Wondering Who the Red (Taylor's Version) Vault Songs Are About? We Have Theories

Red (Taylor's Version), released on Nov. 12, becomes Taylor Swift's second rerecorded album and the fifth album overall to now be owned by the singer. Amid her ongoing masters' battle with Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun, Swift announced her decision to re-create her first six studio albums she released under Big Machine Records. In addition to the original tracks on the standard and deluxe versions of her previous albums, the rereleased albums — cleverly packaged with the Taylor's Version tag — feature previously released songs (aka the vault tracks) that were crafted for these individual LPs but somehow ended up on the cutting-room floor.

When explaining the logic behind the vault tracks on Late Night With Seth Meyers on Nov. 14, Swift said, "Essentially, there are songs on this album that I've called 'from the vault' tracks, because in my mind, there's a symbolic vault of songs that I love that I've written. I write a lot of songs for an album, and then I pare it down. But these were songs that didn't make it on the album because I wanted to save them for the next album. And then, it turned out, the next album was, like, a whole different thing, and so they get left behind. And you always think back on these songs, and you're like, 'What would've happened? I wish people could hear this.' But it belongs in that moment in time. So now that I get to go back and revisit my old work, I've dug up those songs from the crypt they were in, and I've reached out to artists that I love and said, 'Do you want to sing this with me?'"

Red (Taylor's Version) contains a whopping 30 tracks — including the original 16 tracks off Red, along with nine previously unreleased "From the Vault" songs. While Swift doesn't name names when it comes to who the songs are about (nor does she ever), we've done some sleuthing to connect dots between her dating history and her interlinking lyrics. So keep scrolling ahead to see our theories about who the Red (Taylor's Version) (From the Vault) songs are about!

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Who Is Taylor Swift's "Better Man (Taylor's Version)" About?

Initially intended for inclusion on Red, Swift passed "Better Man" to Little Big Town in 2016, and it became an instant country hit. "Better Man (Taylor's Version)" brings Swift's song to fans as it was originally intended. In it, she sings about getting out of a toxic relationship and reminisces on what could've been if only her ex would've been, well, a better man.

It's likely "Better Man" is about whichever ex-boyfriend Swift was getting over at the time she wrote the song (which would have been around 2011 if it was initially meant to be on Red's tracklist), which means Jake Gyllenhaal, who is rumored to have inspired the majority of the album, is likely its subject. It's also worth noting that lyrics from "Better Man" draw parallels to other songs rumored to be about Gyllenhaal. For example, "Talking down to me like I'd always be around" and "Push my love away like it was some kind of loaded gun" link to other songs on the album such as "The Last Time" and "I Bet You Think About Me."

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Who Is Taylor Swift's "Nothing New" About?

This heart-wrenching ballad shows what happens when you combine three powerhouse alternative artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Aaron Dessner, and Swift on one track. While the song "22" encompasses the blissful nature of youth, "Nothing New" describes Swift's deep-rooted fears of someday becoming obsolete — professionally and in her personal life. These insecurities stem from the unrealistic societal expectations that condition young women artists to believe that their relevance hinges on their ability to contort themselves into society's mold for them. Swift echoed similar sentiments in her raw 2020 documentary, Miss Americana: "We do exist in this society where women in entertainment are discarded in an elephant graveyard by the time they're 35."

When describing her vision for the song to Seth Meyers on The Late Show, Swift said, "I reached out [to Phoebe], and I sent her this song called 'Nothing New,' which I wrote when I was 22. It's really, really special to me because it was the first time I was not a shiny new artist. I was on my fourth album . . . I think this happens to a lot of artists, where they have their breakthrough moment. And then, the moment after that is really hard for them because they're just not getting the same [recognition]. And I sent it to Phoebe and said, 'It would mean the world to me if you would do this as a duet.' 'Cause I really wanted another female artist who I loved to sing it with me, because I think it has a very female-artist perspective, that would go through that experience."

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Who Is Taylor Swift's "Babe (From the Vault)" About?

"Babe" is another resurrected song that previously found a home with the musical duo Sugarland when released in 2018 (with a vocal assist from Swift). The lyrics see Swift look back on a doomed relationship with crystal-clear recognization of what went wrong.

There are several lyrical parallels between "Babe" and "All Too Well" (the track widely believed to be about Jake Gyllenhaal) hinting at a shared muse. For example, "Babe" lyrics like "Big mistake, you broke the sweetest promise / That you never should have made" and "I break down every time you call" seem to mirror the "All Too Well" line "You call me up again just to break me like a promise," which is as good as confirmation the song is about Gyllenhaal (at least to fans).

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Who Is Taylor Swift's "Message in a Bottle" About?

"Message in a Bottle" is thematically connected to another original Red track titled "Come Back . . . Be Here." Both songs paint a picture of a long-distance relationship where her partner is miles away and she's missing them while apart. While Swift never explicitly revealed the true identity of who inspired "Come Back . . . Be Here," fans believe the song is about Conor Kennedy, whom Swift dated back in summer 2012.

The "Message in a Bottle" lyric "And I became hypnotized by freckles and bright eyes, tongue-tied" references another Red track, "Everything Has Changed," in which Swift sings, "All I've seen since 18 hours ago / Is green eyes and freckles and your smile." It's worth noting that the hidden one-liner message for the latter was "Hyannis Port," which is where Swift spent her Fourth of July with Kennedy. "Begin Again" and "Stay, Stay, Stay" off Red are speculated to be about Kennedy as well.

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Who Is Taylor Swift's "I Bet You Think About Me" About?

"I Bet You Think About Me" sees Swift cheekily bashing her ex who is pretentious and condescending and hails from a silver-spoon upbringing. Lyrical nods such as "Glamorous, shiny, bright Beverly Hills," "I bet you think about me when you're out / At your cool indie music concerts every week," and "You laughed at my dreams, rolled your eyes at my jokes" all seem to point to Jake Gyllenhaal (especially since they all mirror lines from "All Too Well," an original Red song believed to be about Gyllenhaal).

Swift discussed the song's vibe while talking with Country 102.5, saying, "We wanted this song to be like a comedic, tongue-in-cheek, funny, not caring what anyone thinks about me sort of breakup song. Because there are a lot of different breakup songs on Red, some of them are very sincere, and some of them are very stoic and heartbreaking, and sad. We wanted this to be the moment where you're like, 'I don't care about anything.' We wanted to make people laugh with it. We wanted it to be a sort of drinking song. I think that that's what it ended up being." This further hints that the song may have been the more fun, flippant alternative to "All Too Well."

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Who Is Taylor Swift's "Forever Winter" About?

On first listen, the upbeat music production of "Forever Winter" may cloak the heartbreaking story about mental health disorders it tells.

The song is presumably about Swift's late friend Jeff Lang, who died at 21. When accepting the country songwriter of the year honor at the 2010 BMI awards, Swift dedicated the award to Lang, whose funeral she attended the day earlier. "It's been a really emotional week for me . . . He was 21, and I used to play my songs for him first. So I would like to thank Jeff Lang," she said.

In "Forever Winter," Swift looks back on a friend's unspoken pleas for help and despondently wonders if she could've helped him had she known what he was going through. "All this time I didn't know / You were breaking down," "He says, 'It's not just a phase I'm in,'" and "He spends most of his flights getting pulled down by gravity," she sings in the song.

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Who Is Taylor Swift's "Run" About?

"Run" expresses Swift's desire to go on clandestine escapades with her lover where no one will find them. It isn't the first time Swift has conveyed this sentiment. Several songs from throughout her catalog, such as "I Know Places," "Wildest Dreams," and "The Lake," drive home how much she yearns for privacy while in the public eye. Although, in the context of "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" — a fellow Red (Taylor's Version) track — "Run" may be about the Swift-Gyllenhaal relationship as well.

Lyrics from "Run" like "Give me the keys, I'll bring the car back around" and "We shouldn't be in this town" seem to mirror the "All Too Well" lyrics "You were tossing me the car keys" and "We were always skipping town." Altogether, they feel like lyrical puzzle pieces that create one complete picture.

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Who Is Taylor Swift's "The Very First Night" About?

"The Very First Night" finds Swift fondly looking back on the good memories from a relationship, coupled with the longing of wishing to go back in time and restore that love. It seems lyrics from the song like "I drive down different roads / But they all lead back to you," "They weren't riding in the car when we both fell," and "Dance in the kitchen, chase me down through the hallway" cross-reference Swift's other songs like "The Last Time" and "All Too Well," which makes us believe that "The Very First Night" is another song that Gyllenhaal inspired.

However, the lyrics "We were built to fall apart" and "Didn't read the note on the Polaroid picture" seem to mirror lyrics from "Out of the Woods" off 1989 instead, which is presumably about Harry Styles.

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Who Is Taylor Swift's "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" About?

Much like the 2012 release of "All Too Well," "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" is widely believed to be about Jake Gyllenhaal. If there were any doubts before, the recently debuted short film for the song has only emboldened fans' theories. From the red scarf to Dylan O'Brien's striking resemblance to Gyllenhaal in the film, it's hard to believe the track can be about anyone other than Gyllenhaal. Swift didn't have to utter his name, because her art speaks for itself!