Music

Taylor Swift – Red (Taylor’s Version)

When we left things in December of 2020, I was at the end of my rope with sad Tay songs. We had just gotten folklore and evermore back to back and there were whispers of a third in woodvale. If you fast forward to the end of my evermore track by track review you’ll find that I said THAT’S ENOUGH. I couldn’t take anymore sobsies. Then a month later she announced Fearless (Taylor’s Version.) We have literally been inundated with Taylor Swift surprise announcements every few months for 2 years now. If you’d like to see my much bitched about rant on this “Taylor’s Version” era, feel free to click HERE and read #5 so I don’t repeat myself for the zillionth time. Down here on earth, I’m a rational fan. I can lose my G-D mind over her releasing a 10 minute version of my favorite song of all time and also be like ok, everyone calm down now. It’s too much. Short films and surprise music videos and her psycho fans are eagle eyeing every TikTok guessing which album will be re-released next. So from an old bird who puts her pajamas on the second she walks in the door from work, here’s a grounded view of Red (Taylor’s Version.)

*It is important to note that Red was released pre-The Salty Ju (so there is no official blog) but it is and has always been my favorite Taylor album. It came out in the fall of my senior year of college, it will forever give me cruising down the thruway in Upstate NY with peak foliage vibes and *not to brag* but I turned 22 that year so THAT SONG WAS BASICALLY WRITTEN FOR ME and anyone who has turned 22 since doesn’t matter and that’s pretty obvious. My age nearly matching up with Taylor has made her albums that much more relatable. Except for the fact that I never had a 3 month whirlwind affair with a Hollywood actor 9 years older than me. But whatevs, my point being that I’ve always been a Red stan and I’ll take any excuse to throw it on rotation and drive around on a crisp fall day singing along. Even though I never originally gave it a track by track review, it wouldn’t be honest to give my gut reactions to these songs I’ve been listening to for 8 years now, also there were THIRTY songs on this album so we will only be breaking down the 9 “from the vault” tracks we’ve never heard before.

Better Man. Alright so there’s two songs “from the vault” (alright, Walt Disney) that were actually written by Taylor and then when she cut them from Red, she sold them off to other country singers to perform. This one was handed over to Little Big Town. So it’s kinda cheating to be like eh this song doesn’t make the cut on my album, sell it to another artist and then circle back and be like I want it now. Total Indian Giver move. If you haven’t been keeping up though, Taylor does whatever the hell she wants now. So LBT can suck it. It’s a classic country breakup ballad though. Cause sometimes you can realize your ex was T-rash but still miss them.

Best Lyric: I know the bravest thing I ever did was run.

Nothing New (Feat Phoebe Bridgers). Immediately was digging on this song. Duetting with Phoebe’s haunting breathy voice really elevated the typical Taylor sound here. Seemed like something that would’ve fit perfectly on her last two emo albums except it’s not about breakups, it’s about when you’re not a shiny new singer anymore and everyone is over you. Based on the pop culture takeover that Taylor has commanded with this re-release and the fact that Spotify literally crashed on Friday at midnight, I don’t think this is a legitimate concern of Taylor’s anymore. And might I add, staying up past 11 on a school night when you’re 30 is embarrassingly difficult and being met with a Spotify “the page you’re looking for does not exist” was a real boner kill. I had myself questioning if I misunderstood which day it was dropping and after finally getting a lil listen in snug as a bug in bed, I was a literal zombie the next morning when my alarm went off. I’m getting too old for this shit. THANKFULLY we had a 7PM short film premiere and now coming up, a 10AM music video. Much more convenient. PS between the “I’ve had too much to drink tonight” and “how long will it be cute, all this crying in my room” I looked around to see if there was a hidden camera in my apt then realized it was physically impossible for 2010 Taylor to know that 2021 Julia is either drunk or crying or bonus round *both* on any given day.

Best Lyric: Criticize the way you fly/ When you’re soaring through the sky/ Shoot you down and then they sigh/ And say, “She looks like she’s been through it”

Babe. The second take backsies on Red (TV.) This one was released by Sugarland but did have Taylor featured on it so it’s not a total rip from Jennifer Nettles’ paws. It is a little weird though because Jennifer has a very distinctive voice so redoing any of her tunes is a stark difference. It’s just meh for me. “What about your promises, promises” would’ve slapped harder with a 3LW lisp. And to be even more honest, a little word association with the word babe immediately brings me back to the Jason Sudeikis & Kristen Wiig “Two A-Holes” SNL bit. Sucks to be you with a normal brain and have lovely positive associations with this term of endearment and then I stomped in and blew that right to smithereens with a callback to Jason chomping gum at warp speed, tacking babe on at the end of every sentence. You’re WELCOME, BEB.

Best Lyric: I hate that because of you, I can’t love you, babe (BEB.)

Message In A Bottle. What a zesty little banger this is! Again, total curveball in the grand scheme of this album. I feel like this would’ve popped OFFFF on 1989 and I’m surprised she lumped it into the Red era. Realistically, every song that Taylor writes and records is a message in a bottle. LOL to think that she’s like I wonder if the person will hear this. Yeah, girl. 90.8 million people hear the message. Anyway, there’s nothing deep to say about this song. It’s fun and 80’s and I can’t wait to dance my face off to it.

Best Lyric: You could be the one that I keep, and I / I could be the reason you can’t sleep at night (Honestly these lyrics are dumb, sorry not sorry. The song ain’t about the lyrics, it’s about having a crush and groovin it out.)

I Bet You Think About Me (Feat Chris Stapleton). The first time I heard this song I cringed because I L O A T H E when Taylor puts on a Dolly twang. It’s so tacky to me. You grew up in Pennsylvania, girl. If anything you should be saying “hoagie” like an uneducated moron, not have a southern drawl. (Please know that when I diss the PA accent, I’m fully aware of the fact that I say “calendar” like an uneducated moron. We’ve all got stupid accents depending on where we grew up.) Obviously everyone has heard “Our Song” and essentially every other song on her debut album where she put on QUITE the show with a little hick flair. While I do enjoy over-enunciating the words to Our Song just to piss off everyone around me, I’m still never going to be down with faking an accent just to do a country song. ESPECIALLY now that you’re a seasoned musician who has proven to be talented beyond belief. We don’t need the dog and pony show you were putting on as a fresh on the scene teenaged singer. Plus, in front of Chris Stapleton?! Girl. Do better. He’s a Nashville ruby red gem. The soulful voice of a cherub and the humble aw shucks I’m just grateful to be here personality that few actually have. I was a little disappointed he didn’t get his own verse like Phoebe did on her guest appearance. I love to hear Chris let it rip. But now that I’ve dumped on the lack of Chris and the presence of fake accent Taylor, I am happy to share that I do really like this song. The cocky laugh at the beginning and the tell-off ‘tude overall is GRAND. I love a snarky Tay. I’ll be the first to admit that 2010 Jake Gyllenhaal was a total babe soda, but my God what a dooooouuuuuuuchhhheeeee. Love that she gave us more ammo to DRAG him because any a-hole who brags about his indie music and his Hollywood connects and leads book talks over wine with his friends deserves to be pooped all over via twangy sass. Million dollar couch and organic shoes?! BOOOOOOO, JAKE, BOo0oOooOo0Oo. Can’t wait for this Blake Lively directed music video.

Best Lyric: I bet you think about me when you say / “Oh my god, she’s insane, she wrote a song about me” – This is the best possible way to end a song where you just DUMPED all over an ex. Wanna call me crazy, DO IT BITCH.

Forever Winter. Considering the content of this song is about someone being severely depressed, it slaps real hard. The way she goes up an octave in the chorus and the oh, oh, oh’s. Chef’s kiss. Apparently it was written for a friend who died of an overdose at 21. So yeah I feel like a real asshat for being like WOW COOL SONG, but also, cool song. Seriously, to have the ability to take a shitty situation and word vom all of your feelings into a bangpiece of a song is something I’ll forever be envious of as I sit on this blog and write poop jokes day in and day out. We’ve all got talents, folks. Some of them are just more impressive than others.

Best Lyric: He spends most of his nights wishing it was how it used to be / He spends most of his flights getting pulled down by gravity

Run (Feat Ed Sheeran). This was the first song Ed and Taylor ever wrote together and even though I’m a BIG fan of Everything Has Changed (and the adorable video that they made to go with it,) this song is like a warm hug after a shitty day. The simplicity to it and their harmonizing voices are perfect. Maybe if something like this was on Ed’s latest album, I wouldn’t have been so hard on it. The way they take turns singing each line is just downright delicious. I’m not saying I wish Ed and Taylor ended up together but I’m not NOT saying it either.

Best Lyric: There’s been this hole in my heart / This thing was a shot in the dark / Say you’ll never let ’em tear us apart

The Very First Night. Another bubblegum pop beat about falling in love and wanting to be up that person’s butthole 24/7. It’s a gift how I can take a cute little song and incorporate the world butthole into it. For realz though everyone knows when you’re in the honeymoon phase of a relationship and you want to follow that person into the bathroom so that you never have to be apart for even one second. It’s all fun and games and smothering until one time you get too snuggly while your boyfriend is eating dinner and he tells you to back off. HONEYMOON PHASE ENDS WITH A SHARP LEFT, FOLKS. Jus sayin. So enjoy this song and soak in the “I miss you so hard when we don’t talk for five minutes” glow while it lasts because as Tay sings…”we broke the status quo, then we broke each other’s hearts.” See? Dark turn.

Best Lyric: I drive down different roads / But they all lead back to you

All Too Well (Ten Minute Version). HERE IT IS BABY. Saved the best for last. Taylor dropped the “oh I have a ten minute version with swear words” morsel over a year ago at this point and since then I’ve been salivating in wait for its release. She obviously knew how savage we all were for this treasure and she built it up as much as one possibly could. Any true fan did exactly what I did upon the re-release of this album. Midnight hit (I refreshed Spotify 5 times until the album appeared) and I scrolled straight down to this track and smashed play. Nothing else mattered. I knew I would get to them eventually but first order of business was see if this was going to ruin the best breakup song ever written or make it infinitely better. And here’s my Salty Ju hot take. My very first listen I was not blown away. I felt like it didn’t flow. These new verses almost sounded like they were parts of a different song, wedged in and disjointed with the perfection that was the OG All Too Well. Then I slept on it. And when I revisited it the following day (SEVERAL times), I was able to approach with a clearer head. Obviously a song that’s 10 minutes long is going to sound nothing like the original version half its length. I’m so glad we got that one first and nothing will ever top it. But now I’m able to appreciate the bigger picture. And that picture is her spilling more tea on how much Jake stinks. And yes, I am absolutely here for it. I prepped all week to get in my feels and become one with heartbreak. The weather cooperated.

@thesaltyju

To ALL of my friends begging me to hang out…I’m booked on Friday night. #redtaylorsversion #swifttok #alltoowell

♬ All Too Well Taylor Swift – TaylorswiftxFolklore

If I may go verse by verse of the new lyrics…*pops the top on a $7 rosé (shout out Wegmans)*

[Verse 2]
Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turning red
You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed
And your mother’s telling stories ’bout you on the tee-ball team
You taught me ’bout your past, thinking your future was me
And you were tossing me the car keys, “fuck the patriarchy”
Key chain on the ground, we were always skipping town
And I was thinking on the drive down, any time now
He’s gonna say it’s love, you never called it what it was
‘Til we were dead and gone and buried
Check the pulse and come back swearing it’s the same
After three months in the grave
And then you wondered where it went to as I reached for you
But all I felt was shame and you held my lifeless frame

I was hoping for Taylor to be so overcome with emotion that there were several F bombs. As someone who in the throes of a 6th grade breakup instant messaged “I’m so fuckin sorry” to my weasel of a boyfriend (of two weeks) for how much whining he was doing that I said we should break up so I could play the middle school field, I understand all too well how heartbreak (and guilt) can cause someone to swear like a sailor. Unfortunately, this much hyped explicit content was SUCH a letdown. Making fun of Jake for having a “fuck the patriarchy” keychain is SnOoZeWoRtHy. Come onnnnnnn. Give us some snarky F bombs not a “oOoh you’re a feminist but not really because you treated me like shit” dig. Besides that lamewad keychain, the additional lyrics further paint the picture that in these brief three months, their 9 year age gap was a huge point of contention and Taylor fell HOARD while Jake was more in love with himself than anything else. So right off the bat we get that she was WAY more into it than him and that he was almost ashamed or wanted it to be a secret from his snotty crowd.

And there we are again when nobody had to know / You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath

And then we get to my FAVE new verse. It flows like butta and honestly by like the third rotation of me listening, I was getting annoyed with myself that I hadn’t learned the words yet. Yes that’s right, a 10 minute song that was out for mere hours I was disappointed in not having known every single word of.

[Verse 3]
They say all’s well that ends well, but I’m in a new Hell
Every time you double-cross my mind
You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine
And that made me want to die
The idea you had of me, who was she?
A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel whose shine reflects on you
Not weeping in a party bathroom
Some actress asking me what happened, you
That’s what happened, you
You who charmed my dad with self-effacing jokes
Sipping coffee like you’re on a late-night show
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”

OH MY GOD WHERE TO BEGIN. How about with that first line “all’s well that ends well but I’m in a new hell” YEAH BABY. THE FLOW. Then going right into the savagery of “that’s what happened, YOU.” Damn, dude. I don’t care how many years have passed, that’s gotta hurt. And then to double down with some good ole fashioned Dad guilt. Hey remember when you charmed my dad but then he watched me sob on my 21st birthday because of your stupid ass. MY DAD HATES YOU NOW. But also, not shocking at all that Tay spent her 21st crying instead of getting trashed. Without a lame 21st birthday…would we have gotten the joyful anthem that is 22?! PROBABLY NOT, so for that Jake, we thank you for your service.

And then if I may be a scooch critical… by adding in the previous verse, we kinda lose the buildup BANG of crumpled piece of paper and you keep my old scarf. The original “All Too Well” CRUSHES at building up to a real scream-fest and I love it a whole lot, but with this sprawling story, there’s really no screaming climax. I miss it. Don’t get me wrong, Verse 3 also hits hard, but it’s a more subtle slow burn. And then we arrive at the completely unnecessary final new verse where I was almost like ok, he’s got a family, let’s pull back here. It seemed a little TOO “wait let me make him feel worse.” If the final verse was cut I don’t think that I’d miss it. Plus the beat completely changes and it’s just weird. It feels to me like it doesn’t fit.

[Verse 5]
And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punch line goes
“I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age”
From when your Brooklyn broke my skin and bones
I’m a soldier who’s returning half her weight
And did the twin flame bruise paint you blue?
Just between us, did the love affair maim you, too?
‘Cause in this city’s barren cold
I still remember the first fall of snow
And how it glistened as it fell
I remember it all too well

Like yeah, the pussy posse is always going to slay girls half their age, we’ve all accepted that. Leo’s getting the last laugh at any criticism of his latest young boo thing and I can tell you Jake probably feels the same way. Does it suck that he pointed out your age difference as the reason why things weren’t working then continued to date girls your age? For sure. But it seems a little dramats to compare your heartbreak to a war survivor. I realize I’m one of the most dramatic people on this earth and I’m telling a fellow drama queen to tone it down but it comes from a genuine place. Know when to amp up the drama and when to let it simmer. “That’s what happened, YOU” was a sick burn, no need to then be like YOU BROKE MY BODY AND I WAS AT WAR FROM DATING YOU. It’s too much, girl. Also, the use of the phrase “twin flame” will unfortunately always bring my brain to the two cesspools of tongue that are Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox and that’s not your fault, Tay. Obviously in 2010 you had no clue these two morons would tromp into the spotlight and overshare about their sexual connection. And I’ll be honest it’s not the only zeitgeist buzzword that has made me want to drill a hole in my brain. The term gaslighting, which MANY fans have been using as they break down this song makes me want to take a dive directly off of a cliff. I wish we could do a collective crash course on what the actual definition of this stupid therapy term is because METHINKS that it’s being used incorrectly 90% of the time. If I were to blindly believe the majority of the population these days, every man is a narcissist who gaslights. But that’s a story for another time. From this verse we transition into basically the same lyrics repeated over and over again with this sexy slow jam beat. Going out with a whimper not a bang even though it sounds like we’ve got a little horns section cookin at the end.

WHAT A JOURNEY. From the haunting and melancholy tone of the first piano keys to start to this echo-y sensual sendoff. It is basically a movie playing out in musical form. So much so that Taylor said, you know what? I’m literally going to make it into a movie. Never one to be less than extra, she created this short film to go along with the song. It was fine. If I was missing F bombs in the song they were certainly in no short order in these fight scenes. If you’re so inclined to spend 15 minutes watching a relationship break down as the leaves fall, check it out. Or even if you want to see Taylor as a ginge. (Spoiler alert: fast forward to the end for that.)

Would it have been mind-bending if Jake himself made an appearance at the end rather than just some schmuck named Jake? Yes OBVIOUSLY. But alas, it doesn’t seem like these two could bury the hatchet for the sake of shock value. And realistically, it seems like Jake’s sense of humor is trash so him being in on the joke would be way too much to ask. But after my RAMBLING breakdown of the song Swifties have been patiently waiting for, if you’re not a Tay fan and you just skimmed through this, I will give a 10/10 recommendation to her SNL debut of this song. Just from an artist performance standpoint, she rocked it. The drama and the effects and the emotion as she sang this song were all nailed perfectly and that’s saying a lot from someone who hasn’t watched SNL live in so long that I had to google what time it started. I watched the whole stupid show just for this one performance that I could’ve easily YouTubed the next morning but THAT IS DEDICATION FOLKS and it paid off. I had chills. CHILLS I TELL YOU.

As Colin Jost said immediately following this performance: “The lesson we all learned this week is never break up with Taylor Swift or she will sing about you for ten minutes on national television.” DAS RIGHT, HOMESLICE. Ok but seriously I’m done now for realz. I got what I wanted and now I’m going to play it on loop, learn the words front to back and ruin my best friend’s wedding this weekend by drunkenly performing it at the reception probably using my beer as a fake microphone. Congrats and every happiness to the new couple but…THEY SAY ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL AND I’M IN A NEW HELL EVERY TIME YOU DOUBLE CROSS MY MIIIIINNNNNNNNDDDDDDDD.

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