Practically speaking, Red (Taylor version) (★★★ ☆☆) comes in two separate pieces. The essential is a revisit and a reworking of the songs of the years 2012 Red. For the most part, this is a general improvement over a collection that was already a critical and commercial success when it was released, although the differences between the new Red and the old ones are somewhat grainy.
Similar to the original, the redesign offers a fresh take on themes that, in Swift’s hands, have a sort of retrospective timelessness. Her voice is a little deeper, a little heavier with the weight of life experience, putting the original songs in a new light while preserving their twisted and fiery sense of humor.
The original version of Red was filled with a sense of new hurt and anger, fans and detractors alike clinging to his aggrieved sense of innocence. Having had a few years to think it over, Swift brings less of that cathartic vindictive edge and more of a sober assertion that yes, the way she was treated as bad, and no, she still doesn’t miss the men who were originally of this grief. .
For the most part, the album’s gems are in the Extras, a somewhat eclectic collection of ‘from the vault’ tracks that any Swiftie is sure to enjoy. With “Babe,” Swift offers a cold, downtempo country-lite version of a song that a shrewd listener will recognize as something originally cut from the final tracklist for. Red and later graciously donated to country duo Sugarland.
“Better Man,” which was also offered to Little Big Town, receives a similar treatment, allowing Swift another chance to immerse herself in her once-signature alt-country sound, which she has another chance to indulge on ” I Bet You Think About Me ”, his spicy duet with Chris Stapleton.
As strong as most of those extra tracks are, the highlight of the album’s final act is “Nothing New,” Swift’s lo-fi duet with Phoebe Bridgers.
The song is plaintive and haunting, one of those quietly devastating indie acts that you put on in the middle of the night when the passing of time weighs on you. Swift and Bridgers have spoken candidly about being huge fans of each other’s work, and the enthusiasm they bring to working together manifests itself in an undeniable chemistry.
The collection looks set to end on a high note, but sadly it loses momentum abruptly on its latest track, a re-recording of one of its most acclaimed songs. “All Too Well” has long been considered one of his strongest and most touching songs and is a fan favorite, but this version is unbalanced in its excess and length, with ten minutes of post-breakup torture. . anguish.
The shorter version of “All Too Well” works so well (and holds up in its shorter 2021 version) in part because of the ruthless efficiency with which she eviscerated her ex, and this version suffers from being stretched well. beyond the point where it can keep its fire going.
Hard not to step out of the collection with the impression that Swift has revisited Red essentially superficial. It’s the kind of self-referential project that would be characterized as self-indulgent coming from an artist with a low profile and a less dedicated fan base.
Swift doesn’t need to justify her work to anyone anymore, of course, and it would be hard to fault her for satisfying her biggest fans, but it’s hard to see who the redesign is for other than the most dedicated Swifties. . It would be a forgettable effort without its final act. The original material at the end, despite being billed as “extra”, is what ultimately makes this collection worth listening to.