Taylor Swift’s “Red” Vault Tracks Are Too Slim: An Album Review

“What a Past Is Past,” Taylor Swift sang nine years ago on “Begin Again,” one of “Red’s” original songs. And what a damn lie ke was. Certainly, it was said in the context of one of the few shamelessly edile songs in that 2012 edition, so that she could be forgiven for being caught in the ray of hope the tune provided to cover an otherwise not-so-optimistic album. But everyone knows that then she established herself as a pop music giant who built much of a career by agreeing with William Faulkner that “the past is never dead. It hasn’t even passed.” At least it didn’t happen if you have a full lyrical recollection of key scenes with One That Got Away, and you’re convinced he kept your scarf for sentimental reasons and not because it, as it were, was stained in the wash.

There was something about “Red” that felt a bit meta: an obsession album that we ourselves were obsessed with (speaking for the Taylor Nation, anyway). Swift has even improved since then; pound for pound and track after track, 2020’s “Folklore” and “Evermore” are, most likely, more consistent records, as you’d get from a top songwriter who pushes himself. But especially if you grew up with her, maybe you’ll never get over it the first time you felt her acquired You do not surpass it. There was joy in that identification: one of those original “Red” song titles could have been changed to “Sad Beautiful Tragic Giddy.”

It was more where that came from, and it arrived in the form of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” the second in her series of re-recordings of her original seven-album Big Machine catalog. (Why is she remaking all those albums? Because she didn’t get over it, of course … Hold on this, Ithaca Holdings, right?) As with the first in the series, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” which appeared earlier in 2020, much will be said and written about how identical the remakes are or are not to the originals. (Does she utter the word “What?” In “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” with more or less arrogance than she did in 2008? You be the judge.) A general initial impression is that the more acoustically based things are more easy. just recreate without producer Nathan Chapman than her first outings in electro-pop are without Max Martin, though the differences can be hard for the non-Swiftie ear to immediately hear. She has the advantage of having almost all the original producers back on board, except for those two – Dan Wilson, Jacknife Lee, Butch Walker and even Martin’s longtime partner, Shellback, doing his role in three songs. Swift’s most prominent co-producer on the remakes, producer Christopher Wray, who replaces both Chapman and Martin, certainly deserves some applause as the most clever impersonator this side of Dana Carvey.

But it’s the “From the Vault” bonus material we really anticipate on these new albums; the A / B-ing on the recreations can be left to the professionals. In “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” the new-old things were only of moderate interest, as Swift was not yet as cunning a writer as she would have been only a few short years later … and also, let’s be honest here: You don’t was really waiting for more forensic information on what went wrong with Joe Jonas, right? While the answer to that basic question with “Red” (filling in the blank accordingly) is: Yes – not just because of a sick curiosity of celebrities, but because by the time 2012 arrived, Swift had graduated from enchanting anti-popular petulance to a poet. , with every detail that seemed to confirm what fans knew of real life making her feel like a journalist as well as a modern-master copywriter.

“Red (Taylor’s Version)” features nine previously unrecorded songs, which kick off after the recreation of the original album (except for OG bonus tracks like “Ronan”) ended. Reduce that to six if you only want to consider songs that have never been heard before in any form, as “Better Man” and “Babe” were later given to Little Big Town and Sugarland, respectively, to become huge country hits, and the new 10 a -minute version of “All Too Well” previously existed in a five-and-a-half-minute form, of course. But we won’t miss those – especially not this last track, which has been the holy grail of fandom since the secret of its long-form existence appeared.

An estimate of those nine new-to-us numbers, with a relatively-scale gradation for a collection of songs that have no real flaw in the set:

“Better Man”

Little Big Town’s hit show from a few years ago had already established that Pearl Jam had some competition about who had the better “Better Man”. (Okay, Pearl Jam wins it, but not by that huge margin.) There’s a solid country craft, but also a sensible sense of true regret and sadness here. And in addition to having the advantage of the true author’s voice, Swift also makes the LBT version one better by having both round steels on the track. and the London Contemporary Orchestra. (There are many strings in these extras, mostly arranged by Bryce Dessner, receiving a few moonlight gigs from his producer brother Aaron.) In “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” it was easy to see that the extracts remained on the cutting floor because they were not completely A-grade. But in this case, you should say “Better Man” got the shaft because Swift had already moved from country sounds with “Red,” though it needed her to officially announce it around “1989” for slow thinkers to get it. . (Rating: 4/5)

“Nothing New” (featuring Phoebe Bridgers)

Holy hell, is this a good match … modest as it might sound at first. If Swift had just made a solo recording of this treasure trove, it might not have been nearly the highlight it is with Bridgers on board for a full verse trading duo, not just a harmonious vocal. This iridescent scary number was written as a “New Child in Town” -type scenario, where Swift imagines a possible impending decay and wonders, “Sir, what will become of me / After I’ve lost my novelty.” Things get more interesting when she fancies a surrogate: “I know I’ll meet her someday / It’s a feverish dream / The kind of brightness you only have at seventeen / She’ll know the way and then she’ll say she got it the map of me / I will say that I am happy for her, then I will cry to sleep. ” The predictable thing is that Swift is trying in the lyrics to imagine her replacement as exactly five years younger than she is. Guess what the age difference is between Swift and Bridgers? Five years. these words did not prove entirely prophetic, otherwise – this city is large enough for the Cantabrian brilliance of both. (Rating: 5/5)


It looks like “Better Man’s” a slightly less handsome cousin. There was something spicy about the sound of Jennifer Nettles ’voice in the Sugarland version that made the repetition of the title word a little tastier than it is here. But then there are the trumpets, saxophones, and flutes that late enter Swift’s version and elevate the track into something that swings far more than the hit country cover did … so, mind you, Swift. (Rating: 3.5 / 5)

“Message in a Bottle”

How could a bop so strong – and so strong a shot for a hit single status – be left by “Red”? This was a Max Martin / Shellback co-writing / co-production that somehow didn’t make the cut along with the trio of tracks that did. Martin did not make the comeback to reproduce this version, but Shellback did, along with the umlauted new partner Elvira Anderfjärd, and it is fully infectious. However in the end, it’s not that hard to figure out why it might have gotten the shaft when the performance was arranged on: How good it is, you can imagine almost anyone in pop singing it, and besides the kind of storytelling. a reference to lentils that fans love, it feels a little impersonal in a way some of her released songs do. Still … it sounds like a success, nominally more general or not. (Rating: 4/5)

“I Bet You Think About Me” (featuring Chris Stapleton)

What would it sound like if “Betty” met “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks? Now we know. It’s another track that was probably discarded primarily because it was too country – though, at least in this newly recorded arrangement, a more tumultuous kind of country than Swift pulled out at the time. The “Friends in Low Places” comparison is because Swift paints herself as a proud rube who knew she didn’t fit in with her top-crust, Beverly Hills-bred boyfriend and his supposedly snobby clique. “I bet you think of me when you’re out / At your great independent music concerts every week” – a reference that would have been one “indie” too much if it had been released on the album along with “We Are Never”. Ever Getting Back Together, ”but which now serves to capitalize that it’s the same guy as that song, with more damn details about his“ organic shoes and a million-dollar couch ”. If there’s a calling moment, it’s when she sins, “I bet you think of me when you say‘ Oh my god / She’s crazy, she wrote a song about me ’” – somehow embracing the image of the crazy ex. she would go all-in with “Empty Space.” Stapleton contributes a harmonious vocal, not a true duet part, but it is good and loud. (Rating: 5/5)

“Eternal Winter”

Maturity is welcome as Swift seeks to raise a depressed and cynical friend or beauty. A slow farmer, with some nice, bittersweet trumpet and saxophones by Jack Antonoff. (Rating: 3.5 / 5)

“Run” (featuring Ed Sheeran)

Sheeran becomes the first and probably last co-star to get two full duets on a Swift album, as he already had one on the OG “Red”. It’s the first in a row of Swift songs about wanting to get away from blurry eyes with a lover – think of it as the much kinder, softer predecessor of “1989” “I Know Places”. (Rating: 3.5 / 5)

“The First Night”

A happy, timeless pop song about missing someone … maybe a little too pleasant to convey much in the way of real anxiety, even for fans of an ironic melodic juxtaposition. However, much like “Message in a Bottle,” it’s easy to imagine this as the best 40 hits, then or now, and about which you’d need a bit to get tired of. Espionage, the Norwegian duo who co-wrote and now co-produces it, haven’t done any songs with Swift that have indeed been released, but they should feel fairly justified, as this is becoming a global bop now. (Rating: 3/5)

“Too Good (Taylor’s Version)”

Co-author Liz Rose says she was brought on this track because Swift needed some advice to reduce its epic. Most of us might feel that we could probably break out the red feathers and offer the same advice as Rose’s: “Well, Taylor, you might want to miss the verse that says” And you threw me the car keys / “Fuck the patriarchy is “a key chain on earth.” with more references to someone whose name sounds like Drake Hillengall than you would think possible even for someone as prone to specifics as Swift, including telling jokes about age differences and Brooklyn mojosa, and a verse dedicated to an attempt at reconciliation. the pulse and come back / I swore it was the same, after 3 months in the grave / And then you wondered where it went / While I reached you but / All I felt was shame / And you held my lifeless. . ” It is also now too accompanying a song to another “Red” song about the narrator set up on her birthday: “You who charmed my dad with compelling jokes / Enchanting coffee like you were in a late night show / But then he looked at me looking at the front door / all night, wanting you to come / And he said, ‘It’s supposed to be fun … / Having turned 21.’ “Friends, that’s confessional songwriting. With Jack Antonoff now on deck as the co-producer of this version,” All Too Well “becomes more dreamy and cyclical – almost liturgical, really, as she goes her way to a closing” holy prayer, I was there “call. In a perfect world, she would write 20 more verses and make a full album of it. : 10/5)

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