By Sarah Cai
Who is Taylor Swift?
Taylor Swift is a successful American singer-songwriter and musical icon who has won 11 grammys, currently has nine albums, and of the nine are four different genres of music: country, pop, pop with elements of hip hop, and alternative/folk.
In February, Swift announced the re-release date for her album Fearless (Taylor’s Version) that came out in April. After Swifties (her fans) continued to speculate which album was being re-released next, Swift announced the re-release of Red (Taylor’s Version), despite Swiftie’s theories of her pop album, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) coming next. Swift just recently announced that the release date of Red (Taylor’s Version) got bumped up to November 12, a week earlier than the original plan. Honestly, we could have planned for a change in the weather and time, but we certainly did not plan on her changing her mind, and now we’re even more excited. As the date approaches, everyone wonders when we will get our first Red (Taylor’s Version) single, because we are so …ready for it.
To prepare for sad girl autumn and listening to Red (Taylor’s Version), it’s important that everyone understands why we should be listening to Taylor’s Version, not her old music, and the story and background behind her re-recordings.
What is “Taylor’s Version?”
Of the nine albums that she’s written, she only owns four: Lover, folklore, evermore, and Fearless (Taylor’s Version) – which she had just re-recorded in April. Swift’s music that was sold over her head twice no longer belongs to her. The first time it was sold without her knowledge was when her label group sold all of her music (including the albums Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, Reputation, and the Beautiful Eyes EP) to Scooter Braun, Swift tried to buy her old masters back but was refused. Her music was then sold again to an investment fund, who signed a contract that they would not contact Swift or her team at all in order to purchase the music, which was sold for an estimated $300 million. Now, by listening to any of her old music, all of the profit will go to Scooter Braun.
At one point during these transactions, Braun’s team contacted Swift’s team asking her to sign a contract that said that she was not allowed to say anything about Scooter Braun if it wasn’t a positive statement. She summarizes this by saying, “The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished.” She clearly is not fond of this situation and believes that re-recording her music might help make a message about sexism in the business world.
Taylor’s Version is what Swift calls her re-recordings. To re-record her albums she must completely start the recording process from scratch, recording the background music, vocals, and sound effects again. The music also needs to be mixed and mastered once more. She is allowed to do this because although she doesn’t own the actual recordings of her old music, she does own composition rights (of the lyrics and melody), so she is allowed to re-record her music without breaking any copyright laws.
There is no actual difference between the lyrics or melody of her old and new songs. She hasn’t changed anything on purpose, but some Swifties, who know her music all too well, have caught some accidentally missed words.
So, why should we listen if there is no difference? Although nothing from the old music has really changed besides how her voice has matured as a singer, it is still important to only listen to Taylor’s Version songs and not her old songs to ensure that no unearned profit goes to Scooter Braun.
There are also From the Vault tracks. From the Vault tracks are songs that she wrote at the time that she wrote the album that didn’t make it on to the final tracklist. She releases these with her re-recordings, and it’s so cool to hear these songs that she wrote a while ago about past experiences as she re-releases her albums.
Why does this matter?
Swift has dealt with sexism her entire life. “As a female in this industry,” she says during her acceptance speech for her Billboard Woman of the Decade award in 2019, “some people will always have slight reservations about you.” When she received her first wave of backlash and criticism at nineteen when she had just received her first Album of the Year award at the Grammys, she didn’t understand why, or what she did wrong. During this speech, she recalls back on it, saying, “And now I realize that this is just what happens to a woman in music if she achieves success or power beyond people’s comfort level. I now have come to expect that with good news comes some sort of pushback. But I didn’t know that then…” Reflecting on the misogyny in the music industry, “In the last 10 years I have watched as women in this industry are criticized and measured up to each other and picked at for their bodies, their romantic lives, their fashion, or have you ever heard someone say about a male artist, I really like his songs but I don’t know what it is, there’s just something about him I don’t like? No! That criticism is reserved for us!”
What can we do to support?
If you have any of her old music that she has already re-released, take them off of your playlists and replace them with Taylor’s Version. Some people don’t like the re-recordings, so instead of streaming her old music, you can buy it on CD or vinyl at a thrift store, and that way, none of the profit would go to Scooter Braun since it was already purchased a while ago. Lastly, you can just stream her music. There’s bound to be something that you like throughout four genres of music. I, for one, love all of her music. At this point it’s so hard for me to rank her albums anymore because they’re all equally amazing. Anyway, anyone’s welcome to join me in an All Too Well (Ten Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) sob-fest on November 12th :’)
Why should we support?
“…Female artists in music have dominated this decade in growth, streaming, record and ticket sales, and critical acclaim,” Taylor acknowledges. “So why are we doing so well? Because we have to grow fast. We have to work this hard, we have to prove that we deserve this, and we have to top our last achievements. Women in music, on stage or behind the scenes, are not allowed to coast. We are held at a higher, sometimes impossible-feeling standard. And it seems that my fellow female artists have taken this challenge and they have accepted it.” Swift’s re-releases are a feminist protest against toxic male privilege that we all should stand by. By accepting the challenge, and by standing by her, we would be protesting and standing against misogyny with her, which is the right thing to do.