Taylor Swift tells a story painted in ‘Red’

The promotional blitz for Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album “Red” reached its climax early Monday morning as many Walgreens and other brick-and-mortar retailers that stay open 24 hours a day took maximum advantage of the record’s Oct. 22 release date, allowing her most ardent fans to start listening that much sooner.

Those who hear it from beginning to end will be reminded again that Swift, at 22, is part of a generation of young musicians who still value the album form as something more than just a repository for potential hit singles, and instead strive to create an extended experience over the course of their songs.

In the case of “Red,” the songs play out as an emotional roller coaster, which is bookended by upbeat tales of romantic discovery.

In the process of putting together a profile of Swift that appeared in Sunday’s Arts & Books section, I asked Swift how she settled on the structure of “Red,” since she has famously agonized over song sequencing for her previous three albums.

“There were a few track list choices I knew I was going to make way in advance,” she said. “I knew I wanted to bookend the album with ‘State of Grace’ and ‘Begin Again’ because they’re inspired by the same person who inspired a few songs on the record. I wanted to start and end the album with the first and last song I ever wrote about that relationship.


“Then in between those songs, I wanted to paint a picture of the ups and downs I’ve experienced in life and love, not necessarily in the order it happened chronologically,” Swift continued. “I like to spread the emotions out in a way that never makes you feel like there’s a sad lull, then a burst of four songs in a row about joy. At the end of the day, I make a track list based on what my gut feeling tells me.”

Closing on “Begin Again,” the album sounds as if it ends on an open-ended note as Swift describes a relationship that runs deeper than many of those she’s written about in the past. As a result, the listener is left wondering where this new connection will take her.

“Exactly!” she responded. “ ‘Begin Again’ is my song version of a cliffhanger ending. Throughout the whole album, there have been songs about the trials and tribulations of love and loss, and there at the end of the record it starts all over. As soon as I wrote that song, I knew exactly where I wanted to put it.”


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