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The Hollywood Insider Taylor Swift Red Short Film, Jake Gyllenhaal, All Too Well

Photo: “All Too Well”

As someone who never really considered themselves a Taylor Swift fan, I’ve been listening to a ten-minute song of quite a bit. Maybe it’s because it’s cold out, or maybe it’s because it’s fun to scream “fuck the patriarchy” I’m not entirely sure. To clarify, I’m not going through a breakup despite what my upstairs neighbor probably thinks. All I know is that I’m really enjoying the re-release of her album ‘Red’. 

If you, like me, are lying to yourself, it’s time to stop. Taylor has had an influence on pop culture for over a decade, but now more than ever she is changing the music industry completely. 

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Why Is She Remaking Old Albums?

If you don’t know by now, Taylor is remaking her studio albums one by one so that she properly owns them. 

In 2005, when she was just a curly-headed teenager, Taylor signed a contract to Big Machine Records which did not expire until 2018. In those 13 years, she had dozens of huge pop songs, six award-winning albums, and stadium tours sold out to loyal and enthusiastic fans. When her contract ended she switched labels to Republic Records and Universal Music Group, except Big Machine still owned the original recordings (also called masters) of her work. In her new contract, she made sure to secure the ownership of her future masters in an attempt to carve out more agency and update her terms now that she was a household name. “Artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work,” she wrote in a 2021 Instagram post

However, Big Machine sold the masters to Ithaca Holdings, a private-equity group owned by music manager Scooter Braun. Braun is known for managing artists like Kanye West and Justin Bieber, and Taylor was not necessarily a big fan of him after he reportedly bullied her. In 2019 Braun sold the masters to another company called Shamrock Holding and any time an old version of Swift’s songs is played it profits Braun. According to Time, she slammed the sale publicly and promised to rerecord all of the albums so that the masters were under her control. “When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually, he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity,” Swift wrote in a 2019 Tumblr post.

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Nostalgia Sells

Not surprisingly, her fans (who call themselves Swifties) have supported her actions to reclaim her work as her own. The first album she re-released in April of 2021 was her 2008 album ‘Fearless’ which had mega-hits like ‘You Belong With Me’ and ‘Love Story’. She also included six bonus tracks that didn’t make the final cut of the album.

In the years since she had first come out with these songs, many of her fans had grown up with them. For reference, I was in elementary school at the time and have since graduated college. Her fans rejoiced, not only is she being a total boss and reclaiming her work, but now her fans could drink wine while screaming/crying/throwing up along to it.

There is actually even a scientific reason why those songs stirred something up in anyone who listened. “Research has found that humans tend to hold onto the music we heard while we were growing up particularly tightly. As teenagers, hormones and intensity of feelings mean we soak up songs and the emotions behind them more than we do when we’re older,” according to Insider. Essentially, music that holds emotional value to you when you are in formative years of your life can act as a key to unlocking those same memories. So not only are fans loving listening to music that they enjoyed 13 years before, Taylor is now reaping the benefits.

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‘Red’ Rerelease

On November 12th, Taylor rereleased her album ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ including songs that were unheard, or from the vault, as well as different drafts. The song that has garnered the most attention so far is a fan favorite ‘All Too Well’. In 2012 her record label didn’t want to put out the song as a single because they feared it wouldn’t be a hit, and as of right now her version of the song is number one on Billboard Hot 100. Taylor mentioned in interviews that the first draft of the song was trimmed down and originally lasted around 10 minutes. Since then Swifties have been begging for the full version. Well, they finally got it.

To promote, Taylor performed the full version live for the first time on ‘Saturday Night Live’ while the short film played in the background. She has also gone on late-night shows such ‘Late Night With Seth Meyers’ and ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’. 

She has also put out another music video for her song ‘I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version)’ featuring Chris Stapleton. The music video also features Miles Teller and was directed by Blake Lively. I also have not stopped listening to this song, so do with that what you will. 

All Too Well: The Short Film

All Too Well: The Short Film’ was directed and written by Swift and features Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien and premiered at the AMC Theaters in New York City. It also had a limited theatrical release in major cities and has since garnered positive reviews, both for Swift’s directing as well as Sink’s performance.

 In the video, Sink plays Her and O’Brien plays Him, doomed lovers over the course of a relationship. Some people feel uncomfortable by the actors’ age difference (she is 19 and he is 30), but that’s kind of the point. The song was written when Taylor was only 20 after a relationship with a celebrity who was nine years older than her. While nine years is not a lot for some, it proved fatal for the couple as Taylor belts out, “You said if we had been closer in age, maybe it would’ve been fine And that made me want to die.”

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 Sink and O’Brien are captivating in their roles, showing both the beauty of falling in love, the crushing heartbreak, and the moments of vulnerability in between. If I were Him, I simply would have not dropped my hand, but I digress. The 15-minute film is divided into seven chapters including: “An Upstate Escape”, “The First Crack In The Glass”, “Are You Real?”, “The Breaking Point”, “The Reeling”, “The Remembering” and the epilogue “Thirteen Years Gone”. 

It begins with Her and Him seemingly entranced by each other’s company. She leaves her scarf at his sister’s house by accident after taking a trip to upstate New York (which has since gone on to represent the song itself and is even being sold as merch). At a dinner party, Him ignores Her as he entertains a room. Afterward, they fight, and the music is stopped as he becomes dismissive about her feelings and she grows angry and upset. He apologizes when she starts to cry and the music starts up again. He begins to distance himself until they break up, and Sink heartbreakingly clutches at her chest sobbing in physical pain. Time passes, including Her 21st birthday and parties where she feels isolated. Fast forward thirteen years, where a red-headed Swift is now playing Her, who is celebrating the release of her novel “All Too Well”. She performs a reading to a packed room, presumably about a relationship in her 20s, while an older Him watches through the window wearing her scarf that she forgot. 

The song is extremely cathartic, not only for Swift when she originally wrote it, but for anyone singing along. And while 10 minutes might seem too long, the magic is that it doesn’t ever get boring or repetitive. It plays like a short film, not a music video, and Swift once again proves her uncontested creative ability. 

Middle School Me Is Embarrassed

So, despite what my inner 13-year-old self wants to deny, I’m obsessed with this song and album as a whole. Taylor is not only a musical genius whose storytelling is both personal and relatable, but she is an artist that has taken back what’s rightfully hers. 

Whether you need to scream at someone about stealing your scarf, or you just miss seeing Dylan O’Brien in things, the short film is fantastic and it might just be making me… dare I say it… a Swiftie?

By Kylie Bolter

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