Photo courtesy of Vogue
A little over a year after being exposed by Kim Kardashian in the "Taylor is over party" that graced just about every person's feed, and just one week posterior to winning a single dollar in her sexual assault case against DJ David Mueller, Taylor Swift has declared her slew old personas dead. As we move forward into the musical escapes the self-proclaimed "new Taylor" has to offer, I’d like to reflect back upon what could possibly be one of the best structured pop albums of the 2000s: Red.
Much like 22-year-old Taylor, Red is a practice in womanhood. Prior to its release in 2012, the Taylor Swift brand was one of someone no longer a girl, not yet a woman; a persona based off cutesy gasps and teardrops on guitars for high school boys. Yet from her fourth studio album’s opening, the upbeat yet reflective, "State of Grace", Swift announces herself as a beacon of confidence; she’s percussive and powerful. Most importantly, she’s no longer the timid girl we’ve grown to know her for. Long gone are the comparisons to fairy tales and Shakespearean classics, Red era Swift is meditative of her own experiences, finally at the age to have the ability to do so.
As Swift drifts in and out between classic ballads, to her horribly catchy earworms (I’m looking at you, "22"), the track listing dynamic is nearly perfected, yet this level of technique is barely shown in her later albums, making Red a strike of gold. Possibly the best song off the entire LP, even overall in her career, is the fifth track, "All Too Well". The track itself is fairly simple, a mourning of a past relationship alongside basic and repetitive chord progressions, yet what makes it stand out is exactly that. Though Taylor had been practising this exact same formula for the past three albums, she finally hits it here. The lyrics are that of a contemplative and deliberate adult, one that looks back on the past with wistfulness for what once was, but doesn’t focus on what could’ve been. There is no blame. There is no resentment. Even her single off the work, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” is biting, but the angstiest thing about it is the simple period at the end of the title. Unlike the infamous "Better Than Revenge", Taylor isn’t asking her former suitor to "go stand in the corner and think about what you did", and instead targets her own naivety.
It’s funny that Red is labeled as an album dedicated to Taylor Swift focusing on the period in which she lost herself when I see it as the exact opposite. The 2012 pop piece is an ode to experimentation and reflection, it revolves around a universal experience of adapting to new situations with a newfound sense of self. Though she’s not nearly as established as she becomes two years later in the release of 1989, there’s a dramatic character development that should be celebrated within this work. Needless to say, the Old Taylor has been dead for awhile.