By Sinclair Harris
Last Friday, November 12, was a momentous occasion for Swifties everywhere. Currently in the process of re-recording her music to gain back ownership, Taylor Swift dropped one of her most acclaimed and beloved albums, Red, but this time, it was “Taylor’s Version.” Not only did she re-record the original songs that made Red the heralded record it is, but she included ten more previously unreleased tracks “from the vault,” releasing a grand total of 30 songs.
Taylor Swift’s quest to re-record her albums started in 2019. Under Swift’s contract with her previous label Big Machine Records, she did not legally own the masters, the original recording of the music, to her first six albums. Without her knowledge, Swift’s masters had been sold to wealthy media proprietor Scooter Braun. Because Swift and Braun had tensions in the past, Swift saw the transaction as a betrayal by her label, publicly denouncing it on numerous media platforms. Swift’s story has become the spark for a bigger conversation surrounding musicians and their right to own their intellectual property. Arguably, ethics has long been absent from the music industry, artists seemingly having to sell their rightful creations for a shot at fame. By bringing her issue mainstream, Swift opens the door for potential changes and improved conditions for musical artists.
Reflecting her previous re-recorded album release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) back in April 2021, Swift added multiple unreleased songs to the record that didn’t make the cut in 2012, much to the appreciation of her fans. With her 10-minute version of fan-favorite “All Too Well,” Swift again sets the bar for songwriting and musical artistry. Known for her storytelling, Taylor Swift delves deeper into themes expressed in the original version, touching on more intimate parts of her emotionally, tumultuous relationship. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” maintains the emotionally evocative lyrics of the original with additional verses that cut deeper into the hearts of listeners. Taylor displayed her poetic lyricism once again with lines such as “you kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath” in addition to sick burns, including “I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age,” an alleged stab at her ex-boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal’s tendency to have relationships with substantially younger women.
Releasing a 10-minute long song on an already untraditional record displays how Swift has consistently redefined the music industry. It is no secret that Taylor Swift remains one of the most influential modern musicians, being a three-time Grammy recipient of Album of the Year and dominating top charts throughout the 2010s. Red (Taylor’s Version) is but a further display of her talent, her grip on the music industry, and her ability to prosper despite attempts to hinder her success.
Taylor Swift performing "All Too Well" on Saturday Night Live.
And for Swift, a big album drop wasn’t enough. On November 5, the singer-songwriter surprised fans with the announcement of an “All Too Well” short film starring Sadie Sink, Dylan O’Brien, herself. The film played out the story of “All Too Well,” transforming all that emotional turmoil and heartbroken angst onto the screen. And characteristic of Swift, the film was filled with Easter eggs for fans to decipher, some supposedly hinting at future releases. The film was kicked off with a premiere at the AMC 13 Theater in Lincoln Center, New York City. And to top it all off, Swift performed an acoustic version of the 10-minute long heartbreak ballad live for the audience, the recording of which was briefly available for purchase on her website, www.taylorswift.com.
An extremely cross-referential album, Red (Taylor’s Version) plays like a saga, intended to reflect the stages of heartbreak after experiencing a short-lived, intense romance. As Swift stated in her album announcement, “the world is a different place for the heartbroken,” and Red does an outstanding job at taking you there.
Taylor Swift released a short film that tells the story of "All Too Well."