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This Is How Taylor Swift’s Rerecorded 'Red' Album Stands Up Against The Original

By Meghan Dillon··  12 min read
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After months of waiting, Taylor Swift finally released her re-recorded version of “Red” on November 12, and it’s everything I hoped for and more.

Red is one of my favorite albums because it takes the listener through so many emotions, which spoke to me when I first listened to it at 18 (I’m 27 now). Every song was special to me back then, and most of them mean something different (and are often more special) to me now.

I don’t know how Taylor did it, but she managed to make the re-recording even better than the original. The re-recorded version contains 30 songs, including the 16 original tracks, five bonus tracks, and nine previously unreleased tracks that were meant for the original Red album. I’ve compared each song to the original and am telling you which one (I think) wins. I’ve also ranked the nine “from the vault” tracks.

Grab a glass of wine and a box of tissues (you’ll need them both, trust me), and prepare for the most enjoyable emotional roller coaster of your life.

State of Grace

Winner: Taylor’s Version

I can’t help but feel like Taylor’s version sounds happier than the original, which warms my heart. Out of all her albums, I think this is the best opening track because it prepares you for the emotional roller coaster that’s coming your way.

Red

Winner: Taylor’s Version

This is one of my favorite Taylor songs of all time, and one thing I love about it is how the meaning behind it has changed through the years. 22-year-old Taylor is singing of a passionate romance that fizzled out, but the maturity in 31-year-old Taylor’s voice indicates that she knows the romance wasn’t particularly healthy. Hindsight is 20/20, and you can tell this in the tone of her voice.

Treacherous

Winner: Taylor’s Version

Similar to “Red,” the original version comes from a young and naive perspective. This song isn’t about a healthy relationship (it’s a toss-up between John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhaal), so I feel like it has more meaning when it comes from 31-year-old Taylor.

I Knew You Were Trouble

Winner: Original Version

This was probably the hardest song to pick a winner from because both versions are so good, but I’m going with the original version because it has more scream at the top of your lungs when you’re drunk vibes. The original also feels more fun, and this song confirms that this album was Taylor’s bad boy phase, which we can all relate to.

All Too Well

Winner: Taylor’s Version

This one was tough because this song is a literal masterpiece, but the vocals in Taylor’s version feel more raw and emotional than the original one. The maturity of her voice adds another layer of nostalgia, which is perfect because the song is about looking back on a past relationship.

22

Winner: Original Version

I know I might get dragged on Twitter for this, but this song just makes more sense when it’s sung by a 22-year-old. The song has a very youthful vibe, and it isn’t the same listening to an older Taylor singing it. I still love the new version; I just think the original makes more sense.

I Almost Do

Winner: Taylor’s Version

I hope you deleted every single one of your exes’ phone numbers before listening because this is the ultimate “should I text him?” song. I listened to the original version thinking this exact thing on numerous occasions through the years, and I’m glad I never gave in to the urge. It was tough to pick a winner, but I’m going with Taylor’s version because the maturity of her voice adds another layer of emotion to the song, and I LOVE IT!

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Winner: Original Version

Like “22,” this song just makes more sense when a 22-year-old is singing it, especially in the spoken bridge. It has a very youthful feel to it, and Taylor’s version doesn’t capture that as well as the original. I also love that this song comes after “I Almost Do” because it’s the perfect reminder to not text your ex.

Stay Stay Stay

Winner: Taylor’s Version

I tend to prefer the original versions of her more upbeat songs because they capture a more youthful vibe, but the production quality of the newer version slaps. It sounds amazing and still captures the fun energy of the original song, and the line “I’d like to hang out with you for my whole life” sounds sweeter, knowing that she’s found her true love in Joe Alwyn.

The Last Time (feat. Gary Lightbody)

Winner: Taylor’s Version

This song is so underrated, and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on. Like many of her more emotional songs, the maturity in older Taylor’s voice adds another layer of emotion, and she sounds more heartbroken in this version than in the original. The sound quality is perfect, and Gary Lightbody sounds amazing.

Holy Ground

Winner: Original Version

I can’t help but feel like the vocals are more raw and emotional in the original version. This song is allegedly about Joe Jonas, and I think the vocals on the original are more emotional because the breakup was still fresh on her mind. With both of them in happy and healthy relationships now, I can see how it could be difficult to recreate those emotions.

Sad Beautiful Tragic

Winner: Taylor’s Version

Like “The Last Time,” this song is criminally underrated, and Taylor managed the impossible by making the new version more heart-wrenching than the original. Please excuse me while I sob uncontrollably; I’m going to need some time to recover from this one.

The Lucky One

Winner: Taylor’s Version

Did anyone else get #FreeBritney vibes from this song? I know the song is supposed to be about an Old Hollywood starlet, but I feel like this song takes on another meaning after the #FreeBritney movement, so I’m going to have to give the win to Taylor’s version. I also found out that Britney's conservatorship is over while writing this article and couldn’t be happier!

Everything Has Changed (feat. Ed Sheeran)

Winner: Taylor’s Version

Both versions of this song are amazing, but I have to go with Taylor’s version. I can’t help but think about how much both Ed Sheeran’s and Taylor’s careers have grown since recording the original version, and hearing them sing this song again makes me so happy.

Starlight

Winner: Taylor’s Version

I feel like this song takes on another meaning when it comes from 31-year-old Taylor, and I love it. It sounds like she’s telling a story of a fond memory, which works well with her more mature voice. I also can’t help but smile when she says, “We can get married, have ten kids, and teach them how to dream,” knowing that Joe Alwyn is in the picture.

Begin Again

Winner: Taylor’s Version

Like “Stay Stay Stay” and “Starlight,” it’s nicer to listen to Taylor’s version knowing that she’s happy with Joe Alwyn. The original song is very emotional, but I can’t help but feel like there’s more emotion in the chorus (probably because she’s thinking of Joe Alwyn), and I LOVE IT!

Bonus Tracks:

The Moment I Knew

Winner: Taylor’s Version

I don’t know how she did it, but her voice sounds even more raw and emotional in Taylor’s version as it did in the original. Many fans believe that this is about when ex Jake Gyllenhaal stood her up on her 21st birthday, and I’m amazed that she was able to recapture the vulnerability of that situation so well. 

Come Back… Be Here

Winner: Original Version

I can’t help but feel like there is more emotion in the original version, especially in the bridge (“this is falling in love in the cruelest way” still gives me chills). I’m also convinced that this song is about Harry Styles, so it makes sense that the original has more emotion because she was experiencing it as she recorded it.

Girl At Home

Winner: Taylor’s Version

I can’t help but feel like this song means more to 31-year-old Taylor because she’s probably had dozens of guys try to pull this on her over the past nine years. A guy with a girlfriend hitting on you at a bar is never a good look, and you can hear the frustration in her voice in the new version.

State of Grace (Acoustic Version)

Winner: Taylor’s Version

I picked Taylor’s version for this one because I can’t get over how beautiful her voice sounds. The acoustic version gives off a more emotional feel than the non-acoustic version, and she nails the vocals.

Ronan

Winner: Taylor’s Version

This song was inspired by Maya Thompson, a blogger who lost her son, Ronan, to cancer in 2011. This song always makes me cry because I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child to cancer, and I think it’s beautiful how Taylor is keeping his memory alive through this song. I can’t help but prefer Taylor’s version because it hits differently after the coronavirus pandemic. As a culture, we know now more than ever how precious life is, which gives this song another meaning.

From the Vault:

It was tough to rank these because I genuinely love them all, but here’s how I rank the nine tracks that were supposed to be on the original album.

1. All Too Well (10 Minute Version)

I have two main takeaways from this song. The first is that it was worth waiting for because it’s amazing, and the second is that she went above and beyond my incredibly high expectations. Did she have to go this hard? No, but she did it because this is as emotional as a Taylor Swift song gets, and she knows how to write the perfect heartbreak song. Not to be dramatic, but I think a part of my soul left my body when I first listened to this. It’s THAT GOOD!

2. Better Man 

After this song didn’t make it on the original Red album, it was given to the country band Little Big Town. Though Little Big Town killed it, I knew I had to hear Taylor’s version of it the second I found out she wrote it. Like the 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” this song was worth the wait. You can hear the intense emotions in her voice in every lyric, making it the perfect song to listen to when you feel like sulking during a breakup.

3. I Bet You Think about Me (feat. Chris Stapleton)

As a big country fan, I was so excited to hear that she was collaborating with Chris Stapleton on this song, and I wasn’t disappointed. This song goes back to her country roots, and Chris Stapleton’s background vocals (which mesh PERFECTLY with hers) make it so much better. The lyrics are absolutely savage, and this is the kind of song I’d scream at the top of my lungs after one too many vodka sodas at the bar.

4. Message in a Bottle

This song is so upbeat and fun! Like “Come Back… Be Here,” she mentions the guy being in London, therefore, I’m convinced that this song is about Harry Styles. The lyrics reflect the sweet and youthful optimism that comes from the start of a relationship, which only furthers my theory as to who it’s about.

5. Babe

Originally performed by the country duo Sugarland with Taylor performing background vocals, I was excited to hear the version that’s entirely Taylor. It was everything I’ve hoped for and more, and it’s the perfect song that you shout at the top of your lungs in the middle of a bad breakup.

6. Run (feat. Ed Sheeran) 

This song is so sweet that I smiled the entire time listening to it for the first time. Taylor and Ed Sheeran’s vocals mesh perfectly, and it’s refreshing to hear such a sweet song in such an emotional album.

7. The Very First Night

Another sweet song that made me smile, it’s the kind of song that I’d blast on full volume and sing into my hairbrush like I was a teenager again. This song also feels like it belongs in a musical after a girl falls in love with a guy, and I love the thought of Taylor running around town singing this to strangers on the street.

8. Forever Winter

Is anyone else crying their eyes out? This song is so beautiful, yet so sad. I want someone to make a movie telling the story of this song just so it can be on the soundtrack, and I’ll be the first one in line to see it opening night.

9. Nothing New (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)

I know I’m going to get roasted on Twitter for this, but I’m not the biggest Phoebe Bridgers fan. I think she’s great, but I was much more excited for the Chris Stapleton collab than this one. Otherwise, this song is beautiful and has darker themes than the rest of the album, but both Taylor’s and Phoebe’s beautiful vocals balance it out.

Closing Thoughts

Like "Fearless (Taylor's Version)," Taylor Swift has done the impossible and made one of her best albums even better by re-recording it. I’ll be listening to this on repeat for the next several months, and I know I won’t be alone in loving every second of it.

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