As much as I would have loved to have the full ten-minute version of “All Too Well” when Red first came out in 2012, getting a chance to relive the song as an adult and grow up with Taylor is what I (and other heartbroken fans) needed before experiencing “ATW” in all of its glory. Taylor Swift has grown into an artist that redefined the music industry, and she has perfected the heartbreak ballad with “All Too Well (10-Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault).” Swift’s had time to reflect on the relationship, and the full version of the song off Red (Taylor’s Version) illustrates her maturity in her relationships but also in her musical ability.
Taylor acknowledges the age difference between her and her former lover several times in the full version of the famous heartbreak ballad. In the last moments of their relationship, her partner uses their age difference against them when breaking up with her. Swift sings, “You said ‘If we had been closer in age, maybe it would have been fine,’ and that made me want to die.” In the moment, she feels powerless, unable to save the relationship she desperately wants to hold on to. Her ex uses the things Swift cannot change about herself against her in an attempt to get her to let go of the relationship.
Swift references the Dazed and Confused quote: “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” She sings, “I was never good at telling jokes, but the punch line goes, ‘I get older, but your lovers stay my age.’” Swift, who is 31, sings this as she is now the same age as Jake Gyllenhaal was when they were together. She’s grown up and probably realizes why the relationship was doomed to begin with. It adds a new sense of closure to the relationship and the song. Swift later references her joke-telling in “Begin Again,” a song on the original album, by singing, “I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny, ’cause he never did,” as she begins a new relationship with someone closer to her age.
Swift remises on the highs of the relationship as well, recounting the build-up and intensity of falling in love. She remembers the times they’ve spent together and the hope that their passion would grow into love. Swift sings, “We were always skipping town, I was thinking on the drive down, ‘Any time now, he’s going to say it’s love.’ Never called it what it was.” She acknowledges her naïveté that what she was experiencing wasn’t true love and wasn’t going to grow into something more. It doesn’t make the heartbreak any easier but Swift’s lyrics acknowledge that as well. She’s “a soldier who’s returning half her weight,” broken but still standing.
Will Taylor ever know if the love affair maimed the man who broke her heart over ten years ago? Probably not. But maybe she doesn’t need to know anymore. Her love isn’t burning red anymore; it’s golden like Daylight.