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

Music critics praised the song's country-music production and Swift's songwriting. It 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 and release[edit]

Swift quipped that the song is "about 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 that".[1] She previewed it on Good Morning America on September 24, 2012,[2] and was released digitally on iTunes the next day, September 25.[3] The song initially served as a promotional single, the first of four tracks to be released during the four weeks preceding the release of her fourth studio album Red.[4] It was later announced that the song would be the second single from Red. An individually numbered CD single was released on October 23, 2012, exclusively to Amazon.com and Swift's official store.[5][6]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

Produced by Swift, Dann Huff, and Nathan Chapman, "Begin Again" is a country song.[7] It incorporates steel guitar, arpeggiated acoustic guitar, and gentle percussion in its production. Marc Hogan from Spin remarked that the instruments resemble 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."[8] The country-music production is accentuated by mandolin and banjo.[9] Lindsay Zoladz from The New York Times found the song to feature a "coffee shop folksiness".[10]

The lyrics of "Begin Again" are about a protagonist falling in love again after a failed relationship.[8] 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."[11] 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."[8][11] 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.[12]

As noted by critics, "Begin Again" finds Swift writing about optimism and hope in a new love after enduring heartbreak and tumultuous feelings from toxic relationships.[8][13] Musicologist James E. Perone observed that "Begin Again", placing as the final track on the standard edition of Red, serves as the thematic conclusion to the album—after exploring the intensity of new relationships on the first tracks and the messy complications of such "red" tumultuous relationships on the following songs, the album concludes with a song focusing on a relationship that is deeper and potentially more lasting. The country-music production, according to Perone, confirms the significance of Swift's country roots on the genre-spanning, pop-oriented Red.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

"Begin Again" received universal acclaim from music critics, many of whom praised Swift's songwriting. Perone found the lyrics "wide-ranging and free-ranging" and deemed the track an appropriate album closer for Red.[7] 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".[12] 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."[14] 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".[15]

The Boot noted that the story Swift painted was "sweet" and it's a "beautiful ballad".[1] 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."[16] Billboard magazine ranked "Begin Again" at number six on their list of the best songs of 2012, praising Swift's artistic maturity.[17] Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone called the track "a deceptively simple ballad that sneaks up and steamrolls all over you".[18]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Organization Award/work Result Ref
2013 American Country Awards Female Single of the Year Nominated [19]
Female Video of the Year Nominated
Video of the Year Nominated
BMI Awards Publisher of the Year Won [20]
Country Awards Top 50 Songs Won
CMT Music Awards Female Video of the Year Nominated [21]
2014 Grammy Awards Best Country Song Nominated [22]

Commercial performance[edit]

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

"Begin Again" debuted at number one on the Hot Digital Songs chart selling 299,000 digital copies in the week ending September 30, 2012; it was Swift's fifth chart topper.[23] On the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated October 4, 2012, the single debuted at number seven, becoming her 12th Hot 100 top-10 entry as well as ninth top-10 debut.[24][25] It remained on the Hot 100 for 20 weeks.[26] On the Hot Country Songs chart dated October 13, 2012, "Begin Again" debuted at number 37 with first-week audience of three million.[25] 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 later became its peak position),[27] and appeared at number 29 on the newly-revamped Country Airplay chart, which replaced the aforementioned chart as the country-airplay-only ranking.[28] The single ultimately peaked at number three and spent 22 weeks on the Country Airplay chart.[29] The Recording Industry Association of America in March 2013 certified the track platinum.[30] According to Billboard, by November 2017, it has sold one million digital US copies.[31]

The song attained moderate success worldwide. "Begin Again" became Swift's sixth top five hit in Canada, debuting at number four. It debuted in Australia at number twenty on the week ending September 30, 2012.[32] In the United Kingdom, the song gave Swift her second top 40 hit from Red after debuting at number 30, following "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" which peaked at number 4. In New Zealand, the song reached number ten. In Ireland and Spain, the song reached number twenty-five and number thirty respectively.

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Begin Again" premiered on MTV on October 23, 2012.[33] 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."[33] 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,[9] 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" (only much happier).[34]

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,[35] 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?”.[36][37]

Live performances[edit]

Swift performed "Begin Again" at the 2012 Country Music Association Awards on November 1, in Nashville. The performance mirrored the music video, with Swift, dressed in red, singing on a Parisian café-inspired stage with an accordion player.[38] Grady Smith from Entertainment Weekly said that although Swift does not possess a powerful voice like her contemporaries, "when it's set in the right place ... I find Swift's tone gently evocative and rather soothing".[38]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Adapted from Red album liner notes[39]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[52] Gold 40,000*
United States (RIAA)[30] Platinum 1,000,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

List of radio and release dates with formats and record labels
Country Date Format Label Ref.
United States September 25, 2012 Digital download Big Machine [3]
October 1, 2012 Country radio [53]
October 23, 2012 CD single [5][6]

"Begin Again (Taylor's Version)"[edit]

"Begin Again (Taylor's Version)"
Song by Taylor Swift
from the album Red (Taylor's Version)
ReleasedNovember 12, 2021 (2021-11-12)
GenreCountry
Length4:00
LabelRepublic
Songwriter(s)Taylor Swift
Producer(s)
Lyric video
"Begin Again (Taylor's Version)" on YouTube

A re-recorded version of "Begin Again", titled "Begin Again (Taylor's Version)", was released as part of Swift's re-recording album Red (Taylor's Version), on November 12, 2021, through Republic Records.[54] The re-recording peaked at number 76 on the Billboard Global 200.

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from Red (Taylor's Version) liner notes[55]

  • 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]

Chart performance for "Begin Again (Taylor's Version)"
Chart (2021) Peak
position
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[41] 61
Global 200 (Billboard)[56] 76
US Billboard Hot 100[26] 77
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[27] 25

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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