Taylor Swift thinks of an ex-boyfriend in the musing “Red.”
A brooding guitar opens the single, setting a woeful tone. Where did the flash drive go? She checks behind her Ipod dock again, sneezing from the dust and moves it back into place. Maybe it’s by the stack of study notes on her dresser. She runs into her room and takes the pile of notes, shaking them to see if it could’ve slipped through. A photo drops to the floor and she picks it up. In the photo, a dark-haired guy with a some scruff on his chin, a navy blue polo shirt and faded jeans. A sad smile crosses her face. He wasn’t much for style. He was dangerous for her, the free spirit who didn’t care what anyone else thought and delved into his interests with reckless abandon. For three months, she was one of the interests. Then one day, she stopped hearing from him. The warning signs were there. However, she was fascinated by him. He was a burst of energy, opening her up to things she didn’t know she existed. But the end seemed to hang over them. (“Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead end street/Faster than the wind/Passionate as sin, ended so suddenly/Loving him is like trying to change your mind/Once you’re already flying through the free fall/Like the colors in autumn/So bright just before they lose it all.”)
In the chorus, after not receiving a text or phone call from for two weeks, she realized he broke up with her. She couldn’t go to sleep with crying for a while. Driving became problematic. At the traffic lights, she would have wipe her eyes before her vision would blur again. Even while washing the dishes, tears would roll down her face. After going out with friends, she would have to stop herself from sending him a picture of a quirky sign she saw. He became a shadowy figure, an image from a dream turned real. When she was him, her emotions ran deep, reaching a depth she thought was beyond her grasp. (“Losing him was blue like I’ve never known/Missing him was dark grey all alone/Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you've never met/But loving him was red/Loving him was red.”)
She would trace his arm with her finger, feeling the bump of his wrist and the curve of the bone underneath the his skin. A patch of his dark hair was thinning in the back. He had a mole on his shoulder and a tattoo of a gothic cross on his ankle. But she couldn’t really get through to him. His actions could be interpreted several different ways, depending on his mood. Sometimes, she could end the argument with a kiss. Other times, she would have to scream until her voice cracked. She overreacted on a lot of things, which were really non-issues to him. (“Touching him is like realizing all you ever wanted was right there in front of you/Memorizing him was as easy as knowing all the words to your old favorite song/Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no right answer/Regretting him was like wishing you never found out that love could be that strong.”)
The chorus is sung again, with a slight lyric change. (“Losing him was blue like I’d never known…oh red burning red.”)
In the bridge, she thinks of him whenever she passes an electric blue compact car similar to his. She hears his laughter after she chuckles at clever joke she saw online. She knows she shouldn’t dwell on the memories. However, he made an impression on her and no one could every copy it. (“Remembering him comes in flashbacks 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/Burning red!”)
A lively guitar has a solo which leads the to the chorus.
In the final section, she says images of him flip through her mind, animating her favorite mannerisms and zooming in on his eyes. (“And that's why he's spinning round in my head/Comes back to me burning red, yeah, yeah.”)
The tone gets somber again as she bookends the single with the first line from the single. (“Cause love was like driving a new Maserati down a dead end street.”)
Swift’s freewheeling, wholehearted vocals are incancedescent, the heat of its light bouncing across edges. The heartbreak was on the verge of cracking, given the right amount of pressure. Sometime, she exerted it and he left. But she would do it all over again without a second thought.
The word “red” skips in the chorus, introducing a dance element into her music. She also uses her lower register, adding a harder tone in her voice. Both are new and though it’s a pitter patter of movement, it’s an experiment worth exploring its different facets.
The floating “Red” finds unexpected places in the usual spot.