Strike a chord: Taylor Swift’s ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ highlights singer’s evolution

Drawing of Taylor Swift
(Zoey Lofgren • The Student Life)

Taylor Swift practically broke the internet with the announcement that she would be including a ten minute version, which includes two new verses, an extended chorus and a fresh outro, of “All Too Well” on her “Red” album re-recording. The new and improved album would also feature Phoebe Bridgers, the internet’s current poster child for sad girl music. While the release of “Taylor’s Version” of “Red” brings forth discourses around Swift’s legal challenges, the album serves as a marker of her development and unbreakable confidence. 

“Red” is the second album Swift is re-recording, following the release of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” earlier in 2021. Swift is taking on the challenge of re-recording her first six albums in order to have full ownership over her music, following disputes with her old record label over the holdings on her original master recordings. 

While the re-recorded versions have few differences from the original, Swift created a whole new musical world with the re-releases. For the new versions of both “Red” and “Fearless,” she included “From the Vault” songs — eight and six tracks on each album, respectively — which were written during the recording of the original album but not included in the final version. Swift even created a short film to go along with the ten minute version of “All Too Well,” starring Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink, expertly portraying the storyline of the song. 

Swift effortlessly captures the uncomfortableness of outsiders looking into a relationship with a large age gap, as Swift’s nine year age gap with Jake Gyllenhaal during their relationship was the supposed inspiration for this song. This film easily allows viewers to visualize the storyline of the song and for Swift to fill in the missing pieces of the narrative through additional dialogue in the video. 

Moveover, the added songs allow Swift to express even more aspects of her life during the recording of the original “Red,” granting the listener an opportunity to develop a stronger sense of her state at the time. “Nothing New” grapples with Swift’s unavoidable fate of “losing my novelty,” and she escapes civilization with her partner on “Run.” These new changes bring much excitement to the re-recording; the other main difference between the recordings is Swift’s voice quality. 

When I initially listened to “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” I hated it. The naivety and airiness of  Swift’s high-school-age voice were replaced with the deeper and more grounded vocals of an older Swift. The youthful nature of the album was one of the main reasons why it became my favorite, and without that quality, it seemed pointless to listen to it. I thought that I was analyzing and processing the music at a deeper level than all my friends who were dancing to “Love Story (Taylor’s Version).” 

But as I thought about it more, I realized that the re-recordings represent more than Swift being able to have authority over her music. Swift is able to show her growth and change throughout these new records, and by choosing to prefer the original song over “Taylor’s Version,” I felt as if I was ignoring the major developments she has gone through the last 15 years while in the spotlight. 

The re-recordings not only allow Swift to reconceptualize her work but also function as a catalyst for introspection for Swift and her listeners. You are able to starkly see how everything that Swift has gone through has allowed her to develop a stronger sense of self and a confidence no one can shatter. Swift’s singing throughout “Begin Again (Taylor’s Version)” is sung with a consciousness signaling that she knows she deserves someone who thinks she is funny and arrives early to dates. By contrast, the original recording has a sense of surprise throughout the song, as if Swift is questioning the type of partner she deserves.

Furthermore, Swift reflects in a way that doesn’t belittle her younger self but instead acknowledges the woman she used to be with a sense of nostalgia and appreciation, something often mirrored in her listeners. When I listened to “Red” as a 9-year-old, I loved to dance around my room to “Stay Stay Stay,” but now I fully understand the genius in the lyricism of “All Too Well” after I bawled my eyes out to it after my first breakup. 

Women in pop music are expected to follow a set of stringent rules, but Swift shatters those by asserting her dominance through the re-recordings, allowing her to rewrite the norms for future female pop stars. She challenges the common notion in the music industry that women should remain stagnant individuals who occupy only one niche for their whole career. Swift prides herself on her evolution and therefore encourages other women to welcome maturation rather than shying away from it. 

Even though the original recordings will always hold a special place in my heart, “Taylor’s Version” ushers in a new generation of women, unafraid to walk through life with mindfulness and poise. 

Ava Hinz SC ’25 is TSL’s music columnist and is from Los Altos, California. She is a hardcore Swiftie and believes “Reputation” is a criminally underrated album. Her life peak was when she went to the 1989 World Tour.

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