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ came along,” however, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is “redone with more doom and detail.” 
  • In 2019, Swift announced her first six albums were sold by Big Machine Records’ Scooter Braun, stating, “Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy.” Before releasing “Lover,” she stated she would be re-recording her old albums. The first, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” was released April 9, 2021.

Siam (No)

Taylor Swift recently re-released her 4th studio album, RED, which she had made in Oct 2012. She recently had a fallout with Big Machine Records and is now trying to regain her musical status. But re-releasing RED (as 'Taylor's Version') nine years later appears to be a mistake on her part. Undoubtedly, Swift is a talented and amazing singer, but this album has not re-ignited the same passion in her fans. 

In RED, Swift appears to be reliving her romantic life, but it is nine years too late; fans have all grown older by this point, and the songs no longer hold the same meaning as they once did. Her original 2012 version of RED was louder, forceful, and captivating, but in 2021, the same emotions and heartbeat are missing. It is like listening to the same overhead airport announcement again—there is a lack of connection with the listener. 

More importantly, her change from country to mainstream pop is not exciting; the same songs released nine years with different background music are no longer seductive today. The lyrics and words that once warmed the hearts of the fans don't have the same meaning. Swift, along with all of her fans, has changed over the past decade. But perhaps unlike Swift, most of them don't hold on to past romances so fervently. 

Listening to the RED album today is devoid of any special feelings/emotions. While she has added some more musical instruments, the repertoire is the same. And like all fans over the past nine years who have listened to the original RED album many times, the new release holds no more enthusiasm. It's the same old Swift mantra repackaged as new.


Grace (Yes)

'RED (Taylor's Version)' is the superior listen. First and foremost, Swift owns it. This is part of a larger controversy around who owns Swift's masters. She's in the process of re-recording most of her albums so fans can enjoy them without exploiting her. 

Second, 'Red (Taylor's Version)' has several bonus songs and featured artists that the old album doesn't. Consider 'From the Vault' gems such as 'Run' and 'Nothing New,' which feature Ed Sheeran and Phoebe Bridgers, respectively. Not only can long-time fans hear new music, but they can also listen to other musicians they enjoy. 

Most anticipated among these new songs, though, is 'All Too Well (10 minute version).' Rolling Stone named the original number one in its definitive ranking of Swift's songs. With this addition to the tracklist, we learn more about the artistic process and turmoil that drives the protagonist's perspective.

The uncut 'All Too Well' is also an example of Swift's dedication to her fanbase. In a recent interview with Seth Meyers, Swift stated that she's paying attention to their asks. Whether it's her hidden Easter eggs or unreleased singles, 'Red (Taylor's Version)' provides her followers with more content to enjoy.

Finally, Swift's voice has matured in the near-decade since the original 'Red' was released. According to an NYT article about 'Fearless (Taylor's Version),' 'She's slightly less nasal, slightly more controlled.' This change lends itself specifically to 'Red (Taylor's Version).' Swift is no longer a teenager dancing in the rain or pining over a high school crush; she's felt true heartbreak, love, and regret. Now in her 30s, Swift adds another layer to these experiences, and her voice shows it.

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