Welcome to another edition of GC: Unplugged! Today we’ll be taking a deep dive into Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version). If you’re a lifelong Swiftie like myself, you’re already familiar with the history surrounding Tay’s decision to re-release her old albums. If you’re new to the club, and wondering what’s going on here, I’ll keep it short and sweet: These re-releases are happening so Taylor can own the music that she wrote. The music industry (like much of the world) is a weird place and artists do not own the art that they create. Taylor is taking advantage of a clause in her recording contract that allows these re-recordings to happen after she was unable to purchase her original masters. However, Taylor is making the best of this unhappy situation. Because of the re-recorded album strategy, fans are feeling pretty blessed that they get to revisit the past, only this time with better production value, more mature vocals, and vault songs that never made the albums originally.
The public’s opinion on Taylor has been a bumpy road. The nature of the media and a long history of internalized misogyny against successful women is a wave that steadily built, crested, and finally began to retreat all during Taylor Swift’s long career. Think about it this way: Her debut album was released in October 2006, mere months before the media circus following a struggling Britney Spears captured her head-shaving incident on camera for the world to consume. In the 15 years that has past, I like to think that as a whole we can look at the flawed lens we view women through and acknowledge where we’ve been wrong. Taylor, like other female artists over the years, has often been on the receiving end of criticisms that male artists never suffer.
Taylor and I are only separated in age by a few months. I feel a deep kinship with her songwriting. Every heartbreak, joy, and moment of hope written in her music whispered to my heart and mirrored my own life’s experiences. From her debut album all the way to these re-releases, she has been a buoy keeping my head above water whether I was mourning a disastrous relationship at 18 or looking for a spark of joy and excitement in the middle of a pandemic at 32. I know I’m not the only one whose life has been affected by her words in this way, so when the opportunity arose to put together another GC: Unplugged, I knew the re-release of Red, one of my favorite albums, had to happen. On our panel today we’ve gathered together new fans, casual fans, and die-hards; making sure everyone was represented in this celebration of Red (Taylor’s Version)!
Ash: This song absolutely succeeds in setting the tone for the rest of the album. State of Grace is the joyous discovery of love, the bliss that it inspires, and the changes it unleashes. Whether it ends in a “Lover” situation or it’s an “All Too Well” doesn’t matter. State of Grace is all about your surrender to the fall.
Reagan: I want to say right off the bat that Red is and always has been my favourite Taylor Swift album. It came out when I was twelve, it’s been the first place I’ve gone to after every break up I’ve ever had because it’s so familiar and comforting at this point.
“And I never saw you coming, and I’ll never be the same.” I am not the same person as I was when the original version of Red came out. I had no way of knowing what, or who was in store for me. I won’t get too personal but my first breakup was rough. Hell, my first relationship was rough; it fundamentally altered me as a person. There’s this idea in this song that when you give all of yourself to a relationship, when you mould yourself into a new shape to fit with another, you ultimately lose a part of yourself, no matter how small, to that breakup. And it’s scary at first, it feels like you’re missing something. Like you’ve rearranged your cells only to have them ripped apart. But the thing about cells is that eventually they regenerate. And eventually, you grow back into something that resembles your original shape just enough that you can keep going on as you did before, only stronger.
Brandie: “And I never saw you coming. And I’ll never be the same.” In State of Grace, Taylor does a great job in describing the feeling of meeting someone unexpected and having them change the course of your life. The lines “So you were never a saint and I loved in shades of wrong. We learn to live with the pain. Mosaic broken hearts. But this love is brave and wild” to me is all about how two people bring their experiences of the past together to create something new, which can be scary, but that love is worth the risk.
Joe: Ever since I got into Taylor after Speak Now, I’ve been making the argument to my skeptical friends that she’s got a lot in common with late 90s/early 2000s emo. When this single came out, I felt even more justified in that comparison. The chiming guitars and driving drums and overly heart-on-sleeve lyrics would fit right in on a Jimmy Eat World album. This song hits every sweet spot perfectly. I love how the drums and bass mostly stay steady throughout the song while the guitars weave in and out, building up over time, and the vocals get more and more intense until they really take off with “so you were never a saint…” It builds and builds and builds and then, instead of exploding, we get this calm chorus that suits the lyrics just right. Then the build starts again, drum fills peeking out from the sides, vocals layering on top of each other, until the feeling is almost too much to handle. Most days, this is my favorite Taylor Swift song. It’s got such an exhilarating momentum to it. She lets you know right from track one that this is going to be a special album. The drums on the new version somehow sound EVEN BETTER than they did before.
RJ: Greetings, I’m the outlier, for I am the non-traditional Swift listener who only recently has come into an appreciation for her music and immense talent. Also, my interactions with her have been on such a strange timeline, that I can’t help but share. My father was a season ticket holder for the Philadelphia 76ers from 1997 to 2008 and we religiously went to every home game. In 2002, an 11-year-old Pennsylvania native sang the national anthem, the team that was playing the sixers escapes me, but the young woman whose voice echoed in the arena was none other than Taylor Swift.
Fast forward a little over a decade and I find myself working at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a floor nurse when we are informed that we can take our young patients’ downstairs to meet a surprise guest. My mind was thinking perhaps a member of one of the local sports teams, but the beefed-up security told me another story. I exited an elevator and brought my patient in line, and we waited patiently for our turn to interact with the mystery visitor. We came to the front and my eyes locked with Taylor Swift who was taller than I expected, but also one of the most beautiful people I had ever seen (excluding my wife). She was gracious and warm, with this sense that she actually wanted to be there (trust me, I had escorted patients down to certain celebs who looked miserable). I took a photo of the two of them, Taylor gave my patient a hug and handed the camera back to me. We locked eyes and she smiled. Gun to my head, I could not even have produced anything resembling intelligent thought if you asked me to at the moment.
Well, the years passed, and I caught some songs here and there, but never had the chance to sit down and listen to full albums. Nevertheless, pandemics have that weird power of forcing you to slow down and actually appreciate what you took for granted. Folklore and Evermore come and knock me off my feet and I slowly began to understand that I am growing up with and alongside the greatest singer and lyricist of my generation. Now that we have that established, let’s actually talk about RED.
This song brings me back to my high school years, I cannot fully explain it, but Joe above me does a better job explaining this. It just has this reminiscent air of some of the bands I listened to in the early 2000s. I searched out Jack’s Mannequin and listened to Dark Blue and then this, and I began to understand where this enjoyment stems from. It’s like trying a dish you haven’t had in a while, and although your tastes may have changed, it still leaves that same spark in you.
Brandie: To me, Red describes a short lived romance perfectly. The highs, the lows, and how fast feelings can change. “Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street” – everything is new and fun, and yet you need to look at the bigger picture. Sometimes it goes nowhere and you have to do what’s best for you.
RJ: Not since Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ has a color-based song that also represents the album’s title been so encapsulating for what to expect from said album. Taylor is relatively upfront in her lyrics when it comes to how she feels about something. That’s not to say there aren’t certain interpretations and mysteries to uncover, but songs like Red are just an open window to her soul. I like to believe she understands even the brightest fires burn out fastest and that perhaps Red is not a sustainable type of love. I also like to believe that her inclusion of blue is her own subtle not to Mitchell’s own dive into the color. Perhaps the lesson of Red is like Tennyson stated: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. The color she needs to talk about is ‘gold’ because that is this song.
Brandie: “Nothing safe is worth the drive and I would follow you, follow you home.” Treacherous would be the song that plays when you’ve just met someone, who you know is no good for you, and yet you both have such great chemistry, you still have to see where it goes. It’s all about taking that chance even if it all falls apart, at least you won’t have to live with the “what if.”
Joe: I’m not sure if the backing vocals are more prominent in the new version of this song or if I’m just listening more closely, but they really add a lot. I’m assuming that’s Dan Wilson? I love how the bass follows the vocal melody for the “get you, get you alone” line, underscoring how important that is. The chorus really takes this song to another level.
Reagan: “I knew you were trouble when you walked in, so shame on me now.” My first relationship was with someone who I had rightfully been warned away from. I knew who he was, what he was like. I had been told that he was a pathological liar, that he had hurt other girls. But I didn’t listen because for the first time in my life I was being noticed by someone, I was being admired. There’s a line in the first verse, “I was in your sights, you got me alone.” That line sums it up best in my opinion. You had me in your sights, you took aim and saw me and you got me alone and God, I fell hard. Looking back, it wasn’t really love. But that didn’t stop him from hurting me, it doesn’t stop me from still feeling the effects of him.
Joe: I wasn’t really into this song when the album first came out. I like the production on the TV much better than the original. It sounds more modern and the bass isn’t so overwhelming on the choruses. The song feels like it flows better to me now and it fits in better with the album. It’s a more organic sounding arrangement all around. There’s a little whoa-oh-oh-oh vocal run near the end of the song that my wife loves and now I focus on it every time. It’s probably my favorite part of the song now, too.
RJ: All Too Well is probably the song that I know all too well because my wife has decided to give me the equivalent to a college course in her breakdown of everything behind the words escaping Swift’s lips. The song itself is so personal that it even feels wrong at times to be given this much access ‘behind closed doors’ of two people’s intimate lives. It’s one thing to write about the connection when it’s still fresh in your mind, but then to revisit a decade later, with a different mindset and understanding of what went down. She has the experience now. She knows what a real relationship is, and what it means to trust someone, so this song is also an apology to her younger self. Something along the lines of “I wish I could have shown you the red flags” or “I wish you could see us now.” People like to say how when singer’s get older, their voice changes or even their sound ‘changes,’ and most liken this to a detriment. Here, Taylor’s passion and wisdom is what makes this song so impactful to those who are finally ready to stop being led by some false hope, and realize that the something special in the relationship is themselves. I know some of that is rambling, but do hope this song helps the people who need it most.
Brandie: 22 is just fun. Listening to this song really brings you back to the feeling of being in your early twenties, when going out was fun and you finally felt like an “adult” and yet at the same time, you’re still very young and naive and absolutely “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.”
RJ: This song has such a different feel when you listen to it as a 20-something to when you are 33 and realize these times seem like generations apart. I’m sure Taylor had her own moment of self-realization looking at these lyrics and singing them now, especially it being such a fun song. It has been partially been ruined for me thanks to Tik-Tok, as now everytime I hear “I don’t know about you” without someone screeching “bitch I hope the fuck you do.” Aside from that, her voice hasn’t aged per say, but definitely matured, and I prefer this sound to the original. Also, I have used the line “This place is too crowded, too many cool kids” entering a bar before, so this is definitely the song for me.
Brandie: I Almost Do has always been one of my favorite songs off this album. I think it’s just so raw and genuine. The lines, “I bet it never, ever occurred to you that I can’t say hello to you and risk another goodbye” absolutely KILL ME. You can feel the ache of missing someone so much, but knowing you can’t reach out to them again. So, you just sit and wonder how they’re doing, what they’re doing, and if by some small chance that they’re also thinking the same of you.
RJ: This is my generation’s break-up song. Aside from how fucking catchy the tune is, there are some moments that absolutely hit all the right spots. Her deadpan “like ever” about a minute-in definitely had some harbored resentment in it, perhaps from some of the smellier people she has been intertwined with in her dating history. There is also a distinct imitation of the person she is referring to when she is rehashing the break-up conversation she had with him that definitely gives me a chuckle. I wish I was talented enough to talk shit through verse, especially about some of the lamer dating moments I have had in my life.
Brandie: Stay Stay Stay makes me so happy. The joy in Taylor’s voice is infectious. I can’t listen to this song without dancing.
Joe: This is such a fun song and really highlights the bass. The bass keeps everything bouncing along. When I saw her on the Red tour, the only time she introduced a band member to the crowd was during this song. She let everyone know who the bassist was while he did some cool fills. I believe the TV sessions are all being tracked by her live band, which I like a lot. They’ve got history with the songs and it brings a more “live show” energy to the feel of both Red and Fearless TVs. They feel more like hearing a band in a room.
Ash: This song shoots a cupid’s arrow right in my heart. Similar to Mine a song from the album Speak Now, this song inspires a deranged giddy feeling in me that keeps me humming along and singing (terribly I might add) because I can’t hear it without wanting to be part of it.
Reagan: The Last Time is one of the best and most painful songs on all of Red. It’s about demanding that your love treat you how you deserve to be treated by them, going so far as to beg them for it. It’s something no one should have to do and yet it’s so common to have to ask someone to put your name at the top of their list.
Brandie: The Last Time is a painful song. The need to beg to have someone treat you how you should be treated is gut-wrenching and you feel it from both sides in this song. It’s as if there is a misunderstanding that neither of them are able to realize or fix.
Joe: This one always left me cold on the original album. I wasn’t a fan of Gary Lightbody’s vocals and it felt like he took over the song. The TV made me totally rethink my stance on this song. The new mix highlights some guitar and string flourishes that I never noticed before. Taylor’s voice sounds a lot more confident this time around. And, for my own personal tastes, I think I’m now more used to hearing her do these duets with deep voiced men after folklore and evermore. It sounds so lush and full now and their voices work so well together. I’m glad I could come around to this one.
Brandie: “And for the first time I had something to lose.” Holy Ground digs in the feeling of being with your first real love. Even though it’s over, you’re able to look back and know you both had those feelings and cared. It didn’t last, but it was real.
Joe: This song nails the intense, giddy feeling of falling in love. It’s so hard for songs to get that exact excitement down, and she does it just right here. Like State of Grace, the drums stay pretty much the same through the whole song. They drive everything forward while Taylor sings just slightly ahead of the beat, too excited with too much to say to stay tethered to the rhythm. One or two well placed guitar chords add so much to the dynamics, like how a tiny gesture or comment from someone you have a crush on can be the biggest deal in the world. When the dense layer of guitars drops away for the “tonight I want to dance” part, it makes the song for me. The music falls back enough for her to make the mission statement of the song. I think this song is perfect. It’s usually neck and neck with State of Grace for my favorite Swift song (and Red overall is my favorite Swift record).
Brandie: Another painful song and yet another of my favorites. Taylor is phenomenal at pulling you into her stories. The emotions in these words cut you. You feel the longing she has for wanting things to work, “Good girls, hopeful they’ll be and long they will wait.” You feel the fear of giving up on someone you love when maybe this time they’ll actually change, but you also feel the frustration in her voice of not being heard and only in her dreams things feel right. The lines “And you’ve got your demons and darling, they all look like me” STINGS. Basically just pointing his finger at her and blaming her for all his troubles.
Joe: There are a lot of moments on Red that predict where she’d go, sonically, on Folklore and Evermore. This song is a big one. I’d bring this up whenever anyone told me they were surprised by the sound of her more recent albums. The ingredients were always there, she just hadn’t done a whole album of it yet. This is a beautiful, crushing, intimate song.
Brandie: The Lucky one just makes you realize that sometimes the things you desperately want aren’t how they seem and how easy it is to miss the things you used to have.
Joe: Another one I love because the drums stay the same the whole time but the instrumentation and vocals add all the dynamics. She was great at that formula on this album! This is another song that points towards what she’d eventually do with Folklore and Evermore. She steps outside herself for most of this song but then brings it around to her own viewpoint at the end. Taylor writing about herself is great but she starts showing on Red how well she can wrap other people’s stories into her songs as well. The bittersweet feel of this song fits right in with the lyrics.
Brandie: “And all I feel in my stomach is butterflies. The beautiful kind, making up for lost time. Taking flight,making me feel right.” It’s the feeling of the first new crush after your heart has been broken.
Brandie: Just makes me dance.
Joe: This song is exhilarating and somehow manages to make a story about impossibly wealthy socialites sound relatable! The line “don’t you dream impossible things?” is the best part of the song to me, and I’m glad she brings that part back around for the ending. That right there sums up the song, and the feeling of being young and wide eyed in love and taking on the world.
Ash: This song, similarly to Folklore’s The Last Great American Dynasty, allows Taylor to tell someone else’s story for a change. Starlight is based on the relationship of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy, and there is just a beautiful earnestness in their love that twinkles in the lyrics. Taylor recounts their summer romance beautifully, infusing it with their hopes and dreams we can all relate to, even if real life doesn’t end up fulfilling all those wishes. Starlight is big syrupy sweetness that transports me into the past. What else can I ask for in a song?
Brandie: Begin Again is the first date after a break up. It’s realizing how toxic the last relationship was and how you couldn’t be yourself. Meeting this new person is so refreshing. They respect you and your time. You realize how you have much more in common than you did with your ex.
Joe: Taylor loves to end albums with songs about fresh starts. For me, this is the best one she’s written so far. That little turn of phrase at the end of each chorus can get me teary eyed on the right day. When this single came out before the album, I knew it’d be a special record.
Ash: Begin Again was one of the songs I was most anticipating with the re-record of this album. The original is one of my favorites in her catalogue, and I was itching at the opportunity to hear this reimagined with her more matured vocals. I was not disappointed. Begin Again has always ignited the embers of memories in me, beckoning me to recall exactly what it felt like to take a chance on someone new and make a fresh start. Being in a relationship changes you whether you want it to or not. And yes, Begin Again is about possibly finding someone new, but it is also about finding yourself again.
Brandie: “What do you say when tears are streaming down your face in front of everyone you know? And what do you do when the one who means the most to you is the one who didn’t show?” Pain.. all I know is pain.
Ash: I know this was written because of an incredibly personal moment, but it’s amazing to me that Taylor can diarize specific moments of her life in her songs, but they are still conduits of emotion for the rest of us to connect and feel through. I’ve never been stood up on my birthday, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aching with pain and righteous indignation while I’m screaming through the chorus of this on a car ride.
RJ: “The feeling you can know so much, without knowing anything at all,” this may be on either my gravestone or my family crest. This song makes me think about the love I put in to certain relationships that may have not been entirely reciprocated. It’s a shame that I did not have this in my early 20’s, as this song particularly (in addition to some others) possibly would have hit a bit different back then. But, again, this song, along with a lot of the others in that catalogue, were written in that exact mindset. She can’t change the lyrics, but she can change the inflection. Does she look back on this as a foolish young woman pining for something not real? We have questions Taylor! QUESTIONS!
Joe: The TV of this song makes the original sound like a demo. I love that she totally changed up the feel and arrangement for this re-release. The way the first line of each chorus strips away a lot of the production before it comes booming back in is amazing. This has me even more excited for future TV releases to see what she might change around with other songs.
Reagan: I can’t even name how many times I’ve laid in the dark with my eyes closed listening to this exact song on repeat. So much of this album has been a staple of every breakup I’ve ever had but this track specifically has been the most prominent of all of them. To the point that it’s been a staple of not just breakups, but rejections to. It has a calming effect as much as it just lets me get my emotions up enough that I can just heave and sob.
Ash: I’m the mother of a little boy, and even before I was ever that, I only listened to Ronan once. This song is so tender, sad, and raw, that I can’t get through the opening lines without openly weeping. It’s a testament to the relationships Taylor forms with people and the quality of her songwriting. Ronan is delicately crafted heartache through song. Listen at your own risk. And have tissues handy.
Brandie: Much like Soon You’ll Get Better off her album Lover, I tend to skip this song.. Because it’s just so insanely beautiful and heartbreaking.
Joe: I’ve listened to this song exactly once, right after it was released. I won’t do it again. It’s the most heart wrenching song I’ve ever heard and I can’t handle it. It’s a wonderfully written song, though. The writing credit given to Ronan’s mother is a really nice gesture, too.
Brandie: “I know I’m probably better off on my own than lovin’ a man who didn’t know what he had when he had it. And I see the permanent damage you did to me. Never again, I just wish I could forget when it was magic.” Yup, pretty sure we can all relate.
RJ: Okay, here is my bit of pure honesty, I thought I was about to listen to Taylor’s cover of Pearl Jam’s Better Man. What I found was something unique, but could actually be linked to the infamous Pearl Jam song anyway, hear me out. PJ’s version is about a woman who trying to get rid of a man, but loses the courage to do it, and simply falls into the trap of believing the lie that he is a better man. Now Taylor’s version has us see this woman in another multiverse (why not) and this woman was able to have that courage, BUT, still has that same wish that the man was a better man so she never had to leave him. Listen, I’ll be the first to tell you that lyrical interpretation is right below woodworking on my list of skills that are completely absent from my repertoire. However, this link between the two songs, I think there is something to consider:
Pearl Jam’s Better Man: ‘Waitin’, watchin’ the clock, It’s four o’clock, It’s got to stop.”
Swift’s Better Man: “I wish it wasn’t 4 AM, standin’ in the mirror, Sayin’ to myself, you know you had to do it”
Same woman, different plane of existence. If someone else already made a big deal of this, I apologize, I thought I found something here.
Ash: I can’t believe I get to listen to Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers on the same song. Now that I have that out of the way, I think I can draw some pretty direct lines lyrically from this song all the way to Folklore’s Mirrorball. Always trying to stay fresh and new has to be exhausting. The line “I wonder if they’ll miss me once they drive me out” breaks my heart. It’s inevitable. One day you’re the world’s ingénue and the next they’re on a witch hunt coming for blood. I can’t imagine growing up through my most formative years with that idea hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles.
Reagan: “How can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22”
Brandie: “They tell you while you’re young “Girls, go out and have your fun” Then they hunt and slay the ones who actually do it.” This song ruins me. Taylor AND Phoebe Bridgers?! My two girls collaborated on a breathtakingly beautiful song about being a girl, growing up, and trying to figure out life. From being young and fresh to wondering how long people will still think of you that way. The lines “And will you still want me when I’m nothing new?” really dig into the heart. I think that’s something we’ve all wondered about in different situations (relationships, jobs, friends, ect.)
Joe: I completely understand why this didn’t make the album. It’s almost too vulnerable. She’d be letting the cracks show, letting some uncertainty creep in. This song feels very emo to me as well, like a Bright Eyes song, the way her voice wavers and cracks on “what will become of me once I’ve lost my novelty.” It’s interesting to know that she was thinking about her future and her legacy at this young age. Between this and The Lucky One, she was obviously thinking far into the future about what her life and work would be like. Phoebe is a great addition here. Their voices sound so good together, especially over this stripped down arrangement.
Reagan: Look. I’m going to be real. I prefer the Sugarland version. It just sounds better to me.
RJ: How about that. I’ve reached this song and am starting to see this album as this momentous realization for Taylor that the last thing she needs is just some man to up and ruin shit for her. It has this cohesive feel back and forth between these fun swipes to these deep cuts at whatever dickbag decided that they would play mind games with someone who could write a breakup song that absolutely slaps. “Taking down the pictures and the plans we made, yeah – and it’s strange how your face doesn’t look so innocent”. I’m here googling “Who did this to Taylor,” because I am so out-of-touch and I need the HBO series to run through all these albums. My own fault for waiting this long to get involved in this because I’m basically hopping into a show that is 6 seasons deep and rather than start with the pilot I am just going to wing it.
Joe: Imagine writing a song like this and then just sitting on it for 9 years. Not even giving it to a soundtrack or anything. I’m sure this would’ve sounded different if it came out in 2012; it’s a Max Martin/Shellback collaboration, and the other songs she did with them sound the most different on the TV. I wonder if that will ever see the light of day. This is so good.
RJ: Let’s begin on this one because the music is absolutely entrancing. The rythym and sound here, I mean, play this in a club and I’m absolutely on the floor. I’m actually tapping my feet to the floor while writing this because I’m enjoying it so much. The lyrics are a bit lost in this song, perhaps an acoustic version or slowed down version would be more impactful because I am just too lost in this beat. After looking up the song and going line by line, maybe she picked that high-tempo music that grabs you because it’s meant to be a hopeful song, but actually reading into it you see more of a smile behind anxiety. “Cause now, You’re so far away and I’m down, Feelin’ like a face in the crowd, I’m reachin’ for you, terrified” Catchy tune for a sad song.
Ash: This song gives me the same dancey vibes I get when I listen to New Romantics from the 1989 album. I think New Romantics is lyrically superior, but it instills the same urge to get up and move. Why has she been hiding this song from us? I’m almost offended.
Reagan: Ok right off the bat I want to say that it’s so cool to hear Taylor going back to her country roots, even if only for a song. And with Chris Stapleton, one of my top current country artists no less? What a treat.
Now let’s get into the meat of this. This song is about the things in their backgrounds that separated Taylor from her lover. Their upbringings, their interests, their friend circles.
Brandie: “But now that we’re done and it’s over I bet you couldn’t believe when you realized I’m harder to forget than I was to leave and I bet you think about me.” Could listen to this on repeat.. Have listened to this on repeat. The lines “I don’t have to be your shrink to know that you’ll never be happy” and “I bet you think about me in your house with your organic shoes and your million-dollar couch” are just a big FU to Jake with this one.. And I’m LIVING for it. Can’t believe she’s been holding onto this song for so long. Well worth the wait.
Joe: Another excellent song that I understand excluding from the record. This feels closer to the sound of Speak Now or Fearless than Red, and she was pushing forward too much to include something so folksy on the record. I get it. Aaron Dessner’s production helps the song a lot, at least for me, in that it sounds more like mid-2000s folk/Americana than modern country. It’s decidedly not a pop arrangement or mix. This could’ve easily been a huge hit and she left it behind for the sake of forward momentum. This is why she’s great.
Ash: “Organic shoes and million-dollar couch” … ABSOLUTELY SAVAGE.
Ash: This song is a vault song addition, so hearing it on Red (Taylor’s Version) was my first experience listening to it. It ripped a chasm in me and it’s become one of my favorites on the album. As you get older, you lose people along the way, and this song specifically creates a twinge of regret and misery in me for the people I’ve lost to mental health issues. Taylor’s optimistic sounding lyrics keep this from turning into a sob-fest for me, but I can’t help but love something that makes me feel so much.
Brandie: Love this song is focused on loving someone with mental health issues and being young but still trying to learn and understand what they’re going through. You can feel the hopelessness in her voice of wanting to take their pain away. “If I was standing there in your apartment I’d take that bomb in your head and disarm it. I’d say I love you even at your darkest and please don’t go.”
Joe: This song also sounds to me like it would make more sense on Speak Now than Red. I was surprised to see she co-wrote this with someone else; it sounds very specifically Taylor Swift to me. “I’ll be summer sun for you forever” is a great line.
Brandie: What I wouldn’t give to have a full album of nothing but duets from Taylor and Ed Sheeran. Their voices together are magical and so comforting.
RJ: Ed Sheeran, my fellow ginger. Another singer who has slowly garnered my appreciation, a lot of it in part to I See Fire from the Hobbit Soundtrack. My wife played that song enough for me to finally catch on to just how pleasing his voice is, and how he definitely doesn’t need to ‘go away’ like someone once said – definitely not me. Now, duets have always been a tough task as you need someone to match you, never pull ahead, and never fall behind. The two of them and a guitar just puts their vocal power on display through this lovely and at times haunting melody. The song itself is an ode to that love that would make you leave everyone and anything behind just to be with that person. It slowly devolves into a Bonnie & Clyde mantra at the end, but isn’t that the love we search for our entire lives. The type of love that would hide the bodies for you and then join you on the run from the law. This topic may have ‘run’ away from me, but I genuinely enjoy this song, and their voices have a very soothing nature to it. I would suggest a light sweater and a cup of tea while listening to this one.
Brandie: Fun song but I understand why it didn’t make it on the original album.
Ash: I actually agree and disagree with Brandie a bit. It does sonically sound a bit different than the rest of the album (Starlight and Stay Stay Stay aside) but I absolutely love this bop. It just goes to show how talented this woman is. Even the songs she cuts from the album sound as good as any single she’s put out on the radio. The Very First Night fills me with nostalgic memories about the fizzy butterflies you experience when you first meet someone you’re interested in. “Back then we didn’t know we were built to fall apart / We broke the status quo, then we broke each other’s hearts” I love the perspective in the song. This relationship is over, it didn’t work out, but there was magic in the meeting and The Very First Night encapsulates those feelings so perfectly.
Ash: “You kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath” – Holy shit. I’ve been waiting almost 10 years for the transcendent 10-minute version of All Too Well to be released, and it was worth the wait. Every sublime addition to this extended masterpiece is a dagger to my heart. Did I immediately purchase a “Fuck the Patriarchy” keychain after the song was released? Yes, yes I did. I’m a freaking Swiftie for life and I’m ok with that.
Reagan: Jake Gyllenhaal found dead in Miami.
There’s a lot to talk about but let’s start with “I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age”
Brandie: “Any time now he’s gonna say it’s love, you never called it what it was.” Talk about crying and throwing up. The fact that Taylor created this song at such a young age, it’s no wonder she’s stayed so relevant. She never fails to make sure her songs aren’t just songs, but actual stories. The way she brings back lines from old songs to new songs like “They say all’s well that ends well, but I’m in a new Hell” to “All’s well that ends well to end up with you” from the song ‘Lover.” She’s an actual genius. I bow down to my queen.. And again, FU Jake.
Joe: Is there any other artist that could release a 10-minute long version of a 9 year old song that wasn’t even a single and have it be a major event? That blows my mind. It really shows the genuine connection so many people have with her work. Ultimately, I think the edits were for the best. She made sure every single line that didn’t get cut really mattered. There isn’t a wasted word or breath on the album version. This is something a little wilder and less civilized. It’s like Bob Dylan’s epics, a repeated chord progression while the words do the heavy lifting. The lyric about the patriarchy keychain is such a brutal takedown of a guy that’s performing at being progressive. The “turning 21” lyric is just crushing. I can’t believe she actually had an EVEN SADDER lyric to end that bridge on. Most songwriters would kill to make this. She saw it as a starting point.