If you wanted drama, laughter and righteous outrage, June 30, 2019 was a good day to be a Twitter user. This was when Taylor Swift released her 400-word Tumblr post to her fans, telling them how Scooter Braun purchased the masters of her music. She had no right to own the art she had spent years pouring her heart and soul into and as Swift wrote, “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”
Stan Twitter erupted into flames. If you weren’t with Taylor, you were against her and her millions of enraged fans. When someone as powerful as her releases a statement like she did, the music world listens, and questions regarding the artist’s right to own the music they’ve made begin to spin in the air.
Later in 2019, Taylor announced her decision to create new recordings for her entire music catalog, starting with “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” on April 9, 2021. She told Twitter, “This process has been more fulfilling and emotional than I could’ve imagined and has made me even more determined to re-record all of my music.”
It’s worth noting that Scooter Braun no longer owns the rights to Taylor’s music, as he was quick to cash in on it. 17 months after he acquired rights to the masters, he sold them to an investment fund for a deal that insiders speculate could be as high as $450 million. Nevertheless, Taylor remains determined to re-record her albums.
In typical record deals, a label takes 80% of streaming revenue from an artist. Instead, when artists own their masters, they keep 80-95% of that revenue. Taylor’s re-recording can inspire artists to seek ownership of their masters in contract negotiations, which would give musicians more control over their music’s revenue and how it is used commercially. Universal Music Group, Swift’s label, is trying to prevent this, as they’ve been doubling the amount of time a musician can re-record their work in recent contracts made with artists. Swift wrote in March 2021, “Artists should own their own work for so many reasons. But the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work.”
On Nov. 12, 2021 Taylor released her second re-recorded album, “Red (Taylor’s Version).” The original album, released in 2012, was a turning point in Swift’s career as she matured into a true pop poet and shed the perception of an innocent country girl. “Red (Taylor’s Version)” also blessed fans with an additional 12 songs that were cut from the 2012 version. New, technically old, songs are gems to a pivotal album that make you think of how far Swift has come, who was only 22 when “Red” was first released. “Nothing New,” a duet with Phoebe Bridgers overflows with the vulnerability of girlhood and Swift’s fear that the public would grow sick of her: “How can a person know everything at eighteen/But nothing at twenty-two?/ Will you still want me when I’m nothing new?”
“The Very First Night,” is set to a fast-paced pop beat that aligns with the exciting rush of young love: “Dance in the kitchen, chase me down through the hallway/ No one knows about the words that we whisper/ No one knows how much I miss you.”
The songs Swift re-recorded have subtle differences, like louder background vocals in one track or smoother instrumentals in another, but Swift stays true to their original form encased in nostalgia and emotional connections.
The main event of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” was the ten-minute version of the original track “All Too Well,” extending one of Swift’s most popular songs and rebirthing it with an additional music video starring Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink, “All Too Well: The Short Film.”
The new version of the song was unfamiliar for the first couple listens, with new lyrics that Swift originally cut from the song like “And you were tossing me the car keys, “F*** the patriarchy” being jarring additions to a song I was so used to. Taylor calls out the age difference between her and the man the song is about: “You said if we had been closer in age, maybe it would’ve been fine/… And I was never good at tellin’ jokes, but the punch line goes/ ‘I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age.’
While the first version of the song is perfect, this version is a swooping story. People may argue the song is too long, but that’s the point. Taylor is given the opportunity to crystallize the power imbalance that defined the relationship the song is about. If the original is a flawless culmination of love lost and a bruised heart, “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” is a luxurious track of fierce emotion with the darlings Swift once had to kill brought back to life.
“Red (Taylor’s Version”) is an already celebrated album that will surmount the legacy of 2012’s “Red.” As she revisits her painful past to reclaim power, Taylor Swift is revolutionizing the music industry and not backing down from her unwavering stance to take back the art that is so personal to her.