Taylor Swift is notorious for being petty, and she makes it look so good. Over her career, the drama has become her reputation; people use her plights as a vehicle to overlook her undeniable talent— often misogyny wearing the mask of a critic.
“Taylor [has] done incredible things for the music industry and female representation in the arts. She proved that you can’t define female artists by just one thing— as the world often tries to do. When the industry tried to label her as a teen country artist, she broke the stereotype with 1989 and Reputation; when they tried to define her songs as always about heartbreaks and exes, she released Lover. She pushes boundaries and surprises people with every move,” says Eaglecrest senior Sanaa Sodhi. And whether or not you agree that her grievances against various men are valid or not, the premise for the re-recording of her first six albums certainly is.
Taylor Swift at the 2021 Grammys, where she won Album of the Year for folklore. (Getty Images)
Scooter Braun, media giant and chairman of Ithaca Holdings LLC, is the villain in this story. Taylor wants revenge, and there’s nothing she does better than it. The two have been feuding for the past two years, not including his role in the Kanye drama. It all officially started in June 2019, when Ithaca purchased Big Machine Label Group, Swift’s record label at the time. Braun’s deal was worth $300 million, and encompassed all of Big Machine’s clients and owned masters, which included rights to Taylor Swift’s first six albums. Her masters had always been owned by her label, so she left Big Machine in November 2018 at the end of her contract and signed with Universal Music Group, whose deal gives Swift the rights to her new records, Lover (2019), Folklore (2020), and Evermore (2020). When Braun bought Big Machine, Swift wasn't told about the deal until the public was, nor was she given the option to buy or bid on her own masters. She described the event as her “worst-case scenario” when she also publicly condemned both Big Machine’s CEO, Scott Borchetta, and Braun.
In August 2019, Swift announced her plans to re-record the albums on “Good Morning America” in order to regain ownership of her art. To add salt to her wound, Scooter Braun then sold Taylor’s masters to an unknown investment fund, later revealed to be Shamrock Holdings, for upwards of $300 million in November 2020. This worked out all too well for Braun. According to Swift’s contract, she could only start re-recording her old albums in November 2020. Braun still found a way to profit off of her: by selling the masters before she released the re-recordings, he was able to avoid the competition between the original and re-recorded versions. More importantly, his deal with Shamrock allows him to earn money off of the original versions for many years to come.
Enter: Taylor’s Version. The re-recorded versions of Swift’s old music are being called her version because that is exactly what they are: hers. For Swift, owning her masters is not about the money, it’s about the artist's rights.
“It is really cool that Taylor is able to re-record her music, especially while being able to be in control of her album[s]. I think it sets an example for artists in the music industry,” says junior Kylie Martin.
It is too often that record companies exploit artists for their own gain, taking advantage of their talent and dedication. And if this kind of injustice is faced by one of the biggest pop stars of all time, it’s disgusting to imagine how media sharks like Braun and Borchetta treat smaller artists. But, Swift has a lot of advantages that smaller artists don’t. Re-recording five full-length albums is risky, and her fanbase is her greatest ally in this endeavor.
Senior Sanaa Sodhi reacting to "Love Story (Taylor’s Version)" for the first time. (Sanaa Sodhi)
The first (Taylor’s Version) album is Fearless (Taylor’s Version), released on April 9, 2021. Many fans were expecting something new or some sort of twist on the original songs and were initially disappointed to find that, aside from the Vault songs, Taylor’s Version is nearly identical to the original. But, there is beauty in this. The lack of change between the albums truly highlights her fans’ loyalty to her because most are willing to make that shift from the old to the new version. They know that even though the songs are the same, it’s like a new person is singing them, bringing a different type of nostalgia to the songs. “Hearing all of her re-recorded songs as now a more-mature woman, a lot of the words still apply, and still feel so real,” says Angela Endly, an EHS English teacher. “I had the wrong idea. I thought she was gonna change it. But, when I listened to it again, I was like, ‘Oh. her emotion is different.’”
The cover of Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The re-recorded version features her head turned to the right, whereas she was facing the left in the original. She is also wearing Romeo’s blouse from the original “Love Story” music video. (Republic Records Media)
As far as the future of Taylor’s Version goes, we aren’t sure what’s in store. Many fans have been speculating that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) will be the next one released, according to the easter eggs she dropped on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in mid-April. On the episode, she presented the “mood board” for her Fearless song “Hey Stephen.” It featured a picture of Colbert in 1989, a seagull (the bird featured on 1989’s album cover), and eight heart and nine star stickers, making ‘89.
“My favorite album is 1989, and I actually saw that one in concert,” says senior Maddy Snyder. I'm really proud of her and all of her progress, and just how much she's grown into her own self as an artist instead of being tied to different producers and all of those people.”
Maddy and her sister, Rilyn, at the 1989 World Tour at the Pepsi Center in 2015. (Madison Snyder)
The other albums to be re-recorded are Taylor Swift (2006), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), and most likely Reputation (2017), although she does not technically have the right to re-record it until November 2022.
The music may be almost the same, but by far the biggest change that comes with Taylor’s Version is her freedom. More than anything, the re-recordings are symbolic of her separation from the industry giants that tore her down just as much as they brought her up.