Review: Taylor Swift’s Mind Is an Open Book in ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ Vault Tracks

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Taylor Swift

Contributors: Brianna, Megan

When the truth of the resale of her masters made it clear Taylor Swift would never be allowed to own her original music, she took matters into her own hands and chose to rerecord her entire discography. It’s already an unusual situation, but Swift has found a way to not only reclaim her music but also bring fans brand new content offering a unique experience. While fans already know the general “vibe” and most of the songs on each album that’s coming, Swift’s inclusion of Vault Tracks has wholly reinvented the concept of releasing old music.

With the rerecordings Swift once again proves she knows exactly what her fans want and delivers above and beyond. Each rerecorded album includes Vault Tracks, tracks that were written as part of the original “era” but ultimately did not make the cut for the final album. Red (Taylor’s Version) carries nine vault songs, a few of which fans knew existed (“All Too Well (10 Minute Version),” “Better Man,” “Babe”) and some brand new ones. Between the incredible new production, brand new songs, and surprise videos Swift delivers a mix of nostalgia and fresh energy with Red (Taylor’s Version).

“Better Man (Taylor’s Version)”

If this vault track sounds familiar, it’s because it is. In 2016, “Better Man” was released, but it was sung by country group Little Big Town. Although it was a little more upbeat for Little Big Town, Taylor’s version is more slowed down, wishing that her former lover was how he was at the beginning of the relationship. Although she’s doing well now, she’s still holding on to that relationship. If he was a better man, it’s possible the relationship could have lasted longer. She’s wondering what the relationship could have been had he not been the guy he was. We’re all wondering “What if” about every possible thing, and relationships are just one of those things.

“Nothing New (Taylor’s Version)”

“Nothing New” kicks Sad Girl Autumn up a notch with its gentle harmonies and production interlaced with powerful lyrics. “How can a person know everything at 18 and nothing at 22,” she asks of herself and her waning confidence. Swift stated that “Nothing New” was written as she worried about her validity within the music industry. She was no longer a shiny new penny but was crossing into seasoned artist territory. Many of her songs focus on relationships (as most songs do) but “Nothing New” brings a wide angle lens to the music industry and media that pits artists against one another.

People love an ingenue, but what does it say about our world of entertainment that a 22-year-old worries that she’s peaked? “Will you still want me when I’m nothing new?” The quiet question hangs in the quiet between verses. If “mirrorball” had a sibling track it would be this one, a younger sister worried about her validity. We can see this beginnings of Swift’s transition into Pop, the turning point when she felt she must fight for her place, the decision for the “eras” fans have come to know from her. A self reinvention to ensure her relevance with every album. The track features Phoebe Bridgers, a perfect vocal compliment to Swift and another artist with whom the lyrics surely resonated.

“Babe (Taylor’s Version)”

Yet another song that sounds familiar because it is. This time, “Babe” was sung by country duo Sugarland just three years ago and even featured Taylor on the single. This song is about someone completely blowing a relationship, literally. The added “What about your promises, promises, promises?” makes it sound like Taylor’s pleading with this person. What happened? What went wrong? Just like “Better Man,” Taylor’s version is clear and the difference between the two can be heard, as well as the complete country tone.

“Message In A Bottle (Taylor’s Version)”

The Red vault tracks are very similar to the same chaotic energy Taylor gave us when Red first debuted. Of all the vault tracks, “Message In A Bottle” is the one that perfectly contains the same pop production of Red while hinting at what was to come on 1989. This track carries the high energy of “22” with happy, hopeful lyrics about love that have me a little upset we’re only just now hearing this absolute gem. Had it debuted in 2012 on the original album, I’m certain this would have been the theme song on every popular rom-com and Disney Channel movie produced over the next two years. “You could be the one that I love” laced throughout the film and culminating with the couple finally racing into one another’s arms full force “standing here hoping it gets to you,” as they kiss and the credits roll.

“I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version)”

We love any time Swift delivers an instant hit full of incredible lyrics and she continues to dawn that shiny bright crown with “I Bet You Think About Me,” a song filled with one liner after one liner. There’s not a lyric out of place in this return to her country roots masterpiece featuring Chris Stapleton and reminds us where she started, as a girl with a dream writing songs on a farm. This song is dedicated to everyone who felt they ‘lost’ the breakup but won in the long run, those with exes who still watch every Instagram story, and the ones whose First Time texted them to reminisce at their bachelor(ette) party.

If “Better Than Revenge” had an adult sibling who knows her self-worth it’s this one. Fans adore Swift for her clever lyrics and this song gifts us “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”; “I don’t have to be your shrink to know that you’ll never be happy” and so many more. Swift reminds us no amount of money can buy a personality and boy will you miss it when that person is gone. She cleverly includes lines directed at a specific scarf-stealing ex (probably) and also alludes to other songs on Red “you laughed at my dreams, rolled your eyes at my jokes.” “I Bet You Think About Me” is truly an ‘I’ve won’ moment and that’s punctuated by the incredible music video staring Swift and direct by Blake Lively. Well, Mr. Superior Thinking, we’re certain you’re thinking about her now.

“Forever Winter (Taylor’s Version)”

One of those songs that can just break your heart, “Forever Winter” tells the story of being in fear of a relationship ending. It’s summer, sunny, but if he leaves, it’ll forever be cold, hence forever winter. “I’d say I’d love you even at your darkest” shows that Taylor is still holding on to this person, even if they’re far from it. She doesn’t want the relationship to end and it’s heartbreaking because she knows what it will be like when it does. Even though it’s on the brink. This person can bring warmth around her but when they’re gone, it’s cold. The soft vocals and pleading tone make this song one of the saddest on the album, but obviously not as sad as another popular one.

“Run (Taylor’s Version)”

Ed Sheeran was an up and coming artist in the United States when Swift announced their collaboration for Red and his opening for her during the tour. As a fan of Sheeran, I knew any songs they would create together would be beautiful, with simple production and clever lyrics. Imagery is carried throughout the song, “There’s a chain around throat, piece of paper where I wrote ‘I’ll wait for you'” in the first minute is recalled later in the song with “and the note from the locket, you keep it in your pocket since I gave it to you.” It’s no surprise that “Run” sounds as if it could have been a track on +, Ed Sheeran’s 2011 album, relying primarily on a guitar and vocals to carry the soft song.

“Run” carries the sense of dancing on an empty road in a light rain with your love, running from the problems and choosing to simply be together. “We can go like they’re trying to chase us, go where no one else is” carries a familiar message, one Swift revisits on 1989 with “I Know Places” though the tone is very different. This is a calming, romantic production allowing the listener to bask in the vocals of Swift and Sheeran which compliment each other perfectly. Their harmonies are as sweet as ever and leaves me hoping we get more collabs, maybe even a holiday song or two as a final 2021 treat.

“The Very First Night (Taylor’s Version)”

If you ever wanted to go back to the very first night of a relationship, you are not alone. Taylor wishes to go back to the beginning of a relationship, to the very first night when they were careless and free and didn’t care what anyone thought. The upbeat tempo and lightness in her voice reflect how she was feeling that first night. It’s like she was floating. She misses it and she wishes she can relive it. Something so many of us wish we can do, and it’s not just relationship-wise. “The Very First Night” is another one of those songs that can be used in some cheesy rom-com, perhaps in a montage as it showcases a couple’s relationship. It’s one of those songs that puts you in a good mood no matter what.

“All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)”

There are only a handful of artists who could write and release a ten minute long song without the whole world quizzically scratching their heads. Taylor Swift is undoubtedly one of those artists, so when she revealed she would at long last be releasing “All Too Well 10 Minute Version” it was to the cheers of millions of ecstatic fans.

Just when we thought “All Too Well” couldn’t get any sadder, Swift delivers this masterpiece. We’d known about the 10 minute version of this song since Red originally dropped. She started playing the song with her band during rehearsals for the Speak Now Tour and she couldn’t stop. She ended up cutting half the song for the final version because a 10 minute song is “ridiculous.” This version goes even deeper into that relationship, she’s telling this story of a three month relationship that started off blissful and wonderful and magical. A few months pass and the magic vanishes, replaced by gaslighting and disappointment. The added lyrics tell the story even more. “And he said, ‘It’s supposed to be fun… turning 21’” is a powerful reminder of how devastating the relationship was. If they had been closer in age, maybe it would be fine. Or maybe it was masterpiece. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” is a heartbreaking yet beautiful song that offers a new depth and insight into not only this time in Swift’s life but into the relationship and mental states. This was easily the most highly anticipated song on the Taylor’s Version album and it didn’t disappoint.

Check out all our coverage of Taylor Swift including our review of All Too Well: The Short Film.

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By Brianna
Brianna works full time in the publishing industry, passionately building books to bring to the masses. Her first fandom was Harry Potter, which she joined at age 11. Her love for books took her abroad to earn her Masters Degree at University College London, after which she lived in New York City, and now resides in Austin. She loves all things fandom including Supernatural, Doctor Who, and more. Ever the introvert, she can usually be found reading, playing with her dog, listening to music and practicing yoga. Brianna joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2018 where she unites her love for all things "nerd" with her passion for writing. Find her on Twitter here: @bookbag09
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