In Earshot: Taylor Swift’s ‘Red,’ ranked

Grace Pearson-Thompson, Arcade Editor

In Earshot Graphic (Emma Vaughters)

This Friday, Nov. 12 at 12 a.m. EST, marks a personal holiday: Taylor Swift is releasing a rerecording of her 2012 album, “Red.” If you’re unaware, Swift has committed to rerecording all of her albums prior to 2019’s “Lover” so that she can own the masters to her music — by doing this, she can regain authority over her entire discography. 

This album bears a lot of personal significance to me: I got to see Taylor live on tour during her “Red” era when I was 14 and super emotional. Now, as an even more emotional 21-year-old who is incredibly unprepared for the 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” I’ve decided to challenge myself and rank the songs on this, in my opinion, no-skip album in celebration of Friday’s rerelease. 

A quick disclaimer: I am a water sign, so I am a very emotional person, so I’m going to rank these songs largely based on how emotionally attached I am to them. 

1.“Holy Ground” 

I’m realizing now that this ranking is probably going to be the hardest thing I’ll ever do. “Holy Ground” hooks you from the first ten seconds: the guitar seems pretty tame at first, but then the drums come in and Taylor comes in with lyrics that leave both you — and her — breathless. We all have someone to think of when she says “tonight I’m gonna dance for all that we’ve been through, but I don’t wanna dance if I’m not dancing with you.”

2. “All Too Well” 

It would be genuinely idiotic of me to not put “All Too Well” somewhere at the top of this list. I don’t know who hurt Taylor badly enough to write these lyrics — just kidding, yes I do! It was Jake Gyllenhaal — while he may have been the catalyst of the pain that led to this song’s inception, Taylor masterfully crafted it alongside a frequent songwriting partner, Liz Rose. 

If the condensed version has lyrics like “you call me up again just to break me like a promise, so casually cruel in the name of being honest,” I greatly look forward to being emotionally obliterated by the full version. 

3. “Begin Again” 

I love a song about new beginnings, especially after the periods of self-discovery I’m sure we’ve all experienced over the past few years. Maybe I’m biased because I’ve had some “Begin Again”-esque moments recently, but this song makes me want to be in love. If anyone reading this has as many James Taylor records as I do — currently, that number is five — let me know. 

4. “I Almost Do”

Have you ever sat back and realized that you have all of this knowledge of someone who used to be in your life, and now you have nothing to do with all of that information? Taylor perfectly encapsulates the spirit of missing someone and not being able to tell them. This one hurts almost as badly as “All Too Well” and has an equally painful bridge: “we made quite a mess, babe, it’s probably better off this way.” 

5.“Red”

I love how the instrumental of the song is just the right kind of rushed, which aligns perfectly with Taylor describing the rush of an old love and all of the emotions that came with it. The song blooms to half-time drums in the last chorus of the song, which is probably one of my favorite instrumental changes in the album. 

6. “Treacherous” 

I am a sucker for open chords, which is what “Treacherous” opens with. I love how Taylor makes the instrumental so simple, but it feels somehow exactly like the beginning of a relationship. Softly, she talks about how the instability and recklessness that comes with something new and getting to know another person is half the fun. The song builds perfectly to a passionate, electric bridge. 

7. “State of Grace” 

This is a perfect opening track: the drums that introduce the entire album reach directly into your chest and make your heart beat with the song, or maybe I should go see a cardiologist. I love that Taylor can talk about a twin flame, a relationship with a person that didn’t end in a perfect union, but still recognize that it was an impactful experience. Also, every time Taylor says my name, I die a little bit inside from happiness. 

8. “Come Back…Be Here” 

Even if you’re not in a long distance relationship, this song is really comforting when you’re feeling homesick. Sometimes you just miss your family, or your friends from home, or your dog. “Come Back…Be Here” feels like the hug you need when you’re feeling out of place and missing someone. 

9. “Everything Has Changed” feat. Ed Sheeran

When I was younger, this song started to annoy me because of how often it was played on the radio. Also, it’s easy to make fun of Ed Sheeran sometimes. But, like I said earlier, I love a song about new beginnings and that gut feeling you get when someone will be in your life for a while. I have to give it to Taylor and Ed on this one: their voices blend beautifully together. 

10. “The Lucky One”

I have no other comments on the lyricism of this song other than it single handedly made me rethink a career in music because they’re so impactful. Taylor takes on a Dolly Parton-esque attitude in her confrontation of the music industry, citing feelings of dwindling relevance and fighting for yourself in a largely male-dominated field. 

11. “Sad Beautiful Tragic”

Breakup songs can fall in many categories, but this song takes on the perspective of someone who’s reconciled with the anger and just feels mourning and grief of a lost relationship. It takes someone mature to move past the retaliation, which is probably half the reason I didn’t connect with “Sad Beautiful Tragic” in middle school. A song that takes on the feel of a funeral march bears even more significance considering it talks about the ending of a relationship. 

12. “The Moment I Knew”

A good strings section will get me every time, and “The Moment I Knew” is no exception. I haven’t heard a lot of songs that focus on the world-rocking realization that a relationship needs to end — but that being said, Taylor does an excellent job of encapsulating that feeling. A lot of us, unfortunately, have been betrayed before — had one of those moments, as Taylor says in the song, where all you can think is “you said you’d be here.” An incredibly emotional verse grows into a gut wrenching chorus that I would pay thousands of dollars to see performed live. 

13. “The Last Time” feat. Gary Lightbody 

It took me a bit to warm up to this song. When “Red” was first released, I hadn’t been in any relationships, and had no clue who Gary Lightbody was. But as I started progressing through life and becoming an actual human being, I started understanding what the lyrics meant: just being at the end of your rope asking another person to give you time out of their day. As I aged, I became more familiar with the desire to be prioritized, and I hold this song very close to me now. 

14, “Stay Stay Stay” 

While widely recognized as Taylor’s worst song on “Red,” I rather enjoy “Stay Stay Stay.” I was really into that bubblegum pop sound when “Red” first came out because I was in middle school but it was pre-pop-punk era, so I was instantly hooked on this song. It brings me back to childhood nostalgia, but in a way that cheers me up. Like Taylor says through giggles at the end of the song, “it’s so fun!” 

15. “Starlight” 

I love “Starlight” — I think it’s incredibly catchy and has a great instrumental that encapsulates how it feels to be metaphorically dancing through the stars in the honeymoon phase with someone new. I only rank it this low because I think other songs on this album better encapsulate love in a positive light like “Starlight” does — while they sound different, “State of Grace” and “Red” are equally catchy. 

16. “Girl At Home” 

It’s getting to a point in the ranking where it’s mostly just songs I haven’t had a chance to really connect with yet. Just like “Starlight,” “Girl At Home” is really fun to listen to. I, however, have yet to be put in a situation like Taylor is in this song: telling someone she’s not about to be a homewrecker. It’s not my favorite because I don’t feel my heart being shattered and glued back together and re-shattered every time I listen to it, but I will admit a few thousand of those stream numbers are likely mine. 

17. “I Knew You Were Trouble.” 

You may have noticed I saved the singles for last on this list. I love them, I connect with them emotionally, but I heard them too often as a 13 year old and now have a very minor vendetta against them. If I’m in the mood, though, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” hits different, especially coupled with a smoky and badass music video. Sometimes you just want to watch Taylor Swift hit stuff. No shame. 

18. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” 

Despite being the second song I ever learned on the guitar — the first one was “Welcome to Paradise” by Green Day, weirdly enough — I think of this song as more of a fun one than anything else. Some songs really do just have that purpose: good, cathartic fun. But I’ve reconciled with my pre-teen angst (and post-teen angst so far, for that matter), so I lean more towards the heart-twisting songs. But I will absolutely nail the monologue during this song’s bridge. Every time. 

19. “22”

I gotta say, I’m biased on this one. I am 21. And another thing: most of my friends who are 22 don’t as much relate to the “happy, free” part, but more so the “confused and lonely” bit. Is it magical, Taylor? Or is it just miserable? I don’t know what to look forward to. To be honest, “Fifteen” on her album “Fearless” didn’t give me a lot of hope either, so maybe I should just thank Taylor for her brutal honesty and just keep my fingers crossed. 

If you aren’t already ecstatic for the release of “Red (Taylor’s Version),” I’d be happy to give you a few reasons. Swift’s version includes features on unreleased songs — “from the vault,” as she calls them — from artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Stapleton and Ed Sheeran.

Swift is also releasing a short film for her song “All Too Well” that she wrote, directed and starred in, featuring appearances from Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. I would tell you to prepare yourself, but I don’t think anything can adequately prepare us for this release.