Taylor Swift releases Red (Taylor’s Version) on Nov. 12. Ahead of its release, we look back at the original 2012 record that cemented Swift as pop’s heartbreak queen. Over her 15-plus years in the industry, Swift has also become well-known for her bridges, so we decided to rank the tracklist— bonus songs included— by bridge.
I could leave this at “duh.” “All Too Well” is certifiably Taylor’s best bridge not just on Red, but likely across her entire discography. The No. 5 track takes listeners on an entire relationship’s journey, with the demise coming to a crescendo by three minutes in. “You call me up again just to break me like a promise,” she professes, shattering hearts that have even yet to be broken. A non-single, “All Too Well” is perhaps Taylor’s most mythologized song and for good reason.
Delicate in execution, “Treacherous” is anything but. Back when Tay used to have secret messages in her lyric books, this one said “won’t stop ‘til it’s over,” a lyric from The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition.” By the bridge, she fully leans into the all-consuming emotional rollercoaster.
It’s difficult to discern the lyrics of the backing vocals between this song’s chorus and bridge. Rumor has it that Taylor said during a Secret Session that it was just supposed to sound like happiness. In “Holy Ground,” she finally looks back at a relationship with fondness even though it went down in flames (queue up Speak Now’s “Last Kiss” to hear the progress). By the bridge, she caves to the good memories (“I don’t wanna dance if I’m not dancing with you”) and seals the song somewhere between longing and acceptance.
As the album prologue, Red’s opening track kickstarts this romantic odyssey. At the time, the track sounded unlike anything Taylor had done before, with some whispering comparisons to U2 (listen to the drums). Her declaration in the bridge that “love is a ruthless game, unless you play it good and right” is enough for “State of Grace” to make it in the top five.
Taylor prefers you imagine a flashy Maserati coming to a chaotic, untimely end when you imagine the color red instead of, I don’t know, a heart on fire? We are talking about passion and relationships, after all. By the bridge, you too feel swallowed when she sings, “Remembering him comes in flashback and echoes. Tell myself it’s time now, gotta let go. But moving on from him is impossible when I still see it all in my head in burning red.”
October 2012 was a turbulent time for Swifties for a number of non-music reasons, but Taylor caused quite the stir when word got out her next single would incorporate dubstep. It was her biggest leap yet, certifying the idea of Red as a sonic tapestry. The bridge is a moment of clarity that feels like a gut punch to its singer, but is ultimately an insult to its emotionally incapable subject: “The saddest fear comes creeping in that you never loved me or her or anyone or anything.”
Ah, the chant that started it all. Red’s debut was the first of several Taylor Swift singles to hear her opt for talking instead of singing during the bridge. “WANEGBT” is a super fun F U (“find your peace of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” is, in my humble opinion, quite the burn) and possibly the only appropriate time for Taylor to have a sassy chat mid-song. She was 23! On the other hand, I am still holding out for the day we get the high-quality rock version that she did on the 1989 World Tour.
In truth, I often try to skip the last few seconds of the song before Taylor starts laughing. I don’t want to cringe over an otherwise cute song! The best part of “Stay Stay Stay” is when she gets earnest and recognizes this guy’s genuine efforts. She confesses: “All those times that you didn’t leave, it’s been occurring to me I’d like to hang out with you for my whole life.”
Not my personal favorite, but “Sad Beautiful Tragic” is this high up because of this ranking’s criteria. The bridge is Taylor as her classic self, listing off things in threes for an emotional escalation that takes a dive: “Hang up, give up and for the life of us we can’t get back.”
Red sprinkled hints of the New York City love letter that was to come with 1989. Here, she reminisces about a man who’s probably looking out at the city thinking about her, invoking some major Carrie and Big vibes. Crisp and confessional, the bridge is dreamy and crushing all at once.
Every great pop star has a song about fame (“Mean” is about a critic, OK!) and Taylor’s first is a contemplation about stardom and her own complicitness in the machine. As one of Red’s rare non-love songs, “The Lucky One” is a standout on its own merit.
It’s pretty rude Taylor decided to cushion “All Too Well” with “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “22.” But hey, love is a ruthless game, right? The bridge here doesn’t really offer anything new except the chance to have a little more fun. In fact, the original lyrics for the bridge were more introspective: “Sometimes it hits me we’re moving quickly toward something hazy, a future I can’t see.” Cheers to Tay for keeping it just fun and for giving us a reason to make 22 a special birthday.
Red has often been noted for its lack of sonic cohesion, but this final track (not including the bonus songs) argues for the LP’s linear storytelling. “Begin Again” ties a satisfying bow on this album and sees Taylor not only finding herself, but finding someone nice and new. In the bridge, she finally lets go: “I almost brought him up… and for the first time, what’s past is past.”
This bonus track is up this high solely because of the bridge. “Call a cab, lose my number, you’re about to lose your girl. Call a cab, lose my number, let’s consider this lesson learned.” This wagging finger moment from a 23-year-old is quite the diss.
This duet is no “exile,” but does a solid job at exemplifying the fact there are two sides to every relationship. The bridge is a battle over who can leave first. Taylor and Gary Lightbody go head to head, singing, “This is the last time you tell me I’ve got it wrong. This is the last time I say it’s been you all along.”
Personally, I like this song far more than this low rank lets on. But hey, Tay’s other bridges leave this sweet moment in the dust. “Everything Has Changed” officiated Taylor’s first collaboration with Ed Sheeran and is all about the excitement of meeting someone new. The bridge scopes in on the excruciating vulnerability in wondering if that person also has feelings for you: “Meet me there tonight and let me know that it’s not all in my mind.”
Overall, “Come Back… Be Here” is the strongest Red bonus track. It’s Taylor in true, turn-of-the-decade form lamenting over romantic struggles that only jet setters could really relate to. The big breakdown at the end of the bridge makes singing along a top-tier moment of catharsis: “You’re in London and I break down ‘cause it’s not fair that you’re not around.”
Before we had “Starbucks Lovers” there was “teach them how to drink.” Yes, in an ode to Bobby and Ethel Kennedy’s relationship, some thought it sounded like Taylor sang, “we could get married, have ten kids and teach them how to drink,” instead of “teach them how to dream.” A funny flub for a saccharine tune.
I have to be honest, even nine years ago this song made me laugh. How did a songwriting wunderkid devote a chorus to the lines, “It was like slow motion standing there in my party dress in red lipstick with no one to impress.” The melodrama in “The Moment I Knew” is arguably more cringe than the fact that this man did not show up to her twenty-first birthday. However, I digress, the bridge’s final line makes this song salvageable: “What do you do when the one who means the most to you is the one who didn’t show?”
Photography by: John Salangsang/BFA.com