Red (Taylor’s Version) Does “All Too Well”


Taylor Swift fans were in a “State of Grace” after hearing her new rereleased album.

Move over, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Taylor Swift’s ten-minute version of “All Too Well” has arrived. On November 12, the newly-recorded version of Swift’s fourth studio album, Red, took the world by storm, breaking streaming records and topping charts within hours. Red is the second album to be re-recorded on Swift’s ongoing journey towards full ownership of her music, but the road to reclamation has not been easy.

Through her lyrics and actions, Swift is no stranger to making bold statements about power dynamics within the music industry. In 2017, Swift brough a legal battle to an end by suing the man who groped her on a red carpet, with the compensation standing at a symbolic one dollar. This victory sent the message that rampant sexual harassment within the music industry would no longer be tolerated.

Now, Swift is engaged in another battle for autonomy, this time in the form of artists’ rights. After moving to Nashville to begin her career, 15-year-old Swift signed a contract with the independent record label Big Machine Records. She produced numerous hits with the company until 2017’s reputation album, but everything has changed now that Scooter Braun is in the picture.

After purchasing Big Machine, Braun sold assets that included Swift’s first six albums to private investors. Swift was never consulted or given the option to purchase her own work before this decision was made. Because of this, over a decade’s worth of her songs, music videos, photos and all the resulting profits are now in the possession of men she had never even met at the time of the sale.

As of November 2020, Swift was finally able to re-record her first five albums (she will be able to re-record reputation in November 2022) as per her contract with Big Machine. Re-recording her music means she will finally have full control over her songs and profits. Her first re-recorded album, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), was released on April 9, 2021 and was met with overwhelming support from fans both old and new.

Swift released two albums in 2020, folklore and evermore, whose indie-folk style diverged from her previous pop-country slant. These projects have attracted a new crowd of devoted listeners, including Boston Latin School math teacher, Ms. Theresa Cojohn. “I’m more of a later-in-life Taylor Swift fan, so her last few albums are the ones I prefer because they’re more indie rock, and she produced them with the people from Bleachers [the musical project of producer Jack Antonoff],” she says. Although Red’s fusion of pop, rock and country isn’t her typical taste in music, Ms. Cojohn anticipates potential collaborations with other artists she likes, which is what initially drew her to Swift’s newer music.

BLS math teacher Mr. Andrew Hamilton was initially skeptical of whether Swift’s deal was a necessary sacrifice on the road to stardom. He comments, “To be a superstar, you are entering in a world of mega promotions and productions.” Upon learning, however, that she signed into it at the age of 15, he shifts his perspective, saying, “That’s messed up. Is that even legal?”

Taylor Swift re-recording her old music is not only satisfying to see because she will finally collect all her own profit, but also inspirational to women everywhere who have faced similar exploitation. Swift’s battle for ownership can be taken as an encouragement for other women not just to ask for, but to demand the rights to their own work. Sinead Mulligan (I) says, “I do find it inspirational because she is claiming what is rightfully hers. I also love how she holds men accountable for their actions, and in our society, this isn’t that common.” Teenagers who have stood by Swift through all her eras and controversies can finally listen to her older music in good conscience, knowing she will receive all the profits and Scooter Braun will get nothing.

For the fans, Red (Taylor’s Verion) blends the nostalgia of old favorites with Swift’s growth as an artist. The depth of her heartfelt lyrics is nothing new, but improved production quality and matured vocals take these familiar melodies to another level. Jessica Tang (I) says, “[It] felt like I was experiencing the album for the first time all over again.”

Tang was especially excited for the album’s vault tracks, songs which had to be cut from the original album. Swift promoted these new tracks with puzzles that allowed fans to piece together their titles ahead of their release. “I think it is so special that we get to hear these songs that would have never been released if it wasn’t for Taylor re-recording her work,” Tang says.

The success of the first two “Taylor’s Version” albums mark the beginning of a new era for Swift, one where she has the freedom to pursue new creative avenues. Her self-directed All Too Well: The Short Film indicates the wide array of ideas that she brings to the table. There’s no doubt that future years will bring the “Taylor’s Version”s of her other stolen albums. Only one question remains: are fans ready for it?