Red (Taylor’s Version) is an eloquent blend of nostalgia and revolutionary songs

Emma Zawacki

More stories from Emma Zawacki

Play Q&As: Benji Zorn
November 11, 2021
Play Q&As: Russell Baird
November 11, 2021
A+picture+of+the+album+cover+for+Red+%28Taylors+Version%29

Spotify

A picture of the album cover for Red (Taylor’s Version)

The year is 2012.

My childhood best friend and I are sprawled out in her room, me on the floor and her across the foot of her bed. In the background of our conversation about Taylor Swift’s current love interests, her album, Red, is drifting through the speakers of her 2-1 radio and iPod charger. 

I was eight years old.

Now, I’m 17, sitting in my room at an unspeakable hour of the night, listening to Red (Taylor’s Version).

The album kicks off with the same drum solo as the original “State of Grace,” and the nostalgic sound had me feeling invigorated. Everything from her background vocals to the graphic that plays across my Spotify screen had me reflecting on my eight-year-old self and how much I’ve grown up these past nine years. 

I spent hours in my bathroom memorizing the lyrics of Red. My best friend and I choreographed a complete dance number that we performed for everyone and anyone to “22.” I would watch “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” over and over again on my family’s computer that lived in my dad’s office; I didn’t know how else to find my favorite songs, so I’ve watched her sit on the edge of that pool more times then I can count. 

A picture of myself from 2012 when I was obsessed with the idea of learning to play the guitar; I quit after four weeks. (Julie Zawacki)

I convinced my mother to let me take guitar lessons so I could become my favorite blonde icon, and while I admire her still, it’s less for her guitar playing skills and more for the incredibly eloquent lyrics Swift can write. 

This album is loaded with all of my nostalgic favorites, but it’s also accompanied by a plethora of new songs, the first one being “Ronan (Taylor’s Version).”

“Ronan (Taylor’s Version)” starts off slow with a tune that feels familiar, comforting. She lists all the things she remembers about a kid she refers to as “little man.” The message behind this song is one of grief, one of processing death. The melancholic sound of the music behind her vocals combined with the depressing lyrics moved me to tears almost immediately.

Next, “Better Man (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” picks up the pace of the album just slightly. This is a re-recording of Little Big Town’s song that she had written for them. It was originally intended for Red, but I’m glad it’s finally getting its time in the sun on Red (Taylor’s Version).

With this album, Swift arranged numerous amounts of featured artists, but the one I was most excited about had to be Phoebe Bridgers. As someone who is slowly becoming a Bridgers fan, with songs like “Motion Sickness” and “Punisher” having a permanent place on my playlists, I was ecstatic when I heard about this collaboration. 

Their voices blend beautifully in “Nothing New (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” and carry out the message behind the song wonderfully. The lyrics go from wondering how you’re expected to know everything at 18 to then wondering if they’ll still be wanted after they’re nothing new. 

I convinced my mother to let me take guitar lessons so I could become my favorite blonde icon.”

“Babe (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” continues to pick up in pace with a seemingly happy beat. 

The beat is misleading. 

The chorus is catchy, and I can already picture myself singing backup to Swift on one of my numerous late-night adventures to D&W. 

With a techno beat, “Message In A Bottle (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” is next in the queue. For some reason, this song reminded me of “Welcome to New York” from her 1989 album, but I think it’s just because the background music feels similar. This song earned itself a spot on more than one playlist of mine. 

This song might be my favorite of her songs from The Vault. The scream-ability factor is something I appreciate from a song, and this one delivers. I also think the ‘Ah, ah, ahs’ that are scattered throughout the chorus are fun.

The Instagram post that I woke up to this morning. (@taylorswift on Instagram)

Because Swift got her start as a country artist, it made me nostalgic listening to “I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault).” The twang of the harmonicas combined with country artist Chris Stapleton’s vocals brought me back to her early days of making music when I was a small child who listened to whatever their parents put on the radio—it was usually 93.7, and I’d sit through country song after country song hoping for a listen of Swift’s vocals before the drive was over.  

In “Forever Winter (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault),” I adored the comparisons between seasons and people in this song. I enjoy analyzing poetry, and I felt like that was exactly what I was doing while listening to this song. She sings about how it’d, “Be forever winter if you go” before saying she’ll be his sun at his darkest moments. She wants to be a support system for him, and I find it endearing. 

“Run” is the second song on this album with featured artist Ed Sheeran—the first being “Everything Has Changed (Taylor’s Version).” The soft blend of their voices and the impeccable lyrics have me thinking only one thing: Ms. Taylor Swift has done it again. This masterpiece of a song made me feel tranquil in every sense of the word. 

“The Very First Night (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” has solidified its spot near the top of my favorite songs on this album and might just give “A Message In A Bottle (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” a run for its money as my first favorite.  

It gives of coming-of-age movie vibes, and I adore it. I can imagine it in some cheesy Netflix movie as they pan around the love interests in a 360-degree circle with twinkling lights and frazzled nerves. I’m a sucker for cheesy Netflix movies. 

“All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” is a song that I’ve been anticipating since its announcement. I’ve prepared by listening to the original on repeat over the course of several weeks and voicing my distaste for Jake Gyllenhal in every conversation I’ve had about this album with my fellow Swifties on staff. 

The poster for the short film that comes out at 7 p.m. tonight (@taylorswift on Instagram).

The first couple minutes of the song were identical in lyrics and had a few minor changes to the music, but as soon as I heard new words that had been strung together, I gasped. I wasn’t expecting to hear Swift swear with such intensity this early into my morning, but I loved it with all of my being. 

This combination of nostalgia and new lyrics was almost too much to handle. Her poetic verses backing up my favorite Swift bridge of all time nearly pushed me over the edge—I would be perfectly happy if this was the only song I could listen to for the rest of my life.

Not only has Swift given us double the original content with this song, but there is also a short film being released tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern time. This film, written and directed by Swift herself, will star actors Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink. 

I already have an alarm set on my phone.

Overall, I have no words to explain my awe with Swift. This album was half nostalgia, half alarmingly amazing while giving us an even deeper look into the deepest parts of her psyche. I will forever be grateful for the fun Swift gave eight-year-old me, and I can’t wait to see what adventures Red (Taylor’s Version) will bring me now.