After months of waiting, Taylor’s Version of her album Red has finally been released. Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album originally debuted in October 2012, but this year she has begun re-releasing her previous works in order to rightfully gain back ownership of her masters.
After thoroughly enjoying the release of Fearless(Taylor’s Version) in May of this year, I was absolutely beside myself when she announced shortly thereafter that Red would be the next of her re-released albums.
Music has always been an outlet of catharsis for me. I heavily relied on music throughout high school and young adulthood as I coped with the confusion of jarring new sensations and circumstances.
Taylor had been one of my favorite singer/songwriters since the first release of Fearless in 2008. Listening to her candid lyricism exposed me to a world of shockingly applicable emotions and a level of wisdom that I’d never explored before.
When Red was originally released in 2012, I was a bright-eyed bushy-tailed seventeen-year-old in a relationship that was doomed to fail. Although this was more of a distraction than a whirlwind romance, I had previously suffered a devastating heartbreak. I was definitely inexperienced, but I understood what Taylor was singing about in the many ballads of the album.
In summary, Red showcased every aspect of a beautiful affair as it began with a bang, slowly broke down, died, and eventually had to be buried. Although the album received mixed reviews from critics and was unanimously labeled as sonically incohesive, the songs appropriately convey the many mercurial phases of a woman in her twenties.
“Happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.”
Little did I know that experiencing the ups and downs of the album Red at such an awkward age would set me up for emotional curiosity, self-awareness, and healthy expression. Taylor didn’t specifically spell out any relationship advice in her lyrics, but my own interpretation of her lessons learned taught me a lot about myself and my definition of love.
Here are five songs from the album that influenced my future relationships and what I took away from them.
1. State of Grace
“Love is a ruthless game unless you play it good and right.”
Starting with the perfect soft rock opener for the album, State of Grace appropriately sets the tone. Although the lyrics reference a relationship that ultimately ends in traumatic heartbreak, you’d never know that upon first listening.
This is because she introduces it as one of the greatest passions of her life. The story that Taylor goes on to tell describes the excitable complexities of love between two imperfect adults who live for adventure and spontaneity.
In order to maintain the energy of the song, the lyrical content stays focused on the soaring highs, barely touching on the lows. Taylor acknowledges the couple’s pitfalls while excusing them away and prolonging the inevitable (as we do when we idealize a relationship).
“So you were never a saint and I’ve loved in shades of wrong. We learn to live with the pain, mosaic broken hearts. But this love is brave and wild!”
She sings, “I never saw you coming and I’ll never be the same,” gladly admitting it had a lasting impression on her.
When I first listened to the song at seventeen, I completely missed the deeper meaning. The upbeat tempo mixed with Taylor’s overzealous delivery had me believing that maybe the lovers’ honeymoon phase could live on forever.
What spoke to me was how carefree the two seemed to be while maintaining such an intense passion. At the time, I was dating a boy with whom I barely connected. Back in high school, I didn’t consider dating to be much beyond physical attraction and basic conversational compatibilities.
Taylor’s poetic description of this wild love stoked my imagination and forced me to contemplate what I truly wanted out of a relationship. Doing so equipped me with more clarity as I started to question whether I was with the right partner.
I later learned that idealization is not very practical if you’re seeking a serious commitment. Just as Taylor’s fiery Sagittarius romance was swallowed up by the unruly flames of their desire, I’ve been burned by rushing into quite a few relationships. This doesn’t mean I settle for safety with no passion, but it did condition me to be more vigilant about my attachments.
“Nothing safe is worth the drive and I would follow you, follow you home”
Of all the songs on the album, Treacherous is the most criminally underrated. In this track, Taylor tells listeners that she knows the object of her affection is bad for her, but that’s what makes him all the more intriguing.
“I can’t decide if it’s a choice, getting swept away. I hear the sound of my own voice asking you to stay.”
Taylor unabashedly confesses her decision to risk her heart and give in to the connection that is slowly consuming her, even though she predicted that things might end in destruction.
Although her lyricism romanticizes this hazardous behavior here, I can’t blame her. Taylor was only twenty years old when she wrote this. Most young adults are attracted to drama and so often ignore their hesitation when it comes to love and sex.
A little bit after this album debuted, I had fallen into a similar taboo yearning for someone who not only had a serious partner but was also my boss. I remember blasting this song through my radio speakers on my car ride home from work almost every day and heavily believing in Taylor’s eagerness to not think; just do.
Of course, nothing about my attraction to this person made any sense. He was much older than me and we had virtually nothing in common. I was simply romanticizing an inappropriate and imaginary relationship because I was a lustful teenager.
It seemed to be amusing for him too, but in an egotistic way as opposed to actual reciprocation. Nothing ever happened between us, but as a result of this frivolous crush, I engaged in some emotionally risky behaviors. My persistent denial to look at things logically caused me more pain in the long run.
Eventually, I woke up to the fact that it is a sizeable gamble when we ignore what our bodies are telling us. It was a grueling lesson to learn.
Every now and again, I’ll resort to some impulsivity, but for the most part, I trust myself when I start to feel uneasy about a situation. This skill is difficult to master. Ironically, the key is to commit yourself only to behavioral patterns that are self-loving as opposed to treacherous.
3. All Too Well
“Time won’t fly, it’s like I’m paralyzed by it. I’d like to be my old self again but I’m still trying to find it.”
We finally arrive at the climax of the album, All Too Well, which covers the most tragic phase of a breakup. Although it was never a single, it became the fan-favorite almost immediately upon release. This is because it is a song that nearly everyone on the planet can relate to.
Throughout the song, Taylor effectively narrates through her collection of memories of a love she had to leave behind. It’s safe to say that most of us fear this inevitably painful montage more than we fear anything else about a breakup.
What’s even more excruciating about the timeline of this narration is that as she is weeding through the good times, she is also attempting to pinpoint exactly where the unraveling began. This is made clear in the bridge where she almost blames herself:
“Maybe we got lost in translation. Maybe I asked for too much, but maybe this thing was a masterpiece ’til you tore it all up.”
The song thoroughly portrays that moment after a separation where you think of everything you wish you could say to the person who hurt you, but you also hang on to every remarkable detail of the times you had together.
The tune definitely appealed to the hopeless romantic in me. Although at the time it came out, I’d never experienced such an amorous relationship. Taylor’s poetic lyrics and raw performance were what made me feel as if I could understand what it would be like to have something so special and then suddenly, you have to deal with the frigid absence of it.
I’d had boyfriends before, and although they did not light up my senses in the way that this love did for Taylor, I did genuinely believe they were the best I’d ever have. These losses flipped my world upside down.
It may be a cynical take, but a huge lesson I learned as I grew older is that hurt is unavoidable. All Too Well taught me that the most agonizing yet important part of the grieving process is to “remember it all” because these memories will carry necessary lessons about myself, life, and love within them.
4. I Almost Do
“I bet it never, ever occurred to you that I can’t say “Hello” to you and risk another goodbye.”
The mid-album ballad, I Almost Do, is a slow-building grab-the-tissue-box moment. In the song, Taylor describes her devastating off-and-on temptations to reconnect with her ex while simultaneously deciding that she never, ever, ever will. (like, ever)
The lyrics portray Taylor’s further reflection on a relationship after the worst of the grief has passed. Although she’s distanced herself from her ex-lover, those little details and memories of his mannerisms are still stuck in her head.
Taylor does a fantastic job of depicting that unsettling frame of mind when you want something, and it’s easily within reach, but you know it’s not good for you. This much-needed time away from her ex has been hard, but it brought forth a deeper perspective and maturity she hadn’t considered before.
“I bet you think I either moved on or hate you ’cause each time you reach out there’s no reply.”
This song taught me a lot about personal responsibility. Taylor respected herself too much to fall back into a relationship that once caused her insufferable anguish. It takes a lot of self-control when your head is battling your heart, but she stuck to the healthy decision anyway.
A toxic relationship can feel like an addiction. The only way to break the habit is to stop engaging in the behavior that hurts. I have deeply related to the feeling of this unhealthy longing quite a few times in my life. Unfortunately, I didn’t always follow Taylor’s example. That was some straight-up self-sabotage!
Partially due to Taylor’s wisdom, I now stand more firmly in my belief that self-love is more important than the illusion of love from another. Additionally, I know that nobody who is worth keeping in my life would ever carelessly cause me pain.
5. Begin Again
“I’ve been spending the last eight months thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end. But on a Wednesday in a café, I watched it begin again.”
Ending it all on a hopeful note, Begin Again is the warm cup of tea and arm around our shoulders we need after an album like Red. This country bop is about finding happiness anew after agony that felt so permanent.
Taylor expresses how being tied up in a relationship that made her feel misunderstood and undervalued had her expecting the worst of any future pursuits. She then introduces the glow of unexpected joy she found in a new love interest.
“You pull my chair out and help me in and you don’t know how nice that is, but I do. And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid..”
It is a full-circle moment as we hear Taylor gushing over the new details and moments and mannerisms. She is entering the honeymoon phase, a new state of grace, all over again.
Begin Again has been an incredibly significant song in my life. I’ve had my share of heartbreaks, and I’m admittedly horrible at getting over them. But I’ve improved over time. Taylor’s lyrics sent me the message that no matter what happens, I am strong enough to survive it knowing that there is always going to be another opportunity.
There have been many events in my life that I thought would be the worst things to happen to me. At seventeen, it was when my boyfriend completely betrayed my trust. He wound up doing the exact same thing that my ex did to me not two years prior.
His deceitful act certainly left its mark on my sense of trust, but now, I barely even remember this guy’s name! This song helped me to realize that this one horrible occurrence is not the end of happiness, and it’s certainly not going to set the standard for any forthcoming relationships.
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