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), was released on November 12, 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.
The song "All Too Well" and its accompanying short film have their own page.
Preceded by Speak Now, succeeded by 1989.
- "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)
- "The Moment I Knew" (Bonus Track) (4:45)
- "Come Back...Be Here" (Bonus Track) (3:43)
- "Girl at Home" (Bonus Track) (3:40)
- "State of Grace" (Acoustic Version) (5:21)
- "Ronan" (4:24)
- "Better Man" (From The Vault) (4:57)
- "Nothing New" (featuring Phoebe Bridgers) (From The Vault) (4:18)
- "Babe" (From The Vault) (3:44)
- "Message in a Bottle" (From The Vault) (3:45)
- "I Bet You Think About Me" (featuring Chris Stapleton) (From The Vault) (4:45)
- "Forever Winter" (From The Vault) (4:23)
- "Run" (featuring Ed Sheeran) (From The Vault) (4:00)
- "The Very First Night" (From The Vault) (3:20)
- "All Too Well" (10 Minute Version) (From The Vault) (10:13)
"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.
- All Just a Dream: The final moments of the "I Bet You Think About Me" video reveals nothing beyond the very opening scene actually happened. Taylor didn't show up to crash the wedding or wreak havoc or dance with the groom... the he's just wishing she would.
- 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.
- Bittersweet Ending: "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
- Breakout Character: "All Too Well" being absolutely being beloved by fans has surprised Taylor especially because how long and sad it is. Fast forward to the re-release, it is the only other song beside "State of Grace" to have two versions in the album, and the second version is 10 minutes long.
- 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
- 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: Taylor and her ex-boyfriend share one in the music video for "I Bet You Think About Me." It's an Imagine Spot; he's getting married to somebody else. Interestingly, he's the one imagining it.
- 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".
- 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?)
- Flipping the Bird: Among Taylor's antics in the video for "I Bet You Think About Me" is teaching a group of little girls how to do this, and flipping one right at her ex-boyfriend.
- 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.
- Growing Up Sucks: "Nothing New" has the narrators admitting they've lost some of their confidence with age, and they fear that getting older will cause their audience to abandon them for the inevitable younger, newer, shinier girl who comes along to replace them.I wake up in the middle of the night,
and I can feel time moving.
How can a person know everything at eighteen,
and nothing at twenty-two?
And will you still want me
when I'm nothing new?
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Taylor in the music video for "I Bet You Think About Me," crashing her ex's wedding, destroying the cake, roasting him in front of everyone, teaching a group of little girls how to flip the bird, and overall making the event a tribute to her own heartbreak. All Played for Laughs, both due to how over-the-top her antics are, and because of the final reveal that none of it is really happening.
- Imagine Spot: The entire music video for "I Bet You Think About Me" is this for the ex, who's about to marry someone else. He imagines Taylor crashing the wedding and wrecking it, before she changes into a wedding gown and dances with him.
- Intercourse with You:
- It's Not You, It's Me: Played with in the Break-Up Song "All Too Well."Maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much
But maybe this thing was a masterpiece 'til you tore it all up
- 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.
- Living Emotional Crutch: The narrator of "Forever Winter" has a close friend who's heavily implied to be suicidal, and the chorus has her essentially offering to be a crutch for him; "I'll be summer sun for you forever" if it'll keep him alive. The next line, "Forever winter if you go" implies he's also this to her, to some extent.
- 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
- 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
- "Nothing New" is a dark twist, with the narrators all too aware that they're not getting any younger, and that this could easily cause them to lose the adoration and attention of the public, who will move on the next young newcomer.I know someday I'm gonna meet her, it's a fever dream
The kind of radiance you only have at seventeen
She'll know the way, and then she'll say she got the map from me
I'll say I'm happy for her, then I'll cry myself to sleep
- "22," an upbeat dance number about making the most of youth.
- The One That Got Away: Inevitably comes up, being an album so strongly about love affairs that didn't work out.
- In "Red," the narrator finds moving on from her ex impossible and still misses him very deeply.
- The narrator of "I Almost Do" admits she still wants to get back together with her ex, but knows it's a bad idea, so she doesn't respond to his attempts at contact.
- "Come Back...Be Here" is about the narrator's wish that her ex would do just that.
- In "Babe," the narrator says she didn't want to be the one that got away for her boyfriend, but he blew it when he cheated on her.
- "I Bet You Think About Me" has the narrator teasing her ex and saying she'll always be this for him. The music video takes it further, showing him still daydreaming about her on his wedding day to another woman.
- Deconstructed in "Better Man". The narrator sometime wishes she is still with the man... And that is framed to be a very destructive and toxic relationship, with even hints of him being abusive to her. Her still longing for the man caused her to lose sleep and bring her a lot of shame.
- One-Word Title: Just Red.
- Please, Don't Leave Me: The bridge of "Forever Winter" has the narrator asking her depressed friend not to "go."
- 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.
- "Girl at Home" is radically different between the original deluxe version of Red and the re-release; being an underproduced country pop demo in the former and a brashy electropop number in the latter. Word of God is that Taylor was rushed by her then-label into adding more country songs to the album that the song wasn't even finished; the re-release was how she wanted it to sound from the very beginning.
- "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 (Joni Mitchell Album). (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:
- Splash of Color:
- Taylor's sartorial aesthetic in this era was largely blacks, whites, beiges, and, of course, a splash of red.
- The music video for "I Bet You Think About Me" is set at a wedding, where everyone is wearing white, except the groom, who's wearing black, and his ex-girlfriend, who wears dark red. The inside of the cake and the flowers are also red, and as the video goes on, she turns everything red in her wake, symbolizing the passion and excitement that he lost along with her.
- Stood Up: "The Moment I Knew" is about the narrator being stood up by her boyfriend at her own birthday party. This Kick the Dog moment is what makes her realize the relationship is functionally over.
- Studio Chatter: At the end of "Stay Stay Stay", she can be heard laughing and exclaiming "It's so fun!". "Everything Has Changed" starts with guest singer Ed Sheeran asking "you good to go?". Red (Taylor's Version) goes so far as to replicate those bits of banter.
- Talking Down the Suicidal: "Forever Winter" is about the narrator's concern for a friend who's suffering from depression, and is heavily implied to be suicidal, and her pleas for him to hang on. The bridge gets even more explicit with this theme:If I was standin' there in your apartment
I'd take that bomb in your head and disarm it
I'd say I love you, even at your darkest
And please don't go
- 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."
- Uptown Girl: Gender-flipped and deconstructed in "I Bet You Think About Me." The narrator's ex is Old Money; she grew up on a farm. She never fit in with his friends and family, and as their relationship fell apart, the differences in income and background made her feel like crap. Still, she asserts that he'll regret dumping her, since she was exciting and made him happy. The music video shows she's right, with the guy fantasizing about her showing up to ruin his wedding and sharing a dance with him.
- 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.
- You Are Not Alone: The ending of "Forever Winter":He says he doesn't believe anything much he hears these days
I say, "Believe in one thing, I won't go away"
- 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