Taylor Swift knows her fans “All Too Well.”
On Nov. 12, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” was released as the second part of a mission to re-record her previous albums which are not owned by the singer. In 2019, Swift announced that she would be re-recording her discography, as her master recordings came under the ownership of Scooter Braun, a music mogul Swift alleges has bullied her throughout her career, who subsequently sold them. The highly anticipated album features 30 tracks, along with a short film for the 10-minute version of the song “All Too Well.”
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How many times can an artist reinvent themselves? Since 2017, Swift has delivered fans six studio albums, two of which were re-recorded providing a spin on some of her older work. Looking at her work linearly, Swift finds a finesse for telling her story amidst her public persona. Let’s take a look one by one:
- 2017 – “Reputation”
[“I’m sorry she can’t come to the phone right now- why? Cus she’s dead.”]
Previous to this album was “1989” which was released in 2014. Already a household name, Swift had long endured an “America’s sweetheart” identity, albeit one riddled with media attention for who, where and when she was dating at all times. Then, her reputation was one of singing songs about her exes, depicting her as an obsessive, love-sick enchantress. “Reputation” was her chance to address that.
The album featured 15 songs which all play within a tale of love, betrayal, and acceptance for the uncontrollable.
Most encompassing is the track and subsequent music video for “Look at What You Made Me Do,” which shows Swift poking fun at her past alter-egos and watching them clamor over the media’s perception of her. The music video is riddled with snakes (a reference to feuds Taylor had in 2017, including Kim Kardashian and Kanye West), along with many easter eggs that denote one message: she knows who she is. “Fearless” era Taylor, along with all the others, are all grappling toward “Reputation” era Taylor, who is done with the media circus.
2. 2019 – “Lover”
Taylor mellows down on this album sonically, but the pen is a mighty sword. Tracks like “Paper Rings” and “Lover” have us at Taylor’s most upbeat and reverent. “London Boy” had fans beaming as it was a sweet nod to her most secretive and current beau, Joe Alwyn.
Still, she showcases a more raw and emotional take in “Death by a Thousand Cuts” and “Cornelia Street.” The power behind the songs is in the specificity — they write a movie for themselves.
Most memorable goes to “The Man,” a long-needed rebuttal to the misogyny Swift has faced throughout her career. Directed by and starring Swift, she poses as “Tyler Swift” and represents omnipresent double standards.
She sings, “Cus if I was a man, I’d be the man” in full gear as a high-power male CEO. The music video is a direct hit at the years she was scrutinized for writing about past romantic partners, a common practice used by many musical artists.
Swift explains this double standard to be especially present in the music industry.
“Reinvent yourself, but only in a way that we find to be equally comforting but also a challenge for you. Live out a narrative that we find to be interesting enough to entertain us, but not so crazy that it makes us uncomfortable,” Swift said in her 2020 film, “Miss Americana.”
Two albums released five months apart, not twins — but sisters with an age gap. From her early history of country, to then experimenting with pop, Swift finds herself traversing indie-folk. Stripped down and with acoustic versions entail, “Folklore” is the feeling of autumn. Many tracks like “exile,” “the 1,” and “august” carry tones of lost loves and wistful reminiscing put to a soft piano or low guitar. Still, Taylor lends every ballad with pieces of herself, as “the last great american dynasty” is an ode to the past of her Rhode Island home.
“There was something different with folklore. I felt less like departing and more like returning. I loved the escapism I found in these imaginary/not imaginary tales,” Swift wrote before the release of “evermore.”
“evermore” fits as a b-side to the previous album. Together, they make up an album of about 34 songs all with little tales of their own that fit together like a movie. Tracks like “champagne problems,” “coney island,” and “long story short” feature the heights of her emotional vocals with engaging story-telling.
Almost a decade after its original release, Swift unearths a part of her old self in “Red (Taylor’s Version).” Radio repeats like “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “22,” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” are jarring to hear from 31-year-old Swift. Yet, the re-recordings work more like a sequel with add-ons rather than a remake. It’s matured and has more behind the scenes.
The personal track of “All Too Well” was finally released in all of its 10-minute long glory along with a new short film written and directed by Swift herself. Featuring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien, the short film is a cozy tale of love and the subsequent forgetting of love, shot on 35mm film. The time breaks between song and scenes bring a whole new depth to the song as the film ends on a take of Him watching Her wistfully years later from afar wearing her old scarf.
As Swift is a master of words and tales, the impending re-releases of “Taylor Swift,” “Speak Now,” “1989” and “Reputation” has fans guessing on which era will be brought back into a new life next.