The album marks the real beginning of Swift's shift away from her country roots toward more mainstream pop. It straddles genres—twangy enough to be played on the country station, and rock enough to fill stadiums, yet streamlined and upbeat enough to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 and make Swift the first female artist with two albums which sold over a million copies in the first week.
Lyrically, Red explores Swift's usual themes of love, heartbreak, and living life to the fullest. Those emotions, as Swift explained in a live chat and in the liner notes, as well as in the title track, manifested for her in a bright, multifaceted red.
A re-recording of the album, Red (Taylor's Version), will be released on November 19, 2021 as the second in Swift's series of re-recorded albums produced as a counter measure to Scooter Braun's purchase of the masters to her first six albums and his later subsequent sale of them to Shamrock Holdings under the conditions that he and his company Ithaca Holdings will continue to profit off of them.
Preceded by Speak Now, succeeded by 1989. In the Taylor's Version series of re-recorded albums, it's preceded by Fearless (Taylor's Version). Not to be confused with the King Crimson album.
- "State of Grace" (4:55)
- "Red" (3:43)
- "Treacherous" (4:02)
- "I Knew You Were Trouble" (3:39)
- "All Too Well" (5:29)
- "22" (3:52)
- "I Almost Do" (4:04)
- "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" (3:13)
- "Stay Stay Stay" (3:25)
- "The Last Time" (featuring Gary Lightbody) (4:59)
- "Holy Ground" (3:22)
- "Sad Beautiful Tragic" (4:44)
- "The Lucky One" (4:00)
- "Everything Has Changed" (featuring Ed Sheeran) (4:05)
- "Starlight" (3:40)
- "Begin Again" (3:57)
"I knew you were troper when you walked in":
- 13 Is Unlucky: Zig-zagged. The thirteenth track on the album is called "The Lucky One," and 13 is what Swift has often stated to be her favorite or lucky number, but as the song progresses it becomes clear that the protagonist is not as lucky as she seemed at first. However, by the end, Swift has decided that she was lucky after all, in that she made the choice to escape the spotlight and retire.Let me tell you now, you're the lucky one
- Air Quotes: Taylor does these in the music video for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together":We hadn't seen each other in a month
When you said you needed "space." (What?)
- Album Closure: The final track is is "Begin Again," a soft, tentative song about moving on after the kind of tempestuous relationship the greater album is preoccupied with.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: "Red," "Treacherous" and "I Knew You Were Trouble" are all about doomed romances with "bad boys" she just can't resist.
- "I Knew You Were Trouble" is a deconstruction: at first, she liked how her bad boy didn't care, until she realized he didn't care about her as well.I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I'd never been
Now I'm lying on the cold hard ground
- This (possibly sarcastic) line in "22":You look like bad news
I've gotta have you
- "I Knew You Were Trouble" is a deconstruction: at first, she liked how her bad boy didn't care, until she realized he didn't care about her as well.
- And the Adventure Continues: Ending the album with a song called "Begin Again" carries this connotation.
- Arc Number: 22. The bonus version has 22 tracks, a song called "22" appears on it, and it was released when she was 22 years old on October 22.
- Anti-Love Song:
- "I Almost Do" open with the singer lovingly fantasize about what her lover is doing after a hard day of work... before revealed that they broke up and she was trying so hard to not call them because their relationship has left too many hurt on both side. The aforementioned opening lyrics is repeated at the end, implying that she still thinks about them.
- "The Moment I Knew" opens with the singer fantasize about how happy she would be when her lover shows up as an event important to her. However, as the song goes on, she realizes that her lover won't show up and the title is referred to her knowing her lover won't show up and that they are not right for her.
- "The Last Time" opens with the male singer going to the female singer house and show up as her door, with lyrics setting up as an intimate meeting only to reveal that the reason he is going there to beg her for forgiveness.
- Audience Participation Song: "I Knew You Were Trouble" became this in concert; in the recordings you can hardly hear Taylor's voice over the roar of "Trouble, trouble, trouble!"
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The central character of "The Lucky One" seeks fame and fortune, only to learn it's not all that it's cracked up to be.
- Beware the Honest Ones: In "All Too Well," she accuses her boyfriend of using honesty as an excuse to be cruel after their relationship ended.
- Bittersweet Ending:
- "All Too Well." The narrator and her ex-lover are still broken up, and she's still mourning the lost relationship, but life goes on, and at least they still have memories of the good times—and the ex still hangs onto her old scarf, which she takes as a sign he does still care.I'd like to be my old self again,
but I'm still trying to find it.
- "The Lucky One" ends with the central character leaving public life after realizing Celebrity Is Overrated, having been subject to humiliation and exploitation. However, it's clear this choice was probably for the best, and she's doing better now. Taylor, now famous herself, seems to consider following in her footsteps, or at least expresses that she completely understands why she made the choice she did.They still tell the legend of how you disappeared
How you took the money and your dignity
And got the hell out
- "All Too Well." The narrator and her ex-lover are still broken up, and she's still mourning the lost relationship, but life goes on, and at least they still have memories of the good times—and the ex still hangs onto her old scarf, which she takes as a sign he does still care.
- Break-Up Song: Much of the album. If it's not a Love Nostalgia Song, it's this.
- "I Knew You Were Trouble," about the end of a relationship she claims to have known was doomed all along.
- "I Almost Do," where the singer reminisces about a recent ex-lover she can barely keep herself from calling.
- "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," a poppy declaration to her on-again off-again boyfriend that this time it's, like, for real.
- "Sad Beautiful Tragic" is a melancholy ballad to a lost love.
- "Begin Again" is set between relationships—she favorably contrasts her new love interest with the man she has recently broken up with.
- "The Last Time" is a duet between both parties of the failed relationship, both missing the other, but knowing deep down that it's not going to work out. She wants to just call it quits, while he insists on still trying.Taylor: This is the last time you tell me I've got it wrong
Gary: This is the last time I say it's been you all along
Taylor: This is the last time I let you in my door
Gary: This is the last time, I won't hurt you anymore
- Narrowly averted in "Stay Stay Stay," where the singer expects her boyfriend to leave her—but then he doesn't.I'm pretty sure we almost broke up last night
I threw my phone across the room, at you
I was expecting some dramatic turn away
But you stayed
- Brutal Honesty: "All Too Well."Hey, you call me up again just to break me like a promise
So casually cruel in the name of being honest
- Caged Bird Metaphor: In the photo accompanying "I Knew You Were Trouble" in the lyric booklet, a birdcage can be seen hanging behind Swift, where she stands at a window, looking over her shoulder as though afraid of whatever (or whoever) she's caged in with.
- Celebrity Is Overrated: The central theme of "The Lucky One." A young woman moves to the big city, becomes famous, and realizes it just leads to people treating her like a commodity to be bought and sold, not a human being. She ends up taking her money, buying land somewhere, and disappearing from public life. Taylor, after experiencing fame for herself, thinks she made the right call in the long run.It took some time
But I understand it now
- Colorful Song: In "Red," she describes her many feelings as colors.Loving him is like trying to change your mind once you're already flying through the free fall
Like the colors in autumn, so bright just before they lose it all
Losing him was blue like I'd never known
Missing him was dark grey all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met
But loving him was red
- Color Motif: The titular color is referenced in several places.
- The cover accents her bright-red lips.
- In the Title Track, "Loving him was red."
- "All Too Well" mentions her ex's cheeks turning red with embarrassment while looking at an Embarrassing Old Photo. It also includes the iconic line:'Cause there we are again on that little town street
You almost ran the red 'cause you were looking over at me
- Cue the Sun: Implied by one of the last lines of "Everything Has Changed," which is about the joy of starting a new relationship and getting a really good feeling about it.All I know is pouring rain,
and everything has changed.
- Dance of Romance: "All Too Well" mentions dancing in the kitchen with her ex in the middle of the night.
- Darker and Edgier: It's hard to believe in the wake of reputation, but Red was considered to be this at the time of its release. Its focus on Break-Up Songs and tragic endings may have contributed to this impression.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: The singer of "Stay, Stay, Stay" mentions throwing her phone at her boyfriend during an argument. This is played as cute and funny, with the next verse recalling that the boyfriend made a joke about it, putting on a football helmet to finish the argument.
- Driving Song: "Red," "All Too Well," and "Treacherous" all use driving as a metaphor for freedom and passion.Loving him is like driving a new Maserati
Down a dead-end street
Faster than the wind, passionate as sin
Ending so suddenly
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Most of the album is about heartache and past relationships, but the final track, "Begin Again," shows the narrator finally moving on from a bad relationship, and feeling hopeful about a new one.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 cafe
I watched it begin again.
- Easter Egg: Like her previous albums, Red's liner notes are in all lowercase—with ostensibly random letters capitalized. These letters spell out secret messages, such as "Hyannisport" in "Everything Has Changed".
- Embarrassing Old Photo: Mentioned in "All Too Well":Photo album on the counter
Your cheeks were turning red
You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-sized bed
- Face on the Cover: Swift appears with her face half shrouded in shadow by a wide-brimmed hat, her bright red lips emerging below.
- Fight Fur Your Right to Party: Swift's apartment is inexplicably invaded by a cadre of people dressed as woodland creatures in the video for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
- Flat "What": In "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together":When you said you needed space (What?)
- The Four Chords of Pop: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" uses IV-I-V-vi.
- Genre-Busting: The album is notoriously difficult to classify: it's neither straight country nor straight pop, and it incorporates elements of Arena Rock, bubblegum, Britpop, and dubstep on various tracks.
- Gloomy Gray: In "Red", the loneliness and depression of missing is dark gray.
- Intercourse with You:
- The Last Title: "The Last Time."
- Let's Duet:
- "The Last Time" is a duet between her and Gary Lightbody.
- "Everything Has Changed" is one between her and Ed Sheeran.
- Love Is Like Religion:
- In the opening track, "State of Grace", she compares the short time she spent with her lover to a state of grace, though she admits in the bridge that "you were never a saint."
- The similar "Holy Ground":And darling, it was good
Never looking down
And right there where we stood
Was holy ground
- Love Nostalgia Song:
- "Red":Remembering him comes in flashbacks and echoes
Tell myself it's time now, gotta let go
But moving on from him is impossible
When I still see it all in my head
In burning red
- "All Too Well" occurs years post-breakup, with both parties still trying to reconcile the fallout of the relationship. The central theme of the song is remembering things you'd like to forget ... all too well.And I know it's long gone and
There was nothing else I could do
And I forget about you long enough
To forget why I needed to
- In "Holy Ground," the singer looks back at an old relationship that ended sadly but was good while it lasted.I guess we fell apart in the usual way
And the story's got dust on every page
But sometimes I wonder how you think about it now
And I see your face in every crowd
- Long Title: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" has this for comedic effect.
- Love Hurts: This trope is a staple of Taylor's discography, but Red is basically Love Hurts: The Album. But it's played with, as there are also tracks describing how love can be wonderful, exhilarating, and life-changing (for better or worse).
- Massive Numbered Siblings: The narrator of "Starlight" fancifully suggests she and her boyfriend could have ten children together.
- The Mistress: Defied in "Girl at Home," where the narrator rejects a guy specifically because he already has a girlfriend. She then gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, telling him that, even though she doesn't know his girlfriend, she still would never put another woman through that, having been cheated on herself, and that she finds his behavior gross and deciedly unattractive.
- Mood Whiplash: The heartbreaking, slow-building Love Nostalgia Song "All Too Well," noted for its complex lyrics and emotional intensity, is immediately followed by the fun, poppy, upbeat party song "22." It's almost like she's saying, "Right, well, that got really sad, sorry about that!" and is trying to lighten the mood.
- New Sound Album: Red shifts from the intricate nouveau-country of Speak Now to a peculiar blend of pop, rock, and country.
- Obsession Song: "Treacherous" veers into this in its bridge:Two headlights shine through the sleepless night
And I will get you, get you alone
Your name has echoed through my mind
And I just think you should, think you should know
That nothing safe is worth the drive
And I will follow you, follow you home
- Ode to Youth:
- "22," an upbeat dance number about making the most of youth.We're happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time
It's miserable and magical, oh, yeah ...
I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22 ...
Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we're
- While predominantly a love song, "Starlight" has a similar theme.We were 17 and crazy, running wild, wild
- "22," an upbeat dance number about making the most of youth.
- One-Word Title: Just Red.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together":When you...said you...needed...space... What."
- Rearrange the Song: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"—the pop version made the album, while the country version was a radio-only release.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Girl at Home" is one directed at a man trying to cheat on his girlfriend.Call a cab, lose my number
You're about to lose your girl
Call a cab, lose my number
Let's consider this lesson learned
- Relationship Revolving Door: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" was inspired by Taylor's relationship when she and her boyfriend broke up and reunited several times.I say, "I hate you," we break up, you call me, "I love you"
- Rock Star Song: "The Lucky One" is about either a singer or an actress. It follows her as she moves to Los Angeles and rises to fame and fortune, only to discover that Celebrity Is Overrated.Now, its big black cars and Riviera views
And your lover in the foyer doesnt even know you
And your secrets end up splashed on the news front page
- Sarcasm Mode: All over the place in "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."I'm really gonna miss you picking fights
And me, falling for it, screaming that I'm right
And you would hide away and find your peace of mind
With some indie record that's much cooler than mine.
- Second-Person Narration: Most of "The Lucky One" is sung by Taylor to the unnamed woman the song is about. In the final verse it switches to first person.
- During the "cool kids" verse in "22", you can clearly hear the voice of someone saying, "Who's Taylor Swift anyway? Ew!"
- Used more to highlight her ex's disrespect, but still played for laughs in "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together":And you would hide away and find your peace of mind
With some indie record that's much cooler than mine
- Self-Referential Track Placement: Track #13 is titled "The Lucky One," in reference to the 13 Is Unlucky trope. (13 is Swift's personal lucky number, and the track explores the idea of luck and who's really lucky in the end.)
- Shout-Out: It has been suggested that the album's one-word color title was an homage to Joni Mitchell's most popular album, Blue. (Swift has stated her admiration for Mitchell on multiple occasions.)
- Silly Love Songs: While this album is most famous for its breakup songs, it does have a couple of these.
- "Everything Has Changed" is a purely happy and optimistic song, about meeting someone for the first time and feeling a special connection.Dust off your highest hopes.
- "Starlight" is about two young lovers who meet on the boardwalk and have a fun, carefree whirlwind romance together.Ooh, ooh, we could get married
Have ten kids, and teach 'em how to dream
- "Everything Has Changed" is a purely happy and optimistic song, about meeting someone for the first time and feeling a special connection.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The unnamed starlet in "The Lucky One" eventually grows disillusioned with Hollywood, and decides to buy up some land and avoid the spotlight for the rest of her life.
- Song of Many Emotions:
- "Red" describes her many feelings as colors: red for love, dark grey for loneliness, blue for loss.
- In "All Too Well," she is hurt ("Hey, you call me up again just to break me like a promise"), doubtful and somewhat regretful ("Well, maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much"), and angry at her ex ("But maybe this thing was a masterpiece 'til you tore it all up") and at the same time, she reminisces about the happiness they have lost.
- "22," while it's mostly a feel-good song in itself, mentions reveling in mixed emotions:We're happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way
It's miserable and magical, oh yeah
- Splash of Color: Taylor's sartorial aesthetic in this era was largely blacks, whites, beiges, and, of course, a splash of red.
- Studio Chatter: At the end of "Stay Stay Stay", she can be heard laughing and exclaiming "It's so fun!".
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: "All Too Well" is mostly sung very gently and softly, almost like a murmur, before the bridge, where Taylor practically screams, "You call me up again, just to break me like a promise."
- Title Drop: "State of Grace" is the only song on the album not named after its hook, with the title appearing not in the chorus, but in the bridge:This is a state of grace
This is the worthwhile fight
- Title Track: The second song is called "Red."
- Valley Girl: Parodies this inflection in "We are Never Ever Getting Back Together".Like, ever.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: In keeping with pattern, Red contains several of these moments.
- "State of Grace":Up in your room and our slates are clean
Just twin fire signs, four blue eyes
- "State of Grace":
- When He Smiles: Deconstructed in "I Knew You Were Trouble." The intro for the music video mentions that the bad boy love interest looks like an angel when he smiles, but he's still a devil deep down.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: "All Too Well" implies that she and her lover were this at the beginning of the relationship:Oh, your sweet disposition
And my wide-eyed gaze
- You're Cute When You're Angry: One of the reasons she loves her boyfriend in "Stay Stay Stay":You think that it's funny when I'm mad, mad, mad