Red Letter Re-Record
The release of 'Red (Taylor’s Version)' brings fans back to who they were during its initial release
November 12, 2021
It’s 2012; the leaves have turned colors, red and gold blanketing the sidewalks. Every station on the radio is playing either “We Are Never Getting Back Together” or “I Knew You Were Trouble,” both by Taylor Swift.
It’s been nine years since the initial release of “Red,” and two years since producer Scooter Braun bought Swift’s masters, causing her to re-record her first six albums. Soon fans will be able to listen to the perfect fall break-up album knowing Swift will be collecting the profits and not Braun, an enemy of Swift’s fandom. Scooter made himself enemy number one in her fans’ eyes after he sold her music catalog to Shamrock Holdings, an investment fund, without her consent.
As an act of revenge and empowerment, she signed to Universal’s Republic Records; in her signing contract, she acquired the right to own all her music. Since she signed to a record label that understands her right to owning her own work, she decided to re-record the albums that Shamrock Holdings now owns.
In 2020 Tim Ingham, a Rolling Stone columnist and founder of Music Business Worldwide stated his lack of certainty in the success of Swift’s re-records. “I’m not the first music biz watcher to have doubts over the prospect of re-records usurping the tracks they’re looking to replace,” Ingham said.
I didn’t know much about Taylor then but everyone in the car had to be quiet when she came on.
— Lauren Maxwell (12)
In April of 2021 Swift released the re-recording of her 2008 hit album Fearless, which was accompanied by unreleased songs that were originally scrapped from the album she calls “vault tracks.” At the time of release, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was named the top overall album release. It sold album units equivalent to 291,000 and garnered the biggest opening day for an album on Spotify in 2021, tallying more than 50 million global streams in its first day on the platform. Its tracks also claimed the top 10 spots of Apple Music’s global country songs chart. This achievement surprised many people in the music industry, but not her fans. Her success with Fearless (Taylor’s Version) sets up her second re-record release for at least a similarly massive success.
Swift’s re-recordings aren’t just about her owning her masters (something many artists don’t have the privilege of doing). It’s about her fans reconnecting to the music at a different stage in their lives.
When “Red” first came out when I was 8, I didn’t know much about Swift other than the fact my sister was a fan. At this time, I was at the stage where I derived great joy from copying all my older sister’s interests, especially because she found this very annoying. I have a vivid memory of her sitting on her bed while her CD of “Red” played, while I barged in while the chorus of “22” rang out of our mom’s old boom box. I began dancing all around her, ignoring her demands of me leaving, eventually, she grew tired, gave in, and joined me in dancing around.
For me, “Red” holds a lot of emotional significance. I may not be able to relate to every song, but it reminds me of being 8, jumping and dancing all around any space that would fit me and my sister so we could hold our own private concerts for the album. And now nine years later, I can listen to the sad album that brings back happy memories, guilt-free knowing that an extremely talented musician will now own her award-winning piece of art.
Senior Lauren Maxwell and junior Maddy Breckenridge have similar fond memories and connections to the album. Maxwell tells the story of her first memory regarding “Red.”
“I remember I would listen to the radio on my way to soccer practice and all of her singles would play on the radio,” Maxwell said. “I didn’t know much about Taylor then but everyone in the car had to be quiet when she came on.”
As Maxwell recounts the story, Breckenridge laughs, relating back to her own connection to the singles. “I have vivid memories of the singles, and making ‘music videos’ of them with my friends.” She pauses to let her laughs out, then continues on. “Now in the thick of my teenage years and constantly hearing about, seeing, and experiencing different relationships, the songs feel more real and applicable to my life. Sometimes I feel happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way, and sometimes I scream the ‘All Too Well’ bridge at the top of my lungs in the car because that’s just how I feel my life is going.”
Maxwell then adds on by saying, “Jake Gyllenhaal better watch out, because the ‘All Too Well’ 10-minute version is going to be brutal!” They both burst out laughing, and Breckenridge tries to break her laughter by saying, “And millions of Swifties are ready to gang up on him for stealing that scarf.”