Taylor Swift’s album “Red” was released almost 10 years ago — what seems like almost a lifetime away for the musician. It was her self-proclaimed “break-up album,” displaying chaotic emotions of heartbreak, joy, anger and love. The album, though long passed, accrued acclaim over the years, with critics and fans alike calling it Swift’s magnum opus. So, why is this album seemingly on the charts again after 10 years?
If you don’t know the history, here’s a brief explanation.
For any song, there are two ways the rights are distributed: composition rights (songwriting aspects like lyrics, chords and melody) and master rights (the “master” recordings you hear on the radio and how they are distributed).
For her first five albums, Swift belonged to the recording label Big Machine Records, but her contract ended in 2018 and she later switched to Universal’s Republic Records. However, Big Machine still owned all the master recordings of those five albums, later selling them to Ithaca Holdings owned by Scooter Braun, who then sold them to Shamrock Holdings in 2019. This means anytime someone streams or listens to the old recordings, Swift makes zero profit off of her own work.
To anyone, this issue would seem unresolvable, but the worldwide superstar who still held her own composition rights found a loophole. If she re-recorded her old albums, she would be able to profit off of her own work and label it as “(Taylor’s Version)” to make a clear distinction from the old master recordings.
Swift released her first re-recording, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” in March of 2021 with much success, but “Red (Taylor’s Version)” has reached another level. On its first day release, the album broke Spotify’s record for the most-streamed album in a day by a female artist, and a large majority of the album is on Spotify’s Top 50 songs playlist.
Though the album is a financial success, it’s also a creative success for Swift. Compared to the original recordings, listeners can hear subtle differences in Swift’s vocals, as her matured voice gives the song a cleaner sound. Production mainly stays the same for most of the original songs since it is a re-recording rather than a redux, but the production sounds more modern and less dated than the previous masters.
The emotions still hit hard on her original songs like “I Almost Do,” “Sad Beautiful Tragic” and “Begin Again” while other more upbeat songs still capture their original fun nature like “State of Grace,” “22” and “Holy Ground.” But the real highlight of the re-recording is the “vault tracks,” songs that were previously written during the “Red” era but never were put on the original album. Here, we get to see songs that could have been on the original album with Swift’s current style.
“Nothing New” features artist Phoebe Bridgers and feels like it could easily have been on “Folklore” or one of Bridger’s projects. The emotional vulnerability of aging within the music industry is showcased in the song gorgeously. This contrasts with her other vault songs like “I Bet You Think About Me” featuring Chris Stapleton, with a country twang and witty banter that is reminiscent of Swift’s old country hits.
The shining star out of all the vault songs, however, has to be the 10-minute version of her fan-favorite song “All Too Well.” Originally cut to be 5 minutes long by her old recording label, Swift’s incredible songwriting talent swings with full force. Lines like “you kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath” cut deep with listeners, and the extremely detailed events placed in the song only make it more soul-crushing. The most intriguing part of this 10-minute version is the fact that it wouldn’t have existed if the re-recorded didn’t, and more importantly, it wouldn’t be seeing as much success with an accompanying short film and SNL performance if it wasn’t Swift singing it. Who else could create a 10-minute long version of an already released song and have it top the charts?
If you are a fan of Swift, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is specifically curated for you, with extra details that only long-time listeners will notice. If you’ve never listened to the album, it is still a treat to behold, with old favorites and new classics in the making.