When Taylor Swift released her fourth album, Redin 2012, she was already in the middle of her move away from country music, but she wouldn’t transition into a full pop voice until her next album. 1989. The theme song from Red it’s an example of Swift’s crossover-in-progress, opening with a banjo-picking four-floor tap, before giving way to a pop song.
when “Red” is known for combining elements of country, rock and techno, it is also remarkable for songs that use different colors as metaphors for different emotions. This not only works as a way to get his message across, but also serves as a cue to integrate color as a storytelling device in his live performances, as shown in the official video for the song.
What does “red” refer to?
Swift is known for her breakup songs, of course, but the lyrics to “Red” are kind of tortured. This isn’t a story about internal love anymore, an external one (like “We’re Never Taking It Back”) or a voice of anger directed at the wrong partner. It is a song about regret and sadness over the loss of a relationship that was almost perfect, but destined to perish. It’s more similar, in fact, to Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love” or Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ “The Love I Lost” (written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff).
The basic theme of the song is presented in the opening line: Loving him is like driving a brand new Maserati on a dead end street. Although the word “red” does not appear in the line, can we find a picture of a Maserati in any color other than red? The chorus expands on an emotion-as-color motif.
Losing him was blue like I had never known
Missing him was dark gray, alone
Forgetting him was like trying to get to know someone you’ve never met
But loving him was red
The first two verses further describe Swift’s feelings of love for her ex. What made loving him “red” wasn’t just love, though. In the second verse, Swift sings, Memorization was as easy as knowing all the words to your favorite old song. There was something familiar about her ex, something that fit, something that was perfect.
For a love that was so right, how could it go wrong? What was the meaning of this red Maserati of love speeding down the road of death? Swift often leaves that to the listener’s imagination, simply adding to it Fighting him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there was no right answer. There was something whole and pure about their connection, and yet also something about that relationship that was broken and irreconcilable.
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The truth about “Red”
The song was the fifth of seven singles released from Redand the last of four singles from the album to reach the top 10 of those Notice board Hot 100, peaking at number 6. It also reached number 2 Notice boardHot Country Songs Chart.
Red it was the first album that Swift worked with legendary producer Max Martin, who had previously produced breakout albums for Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, P!nk, Katy Perry, and Usher, among tons more. Although Martin is not credited as a producer on the self-titled track, Swift has said the songwriting process opened her up to working with other collaborators, including the Swedish producer.
During Swift’s Eras Tour in 2023, she would headline “surprise songs”-songs from his catalog he would not play more than once during the tour-during the acoustic part of the show. Swift featured “Red” as one of her surprise songs during her performance at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. He had to play the song on guitar, as his piano was damaged in a rainstorm the night before.
It’s easy to relate to the musical elements that made “Red” such a hit, and it’s also tempting to dismiss the song as just another Swift breakup song. It’s worth taking a closer look at Swift’s words, though, and what she can achieve with them. He presented a romantic relationship that is both ordinary and complicated, and made it look easy. It’s a great example of what makes Swift such a great songwriter.