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Red is the fourth studio album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was released on October 22, 2012, by Big Machine Records. Inspired by past romantic relationships evoking intense, tumultuous "red" emotions that Swift was experiencing during the conception of the project, Red touches on the themes of romance and heartbreak, but represents a mature perspective, while exploring the pressure of being in the public eye. Red is a pop, country, and rock album that experiments with arena rock, alternative rock, dance, dubstep, electronic, folk, and heartland rock; many critics called it Swift's dip into pop, while others regarded it her venture beyond traditional country styles.
Red debuted at number-one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.2 million copies, giving Swift her third consecutive chart-topper in the US, making her the first female artist to have two million-selling album openings; it went on to spend seven weeks atop the chart. It was also Swift's first chart-topper in the UK, and topped charts in Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) reported Red as the second best-selling album of 2012, with sales of 5.2 million copies globally. To support the album, Swift embarked on The Red Tour, which ran from March 2013 to June 2014 and grossed over $150 million. As of July, 23, 2018, Red had been certified 7× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for moving over seven million units in the US. The album has sold over 7 million copies worldwide as of 2020.
Promptly following the release of Speak Now, Swift planned to continue collaborating with Chapman for its follow-up. By October 2011, Swift had written around 25 songs. Executives at Swift's then-label Big Machine congratulated her on having finalized the album within a short amount of one year's time. Swift, nonetheless, felt that she had been repeating the same songwriting process for Speak Now, which diminished her creativity. She henceforth opted to collaborate with different producers in order to expand beyond her "comfort zone", and subsequently sought possible collaborators within the next year, when she was embarking on the Speak Now World Tour.
Swift decided that the album would not follow one coherent genre, aiming to experiment with as many styles as she could. To this end, she recruited musicians whose works she admired, hoping to "learn from them." Although Swift was determined to incorporate various musical styles, she prioritized the lyrics over the production, striving to convey her emotions most effectively as she had done on her previous songs. She would start writing by identifying an emotion to a song, and the production would follow. This had been a staple of Swift's songwriting process, where she would put in her most personal thoughts as a source of relief. On songs that Swift co-wrote with other writers, she first presented to them the feelings that she had been going through, played a rough demo on her guitar, and then asked for their idea on how to better convey the story. Each song would have a different production corresponding to the emotion portrayed, resulting in an eclectic mix of styles.
A critical point when Swift was in the midst of the songwriting process with Chapman was the song "Red", for which her creativity "started wandering to all the places we could go." Big Machine's president Scott Borchetta overheard the original production by Chapman and suggested a more pop-oriented sound. After several failed attempts at the desired sound, Swift asked Borchetta to recruit Swedish producer Max Martin, whose chart-topping pop tunes had intrigued Swift by "how [they] can just land a chorus." Martin and his frequent collaborator Shellback produced three songs on the album: "22", "I Knew You Were Trouble", and "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", all of which are characterized by the pair's trademark synthesizers and electronic production. The final version of "Red" was produced by Swift, Chapman, and Dann Huff. Huff, who had produced for several country artists, also worked with Swift and Chapman on two other songs: "Starlight" and "Begin Again".
Another new collaborator was Jeff Bhasker, whose production of the song "We Are Young" (2011) by indie band Fun captivated Swift by its drum instrumentation. Bhasker produced two songs: "Holy Ground" and "The Lucky One". Swift worked with Butch Walker on the song "Everything Has Changed", a duet with English singer Ed Sheeran. She admired Walker for "how he creates this really organic but emotionally charged music." The song "Treacherous" was produced by Dan Wilson, whose works with his band Semisonic served as an inspiration for Swift. Swift also enlisted musicians Gary Lightbody and Jacknife Lee of the indie band Snow Patrol, citing that "they can just hit you when they are singing about loss or longing." Lee produced the song "The Last Time", on which Lightbody credits as a featured vocalist. Swift wrote more than 30 songs for the album, of which 16 made the final cut of the standard edition. Of the 16 tracks, Swift was the sole writer of 10 and co-writer of the remaining six.
On August 13, 2012, Swift gave a live webchat to over 72,500 viewers, in which she answered fan questions, previewed the lead single, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", and announced her fourth album's title Red, as well as its release date. In an interview with MTV News, the singer revealed that the album "is interesting because each song stands on its own. It's this patchwork quilt of different sounds and different emotions, and I don't think anything on the record sounds like We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together". She also previewed songs from the album on Good Morning America every Monday, beginning on September 24 until October 15. Swift performed on October 22 for the album's release, and the next day, she performed a live concert on the same show. According to the singer she had spent over two years with the recording process, writing and preparation for the album. Sarah Barlow shot the album's cover, which shows Swift's face, particularly her red lipstick.Pitchfork remarked that it resembled the cover of Joni Mitchell's 1971 album Blue. The standard and deluxe versions of the album were released on October 22, 2012 in Italy, New Zealand, the United States, among others. The deluxe edition of the album comes with a second disc with three new tracks and the original demo recordings of "Red" and "Treacherous" along with an acoustic version of "State of Grace". A karaoke version of the album was also released on February 5, 2013 on the iTunes Store, which includes the instrumental version from all tracks of its standard version.
All the different emotions that are written about on this album are all pretty much about the kind of tumultuous, crazy, insane, intense, semi-toxic relationships that I've experienced in the last two years. All those emotions -- spanning from intense love, intense frustration, jealousy, confusion, all of that -- in my mind, all those emotions are red. You know, there's nothing in between. There's nothing beige about any of those feelings.
The album's lead single, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", was released on August 13, 2012, and became Swift's first No. 1 single on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song's jump from its debut position No. 72 to No. 1 was the result of a massive digital demand of the song. With 623,000 downloads, the song placed second among all-time best week sales singles, behind Flo Rida's 2009 song "Right Round". It stayed at No. 1 for three non-consecutive weeks, being displaced twice at the top, first by "Flo Rida's "Whistle" and second by Maroon 5's "One More Night". The song stayed in the top ten for thirteen weeks and charted for a total of twenty-four weeks. In UK, it peaked at No. 4, giving her her first top ten hit since "Love Story" (2008) and the song became her first No. 1 song in New Zealand. As of December 2012, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" has sold more than three million downloads in the US.
"Begin Again" was released to the iTunes Store on September 25, 2012 as part of a countdown to the album release. A few hours after its early release to iTunes, it shot to No. 1, thereby becoming the first single to dethrone Psy's "Gangnam Style" in a week. The song sold 299,000 digital copies in its first week of release and debuted at No. 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart dated October 4, 2012. It was later announced that the track would be serviced to country radio on October 1, 2012 as the second single from the album. The song became her seventeenth consecutive top ten hit in US Billboard Hot Country Songs, but also tied with "Fearless" as her lowest-charting single on the chart, although it reached No. 3 on BillboardCountry Airplay. The song received a nomination for Grammy Award for Best Country Song.
"I Knew You Were Trouble" was released as the second international single from Red on November 14, 2012, in the UK. In the US, it was released on November 27, 2012 as the third single. The song debuted at No. 3 on Billboard Hot 100 with 416,000 copies sold in its first week, Swift's second-largest first week singles sales. It became Swift's fourteenth top ten hit and her eleventh song to debut inside the top ten. With sales of 416,000 from "I Knew You Were Trouble", Swift became the first artist in digital history to have two songs that debuted with sales of 400,000 or more copies. In its eleventh week, it sold a massive sum of 582,000 in the US, making it the fourth-biggest digital sales week of all time. It caused the song to re-peak at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. "I Knew You Were Trouble" became a commercial success, selling over three million copies in the US and reaching No. 1 on BillboardHot 100 Airplay and Billboard Pop Songs, and also reached the top ten in ten countries.
"22" was released as the fourth single from Red. It was sent to Australian radio on February 4, 2013. It was released in the United States on March 12, 2013. The music video was released on YouTube on March 13, 2013. The song was released in the United Kingdom on April 1, 2013. It peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first single from Red to miss the top ten. As of November 2017, the song has sold 2.3 million copies in the United States.
"Red", the album's title track, was released to country radio on June 24, 2013 as the third country single. The song debuted at No. 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at No. 2 on the Hot Digital Songs chart selling 312,000 in its first week. It also debuted at No. 2 on the Hot Country Songs chart, behind Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together". As of November 2017, the song has sold 1.6 million copies in the United States.
"The Last Time", featuring Snow Patrol lead vocalist Gary Lightbody, was later confirmed as the fifth and final international single and seventh and final from Red. A UK release was announced as of October 13, 2013, and it subsequently impacted UK contemporary hit radio on November 4, 2013. The release of the single coincides with the announcement of the dates for the European leg of her international Red Tour.
During the four weeks preceding the release of Red, one track was released each week digitally on the iTunes Store after a preview of it had been heard on Good Morning America. The first of the four promotional singles is "Begin Again", which was released digitally on iTunes on September 25, 2012. "Red" is the second promotional single off the album, and became available for download on October 2, 2012. "Red" debuted at No. 6 on the Hot 100 with sales of 312,000. "I Knew You Were Trouble" is the third promotional single off the album, and became available for download on October 9, 2012. The fourth and final promotional single is "State of Grace", which became available for download on October 16, 2012. Each of them reached No. 1 on iTunes and the top 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, with "I Knew You Were Trouble" having the highest peak at No. 2 as Swift's 14th top 10 song. With sales of 416,000 from "I Knew You Were Trouble", Swift became the first artist in digital history to have two songs that debuted with sales of 400,000 or more copies.
Swift promoted the album with The Red Tour. It was Swift's second tour to perform in major stadiums after the Speak Now World Tour. The tour began on March 13, 2013, in Omaha, Nebraska and ended on June 12, 2014, in Singapore. Throughout the tour, many artists were invited on selected dates, such as Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran (who also served as an opening act), Cher Lloyd, among others. The tour grossed $150.2 million and became the highest-grossing tour of all time by a country act.
In the United States, Red debuted at number-one on the Billboard 200. It became the fastest-selling album in over a decade after selling 1.21 million copies in its first week, and earned Swift her third No. 1 album on the chart.Red had the second highest first week sum by a female artist, only behind Britney Spears' Oops!... I Did It Again (2000), which opened with 1.3 million units.Red had the biggest sales week in 2012 and outsold the top 52 albums in the Billboard 200 on its first week. It has also the biggest one week sales for a country album beating Garth Brooks' Double Live which sold 1.085 million copies in 1998. Red sold 465,000 digital copies in its first week in the US, which is the second biggest after Lady Gaga's Born This Way (2011). It sold around 1.459 million copies worldwide in its first week of sales. In its second week on the Billboard 200, the album remained at No. 1 and sold 344,000 copies (down 72%). Next week Red held atop the Billboard 200 and sold a further 196,000 copies (down 43%) which brought its sales to 1.749 million, thus ranking the third biggest selling album of 2012 behind Adele's 21 and One Direction's Up All Night. The album was dethroned by One Direction's Take Me Home on its fourth week.
In its seventh week, Red climbed back to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 selling 167,000 and with that, Swift became tied with Jay-Z and Whitney Houston for fourth most-weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking in 1991. With Red spending its sixth week atop Billboard 200, Swift became the first artist since The Beatles 43 years earlier to log six weeks atop Billboard 200 with three consecutive studio albums. Swift held the Billboard 200 top spot the next two weeks, thus making Swift the first artist since The Beatles in 1969 to log six or more weeks at No. 1 with three consecutive studio albums, following Fearless (eleven weeks) and Speak Now (six weeks). Also, this is the third time that Swift has had the No. 1 album in the last week before Christmas, which is traditionally the most competitive week of the year. She also achieved the feat with Fearless in 2008 and Speak Now in 2010.Red spent its seventh non-consecutive week at No. 1 in the sales week ending December 30, 2012, selling 241,000 (down 12%). This gave Swift a total of 24 weeks atop the Billboard 200 throughout her career, tying her with Adele as the woman with most weeks at No. 1 since SoundScan began tabulating the Billboard 200 in May 1991. Swift later surpassed this record with the release of her next album, 1989. Red finished 2012 as the second biggest album despite being out for only two months, selling 3.11 million. It makes the fourth time she has an album ranked in the year's top three sellers.
In Canada, Red ranks Swift's third No. 1 album as well selling 93,000 copies on its debut week and has easily crossed the Platinum certification in the country. With those sales, Red became the biggest one week sales in Canada since Michael Bublé's Christmas moved 107,000 copies last Christmas season of 2011 and the biggest first week sales since 2008. As of May 2013, Red has been certified quadruple platinum by Music Canada with shipments exceeding 320,000 copies.
In the United Kingdom, Swift garnered her first No. 1 album with Red with sales of 61,000 copies on its opening week. In Australia, the album debuted at No. 1 and spent a total of three consecutive weeks at the top, becoming Swift's longest running No. 1 album in Australia; Red was certified 4× platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association for shipments exceeding 280,000 copies. In New Zealand, the album also became Swift's third No. 1 album, and has been certified platinum by the RIANZ. Worldwide, Swift set a new worldwide iTunes Store record for highest ever first-week album sales with 566,000 copies sold digitally around the globe. Later, this record was beat by Justin Timberlake's album The 20/20 Experience (580,000 copies during its first week).
Globally, Red was ranked as the second best-selling album of 2012, with sales of 5.2 million copies sold worldwide.
Red was met with generally positive reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews and ratings from professional publications, the album received an average score of 77, based on 23 reviews.AnyDecentMusic? assigned it a score of 6.6 out of 10, based on the site's assessment of the critical consensus.
Reviewing for Rolling Stone in October 2012, Jon Dolan believed Swift had been influenced by Joni Mitchell and U2, writing that "her self-discovery project is one of the best stories in pop. When she's really on, her songs are like tattoos."Billboard called the album "her most interesting full-length to date" and said it "puts Swift the artist front and center with big, beefy hooks that transcend her country roots for a genre-spanning record that reaches heights unseen since Shania Twain's Up!."Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic called Red a pop record that showed almost no trace of country and said although Swift's lyrics about romantic relationships and social anxiety still sound somewhat clumsy, they do not detract from "the pristine pop confections" that comprise the music: "If anything, these ungainly, awkward phrasings humanizes this mammoth pop monolith: she's constructed something so precise its success seems preordained, but underneath it all, Taylor is still twitchy, which makes Red not just catchy but compelling."Spin magazine's Michael Robbins found Swift "too smart and tuneful to condescend to her contradictions" on the album's augmented pop songs.
In the Los Angeles Times, Randall Roberts was impressed by her ability to incorporate different musical styles as she "strives for something much more grand and accomplished" than a cynical point of view.Sputnikmusic critic Channing Freeman claimed that Red showcased Swift's definite transition from country to pop, with music that unlike on her previous records is "a complement to all of those conflicting emotions that have been present in her lyrics for some time now". Jon Caramanica from The New York Times believed that "each moment of pure pop breakthrough is tempered immediately afterward by a contemplative country moment". In a retrospective review in 2019, Pitchforks Brad Nelson compared Red to Joni Mitchell's 1971 album Blue, applauding what he found to be Swift's sharp, more mature observations through a wide variety of genres, adding that she effectively conveys the tumultuous feelings ensued from past relationships and the effect of time on memory and loss.
Some reviewers were more reserved in their praise. Jonathan Keefe from Slant Magazine wrote in 2012 that, as a pop record, Red is not consistent enough to be considered "truly great" because a number of songs lacked Swift's "usual spark". Nonetheless, he concluded that "its highlights are career-best work for Swift, who now sounds like the pop star she was destined to be all along." Michael Gallucci from The A.V. Club found Swift's lyrics somewhat more "deeper and darker", and the music far more ambitious than her previous records, but overall a "complicated and sometimes unfocused" pop record. He dismissed the duets as boring, while calling "State of Grace" and "All Too Well" "fascinating work". Arnold Pan from PopMatters believed some of the songs should have been edited out on what was a transitional album for Swift, who abandoned her country-pop roots in favor of "beefed-up modern rock" stylings. Writing for MSN Music, Robert Christgau viewed Red as a minor version of the Magnetic Fields' 1999 album 69 Love Songs. He preferred its feistier tracks but also appreciated the more sentimental songs "Begin Again" and "Stay Stay Stay", which "stay happy and hit just as hard".
At the end of the 2010s, Metacritic listed Red as one of the 15 most frequent ranked albums on decade-end best-of lists by publications. In September 2020, Rolling Stone listed Red as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time, ranking it at number 99, and stated that her unexpected transition from her country roots to pop and rock territories resulted in an album that "recalled classics by the Beatles and Prince". The publication also praised the album's lyricism as Swift's best songwriting, portraying "post-breakup" as vividly as any artist ever, and picked the tracks "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", "I Knew You Were Trouble", "Red" and "All Too Well" as highlights.
Red was included on numerous year-end lists of 2012.