When I think of Taylor Swift’s album Red, a few things come to mind. Structurally, I think of how the album demonstrated Swift’s potential to segue from country to pop, offering hits like “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Beyond this, though, I think of the personal memories I have associated with Red: a November run on Cape Cod with leaves crunching under my feet and “Starlight” blasting from my headphones, listening to “Holy Ground” with the distance to finally look back fondly on a relationship, playing “Begin Again” after a promising Wednesday morning coffee date.
Clearly, Red is the perfect soundtrack for a number of things, tackling themes of love, heartbreak and nostalgia through its evocative lyrics. But how has Red managed to solidify itself as a “fall” album? Sure, part of this can be attributed to the timing of the album’s release, with Red being released on October 22, 2012 and Red (Taylor’s Version) being released on November 12, 2021. Allowing listeners to experience Red as a newly released album in the fall has almost certainly contributed to our age group’s association of Red with the season.
Beyond this, the release of Red (Taylor’s Version) added an element of nostalgia to the album for old fans. Nostalgia is already something we associate with fall, sipping coffee and reflecting on how quickly spring faded into summer into fall, but by offering fans a new version of an old album, Swift capitalized on this factor.
This effect was amplified by the inclusion of previously unreleased songs. In particular, Red’s inclusion of “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” — and the release of a corresponding short film — added to the excitement, nostalgia and, perhaps most importantly, fall vibes.
“All Too Well,” arguably more than any other song on Red, best encapsulates the overall fall mood of the album. In both the original version (which clocks in at about 5 minutes and 30 seconds) and the 10-minute version, Swift utilizes evocative lyrics to describe a tumultuous relationship with an older man, widely believed to be actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
The song taps into the nostalgia we associate with fall, referencing memory in the chorus with the striking line, “I remember it all too well,” while offering specific and poignant scenes throughout the verses. The opening of the song does an exceptional job establishing two key components: First, Swift is reflecting on a past relationship and second, she largely associates that relationship with the fall and winter months. To accomplish the former, she references that the relationship is “long gone and that magic’s not here no more” in the pre-chorus. To accomplish the latter, she incorporates details about cold air, leaving behind a scarf and autumn leaves within the first verse. In short, the song’s focus on a relationship that occurred as fall turned to winter crafts the sort of mood we all associate with this time of year.
Over the course of the rest of the song — in particular, in “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) — Swift further employs seasonal imagery. In this version, the song more clearly explores winter in addition to fall, referencing her 21st birthday, the “city’s barren cold” and how she “still remember[s] the first fall of snow.” With this in mind, it makes sense that, in addition to simply exploring how a relationship composed of both beautiful and haunting moments fell apart, the song addresses the passage of time through the shifts in seasons.
For me, Red truly is the ideal album for fall. It’s one that I listened to as a child and now again as an adult. It’s one that I continue to find new ways to relate to as I experience moments similar to the ones Swift describes, whether I’m feeling lost in my early 20s (shoutout to “Nothing New”) or “getting lost upstate” (as is referenced in “All Too Well”).