The hype around Taylor Swift is bigger than ever, with her Eras Tour being only months away for New Zealand fans travelling to Australia to see her, and two of her four Taylor’s Version albums having dropped this year.
Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) was released in July, with 1989 (Taylor’s Version) following on October 27. The two re-releases have reignited discussions around Swift’s motives for the re-recordings and their importance for her and her fans.
For non-Swifties and anyone who may have missed it, Taylor’s Version is all about claiming the creative rights and regaining control over the songs from the first 10 years of her career while she was signed with Big Machine Records. Swift signed the record deal in 2005, when she was 15, with music executive Scott Borchetta. That deal gave the record label sole ownership of her original recordings.
Swift recorded six albums from 2006 to 2017 with Big Machine Records: Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Red (2012), Speak Now (2010), 1989 (2014) and Reputation (2017). These are the albums she has been re-recording as Taylor’s Versions. Some include bonus tracks, known as her vault tracks – songs she had written but which weren’t included on the original albums.
In 2019, talent agent Scooter Braun bought Big Machine Records despite Swift’s opposition because of his and his clients’ behaviour towards her in the past. The sale was described as Swift’s worst-case scenario. “Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it,” she said about the deal.
Swift and Braun’s feud started with, among other things, his connection to Kanye West. Braun managed West during the 2009 MTV Video Awards saga in which West infamously snatched the microphone from Swift during her acceptance speech, declaring that Beyonce should have won the award.
Braun was also West’s manager during the production of his single Famous in 2016. The song included controversial lyrics and a music video sexualising Swift and claiming that West was responsible for her rise to fame. Braun has also been accused of collaborating with his clients to bully Swift online.
After the announcement of Big Machine Records’ sale, Swift took to Twitter to vent her frustrations about the sale and her inability to gain the rights to her music. This prompted fellow songwriter Kelly Clarkson to suggest she re-record all the songs to which she did not own the masters and include new works to encourage fans to buy the new versions.
Braun sold Swift’s master recordings in 2020 to a private equity company, leading Swift to publicise her plans to re-record the six albums. The songs are the same as the originals but, by re-recording them, Swift can make money and regain the rights to her old music without buying the original master copies.
The Taylor’s Version albums have been a success in the charts and with fans. All have debuted at No 1 on the Billboard 200. The first to be released was Fearless in April 2021, followed by Red in November 2021, Speak Now in July this year and 1989 in October. Reputation and Taylor Swift are yet to be re-recorded.
The last two are expected in the next couple of years and the hype around Taylor Swift is here to stay. Fans have been left guessing which album will be released next and when. Some are so eager that they are predicting the dates when they can expect the next announcement.