- Jasmine Ledesma
Red- Taylor Swift Album
Taylor's Version Breaks Records
Taylor Swift is no stranger to breaking records. From being gifted the title of youngest artist to CMA’s Entertainer of The Year back in 2009 as her career began to leak over into the world of the mainstream, the culturally valued, to having the Most Viewed Music Video of 2017 after the videos for Blank Space and Shake It Off, both of which have gained billions of views, Taylor has done it all. But even with a hefty belt, she is not yet done. Following the release of her latest album Red (Taylor’s Version), it has been reported that she has broken a 50-year-old music record. Her song “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” has been named the longest song to hold the first spot on Billboard’s Top 100 list, replacing “American Pie” which had previously held the spot. It is a fine accomplishment, to say the least.
So, what exactly is all the hype about? I'm glad you asked.
When Taylor originally released Red, it was 2012. The landscape of pop culture was filled with neon, drama, and zany tunes. Whitney Houston’s death left the world stunned. The last installment of the highly popular Twilight series was released. William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were expecting their first child. Gangnam Style was dominating the charts, playing throughout every mall in America and captivating the Internet. It was all glossy and explosive. And Taylor Swift was one of the most coveted stars in the industry, known for her classic red lipstick and innovation within the country genre. But she wanted more. Red would be her transition into the land of pop music, straying from the sound that had previously helped her launch into the public’s consciousness in the first place. Where her previous album Speak Now was a confessional, reflective album that explored her past relationships in bluegrass and rock-inspired sounds, Red was a more capable, confident piece that stretched across various genres, exploring ideas of the intense, present emotions that come love. Confusion, anguish, and anger played out in popish, soaring vocals and catchy hooks. All relayed by a more direct, vulnerable, and bold Taylor. It was as fresh as it was immediately classic.
In the re-released version, we are similarly led by a changed Taylor, one that has grown into a behemoth of pop, seemingly impossible to top. Her fans are loyal and dedicated to the singer in a way that at times comes off as nearly religious. Her stance in the industry is a grand one not to be understated. Some of the differences -- a few changed notes or a newly quieted mix -- might only be noticed by the most dedicated of fans, which is to say they are there for them.
Where Taylor’s Version differs most lies within the new material released, an entire seven songs previously unheard or in some cases never properly released, some originating from demos. But it is interesting to hear what a now thirty-year-old Taylor has to say about growing up after the fact. In this new version, a wiser Taylor is building upon the ideas originally explored on Red, using her aged heartbreak as stepping stones towards reflections on new heartbreaks. On the acclaimed song All Too Well, for example, previously cut stanzas have now been added back in, giving the song a more compact feel. The Lucky One, a song that discusses the pressures of fame, now reads as a self-stated prophecy. It is also eerily reminiscent of Britney Spears’ 2000 song Lucky which tackles similar anxieties. In Nothing New, which features rising star Phoebe Bridgers, speaks of a fear that appears all too relevant. Taylor sings, “Lord, what will become of me / Once I've lost my novelty?” and it comes off with a sense of newfound desperation. At the height of her career, from the top of the charts, where else is there for Taylor to go? What can she do next? Do the accomplishments still excite or do they instead spark fear of fading out? It is hard to tell but valuable to consider especially within a culture that feeds off of the thrill of youth. Will Taylor find herself surpassed by those she paved the road for?
At this point, it is unlikely. Taylor’s Version of Red is a testament to the power of reflection. If you can look your fears in the face, they lose their strength. And that is, with some minor exceptions, what Taylor has done with this album. She has returned to the pain-soaked dramas of her twenties and gained control over them. Only time will tell what she will do with this. She can do anything she likes.
What did you think of the album? Let us know in the comments!
Jasmine Ledesma is both a writer based in New York and a Pyrrhic contributor. Her work has appeared in or is set to appear in places such as Crazyhorse, Rattle, and [PANK] among others. Her work was nominated for both Best of The Net and the Pushcart Prize in 2020. She was named a Brooklyn Poets fellow in 2021.
If you love this article, you can find more of Jasmine's work at jasmineledesma.com
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