Red: Nostalgia and Forward Movement in the Music Industry


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

On November 12, 2021, Taylor Swift released Red (Taylor’s Version). The original version of the album was released in 2010 and featured 22 songs. However, in this re-release, Swift added 11 “from the vault” songs that were initially cut from the album. She also re-recorded her original songs and added new instrumentation in the backgrounds and slight vocal changes. The newly added vault songs are Ronan, Better Man, Nothing New (featuring Phoebe Bridgers), Babe, Message In A Bottle, I Bet You Think About Me (featuring Chris Stapelton), Forever Winter, Run (Featuring Ed Sheeran), The Very First Night, and All Too Well (10-minute version).

Many people are unsure as to why Swift is re-recording many of her previous albums. In her career, she has recorded a total of 9 original albums. However, she only has ownership over 3 of them: Lover on August 23, 2019, Folklore on July 24, 2020, and Evermore on December 11, 2020. This means that Swift does not own the first six: her self-titled debut album, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation. In the creation of these albums, Swift was signed with Big Machine Records, an independent record company based in Nashville. In November of 2018, Swift switched to Republic Records, owned by Universal Studios. Swift was very delighted for this new start and thrilled to be the master of her own recordings. The term ‘master’ in the music industry is defined as the owner of the official original recording of a track. For example, Harry Styles released Sign Of The Times in 2017 and is managed by Columbia Records. When an artist is managed by a record company, the company owns the masters of those songs. So in this case Columbia Records owns Sign Of The Times.

Scooter Braun, who used to own Ithaca Holdings, and used to manage Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. He purchased Big Machine Records in June of 2019, meaning he had ownership over her first five albums. At this time, Swift was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, meaning that she was only allowed to say positive things about him and his company. She did not entertain this proposal, so she declined it and decided to fight for the ownership of albums.

After Braun had bought her albums through Big Machine Records, Swift attempted to set up several negotiations with him in hopes to gain ownership of her master’s. In November of 2020, Scooter sold Swift’s master’s to a private equity company called Shamrock Capital which was set up by the Disney Family. Braun sold the master’s, the ownership of the original recordings of Swift’s albums. Swift reached out to Shamrock Capital to ask how they acquired her masters; they let her know that Braun had sold it to them. For a moment, Swift considered partnering with Shamrock Capital in hopes to own her first six albums. She discovered that even if she did partner with Shamrock Capital, Braun would still profit off of the 6 albums, so she rejected the idea and decided she would gain ownership of her music on her own. Unfortunately, this means that when people listen to the first 6 originally recorded albums on any streaming platform, the profit will go to Braun, not Swift. 

In August of 2019, Swift did an interview with Good Morning America stating that she would begin the rerecording process of the first 6 albums in November of 2020 to recreate the music of which she did not have legal ownership. She began rerecording only a few days after her masters were sold. On April 9th, 2021 she released the first of the re-recorded albums, Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The second re-recorded album was Red (Taylor’s Version) was re-released on Friday, November 12, 2021. The original Red had 22 songs on it and was one hour and thirty minutes long, while Red (Taylor’s Version) has 30 songs and is two hours and ten minutes long. 

Many of Swift’s songs appear to be about past love interests. There is speculation that most of the songs on the Red album are about Jake Gyllenhaal.  One of the most popular songs Swift wrote for this album, All Too Well, is speculated by many fans to be about Jake Gyllenhaal. As stated earlier, Swift added a 10-minute version of All Too Well to the album, and she directed a short film following the story sung in the song, Which features actress Sadie Sink and actor Dylan O’ Brien. Swift stated she wouldn’t have done the music video had Sink not said yes. Once Swift heard from Sink, she immediately called O’Brien. Many seem to think that the idea as to why she cast Sink and O’Brien is because they are the same age as when Swift and Gyllenhaal started dating, 19 and 30.  While most of these theories are speculation, it is believed that these theories can be proved. In All Too Well, the music video opens with a quote from Pablo Neruda which states, “Love is so short, forgetting is long.” For the full experience and understanding watch the All Too Well 10 short film. 

A prime example from the short film is when Sink goes to hold O ‘Brien’s hand when they are at dinner with friends, and he drops her hand. The music stops and a scene of the two in the kitchen discussing the moment occurs. O’Brien essentially gaslights Sink by saying “[he] doesn’t remember the moment” to which she is referring, making her feel like she’s crazy. He ends up apologizing, but it is not sincere. 

Later, there is a birthday party scene, which is suspected to be Swift’s 21st birthday.  He didn’t show up to her party, which is mentioned in the song Moment I Knew. This evidence checks out because the lyric states, “You who charmed my dad with self-effacing jokes sipping coffee like you’re on a late-night show.” The lyric occurs in a flashback on Sink, O’Brien, and another actor suspected to be playing Swift’s father are seated around a table. “But then he watched me watch the front door all night, willing you to come and he said, it’s supposed to be fun turning twenty-one.” At that moment in the music video Sink is blowing out birthday candles, and in the next scene,  Sink is at a party with people who look older than her. She looks extremely lost and no one is talking to her. 

The music video concludes with a woman, played by Swift with red hair in her early 30’s, attending a book signing for her book titled All Too Well. The last shot is Swift reciting the opening lines of All Too Well to fans of her book, and it pans out to show a back of a man looking in the window wearing a red scarf, which appears to be the scarf that Sink left on the staircase of O’ Brien’s sister’s house. 

All in all, Red (Taylor’s Version) is a perfect blend of past and present coming together. To many, the album represents a form of nostalgia and Swift’s journey forward in the music industry. In the first week, the album received 303 million streams and was at number 1 in the charts in almost all countries. The album shows Swift’s growth over the years and how she is able to take old ideas then amplify them into something outstanding. A big question for many Taylor Swift fans is: what will the next re-recorded album be?