Let me begin (again, ha!) this by stating that I have been a die-hard Taylor Swift fan since Fearless and have loved each and every one of her eras. But the 2012 classic Red has always been my favourite album, so Red (Taylor’s Version) has impacted me in a particularly poignant way and I need to talk (well, write) about it.
What I love about Taylor Swift is that she lets her fans have a peek at her personal diaries through her songwriting. So by re-releasing this banger-filled album, we’re essentially hopping into a time machine and going back to enjoy the journey she was on in her early 20s.
Listening to Red (Taylor’s Version), I suddenly realised how much this album is a perfect snapshot of the essence and experience of early 20s life.
The themes she explores throughout encapsulate all the highs and lows of your formative years and the shit you experience around this time.
One such theme is that you will inevitably fall in love with a fuckboi / fuckgirl / fuckthey and get burned. Although it’s my belief that some people never truly evolve, and so, unfortunately, we’ll be faced with them for the rest of our lives. But one could argue that you see your largest share of fuckbois in your early 20s, as explored in ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’.
And when we’ve been screwed over by a fuckboi, what do we do? We gather our pals and have a wild night out, all the while knowing that we’ll have to return to our feelings in the morning. But until then, your nearest and dearest are there to help you through the pain.
Swift sings on ’22’, a celebration of rowdy nights out with your mates: “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.”
If that doesn’t absolutely bloody nail the heady and volatile feeling of being in your early 20s, I dunno what does!
What I notice most about the album now that I didn’t notice when I first listened to it way back when, is the way Taylor Swift catastrophises love in the most beautiful but haunting and tragic way (I mean, there’s literally a song called ‘Sad, Beautiful, Tragic’).
In ‘Red’, Swift sings “losing him was blue like I’d never known,” because unless you had a high school romance — which myself and none of my mates had — your early 20s is your first dip in the dating pool. And so when relationships start out, it’s the most euphoric feeling you ever thought imaginable.
My favourite ever Taylor Swift song is ‘State of Grace’, ‘cos that song fucken nails the feeling of falling for someone and feeling like you are forever changed from that moment.
“I never saw you coming, and I’ll never be the same,” Swift sings.
But when things go sour, it literally feels like the world is ending, hence the dramatic language when she sings about the demise of her relationships.
“This is the last time I let you in my door,” she sings on ‘The Last Time’ with Gary Lightbody, and “We are never ever ever getting back together,” she sings on, well, you know the one.
At this stage in your life, everything that begins feels like it’ll last forever, and everything that ends feels so final. When a breakup happens, you feel like you won’t ever find anything like it again…
Until you do.
Bonk me on the head for being a bad Swiftie, but I legit forgot about the existence of ‘Begin Again’, the song that serves as the calm after the storm, where the dust has settled and she realises that that one person she thought had destroyed her life forever was just a small period of time. A powerful and tempestuous period of time, but still just a chapter that has closed, giving her the chance to start it all up again with someone new.
Another big lesson from this healing track is the fact that nothing heals old wounds like moving the fuck on and making new memories.
On ‘Begin Again’, she sings: “I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ‘cos he never did. I’ve spent the last eight months thinking all love does is break and burn and end, but on a Wednesday in a cafe, I watched it begin again.”
The thing is though, you eventually see that these fuckbois who wasted your bloody time have actually left you with valuable lessons. You have moments where you kinda stop and reflect on what happened and think, ‘Well, that sucked, but I wouldn’t change a damn thing!’
Like in ‘Holy Ground’ when she was “reminiscing just the other day while having coffee all alone and lord it took me away.” For couples who got together during high school, your early 20s are usually around the time when you start to grow apart, which Swift recognises with “back when you fit in my poems like a perfect rhyme.” But since you’ve both grown apart during those pivotal years where you’re finding yourselves, you learn that you’re no longer compatible.
“Sometimes I wonder how you think about it now, and I see your face in every crowd ‘cos darling it was good.”
But the song is about finding the light in a torched relationship and realising that it once brought you joy, and in the end it helped you grow, so in a weird-ass way, it was all worth it.
So anyway, while Red (Taylor’s Version) was probably an extremely cathartic experience for our girl Tay, it was also one for myself as it whisked me right back to my early 20s and the feeling of learning shit for the first time. It reminded me of why I’m a Taylor Swift fan, not that I ever needed reminding.
Matty Galea is the Senior Entertainment Editor at Pedestrian who also dabbles in woo-woo stuff like astrology and crystals and has been penning horoscopes since the start of his career. He also Tweets about pop culture and astrology and posts spicy content on Instagram.