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TWICE elevates to new heights of artistry in ‘Formula of Love: O+T = 3’

Continuing to mature in sound and image, TWICE blends funk, reggaeton, and 80s nostalgia with their own flavor to discover the formula of love.

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Photo courtesy of JYP Entertainment

If there’s one thing TWICE can’t do, it’s making bad music.

After serving us with the refreshing summer treats of Taste of Love, the queens make a spellbinding return with their third full-length album, Formula of Love: O+T= <3. As expected from the K-pop megastars, the album broke records left and right, with 700,000 pre-order copies and 70 million streams on Spotify within the first two days of release, becoming their fastest album to do so.

In this 17-track record, the girl group delves into a “scientist” concept, conducting experiments to unravel the different layers of love. Oddly enough, the album’s production stays true to this concept, as the girls experiment with a variety of genres, proving yet again their incredible ability to push boundaries and take creative risks in their music.

With that being said, how well did TWICE’s latest experiment go?

Expressing ‘love’ in different sounds

Continuing to mature in sound and image, TWICE blends funk, reggaeton, and 80s nostalgia with their own flavor to discover the formula of love.

The girl group kicks off their experiment with their most mellow title track yet, ‘Scientist.’ The track basks in the new trend of girl group synthpop but fails to establish a memorable soundscape. In contrast to their biggest hits like ‘What is Love?’ and ‘Cheer Up,’ it doesn’t have TWICE’s charm in hooking listeners. The chorus was just there to tweak the rhythm but doesn’t evoke enough excitement to make listeners attached to the song.

Production-wise, the track is composed well. The sudden blasts of bass and synths, along with the wisps of backing vocals make a solid foundation for the stripped-down melodies. Moreover, the song is written in a lower range, which allows the girls to operate freely in their comfort zone. There’s a refreshing absence of belting, and we get to hear more of the girls’ underutilized low registers. Overall, the song delivers a clever message about love, stating that it shouldn’t be approached with formulas or calculations.

This is followed by some major city pop vibes in ‘Moonlight,’ which is Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ sprinkled with TWICE’s magic dust. From tropical beats to funky basslines, TWICE relives 80’s retro and does it right. Much like the title track, this song highlights the girls’ lower tones more and veers away from high-ranged melodies. Furthermore, the inclusion of claps, bells, and marimba leads in the background sets a chillingly romantic yet dancefloor-ready atmosphere that will surely immerse its listeners.

Moving to a more sensual territory is ‘Icon,’ an empowering girl boss anthem. With an infectious reggae rhythm, it’s bound to get stuck in your head. While the usage of slang terms like “hustla” and “I’m fly” felt a little unnatural for the girls, everything else about this song was perfectly executed. It’s truly iconic, and there’s just something about Momo’s “Damn, I got it, I’m iconic” that hits differently.

Breakup is celebrated with falsettos and anti-drops in ‘Cruel,’ a fast-paced dance track. The funky piano chords in the beginning immediately build up a danceable ambiance, which is then accentuated by the sexy guitar riffs repeating throughout the song. Meanwhile, Dahyun continues to flaunt her songwriting prowess, as she depicts the bitterness and innocence of a post-breakup experience in a simple yet provocative style.

Next up is ‘Real You’ which is super catchy but not so cohesive. The verses start strong with sharp bass lines, only for the refrains to suddenly come with heavy synths and trap snares. Unfortunately, the bridge is even more substandard wherein the lack of variation makes it sound like a different song. Jihyo’s lyricism is spot-on, as always, but the jumbled arrangement doesn’t do her justice.

Revisiting the girls’ higher registers is ‘F.I.L.A (Fall in Love Again),’ written by Nayeon. The track bounces and grooves with carefree melodies, as the girls sing about a hopeless, conflicted relationship. Its bass-heavy chorus is an instant serotonin boost that would immediately transport you to an 80’s nightclub. More importantly, the track’s neat vocal arrangement allows a swift balance between the girls’ lower and higher tones and leaves little to no room for awkwardly-placed verses.

If ‘Cry For Me’ had a child with a trap song, it would be ‘Last Waltz.’ But as memorable as the “mmh mmhs” and “dun dun dun dun duns” are, this song is a bit all over the place. There’s a dramatic atmosphere created by the violins, but there’s also a lot of exuberance in the hooks. The verses just came in after another without getting built up, and Chaeyoung’s rap didn’t really add much. I’m not saying this song sucks, but it’s just oversaturated with so many production ideas crammed in one song. But perhaps, such bizarreness is what makes it remarkable to listeners.

The energy carries over to ‘Espresso,’ a shot we badly need right now. This hip-hop-influenced track speaks of the ecstasy that one feels after taking a sip of an espresso, which makes it really relatable. With saccharine vocals and jazz-inspired drops, listeners will easily get the earworms. The whisper spelling of “E-S-P-R-E-S-S-O” is unexpectedly addicting, and not to mention that vocal fry from Momo when she says “what” and “look.”

‘Rewind’ is the song I’d rewind whenever I’m studying or driving. After the hot streak of upbeat tracks, this one comes as a huge surprise, being the first slow song in the album. While the generic lyrics and overused swing rhythm are too unimaginative for my liking, the girls’ vocals kept pulling me in. Their wistful tones go so well with the soft vintage vibes and make the song even more comforting than it already is.

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Taking emotions to the next level is the rock ballad ‘Cactus.’ It’s the second track in the album penned by Jihyo and by far the most cohesive. The instruments provide a seamless progression between the verses, starting off with gentle bass chords before escalating to the thunderous drum beats in the chorus. Each of the girls delivered their parts powerfully, from 3Mix’s vocal runs to MiChaeng’s “I’ll be fine.” No doubt, they made an already sad song even sadder. Oh, and if that’s not sad enough, keep in mind that Jihyo wrote this for her dead cactus.

After a short wave of ballads, TWICE returns to the funk territory with ‘Push & Pull,’ the first sub-unit track in the album by Jihyo, Sana, and Dahyun. The track leans into an electrifying retro brass style that further diversifies the disco vibes already established in the earlier tracks. This style surprisingly fits the concept of a push-pull relationship that the song tackles and the triad’s stylistic singing brilliantly hints at the emotions of frustration, uncertainty, and hope.

We are then greeted by some swag in ‘Hello’ by Nayeon, Momo, and Chaeyoung. Hearing a rap-heavy song from Twice should be a treat for us, but not if it has laughable lyrics and sloppy flows. It could’ve been more well made with better raps and better beats, but it still gets a pass in my book, only because of the satisfying back-to-back singing parts from Nayeon and Chaeyoung. It’s a shame though because Nayeon, Momo, and Chaeyoung had so much potential to be a great sub-unit, yet they got the short end of the stick.

The third time’s the charm in ‘1, 3, 2’ by Jeongyeon, Mina, and Tzuyu, the last and absolute best unit song of the album. It’s a wonderful fusion of Latin rhythms, Spanish trap, and K-pop. As the title suggests, the track talks about mismatched tempos in a failing relationship, which the triad winsomely portrays through sultry choruses and soulful low registers. These three truly fit elegant songs, and their voices altogether is a match made in heaven. From the playful switches between their voices to the addicting “follow your tempo” post-chorus, they made it possible for a TWICE-esque reggaeton to be a bop.

Following this is ‘Candy,’ a disco-pop anthem written for ONCEs. Like candy sugar, it’s so sweet, but a little boring. The girls’ dreamy voices make the choruses easily catchy, but quickly lose their momentum with the repetitive harmonies and clunky instrumentals. Nevertheless, the song still works its own magic in melting ONCEs’ hearts, and really feels like a warm hug from TWICE themselves.

Of course, the party can’t be complete without the mysterious allure of their English debut, ‘The Feels.’ It’s been more than a month since its release, but it’s still stuck in our heads. Here, the girls enliven their cutesy roots and make it extra sweet with flawless English pronunciations and ebullient hooks. The trendy bassline, paired with brisky percussion, provides the much-needed energy to propel listeners to a dance craze.

And finally, we finish with ‘Scientist – R3HAB Remix.’ This is definitely not the closure I imagined, but I ended up enjoying it nonetheless. Remixes are typically not everyone’s cup of tea, but this one’s pretty dope. Somehow, the simplicity of R3HAB’s beats makes ‘Scientist’ a suitable song choice for raves and festivals. The tinge of deep house drops is also a nice touch, letting the chorus become more impactful than it was in the original version.

Diversity is the name of the game

Photo courtesy of JYP Entertainment

With a 55 minute-rollercoaster of groovy basslines, immaculate vocals, and dancefloor sessions, Formula of Love: O+T = 3 proves to be one of TWICE’s most powerful releases yet. The tracks possess stark variations in genres but maintain a unified sound that keeps the listening experience unflinchingly buoyant all throughout. While there are some failed experiments, this is outweighed by the many standouts that are qualified enough to join the league of TWICE’s best B-sides. To be completely honest, no song here is downright bad. It’s just that TWICE has raised the bar so high, even for themselves.

Formula of Love: O+T = 3 is mature TWICE at its finest. This is by no means the first time TWICE gave us a wider peak of their musical diversity. We’ve already seen them blend genres in their previous studio album, Eyes Wide Open, which critics and fans alike considered one of the most career-defining moments in TWICE’s career. But Formula of Love: O+T = 3 is just as groundbreaking, in a sense that it continues to cross the path already carved by Eyes Wide Open, while also carving its own. The braver and bolder approach in this album serves as a testament to TWICE’s immense growth as artists. From ushering new trends for the K-pop landscape to getting more involved in songwriting, it’s clear that their impact in the music industry is going to continue its forward trajectory.

It’s also worth noting that despite TWICE’s ongoing venture into the more sophisticated corners of their musicality, they still have traces of the signature youthful sounds that characterized their earlier hits. This allows them to explore limitless potentials without ever compromising their authenticity, and will continue to do so in the future. With their growing popularity and overflowing passion for their craft, it’s exciting to see what wonders they still have in store for us.

Get the feels with TWICE’s Formula of Love: O+T = 3, now streaming on all music platforms.

Andrei Miguel Hermosa
Blogs Writer | + posts

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Let your unfiltered feelings flow with ‘The Purple Project’

Delve into their introspective project that fosters safe spaces for emotional health by dropping meaningful messages, joining collaborations, and copping cute apparel.  

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Photo courtesy of Hiatus Manila

For an eventful world that doesn’t seem to pause, we can’t help but sometimes want calmness to descend. In this pandemic, we tend to dilute our feelings to the side, churning down the thoughts and emotions of what we truly want to convey. 

Gazes, playlists, love languages, quality time, you name it. The mundane and spontaneous are enough to affirm us that it is okay to simply feel and take a deep breath. Akin to the color purple, consisting of different variations and tones, it tells us that our feelings can radiate in dreamy lilacs or to darker shades of solitude, making us completely valid and capable of feeling. And this is the culture of care Hiatus Manila’s The Purple Project devotes itself to. 

The Purple Project aims to echo unsaid feelings, value self-care, and reach out to those in need by evoking meaningful connections. Delve into their introspective project that fosters safe spaces for emotional health by dropping meaningful messages, joining collaborations, and copping cute apparel by referring to the mechanics: 

  1. They will be using a Google Form where the audience can drop their purple thoughts (which should be done anonymously) and they will be sharing them weekly.  
  2. They will also be posting short videos of tips and advice on how to take better care of themselves in collaboration with other artists/influencers. 
  3. Most importantly, the proceeds from this project will be allotted in establishing a foundation to provide materials/needs to target communities/partners.

In their previous projects, #HiatusCares and #ThePurpleProject, participants were encouraged to take part and post film photos that they wanted to share, especially what they miss and what they felt (e.g. missing friends and face-to-face classes). 

Photo courtesy of Hiatus Manila

But that’s not it! Get your chance to cop the “Mean It” shirts and hoodies, which contain words shared by those who participated in The Purple Thoughts drop box. Proceeds of this project will be used for donations to chosen charity.

You can also visit their Instagram: @hiatus.mnl for more updates. 

Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro
Blogs Editor, Blogs Writer | + posts

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#PpopRising: 6 P-Pop groups worth listening to

As a response to the prevalent phenomenon of K-pop, there has been a fueled interest in the renaissance of sensational P-pop groups. But which of them are worth listening to?

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Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

Let’s get local! From the legendary APO Hiking Society to the best-selling Philippine female group of all time, SexBomb Girls, we are no strangers when it comes to local music groups. Why? It’s because we love singing, particularly songs that touch our pathos. Truth be told, our country could even become synonymous with karaoke. And it wouldn’t be long, let alone shocking, if there comes a time a Filipino will be born with a silver mic. 

But nowadays, the Korean music industry continues to dominate our domestic airwaves. Just looking on Twitter, it’s a no-brainer that many K-pop fans are also Filipinos. So as a response to this prevalent phenomenon, there has been a fueled interest in the renaissance of sensational P-pop groups. But which of them are worth listening to?

To give you an idea about our emerging P-pop acts, here are six groups that are uncontrollably rising in the local scene.

1. BGYO

Photo courtesy of Instagram/bgyo_ph

Following the classic adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” it’s also the same for BGYO. Trained under Filipino and Korean mentors for two years to become idols, it was a long time coming for members Gelo, Akira, JL, Mikki, and Nate. Pronounced as “B-G-Y-O,” the all-male quintet’s arrival to the local music scene seems like an advent.

Obviously, expectations are high and the pressure is real, but they didn’t disappoint. Less than a year since their debut, BGYO proves that they’re unstoppable. 

Albeit rookies, they successfully tapped the international arena after dropping their debut album, The Light, last October. After charting in several countries, it is safe to say that they are on track with their goal to deliver empowerment and inspiration. My favorite from the album is ‘When I’m With You,’ as it reminds me of a laid-back One Direction song. 

That’s why it also seems fitting that BGYO’s fandom is called ACEs. Like the playing card, they are becoming a symbol of high quality and excellence. Not only do they offer an infusion of pop and electro-dance in their songs, but this five-member boy group also has a high sense of youthful fashion that I bet many influencers could learn a thing or two thereof.

No wonder it’s easier to pronounce their name as bagyo — a fitting mistake that makes sense because they’re poised to be the baddest storm of them all. 

2. BINI

Photo courtesy of Instagram/bini_ph

Being the sister group of BGYO in Star Hunt Academy, the irresistible girl group BINI first appeared in public with their captivating rendition of Ryan Cayabyab’s nostalgic novelty song,Da Coconut Nut.’ And of course, there’s no doubt that their fanbase, called Bloom, would grow upon watching their first-ever music video. But frankly, it’s not a walk in the park for members Aiah, Colet, Maloi, Gwen, Stacey, Mikha, Jhoanna, and Sheena.

Together with BGYO, BINI has been working hard over the past two years. So for them, coming on stage together is more than a dream come true. Eventually, they debuted with a rather familiar song, ‘Born to Win,’ which gives me an early 2010s electro-pop vibe. But don’t let that stop you from listening to them. 

Indeed, I stand corrected upon listening to BINI’s debut album with the same name. ‘Born to Win’ contains bops, from the funky ‘Golden Arrow,’ to the euphoric ‘Kapit Lang’—all of which you can tune in all day long, all year long. With their charming voices and flawless dance moves, they are definitely worthy of numerous praises. 

Similar to their brother group, Born to Win is a testament to BINI’s future aspirations of global fame. In fact, the sibling groups recently had their first online concert, ‘One Dream,’ last Nov. 6 and 7. And perhaps, there are more concerts to come for the girls of BINI.

3. ALAMAT

Photo courtesy of Twitter/Official_ALAMAT

Want to stan a group that is extremely proud to represent their Filipino roots? Say no more.

Multilingual group ALAMAT loves to experiment with their singles. Starting their journey with debut single, ‘kbye,’ the eight-member act absolutely understood the assignment. Combining several Filipino languages in a catchy breakup song is like virtually visiting the different regions of the country.

ALAMAT comprises of Taneo, Mo, Tomas, R-ji, Valfer, Alas, Gami, and Jao. Each one of them is a representation of our deep and immemorial Filipino culture. The group’s distinctive sense of style, which is derived from traditional Filipino influences, has been their brand.

Daring to be unique and legendary, ALAMAT will pull off anything up their sleeve, even if that means getting out of their comfort zone. And that is visually evident in the music video for their single, ‘kasmala,’ which is a hot take on discrimination towards Filipinos.

Moving to their latest single, ALAMAT’s sentimental take on the 2011 Chavacano hit ‘Porque,’ originally sung by Maldita, is also a feast for the ears. A trip down memory lane, these extraordinary boys mix lo-fi together with traditional Filipino instruments in a way to declare to the world how versatile they are. Might as well add it on your study playlist!

4. LITZ

Photo courtesy of Twitter/official_litz

There’s a new girl (group) in town, and they’re ready to shine!

Within a few days after releasing their pre-debut single, ‘Natataranta,’ LITZ already accumulated more than 250,000 views and 25,000 likes on its music video. A JaDine fan would know that LITZ’s single is actually a cover of James Reid’s song in the 2014 teen romcom film Diary ng Panget. But what, or rather, who prepared them to be ready?

It was no other than celebrated choreographer Teacher Georcelle, the founder of the dance company G-Force and who was also the one who coined the group’s name. If you’re unfamiliar with her, she’s basically the mastermind behind the iconic choreography of Sarah Geronimo’s ‘Tala,’ the 2015 record-breaking hit that became a dance craze after resurfacing on TikTok.

With that kind of expertise, members Ashtine, Heart, Fatima, Bianca, and Yumi definitely learned from the best. And needless to say, it manifested in their praiseworthy performance of ‘Natataranta.’

Unfortunately, if you’re asking when they are going to release their official debut single, there’s no specific date yet. On a positive note, you can always check out LITZ’s social media accounts

5. 4TH IMPACT

Photo courtesy of Twitter/4thImpactMusic

Perhaps the most mature act on the list, one should not brush off a group like 4th Impact. Being in the global music scene for six strong years, the all-female quartet deserves more appreciation from Gen-Z.

Although the group was formed at the suggestion of their aunt nearly two decades ago, it was only in 2015 when sisters Almira, Irene, Mylene, and Celina reached the spotlight after competing in X Factor UK where they finished fifth place. Currently, the most streamed video in the history of the British show, 4th Impact’s audition video covering Jessie J’s ‘Bang Bang’ has already over 180 million views.

Soon afterward, their performances were highly anticipated worldwide during the X Factor Live Tour. Over the next four years, the girls’ calendar was jam-packed with live tours and shows all over the world. And in 2020, 4th Impact released their first original song, ‘K(no)w More.’ Accompanied by their powerful vocals, their latest single screams attagirl—an encouragement to get out of that toxic relationship. 

Today, the four sisters focus more on their online engagement with their fans, particularly on TikTok and KUMU, where they won the Celebrity of the Year for the 2020 KUMU Special Awards. With that, I’m confident to say that their future will further slay, so get ready for it!

6. SB19

Photo courtesy of Twitter/SB19Official

Saving the best for the last, if you’re still reading this article and you haven’t listened yet to SB19, you’re missing out big time. A year before all of us were forced to stay home, SB19 got their deserving big break in 2019 after netizens crazed over the group’s synchronized dancing in their second single ‘Go Up.’

But before emerging in the scene, SB19 admitted that they almost decided to disband and give up their dreams. Sadly, this is the heartbreaking reality in the Philippine music industry, where musicians and artists alike have to cling to big names in order to survive the dog-eat-dog world of entertainment. 

Since then, members Josh, Pablo, Stell, Ken and Justin continuously spread their influence with titles that shows their versatility and multiple talents in songwriting, singing, and dancing. And these characteristics are still greatly displayed in their extended play, ‘Pagsibol.’ With tracks like ‘What?,’ ‘Bazinga,’ and ‘Mapa,’ we all know that they have yet to reach their peak.

Even though they’re last on this list, they’re certainly the first in many things. Just this May, the group was nominated for the Billboard Music Awards’ Top Social Artist along with huge international names like Ariana Grande and Seventeen. Fast forward to October, the group was also nominated for the Best Southeast Asia Act at the 2021 MTV Europe Music Awards.

Among all contemporary P-pop groups, SB19 is currently the most streamed artist on Spotify. Personally, I believe it’s destiny, not luck, that the boys landed on newspapers and on the minds of the Filipino youth. And it’s becoming a reality that they are now paving the way for future generations of P-pop groups.

Majority of these local acts debuted amid the pandemic. Albeit unfortunate, it’s in our hands, as listeners and patrons of good music, to introduce their songs beyond the local scene. 

Supporting our local music is the first step in appreciating our very own acts. P-pop groups, from BINI to ALAMAT to SB19, have so much to offer and all of them are just waiting for us to hear them. And it’s still a challenge that some people continue to call them baduy.

This isn’t trying to overshadow K-pop and show spite towards South Korean idols. Rather, this is #PpopRising, and quoting the wise words of SB19: “Yeah we gonna go up.”

Kurt Alec Mira
Blogs Writer | + posts
READ  TW rebrands as K-pop fan org

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‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ is a memoir of the heartbreak woes we kept like an oath

‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ serves as Swift’s letter to her younger self, presenting a person who has grown, matured, and overcome the tribulations that shaped her fears and stripped off her self-agency.

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Photo courtesy of Taylor Swift’s official Instagram

Circa 2014, Taylor Swift announced her partnership with ice-cream brand Selecta Cornetto to promote the Asian leg of her Red tour. Along with the limited edition black forest and raspberry ice cream wrapped in the album’s logo, fans were given the chance to win a pair of tour tickets, signed merch, or even perform as an opening act. 

It was, of course, any Swiftie’s dream to see her in the flesh. While I was not blessed with the natural gift of performing, I did have a knack for devouring anything sweet. Long story short, the majority of my allowance during eighth grade was spent on frequent trips to 7-11 to buy a 20-peso ice cream cone. I cannot vividly recall how many lids I collected and how much sugar I consumed, but sadly, it was not enough to nab a concert ticket or merch. Needless to say, Red was the Taylor Swift album that had me in a chokehold. 

Heeding to the plea of her beloved fans, Miss Americana Taylor Swift dropped Red (Taylor’s Version) on Friday, Nov. 12. The 30-track album marks the second rerecording of her masters following an ownership dispute with her previous label in 2019. Since its release, Swift’s version broke two Spotify records in one day. Its perfect score from Rolling Stone also makes Red (Taylor’s Version) the first Swift album and the 21st album of this century to receive such accolade. 

For an album that influenced my impulsive buys (which I hold no shame for), it’s more than gratifying to see and hear it come alive again after nine years—but this time, with a hint of freedom. 

Recreating the autumn of 2012

If there were words to describe the fall of 2012, it would be a grande nonfat caramel latte with two shots of Jake Gyllenhaal, a drizzle of London heartbreak, and a red scarf on the side. But as a good friend of mine said, “There are no words to describe Red, only tears.” 

Most of the tracks on the old version capitalized on acoustic and electric guitars, percussion, strings, mandolins, harmonicas, and acoustic drums—a signature Swift sound that we’ve all audibly missed. Red (2012) was already laced with excruciating pain and rage, but the crisp instrumentals, additional reverb, and ethereal harmonies, and background vocals in Red (Taylor’s Version) made those emotions more poignant. 

‘State of Grace (Taylor’s Version),’ ‘Red (Taylor’s Version),’ and ‘22 (Taylor’s Version)’ has more amplified acoustics and punchier bass, while ‘Girl At Home (Taylor’s Version)’ gets its own Mia Thermopolis makeover thanks to Elvira Anderfjärd’s pop and electronic touch. Contrastingly, some instrumentals are also toned down in a few songs. In ‘All Too Well (Taylor’s Version),’ the electric guitar between verses is softer, somehow mellowing a rather heart-rending track. 

Besides the emotional realism depicted in each song, Red (2012) was noteworthy for pioneering Swift’s collaborations with other artists in her succeeding albums. 

Even after almost a decade, the sweet and gentle timbre of Ed Sheeran and Swift’s vocals persevered. ‘Everything Has Changed (Taylor’s Version)’ gives us a more mature sound about what seemingly feels like a Flipped love story. Rather than our exes or TOTGAs, it leaves us to reminisce about the times we’ve shared with the Juli Baker or Bryce Loski of our lives.

As dreamy as Sheeran’s feature may be, her collaboration with Gary Lightbody in ‘The Last Time (Taylor’s Version)’ is gut-wrenching enough to deserve its own 10-minute version or short film. This prelude to folklore’s ‘exile’ cuts deeper with its soft yet melancholic verse between two lovers at a breaking point in their relationship. The tension between the dialogue of Swift and Lightbody accentuates the uncertainty and fragility one feels when placed in the same spot. 

Sheeran and Lightbody definitely understood the assignment of how a rerecording should be done. But if there was anyone who outsold the previous version, it was Swift herself. 

In all 30 tracks, Swift delves into her psyche to convey the burning sensation of a “twin flame bruise” or how saying hello risked another goodbye. With every sigh she exclaims and breath she holds between verses, the intensity of the emotions augments, giving us an agonizing taste of what that blow to the chest felt like 10 years ago.

Swift’s vocals in this rerecording are evidently more resonant and have more power, almost abandoning the strain and grit of her country era. Despite being strikingly similar to the previous version, the changes in her vocal tone and inflection help give the rerecording its own character. And so, Red (Taylor’s Version) serves as Swift’s letter to her younger self, presenting a person who has grown, matured, and overcome the tribulations that shaped her fears and stripped off her self-agency.

Sincerely, Taylor from the future

As on Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Swift sought the help of pop masterminds Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff in the production of this album’s vault tracks. Joining the team was Swedish producer Elvira Anderfjärd, who once worked on a remix of ‘Love Story (Taylor’s Version).’ The difference in their music style clearly showed, as songs either fitted the epithet of Red or of other Swift albums. 

The OG Swifties would know by heart that ‘Better Man’ and ‘Babe’ didn’t make the cut in 2012, and were instead given to Little Big Town and Sugarland, respectively. Thanks to Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun’s treachery, we finally got to hear Swift’s rendition of these two tracks. 

Dessner pays homage to Swift’s country roots, utilizing a variety of acoustic and folk instruments in ‘Better Man (Taylor’s Version)’ and ‘I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version).’ With its indie-folk genre, ‘Nothing New (Taylor’s Version)’ could pass as either a folklore track or a record of Phoebe Bridgers herself. Meanwhile, ‘Run (Taylor’s Version)’ revisits Sheeran’s mellow sound in + (Plus) and Divide—one which I’ve personally longed for. 

Antonoff keeps it classic with pop, percussive guitars in ‘Babe (Taylor’s Version)’ and ‘Forever Winter (Taylor’s Version).’ With the coveted ‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version),’ the Bleachers lead singer whips a 1989 ‘Clean’-esque production with a dash of folklore and Lorde’s Solar Power

2010s pop and Barbie aesthetic fills ‘Message in a Bottle (Taylor’s Version)’ as Swift goes experimental. Anderfjärd’s work on the track ties well more with 1989’s core, and as something that frankly deserves a Carly Rae Jepsen feature. 

While the vault tracks each had a unique color, the context of Swift’s lyrics was still grounded on the tear-inducing nuances of young love encapsulated in Red. 

Swift belts out the sorrows and regrets of a love that’s gone to waste in ‘Better Man (Taylor’s Version)’ and ‘Forever Winter (Taylor’s Version).’ She then reels in the reality of an inevitable heartbreak in ‘The Very First Night (Taylor’s Version)’ and ‘Babe (Taylor’s Version).’

But of all the vault tracks, ‘Nothing New (Taylor’s Version)’ was the most universal—that is, it spoke not only to those who have been victimized by Cupid but also to those who struggled with the growing pains of adulthood. 

At the end of the first verse, Swift asks, “Lord, what will become of me / Once I’ve lost my novelty?” The soul-crushing “How did I go from growing up to breaking down?” snowballs into a slough of despond as the chorus reaches its climax: “How can a person know everything / At 18, but nothing at 22?”

As children, we were forged to be dreamers who envisioned ourselves accomplishing great things, or so we thought. Transitioning to adulthood is wading through raging floodwaters of tears, anxieties, and endless dilemmas. It’s perhaps the most vulnerable and volatile phase of living—one day you’re a free butterfly, but the next day your wings either get cut or you simply get tired of flying. 

Some of us easily get back on our feet, but the rest endure cycles of lethargy. As Swift puts it in the chorus, you stare at the ceiling with what seems like your nth bottle of liquid courage and wonder if people would still value you as a non-entity just as much as a dreamer. 

Swift’s lyricism in the vault tracks proves that her poetry can translate as an anthem of heartbreak woes for the broken or existential fears and mundane realities for the non-romantics. 

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

Every second of ‘All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)’ was a hard punch to the solar plexus, but we knew there was always more to the story we screamed like an anthem of unity. The 10-minute version strips further to its core and gives us the most visceral pain of an unrequited turned toxic love affair—an experience that we’ve both yearned and dreaded. 

Swift’s unabridged retelling in the track and short film recalls a short-lived autumn romance that was taken for granted. Through her metaphoric lyricism and the female gaze, the audience and listeners are privy to her innermost thoughts and emotional turmoil of being suffocated for “three months in the grave.”

The first line immediately paints their love story as a disaster waiting to happen. “I walked through the door with you, the air was cold” is an antithesis to love supposedly being a warm feeling. Swift then uses the scarf she left as the focal point in their story, which is later conveyed in the film as the bitter aftertaste of overfamiliarity in relationships. 

 

Screengrab from YouTube/Taylor Swift

The exposition of the tragedy continues as Swift highlights the hypocrisy of her former flame’s “F*ck the patriarchy” keychain and his disrespectful behavior towards her. In an age where feminism is celebrated, there are a good few who establish genuine support for the equality of the sexes. Yet, there is also a handful who use feminist values as a facade to mask their impertinence and misogyny. These performative feminists march around with women empowerment on their chest for the sake of being seen as politically correct. They only show up when it’s convenient for them or when silence will put them in a bad light. This performativity merely touches on the superficial issues and instead exacerbates the root causes. 

Red flags are waving left and right, yet the couple still finds themselves back in each other’s arms. “Cause there we are again in the middle of the night / We’re dancing ’round the kitchen in the refrigerator light,” Swift recalls. Initially, this line seems to describe a sentimental memory that will make you go ‘aww.’ However, the film clarifies the context by juxtaposing the actors with contrasting hues to show the rift that had already torn open despite their countless reconciliations. The girl is illuminated by the golden hue from the window, signifying how she was still enamored of him; whereas the guy stands against the background of cold blue light, reflecting the emptiness he felt. 

Screengrab from YouTube/Taylor Swift

Building on the climax, Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well is quoted in the third verse. In contrast to how Swift used it in ‘Lover,’ the idiom is given a different meaning in the track. “They say all’s well that ends well, but I’m in a new Hell” strongly denotes that cutting ties with one another was not as easy as letting bygones be bygones. Swift makes this more prominent with Pablo Neruda’s “Love is so short, forgetting is so long” in the short film.

Ultimately, Swift reveals that the collapse of their relationship was rooted in the unequal dynamic of their relationship primarily driven by their age difference. “You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine,” she writes in the third verse. Their stark age gap is cleverly reinforced in the film through the casting of Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink and Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien. Since we were so used to seeing Sink as a child in the TV show, putting her in one frame with a fully grown man was undeniably unsettlinga concern that the public merely shrugged off 10 years ago.

It’s no secret that some men (and women) prefer to date those in their early 20s because of their relative immaturity. At first, Swift’s ex places her under the false pretense that she gets the upper hand. But as their story unfolds, it was evident that he was the only one on the pedestal, the only one in control. Deviating from the original chorus, she cathartically exclaims, “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath” to recount how the one-sided secrecy of their love affair was a catalyst to their fallout. The infamous kitchen fight scene in the film further manifests the precariousness of this unequal dynamic with her ex’s blatant gaslighting and belittling remarks.

Screengrab from YouTube/Taylor Swift

Women who are intentionally victimized by these types of men are consigned to the ingénue, which Swift mentions in one of her vault tracks. The ingénue is more often than not restricted to her essence of being a young, idealist, innocent, and naive woman (In Filipino culture, this could be embodied by Maria Clara). Swift alludes to this aspect of cultural misogyny through the line, “The idea you had of me, who was she? / A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel whose shine reflects on you,” implying that her former lover only saw her for her fawn-eyed innocence and as an accessory that made him revel in his conceitedness. He further adds insult to injury by seemingly charming her father, but couldn’t be bothered to show up on her 21st birthdayan occasion that was supposed to be memorable. 

The denouement of ‘All Too Well’ evokes the aftermath of the storm. Swift denotes that, indeed, old habits die hard: “And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punch line goes / “I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age.”” In the next line, “From when your Brooklyn broke my skin and bones / I’m a soldier who’s returning half her weight,” she alludes to the skin and bones lyric she penned in ‘Treacherous (Taylor’s Version)’ to describe the essence of a human being. So, this is simply her way of letting us grasp how detrimental the relationship was for her well-being to the point that it shattered her core. She closes the chapter by remembering how it feels to be alive even after being buried six feet underground by something that was never real.

Screengrab from YouTube/Taylor Swift

As great as other Swift tracks may be, I would go as far as to say that ‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)’ is her magnum opus. It seems like a deja entendu because it is. Not only does it give us more context of their soul-piercing romance, but also broadens our understanding of human behavior by emphasizing the importance of basic human decency and doing the bare minimum. More importantly, it reminds us to never settle for less. We enter relationships not to find someone to complete us, but instead to find someone who will complement us. So that even when the ship sinks, the pain would leave you whole, not hollow. And for that, we have Taylor to partly thank. 

Reclaiming what has always been ours

“Red is about to be mine again, but it has always been ours,” Swift wrote in a tweet on the day Red (Taylor’s Version) was released. In an interview with Seth Myers, she happily expressed that anything with “(Taylor’s Version)” next to it is finally hers. And rightfully so. 

The success of Swift’s versions surpassing that of the previous is not only a reflection of her loyal fanbase, it’s poetic justice. With all the numbers and figures Swift’s rerecordings (including Fearless (Taylor’s Version)) have achieved, the pop hitmaker is well on her way to regain back what she has lost at the hands of greedy businessmen but at an even greater scale. 

From its production, writing, to its visualization, Red (Taylor’s Version) stands the test of time. Preeminently, it is a testament of Swift’s courage and determination as an artist and as a woman in the music industry, and we’re more than excited about the path she’s about to take next. It’s Taylor’s world, and we’re just living in it. 

I’m personally betting on 1989 (Taylor’s Version), but who knows? For now, wrap that red scarf around your neck and stream Red (Taylor’s Version)

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