A Deep Dive into 5 “Taylor’s Version” Songs That Are Even Better Than the Originals

An album is like a timestamp, freezing an artist’s mindset and melodies in place. It’s a picture that, once developed, can’t be sent back to the darkroom. An album is forever. 

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Try telling that to Taylor Swift. When music manager Scooter Braun acquired the rights to her first six albums in 2019, Swift pushed back, announcing a plan to regain control of her music by releasing re-recorded versions of those records with her new label, Republic. For some artists, this would’ve been a bluff—an empty threat that, if delivered convincingly enough, just might prompt Braun to cave and hand over the rights to those master recordings. For Swift, it was a promise. 

Swift’s first re-recorded album, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), was released in April 2021. Re-recorded versions of Red, Speak Now, and 1989 quickly followed, with each album featuring replicated versions of the original recordings along with unreleased songs from Swift’s archives. In most cases, the arrangements were nearly identical to the source material. Swift’s growth as a vocalist added depth to the performances, though, and several songs were given a noticeable update. 

We’ve sifted through the various Taylor’s Version records to find six songs that are noticeably better than the originals.  

5. “Out of the Woods (Taylor’s Version)

There’s always been something tribal and nostalgic about “Out of the Woods,” like a long-lost song from The Lion King soundtrack reborn as one of Annie Lennox’s synth-pop hits. The re-recording keeps that throwback spirit alive, but there’s more muscle this time around, as well as tighter harmonies and longer reverb trails.

Out of the Woods” has always relied heavily on its production to evoke the forested landscape of Swift’s lyrics; that scenery springs to life a little faster on the 2023 version than it does on the original.

4. “Fifteen (Taylor’s Version)

Maybe Swift was too close to the canvas when she wrote “Fifteen.” Can anyone really deliver a retrospective about their teenage years when they’re still in them? The version on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is a different story altogether, sung by a grown-up Swift in a voice that’s warm, woozy, and wistful.

There’s a wise-beyond-her-years quality to that performance, and her maturity is matched throughout the song by better production quality, from microscopic details (including improved EQ on Swift’s acoustic guitar, whose treble is dialed back in favor of a fuller, balanced sound) to big-picture textures. The song doesn’t sound like a country-pop power ballad anymore; instead, it’s an Americana song that swings for the fences. Swift wears those new clothes well. 

3. “Treacherous (Taylor’s Version)” 

On the original release of Red, “Treacherous” sounded like a song in limbo. Swift hadn’t fully committed herself to the stadium-sized pop music she’d make as the decade progressed, but she didn’t sound comfortable limiting herself to contemporary country, either.

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“Treacherous” tried to split the difference between those camps, but the initial performance of the song pales in comparison to “Treacherous (Taylor’s Version).” What might’ve sounded like a Nashville-friendly power ballad during the early 2010s now sounds like a female-fronted U2 in the 2020s, with a middle-eight (I will get you, get you alone) that hits just as hard as the chorus itself. 

2. “Red (Taylor’s Version)

We Mazda3 drivers still can’t empathize with Taylor when she compares a short-lived relationship to “driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street,” but she sings those lines so convincingly that we get the drift.

The title track to Red (Taylor’s Version) is noticeably crisper than its predecessor. The guitars and banjos have been given sharply-defined edges that make those instruments pop rather than blend into the background, and Taylor’s voice delivers a knockout punch on the high notes. Super-fans might take issue with the electronic-sounding “reh-eh-eh-ed” refrain, which is quieter than before, but the move also makes “Red” sound less dated. 

1. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)

10 minutes! That’s like Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” with a third guitar solo, or Don McLean’s “American Pie” with an extra verse. The emotional centerpiece of Red (Taylor’s Version), this is a breakup anthem of epic proportions, stuffed to the brim with cinematic storytelling and raw, righteous heartache.

With five extra minutes of running time, Swift is able to explain herself more fully, going beyond the details of the original—a couple dancing in the kitchen at night, bathed in the glow of the open refrigerator door; an ex-lover’s scarf that still smells like the person who once wore it—to include several lines that truly cut to the bone. You said if we had been closer in age, maybe it would have been fine, and that made me want to die, she tells the older man who broke her heart.

Who hasn’t wished they could revisit the scene of a life-changing breakup and explain themselves more fully, delivering the zingers they weren’t able to articulate in the moment? “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” is unwieldy and messy at points, but so are broken hearts, and Taylor Swift has perhaps never sounded more like herself than she does here. 

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for MTV/Paramount Global

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