Begin Again (Taylor Swift song)

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"Begin Again"
Cover artwork of "Begin Again"
Single by Taylor Swift
from the album Red
ReleasedOctober 1, 2012 (2012-10-01)
StudioBlackbird (Nashville)
Genre
Length3:59
LabelBig Machine
Songwriter(s)Taylor Swift
Producer(s)
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"Ronan"
(2012)
"Begin Again"
(2012)
"I Knew You Were Trouble"
(2012)
Music video
"Begin Again" on YouTube
"Begin Again (Taylor's Version)"
Song by Taylor Swift
from the album Red (Taylor's Version)
ReleasedNovember 12, 2021 (2021-11-12)
StudioBlack Bird (Nashville)
Length4:00
LabelRepublic
Songwriter(s)Taylor Swift
Producer(s)
Lyric video
"Begin Again (Taylor's Version)" on YouTube

"Begin Again" is a song written and recorded by the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift for her fourth studio album, Red (2012). It was released as the second single from Red on October 1, 2012, by Big Machine Records. Produced by Swift, Dann Huff, and Nathan Chapman, "Begin Again" is a gentle country and soft rock ballad with acoustic guitar, steel guitar, and percussion. Its lyrics are about falling in love again after a failed, toxic previous relationship.

Music critics praised the gentle production, the narrative songwriting, and welcomed Swift's mature perspective on love. "Begin Again" was nominated for Best Country Song at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014. In the United States, the single peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It peaked at number four on the Canadian Hot 100 and was certified gold by Music Canada (MC).

The song's accompanying music video was directed by Philip Andelman. Shot in Paris, the video depicts Swift strolling around the city with a male love interest. Swift performed "Begin Again" live at the 2012 Country Music Association Awards and included the song on the set list of the Red Tour (2013–2014). She released a re-recorded version of the song, titled "Begin Again (Taylor's Version)", as part of her 2021 re-recorded album Red (Taylor's Version).

Background[edit]

In October 2010, the singer-songwriter Taylor Swift released her third studio album Speak Now, which she wrote entirely by herself.[1] She co-produced it with Nathan Chapman, who had produced both of her previous albums.[2] Speak Now continued the country pop sound of Swift's previous records, with a radio-friendly pop crossover production and elements from various rock subgenres of the 1970s and 1980s decades.[3] On Speak Now's follow-up Red, Swift wanted to experiment beyond country pop and worked with different producers.[1] Chapman remained a key collaborator on Red—he and Swift produced eight tracks, including "Begin Again".[4] Written by Swift, the song was recorded by the audio engineer Steve Marcantonio, while Justin Niebank with assistance from Drew Bollman mixed it, at Blackbird Studios, Nashville.[4] Hank Williams mastered the track at Nashville's MasterMix studio.[4]

Releases[edit]

Swift previewed "Begin Again" on Good Morning America on September 24, 2012,[5] and was released digitally on iTunes the next day, September 25.[6] Initially served as a promotional single, the first of four tracks released during the four weeks preceding the release of Red,[7] it was later announced that "Begin Again" would be the second single from the album, being serviced to country radio on October 1, 2012, by Big Machine Records.[8] In further promotion, an individually numbered CD single was released on October 23, 2012, exclusively to Amazon and Swift's official store.[9][10]

Swift first performed "Begin Again" at the 2012 Country Music Association Awards in Nashville. The performance featured Swift, in a red dress, singing on a Parisian café-inspired stage with an accordion player.[11] Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Grady Smith believed Swift did not showcase a powerful voice like other country artists, but found Swift's tone "gently evocative and rather soothing" in the right place.[11] The song was later added on the main setlist to Swift's Red Tour (2013-2014).[12] At the August 31, 2013, concert in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as part of her Reputation Stadium Tour, she sang "Begin Again" as a "surprise song".[13] Swift again performed an acoustic guitar rendition at the April 23, 2023, concert in Houston, Texas as part of the Eras Tour.[14]

After signing a new contract with Republic Records, Swift began re-recording her first six studio albums in November 2020.[15] The decision came after the public 2019 dispute between Swift and talent manager Scooter Braun, who acquired Big Machine Records, including the masters of Swift's albums the label had released.[16][17] By re-recording them, Swift had full ownership of the new masters, including the copyright licensing of her songs, devaluing the Big Machine-owned masters.[18] The re-recording of "Begin Again", subtitled "(Taylor's Version)", was released as part of Red's re-recording, Red (Taylor's Version), on November 12, 2021.[19] "Begin Again (Taylor's Version)" was produced by Swift and Christopher Rowe, and it was recorded by David Payne at Blackbird Studios, Nashville. Rowe recorded Swift's vocals at Kitty Committee Studio in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Serban Ghenea mixed both tracks at MixStar Studios, Virginia Beach, Virginia.[20]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

Produced by Swift, Dann Huff, and Nathan Chapman, "Begin Again" is a country[21] and soft rock ballad.[22] It incorporates steel guitar, arpeggiated acoustic guitar, and gentle percussion in its production. Marc Hogan from Spin found the instruments reminiscent to the music of 1970s soft rock singer-songwriters Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, the latter of whom is referenced to in the lyrics, "You said you never met one girl who had as many James Taylor records as you / But I do".[23] The country-music production is accentuated by mandolin and banjo.[24] Lindsay Zoladz from The New York Times found the song to feature a "coffee shop folksiness".[25] Musicologist James E. Perone believed the song's production confirms the significance of Swift's country roots on the genre-spanning, pop-oriented Red.

The lyrics of "Begin Again" are about a protagonist falling in love again after a failed relationship.[23] Swift told Good Morning America about the song's content, "It's actually a song about kind of when you've gotten through a really bad relationship and you finally dust yourself off and go on that first date after a horrible breakup and the vulnerability that goes along with all of that."[26] The narrator compares her ex-lover to a new love interest, "I think it's strange that you think I'm funny, because he never did."[23][26] Billy Dukes from Taste of Country remarked that the narrator of "Begin Again" is willing to reveal her vulnerability to the new lover, which makes the song touching.[27] The placement of "Begin Again" as the final track on the standard edition of Red received analysis—Perone observed that the track served as the thematic conclusion to the album.[21] Noting the tracks of Red were centered on the emotional intensity of the narrator after exploring a newfound relationship—followed through stages of heartbreak and "red" tumultuous feelings from a toxic breakup—he settled that the track focused on a relationship that is deeper and potentially more lasting.[21]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon its release, "Begin Again" received acclaim from critics, who complimented it as a showcase of Swift's mature songwriting. Perone found the lyrics "wide-ranging and free-ranging" and deemed the track an appropriate album closer for Red.[21] Writing for Taste of Country, Billy Dukes gave the song a four star rating out of five, describing it as "a cleansing breath that hopefully foreshadows the true tone of her album".[27] Grady Smith of Entertainment Weekly wrote the song is "a well-crafted love story" and noted Swift's talent "at taking a single moment in time and letting it unfold like a pop-up storybook."[28] Matt Bjorke gave four out of five stars as well for Roughstock, complimenting that "The song is a vast improvement for Taylor. A ballad that's neither in-your-face or sounding like its from a twelve year old".[29]

The storytelling of the song received praise; The Boot noted that it was "sweet" and a "beautiful ballad".[30] MuchMusic lauded Swift, stating "while she is more than capable of releasing the carefree, jump-around-your-room-with-a-hairbrush break up songs like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," she also has the pen of a poet and knows how to craft emotionally gut-wrenching songs that speak to her millions of fans."[31] Billboard magazine ranked "Begin Again" at number six on their list of the best songs of 2012, praising Swift's artistic maturity.[32] Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone called the track "a deceptively simple ballad that sneaks up and steamrolls all over you".[33]

Accolades[edit]

Year Organization Award/work Result Ref
2013 American Country Awards Female Single of the Year Nominated [34]
Female Video of the Year Nominated
Video of the Year Nominated
BMI Awards Publisher of the Year Won [35]
Country Awards Top 50 Songs Won
CMT Music Awards Female Video of the Year Nominated [36]
2014 Grammy Awards Best Country Song Nominated [37]

Commercial performance[edit]

Taylor Swift on the Red Tour, playing an acoustic guitar
Swift performing "Begin Again" on the Red Tour (2013)

Upon release, "Begin Again" debuted at number one on the US Billboard Hot Digital Songs chart with first-week sales of 299,000 digital copies; it was Swift's fifth chart topper.[38] On October 4, 2012, it debuted and peaked at number seven the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Swift's 12th top-10 entry as well as her ninth top-10 debut.[39][40] On the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart dated October 13, 2012, "Begin Again" opened at number 37 with three million airplay impressions.[40] For the next week's issue, Billboard incorporated digital sales and streaming data to the Hot Country Songs chart, in addition to only airplay data as previously done. As a result, "Begin Again" jumped to number 10 on Hot Country Songs (which would be its peak position),[41] and appeared at number 29 on the newly-revamped Country Airplay chart, which replaced the aforementioned chart as the country-airplay-only ranking.[42] It ultimately peaked at number three and spent 22 weeks on the chart.[43] On March 29, 2013, the song was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[44]

In Canada, it reached number four on the Canadian Hot 100 and number seven on Billboard's Canada Country airplay chart.[45][46] On May 31, 2013, "Begin Again" received a gold certification from Music Canada.[47] Elsewhere, the song debuted on the charts in several territories, peaking within the top 40 of New Zealand (11),[48] Australia (20),[49] Ireland (25),[50] Scotland (27),[51] the United Kingdom (30),[52] and Spain (35),[53] and further reaching Italy (72).[54]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Begin Again" premiered on MTV on October 23, 2012.[55] Swift chose to film the video in Paris as a "love letter" in tribute to the city, " 'Cause it's just the city and this storyline of somebody moving on and finding yourself again."[55] The video starts with Swift standing on a bridge while pensively gazing across the water and remembering a lost love. She then takes a walk along the Seine,[24] wearing a Red dress with white flower appliques and blue peep toes and sits beside the river Seine. The video draws comparison to that of singer Adele's music video "Someone Like You" and Swift's own "Back to December".[56]

Swift then rides a bicycle, wearing a blue and white floral skirt with white cat flats with sun glasses on and bikes down a Cobblestone street. She goes shopping and tries on new clothes, which is spliced with shots of Swift singing to a man (Vladimir Perrin). In a flashback, she recalls her first meeting with the man at a café while sipping cappuccino. He starts taking snapshots of her with his Leica M6. They then have a bitter-sweet conversation, laughing and giggling at each other. The following clips shows Swift sitting at a park and sampling pastries. It also shows Swift walking by the Seine. The clip ends with the two walking side by side, as Swift allows herself to "begin again."

Directed by Philip Andelman and produced by Arthur Cantin,[57] the story in the video deviates from the song's lyrical narrative in several respects. While the lyrics recount the narrator's (Swift) trepidation of a first date after a bad breakup, the video instead relates a chance meeting in a cafe in Paris. In the video, Swift is seated at a booth, doodling in a small notebook when a Frenchman at another table takes interest and introduces himself. Missing from the video are the Swift's initial moments in the cafe, where her date has arrived early to wait for her, greets her, then helps her into her chair, displaying kindness and respect that was apparently absent from her former relationship. Late in the song, the restaurant encounter draws to a conclusion while the couple walks to Swift's car.

Entertainment Weekly thought the video was "another classic bittersweet Swift joint," writing: "Though her boyfriend doesn't laugh at her jokes and bores her with stories about his family’s Christmas movie-watching traditions, she finds the ultimate salve: Wandering through the streets of Paris, chuckling with handsome dudes in a café (and probably snacking on snails or something). It’s a lovely clip, but a little bit sleepy. Also, there’s something about it that recalls ’Back to December’ — is it the color palette, or just the general moodiness?”.[58][59]

Credits and personnel[edit]

"Begin Again" (2012)[4]

"Begin Again (Taylor's Version)" (2021)[60]

  • Taylor Swift – lead vocals, songwriter, producer
  • Christopher Rowe – producer, vocals engineer
  • David Payne – recording engineer
  • Dan Burns – additional engineer
  • Austin Brown – assistant engineer, assistant editor
  • Bryce Bordone – engineer
  • Derek Garten – engineer
  • Serban Ghenea – mixer
  • Charles Judge – accordion
  • Mike Meadows – acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, mandolin
  • Amos Heller – bass guitar
  • Matt Billingslea – drums
  • Paul Sidoti – electric guitar
  • David Cook – piano
  • Max Bernstein – steel guitar, synths
  • Jonathan Yudkin – violin
  • Caitlin Evanson – background vocals

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Certifications for "Begin Again"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[66] Platinum 70,000
Canada (Music Canada)[47] Gold 40,000*
United States (RIAA)[44] Platinum 1,000,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Begin Again"
Country Date Format Label Ref.
United States September 25, 2012 Digital download Big Machine [6]
October 1, 2012 Country radio [8]
October 23, 2012 CD single [9][10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Citation[edit]

  • Perone, James E. (2017). "The Mean Era". The Words and Music of Taylor Swift. The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection. ABC-Clio. ISBN 978-1440852947.