The venerable (read: old and stale) video game World of Warcraft has in recent years enjoyed some renewed interest, ironically, by releasing a "classic" version that recreated the state of the game circa 2006, prior to all the additions and streamlining introduced in subsequent expansions. Each expansion can be thought of as an era in the game's life, and the prospect of traveling back in time to the first age has proven appealing both to latecomers wishing to experience some storied legacy content for themselves, and also for nostalgic veterans wanting to return to the game as they remember it from its peak. And it's not just a frozen moment in time. The classic version of WoW is now starting to progress through those subsequent eras, so its players may very well get to relive, at an accelerated pace, the entire history of the game, before it ultimately catches up to and converges again with its modern incarnation.
To be clear, WoW did not pioneer the idea of classic or "progression" versions of games. As it has since its conception, it just copied an existing game and did the same thing with a larger budget to much greater success. And classic versions of WoW specifically were something its players had been requesting for years, and had in fact already created unofficially on their own. But though the concept had been around, it had always perplexed me as, in essence, an exercise in willful regression, whose charm was lost on me. That is, until now that Taylor Swift is essentially doing it in the music industry with her "Taylor's Version" re-recordings of her first six studio albums.
Officially, the impetus for the re-recordings was Swift's desire to produce master versions of her back catalog that she would fully own, as a way to get around having to play ball with whomever has possession of the original recordings. With the goal of supplanting the originals, she has kept the re-recordings indistinguishable from them to all but the most scrutinizing ears, which at first would not seem the most artistically exciting prospect for listeners not invested in her ownership saga.
For the two thus-far-released re-recording albums—Fearless and Red—Swift has seized creative opportunities to dig out of the vault previously unreleased songs from each era. Indeed, even if the re-recorded tracks held no interest, there is enough added material to make each album feel substantial and worthwhile.
The most publicized addition, actually a bit of both a re-recording and a vault track, has been a 10-minute version of Red's "All Too Well." Although the original version of the breakup ballad has come to be regarded by many as Swift's magnum opus, I could barely recall it when "All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)" intriguingly appeared atop my Spotify Release Radar playlist last Friday. I enjoyed Swift's music when Red released in 2012, but not to the extent that I ever purchased any records or listened to an album straight through, so "All Too Well" was easily overlooked as a relative deep cut, compared to high-charting singles "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," "I Knew You Were Trouble," and "22."