"There's nothing beige about that experience," Taylor promised us in her live chat previewing the music and themes of her upcoming fourth studio album. Indeed, "Red" is one of the more loaded colors when it comes to songwriting, and Taylor uses it on her latest single (and presumably its accompanying and similarly titled LP) to stand in for the confusing intensity of emotion you get around certain people, where you feel so strongly you're not even sure what you're feeling.
It's a smart lyrical conceit—Taylor's always are, more on that later—but unfortunately, her song doesn't really back her up on it. You'd probably want a song about such all-consuming feeling to have musical accompaniment with a similar level of passion and personal investment, but "Red" drowns a little in its echo-y, thick production, which robs the song of the dynamics needed to put a song like this over. And what constitutes a hook on the song's chorus—a robotic, chopped-up Taylor uttering "Re-e-e-ed" over and over again, like something off a Black Eyed Peas record—is a borderline atrocity, about as uncreative, inappropriate and rote a hook as you can imagine for such a song.
Still, for all the song's faults and its overall marginal incoherence, it's still a worthwhile listen, because Swift's lyrics are as sharp and incisive as ever. The overall chorus gambit of expressing how different colors represented different parts of their relationship ("Losing him was blue like I've never known / Missing him was dark grey, all alone") but settling on the obvious "Loving him was red," it's typical Taylor, using phrasing that sounds unconventional but instantly resonates, just like "You are the best thing that's ever been mine" or "You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me."
That's why "Red" is a disappointment, a somewhat squandered opportunity to make her rawest, nerviest post-relationship song since "Dear John," but it's not quite a failure. Whether Taylor got some bad advice from her producers or just misinterpreted what she had on her hands with the song, we don't know, but there's still the core of a Taylor classic in here. We bet she performs some absolutely devastating acoustic rendition of it someday.