With a record smashing entry, Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) has topped the charts after its November 12 release. Reaching number one on the Billboard 200, Hot 100, and Top Country charts, Swift’s latest release has become the most streamed female album in a single day, surpassing her own record previously held by Folklore and making Swift the most streamed female artist in a day. Featuring artists such as Chris Stapelton, Ed Sheeran, Gary Lightbody (of Snow Patrol), and Phoebe Bridgers, Red (Taylor’s Version) has rekindled the iconic imprint of the original album Red with new twists and tracks. The thirty song album featuring a ten minute special version of All Too Well, and eight new tracks is both sonically special and a testament to Swift’s wordsmith abilities. In an effort to change the way an artist owns their work, Swift plans on re-recording the remainder of her albums (Taylor Swift, Speak Now, 1989, Reputation, and Lover), as her ex-producer Scooter Braun owns the rights to the master copies.
Critically acclaimed across the globe, the original Red was undeniably a hit, yet, the 2014 Grammy selection committee had trouble categorizing it, giving Album of the Year instead to Daft Punk’s Random-Access Memories. Swift’s experimentation with pop and her diverse collaborations are well displayed through her various discography. Red (Taylor’s Version) builds on that original transition into pop with inspired additions such as Message In a Bottle and The Very First Night, along with her smash hits I Knew You Were Trouble, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, and 22. Country listeners will also enjoy Swift remaining close to her roots with country tracks such as Better Man and Babe, two hits that were originally cut and given to Little Big Town and Sygarland.
Vocally the tracks remain similar. Swift’s voice shows much more maturity, yet she is able to capture the playful and painful emotions that inspired her songs. A major difference occurs in her lack of country twang, replaced by a much more pronounced vocal. Sonically, the tracks differ. Differences in guitar riffs and bass are apparent on most songs, yet the changes do not distract from the unique perspective Swift aims to tell. The iconic dubstep drop in I Knew You Were Trouble remains a telling of Swift’s move from country to pop. By keeping the vocals similar and changing the twang, Swift is able to present that she is not confined to a specific genre, and has grown as a singer. Her continuity of iconic moments and new clarity of instrumentals allow Swift to prove that she can better what has already been deemed successful.
The lyrical composition achieved by Swift as seen in the 10-minute version of All Too Well accentuates her prominence within the music industry. The gut-retching ballad retells the story of a once cherished relationship between Swift and the actor Jake Gyllenhaal. The storytelling of Swift sends chills to anyone who can relate with lyrics such as “You kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath”, “You call me up again just to break me like a promise”, and “I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age”. Swift’s continued ability to tell a story is timeless and her revamp of All Too Well provides much desired details to a once mysterious love affair. Her vault tracks which are songs that were written for the original album but did not make the cut are now chart toppers which highlights how good even her cut material is. Swift’s lyricism exhibits success with no genre restrictions. Swift has won the Album of the Year Grammy for Fearless, 1989, and Folklore, which are diversified in country, pop, and alternative indie-folk. Additionally, Swift is the most decorated AMA (American Music Awards) artist with thirty-four awards, surpassing the great Michael Jackson’s twenty-six awards. While Swift continues to write new material, it is evident that her old material is still a relevant masterpiece.
Overall Swift’s new additions add a real depth to the album. They continue to define her ability to transition into other genres and provide a welcomed escape to those who prefer her country music.
Unfortunately, not all the tracks add to the success of the album. Girl at Home was remixed, with a strange backbeat which leaves the listener wishing for the original track. At some points throughout Everything Has Changed Ft. Ed Sheeran, We missed the youthfulness and country influence of her younger voice. Despite these minor issues, the overall album is an improvement in quality.
With 25/30 songs of the album charting on the Hot 100, we can comfortably say that Swift has achieved what very few artists have been able to accomplish. With the debut of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) earlier this year and now Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift is on the course to break industry records with her future content. Swift proves that her mastermind with words and crisp vocals have no bounds. Ms. Swift continues to inspire her colleagues and defines the music industry.