Every Song On Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’, Ranked

'Red' contains some of Swift's best tracks - and also some of her worst.

taylor swift red ranking photo

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Over the weekend, Taylor Swift announced that she’d be re-releasing her 2012 album Red this November.

It’s the second album to be re-released, following Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in April; Swift will be re-releasing every pre-Lover album over the next couple of years in order to gain back control of her back catalogue.

The new version of Red will feature 30 tracks — that’s every track that was was reportedly written for the original album, Swift says.

“Like your friend who calls you in the middle of the night going on and on about their ex, I just couldn’t stop writing,” Swift wrote in a statement. “This will be the first time you hear all 30 songs that were meant to go on Red. And hey, one of them is even ten minutes long.”

Red is a particular favourite of Swift fans — it’s arguably one of her strongest records, and contains probably the best song she’s ever released in the gut-wrenching ‘All Too Well’ (spoiler, maybe?) and also features some bruising and questionable curveballs in ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’. It’s a spiralling and dizzy album — a “fractured mosaic of feelings” as Swift called it.

So, let’s fumble through all the pieces of Red and rank the tracks in order of greatness. We’ve taken the tracklist from the Deluxe Version of the album, and haven’t included any of the demos or acoustic versions.

#19. ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’

The first single to drop from the record, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ was Swift’s grand entrance to mainstream pop after three albums of pristine country-pop. As subtle as a jackhammer, as sugary as a Nerds Rope.

#18. ‘The Last Time’ (feat. Gary Lightbody)

Perhaps one of the strangest tracks in Swift’s back catalogue, ‘The Last Time’ mostly suffers from the crime of not really sounding like a Swift song at all.

Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody suffocates proceedings, his limpid voice jarring against Swift’s airy vocals. The chorus hook isn’t bad, but this is a tossed-off Snow Patrol song that Swift somehow ended up on. Swift has never been great as a feature artist — with a couple of exceptions, nearly every collaboration she’s released has been lacklustre.

#17. ‘Starlight’

There’s a lot of good stuff in ‘Starlight’ — the country undertones to the melody, the twang of Swift’s voice on words like ‘prince’. But somewhere along the line (the second verse) it just loses its way, and ends up like a song that would soundtrack the ad to a teeth-whitening product.

#16. ‘Girl At Home’

Again, there’s a lot to love here: it’s cheeky, it’s bright, it’s a little tongue-in-cheek. But crucially, and unusually for a Swift song, there seems to be almost no thought behind this song — it’s completely by-the-numbers pop fluff. There’s a reason it only made it onto the Deluxe Version — and even that’s a little questionable.

#15. ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’

Not even Taylor Swift was immune to the world’s brief and explosive obsession with dubstep. It was the song that spawned a million goat “remixes” — perhaps the most 2012 moment that has ever existed.

#14. ‘I Almost Do’

For an album that contains some of her best ever songs, there’s an awful lot of forgettable songs on Red. ‘I Almost Do’ is lovely, the warm Fearless-esque verse giving into a gentle country-pop chorus hook. Ultimately though, it’s forgettable — so much so that I actually forgot it was even on this album while compiling this tracklist.

#13. ‘Stay Stay Stay’

Listening to ‘Stay Stay Stay’ in 2021 is to be completely punched back in time — Swift sounds so incredibly young here, her thin and twee vocals bouncing along the arrangement. ‘Stay Stay Stay’ has gotten a bad rap over the years, and it’s definitely way too sugary and saccharine and sounds like it will wind up on the school choir rotation — but it’s also just a bit of silly fun, and sometimes that’s all you need.

#12. ‘Sad Beautiful Tragic’

From the silly fun to the ‘Sad Beautiful Tragic’. Some of Swift’s best songs have been written from this position — resigned, looking back at a relationship, admitting everything went wrong — and that, importantly, you were a part of what was wrong (‘Back In December’ is perhaps the best example). The icy effects on her vocals over the metallic guitar are gorgeous.

#11. ’22’

The soundtrack to millions of birthdays around the world, and a whole lot of drunken fun. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a group of bachelorettes scream this in your face in a gay club.

#10. ‘Everything Has Changed’ (feat. Ed Sheeran)

One of the rare occasions when a Swift collaboration doesn’t sound awkward. They’re close friends in real life, which helps, but more importantly Swift and Sheeran are just very similar songwriters, which makes ‘Everything Has Changed’ feel unforced and natural. The difference between this collaboration and ‘The Last Time’ could not be more marked.

#9. ‘Come Back…Be Here’

There are a few vintage Swift moments on Red, and ‘Come Back…Be Here’ is one of them. Like a offcut of Speak Now or Fearless, it’s a bolshy and businesslike country-pop slammer, complete with lyrics about messy airport goodbyes and long-distance pining.

#8. ‘Begin Again’

Speaking of vintage Swift, ‘Begin Again’ could have slipped easily onto Speak Now’s tracklist — just listen to that pedal steel guitar, for god’s sake. Like the best of Swift’s songs, a whole world is contained in the few stanzas: the heartbroken yet hopeful figure, the nerve-wracking coffee shop date, the tentative laughs and smiles, the gradual warmth and letting go of fear. Just look at how Swift carves out these characters and an entire backstory in just the first few lines:

“Took a deep breath in the mirror
He didn’t like it when I wore high heels, but I do
Turn the lock and put my headphones on
He always said he didn’t get this song but I do, I do
Walked in, expecting you’d be late
But you got here early and you stand and wave.”

#7. ‘The Lucky One’

A warm generous hug of a song. Don’t let it drift by you.

#6. ‘Treacherous’

Everyone lost their minds when ‘Treacherous’ was released, as it was one of the first times Swift had alluded to sex in her lyrics: “And I’ll do anything you say/If you say it with your hands” she murmurs in the opening verse. Now, post-reputation and Lover, sex isn’t an unusual subject for Swift, but in 2012 it was bold and controversial territory for the clean-cut country-pop star.

‘Treacherous’ is a cautious tremble of a song — Swift, like she’s done countless times before, expertly captures the tentative beginnings of a new relationship. Plus, its bridge is one of the best in her back catalogue.

#5. ‘The Moment I Knew’

Sometimes, Swift writes as if she’s soundtracking a wedding scene for Grey’s Anatomy, or some kind of fight scene in Twilight. Overblown, dramatic, absolutely way too much, ‘The Moment I Knew’ follows grandly in the footsteps of tracks like ‘Enchanted’ and ‘Haunted’. When Swift brings out the cello, you know it’s going to be a riot.

That’s not to say it’s bad or cringe-worthy — quite the opposite. Let it sweep you up in its arms.

#4. ‘Red’

‘Red’ is perhaps the most Swiftian song to ever exist: a 17-car pile-up of metaphors and similes, powered by a country-pop melody that could melt Carrie Underwood’s face off.

#3. ‘State Of Grace’

If the description ‘Taylor Swift writes a U2 song’ sends shivers down your spine, I’d beg you to reconsider. ‘State of Grace’ is a gargantuan, aircraft-hangar of a song, lifted by The Edge-toned guitars and a kick drum that could revive the dead. It’s entirely too much, and it’s entirely brilliant.

#2. ‘Holy Ground’

Perhaps the most quietly underrated of Swift’s songs, ‘Holy Ground’ is a runaway train — like ‘State of Grace’, it rushes forward on the cannon-ball drums and the thick acoustic guitar.

There’s so much classic Swift in here — from the imagery of leaving notes on the door and spinning in a brand new dress to neat lyrics like “you fit in my poems like the perfect rhyme”. It lifts and lifts and lifts, threatening to run off the rails at every turn.[/media-embed]

#1. ‘All Too Well’

There’s not much that can be said here that hasn’t already been said about ‘All Too Well’ — but it bears repeating regardless. Put simply, this is Swift at her finest, sketching out an entire world in a handful of tormented paragraphs and vivid vignettes.

She outdoes herself with the imagery: from dancing around the kitchen in the refrigerator light to plaid shirts and that damn scarf to the autumn leaves swooping to the ground to running red lights, Swift plonks you right in the middle of this doomed romance. You could write a million lines and not come up with one as elegant and cutting as “casually cruel in the name of being honest”, but that’s just Swift for you.


Jules LeFevre is the editor of Music Junkee. Argue with her about this list on Twitter.