Aly forced Charley to listen to Taylor Swift
Hey, Fulc readers, it’s me, Aly, your resident Swiftie and annoying person. As you might expect, the release of Red (Taylor’s Version) on Thursday night has left me quite literally in pieces all weekend — fuck you, Jake Gyllenhaal — and now I’m making Charley listen to it, too. I’ve hand-picked a few songs for us to review, including the ten-minute version of “All Too Well” (because the song is what one might call a cultural reset).
Here are our thoughts.
Red (Taylor’s Version) (Full Album) — Aly: 13/10, Charley: 6/10
Aly: I’m going to be honest — Fearless (Taylor’s Version) back in April didn’t hit as hard as I thought it would, and it hasn’t really stayed in my daily playlist. The vault tracks, in my opinion, were fairly forgettable, and the new recordings of original Fearless songs were fine, but nearly indecipherable from their predecessors — that’s fine, as that’s what they were meant to do! — but the album didn’t have a long-term impact on me. I went into Red (Taylor’s Version) with high hopes but realistic expectations: the vault tracks would probably become automatic skips for me on my weekly listens through the Taylor Swift discography.
Wow. How happy I am to have been so wrong.
The re-recordings of the songs on Red have SO much more depth to them. The vault tracks are fantastic, traipsing easily across genres. “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (Ten-Minute Version)” is a fucking masterpiece, and despite some awkward lyrics, the new version soars above the rest of the album. “Girl at Home (Taylor’s Version)” is also a welcome surprise — when the song was first released as a bonus track, Swifties en masse (myself included!) rallied against it for being too saccharine, too basic. With MUCH more lively electronic production from Elvira Anderfjärd, the new version is a certifiable bop.
It’s widely rumoured that T-Swift’s next re-record will be her 2010 Speak Now. She has quite a challenge ahead of her if she wants to surpass the success and undeniable power of Red (Taylor’s Version).
Charley: Full disclosure, I am writing my reviews of these songs after Aly. This means that just like you readers — or maybe not? — I am learning these facts about T-Swift for the first time upon reading them. And I think that’s ok: reading what Aly’s written, I can tell these songs are very important to her and that she genuinely feels emotions when listening to them — and that’s what music is all about.
Taylor Swift is not for me — let’s put it simply, that these songs were not exactly written for me as a straight white male — if anything, they shit on people like me. This means that I don’t feel any emotions when I listen to them: to me, they are just songs that I wouldn’t listen to if I wasn’t reviewing them.
With that being said, I do live my life on Twitter, and props to Swift, she’s made many people’s day if not week by releasing this album. That’s amazing, and I fully respect that. I also respect the fact that she’s reclaiming her work by re-recording all these classic albums of hers — that’s awesome. It gives her fans so much more material and new versions of songs that she sang on tape when she was super young — nothing better than to hear how a song has matured over the years.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is I’m too cool for Taylor Swift and I would never listen to her music by my own intuition — ok, maybe “Love Story” is on my morning shower playlist, but that’s it, I swear — but that I do respect her. That’s honestly more than I can say for a lot of modern day pop artists, like BTS.
“All Too Well (Ten-Minute Version)” — Aly: 9.5/10, Charley 6/10
Aly: Yes, folks, pigs have flown: “fuck the patriarchy” has made it into a Taylor Swift song in so many words. The song is a decade-late tell-all of what went down between Swift and Gyllenhaal in the midst of their brief relationship back in 2010 and early 2011: Swift has added scores of lyrics about the (rather creepy) age difference between herself and the actor, and producer Jack Antanoff has worked the poppy, electronic magic that made 1989 such a smash.
The song is a masterpiece, one of the best of Swift’s career: my half-point deduction doesn’t diminish that. But the last minute feels endless and a little gratuitous: it’s almost like those repeated “I was there”s are included just to hit the ten-minute mark. Some lyrics are also a little gawky: as much as I love the “fuck the patriarchy” jab against Gyllenhaal, it’s a little abrupt, and rhythmically feels out of place.
None of these gripes matter: they’re moot against the overwhelming affective resonance of the work. As someone who’s been in her fair share of toxic relationships, “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (Ten-Minute Version)” has left me positively sobbing since Thursday. I’ll let you know if that stops anytime soon.
Charley: Full disclosure: I didn’t know who Jake Gyllenhaal was before Aly forced me to watch the 14:55 minutes long video on YouTube — but the keychain line made me realize he’s probably one of ‘those.’ I mean, the whole “you didn’t look at me” fight also made me realize some things about Swift, but I don’t feel like being murdered by Aly, so I’ll keep it to myself.
I’m going to catch some flack for this, but this song is too long, and it’s just meh, really.
But also, like, lowkey, if this fella was smart he would sell that scarf now — like it may not be ethical — but he could make a killing off it.
“Nothing New (Taylor’s Version)” (feat. Phoebe Bridgers) — Aly: 8/10, Charley 7/10
Aly: This song is haunting in light of Swift’s comments in her Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, where she tells us in great detail how frightened she is of losing relevance. The song’s lyrics, as well, have become painfully true since she (allegedly) penned them nearly a decade ago: Taylor Swift has indeed “paved the way” for the next ingenue, Olivia Rodrigo, who has thanked Swift for her influence time after time since her rise to stardom earlier this year. Swift seems to have overcome this insecurity — Rodrigo and Swift have a publicly amicable relationship — but it’s wild Swift had this level of foresight so early in her career.
Phoebe Bridgers is magic, and I’m so thrilled she has a verse. I just wish this duet were more of, well, a duet: Bridgers and Swift deftly take turns singing, but I really wish they harmonized just once. I think it would really elevate the track to a whole new level.
Charley: As I said earlier, I’m writing this after Aly wrote her reviews. I haven’t watched Miss Americana, but this line Aly wrote intrigues me: “she tells us in great detail how frightened she is of losing relevance.” This reminds me of the old Neil Young lyric, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” Like Aly, I applaud Swift. This is the only theme I can relate to on this album and this song — although not perfect — does a good job exploring it. Every artist eventually becomes less relevant, be it Paul McCartney, Madonna or even Taylor Swift.
And let’s be honest a lot of Swift’s contemporaries from the RED days are now much less relevant (think Katy Perry and Rihanna). Re-inventing herself almost as an indie darling was a smart move. Swift has been able to stay relevant, and for that, I say congratulations.
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version)” — Aly: 7/10, Charley: 6/10
Aly: This has always been one of my favourite upbeat Taylor Swift songs. It’s undeniably funny (the title alone is amusing, and the melodrama of the lyrics amps that up to downright camp), and the instrumentation is super catchy. The instrumentation perfectly sums up the Red era — not quite country, but not quite pop.
I’ve taken off three whole points exclusively for the “wheeeEEEE” in every chorus. What the hell is happening there? The production is weird and it makes Swift sound like a chipmunk. She still has those high notes — we hear them in other tracks on Red (Taylor’s Version) — so how did that hook get so badly compressed? The song’s still a banger, but it’ll take me a while to get used to the new chorus.
Charley: One of my favourite things to do when I’m writing is to listen to live concerts on YouTube. And given my taste in music, let’s just say I’m used to hearing singers whose voices are shot trying to hit notes they can’t hit anymore. Honestly, as sad as this sounds, I went and listened to the original, and Swift just isn’t able to hit those high notes anymore on this song.
That being said, this is still a banger. Anytime someone puts this at a house party or chooses this as karaoke, people are gonna go off. It’s just a fact.
Also, like, fuck John Mayer. To be honest, I have no reason to hate him, but like, I just do.
“Better Man (Taylor’s Version)” — Aly: 10/10, Charley: 6.5/10
Aly: An early demo of this song “leaked” a few weeks ago — I’ve put “leaked” in quotation marks due to a widely circulating theory that Swift herself is the one who did it — and I’ve been excited about it ever since.
The track holds up. The orchestration is gorgeous, and Swift’s vocals sound just country enough to fit the song’s vibe, but not so much so that the track is overwhelmed by twang. This is one of the songs I’ve been crying to all weekend — Swift at age 22 was an articulate beast, particularly when it came to breakups — and I’m so thrilled the leaked version proved to be a high-quality teaser for the genius to come.
Charley: Teenage Charley would have been upset this wasn’t a Pearl Jam cover — me and my friends exclusively listened to grunge in high school because we were different — truth is, we were just like any Taylor Swift fan (anxiety sufferers)
This song has a nice little country twang. It’s a very wholesome song about wishing someone you loved was a better person. However, I feel like it misses ‘je ne sais quoi’ to make it a standout on Red.
“Holy Ground (Taylor’s Version)” — Aly: 10/10, Charley: 6/10
Aly: This was one of my favourite songs on Red when it first came out, and I also adore the piano, acoustic version Swift did for BBC a few years back. The track is having a moment on TikTok at the moment, and I’ve really been looking forward to listening to Swift’s new version.
I love it. It’s a copycat track — non-Swifties won’t hear much difference between the original version and this one — but there’s so much more depth and texture to Swift’s voice, and the lyrics hit harder after a decade more of life experience and nostalgia. The drumbeat is completely infectious — this track did not disappoint.
Charley: It’s alright. I don’t have much to say. Like, I’m not sure about the incessantly repetitive drum beat, but it’s just ok. That’s it.