On April 9, 2021, Taylor Swift released a re-recorded version of her second album, Fearless. Fearless was initially released on November 11, 2008, and includes some of our favorite childhood songs including Hey Stephen, You Belong With Me, White Horse, Fifteen, Love Story, and Fearless. While these songs are often associated with feelings of nostalgia, girls nights, a good cry, or just adored because they are absolute bangers, this album that helped to propel Swift to fame has remained universally loved. Despite the fond memories so many of us associate with the album, Swift has had a really difficult journey with her discography, and is in the process of re-recording all nine of her albums, with this re-recording, called Fearless (Taylor’s Version), is the first to get the re-recording treatment. The biggest question is: why? But don’t worry, I’m here to break it all down for you. Here is the entire situation with Taylor Swift and her discography, EXPLAINED.
In 2004, at only 14 years old, Taylor Swift signed with Sony/ATV as a songwriter, making her the youngest sign in the company’s history. She continued to perform around Nashville, where at one performance she was noticed by record executive Scott Borchetta, who would sign her with his label, Big Machine Records in 2005. She released her first song, “Tim McGraw” under the label in the summer of 2006, and kick-started her career. While with Big Machine Records, Swift went on several world tours and released six studio albums. This contract was good until 2018, when Swift would then switch to Universal’s Republic Records. Big Machine Records owned the original recordings (the masters) of Swift’s first six albums, which is a normal practice for any record labels. So, when Swift switched over to Universal’s Republic Records, she made sure to secure the ownership of all of future masters.
So, what is the issue?
Well, when Swift’s new contract negotiations behind the scense came out in the press when Big Machine Records was sold to a private-equity group called Ithaca Holdings, which is a group owned by the powerhouse music manager Scooter Braun, for an estimated $300 million in 2019. Braun’s clients include Ariana Grande, Dan + Shay, The Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta, Hilary Duff, Idina Menzel, Demi Lovato, and Justin Bieber, just to name a few. So, in a business sense, Braun’s move was very smart because Swift’s master recordings earn profit whenever they are bought or streamed. Thus, everytime someone streams a song from Swift’s six original albums, Scooter Braun makes money. It is the personal front that stirs up more trouble. Swift has repeatedly said that Braun has bullied her, and then publicly explained how wrong the sale of her masters was and then promised to re-record her original six albums with the re-recordings under her control. So, while there are many reasons that artists should own their work, Swift’s main reasoning for having her ownership of her masters is because “the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work”, as she said in a March 2021 Instagram post.
So what’s different?
Don’t worry, the re-recordings are almost exactly the same as the original verision, except for a few subtle changes in sound and an overall maturity in Swify’s voice (who is noow 31 years old, compared to the 16 year old Swift that recorded the original). But the biggest difference is that in addition to re-recordings of all of the original songs from the album, Swift is also sharing new songs from her “vault” of work that have never been released, so we get new songs! This means that the biggest change in Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is the intentions behind it. Whether you like her or not, Taylor Swift has been one of the most popular pop stars and celebrities for the past 15 years, and she shows no signs of slowing down as she continues to produce incredible albums with her new label, including Lover, Folklore, and Evermore. I personally can’t wait for Swift to continue releasing both her re-recorded albums as well as new music, and I am sure that we will see her continue to rule the music industry for many years to come.