“Red (Taylor’s Version)” vault tracks expand upon heartbroken narrative of the original album

After losing the rights to the master recordings of her first six albums, Taylor Swift has begun to re-record her previous works. These re-recordings will allow Swift to control the licensing and profit of her songs, but more importantly, own her music once again.

Swift released her album “Red (Taylor’s Version)” on Nov. 12, following the release of the album “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” and the single “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)” earlier this year.

As an incentive for fans to buy and stream her re-recorded albums, Swift has added new songs to the tracklist. These recordings are labeled “From the Vault” and were written alongside the tracks from the original album, but they ultimately did not make the final cut. “Red (Taylor’s Version)”’ vault tracks include six never-before-heard songs, two covers, and the 10 minute version of fan favorite “All Too Well.”

“Red”’s release in 2012 marked the beginning of Swift’s transition into pop music, but it still included some country influence. The “Red” vault tracks further indicate the battle of the genres she faced. The upbeat “Message in a Bottle” feels almost jarring next to the country ballad “I Bet You Think About Me” featuring Chris Stapleton, but Swift makes it work. This decision is reminiscent of the original tracklist, where the most heartbreaking track “All Too Well” is followed by the enthusiastic pop single “22.”

“The Very First Night” draws similarities to “Holy Ground” through both the sound and the lyrics, which are reminiscent of a past relationship. “I drive down different roads/ But they all lead back to you” shows the difficulty to get past the end of the relationship.

“Babe” and “Better Man” were songs Swift originally wrote during “Red”’s conception but were ultimately given to other artists to record. In her recordings, Swift gives her own voice to the tracks. “Babe” opens with the backing vocals “What about your promises, promises?” which are laid throughout the track, expressing how broken the relationship left Swift.

“Forever Winter” encapsulates the tone of merry holiday music, but the lyrics wrestle with a much darker theme. Unlike the rest of the vault tracks, Swift is not the subject of the “Forever Winter.” Instead, the focus is cast on someone she loves. The subject deals with mental illness and Swift trying to help navigate their thoughts, “If I was standing there in your apartment/ I’d take that bomb in your head and disarm it.” The song ends with the line “He says he doesn’t believe anything much he hears these days/ I say, ‘Believe in one thing, I won’t go away.’” While the subject is likely to be Swift’s lover, the vagueness of the lyrics do not confirm nor deny this. This critical choice serves as a reminder that anyone in your life could be struggling.

Swift writes about her complicated relationship with fame in “Nothing New” and “Run,” a topic she grappled with in “The Lucky One.”  In “Nothing New” Swift and Phoebe Bridgers sing “Lord, what will become of me/ Once I’ve lost my novelty” and later “It’s a fever dream/ the kind of radiance you only have at seventeen.” While “The Lucky One” is about voluntarily leaving fame behind, “Nothing New” reminds listeners how quickly artists fall in and out of the limelight. “Run,” Swift’s third collaboration with Ed Sheeran, is more similar to “The Lucky One;” in both songs, the speaker hopes to escape the spotlight. “Run,” however, focuses more on the toll stardom has on relationships. Swift sings “And my so-called friends, they don’t know/ I’d drive away before I let go.”

The highly anticipated “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” did not disappoint, as it gave the classic a new sound with more heartbreaking lyrics, “And I was thinking on the drive down, any time now/ He’s gonna say it’s love, you never called it what it was.”

While other artists struggle to include deluxe tracks that feel cohesive to the original album, Swift defies this struggle. If anything, the vault tracks further the narrative of being young and in love — the euphoria and heartbreak — which leaves these tracks unforgettable.

 

5/5 Big Oles

 

franci3@stolaf.edu

 

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