Taylor Swift has announced she will be releasing a re-recording of her 2008 album Fearless. Why is she doing it? Well, it’s a long story.
Why Swift is Re-Recording
In July 2019 Scooter Braun – manager of Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato and several other pop superstars – purchased Taylor Swift’s former record label Big Machine. The $300 million deal included the rights to the master recordings of Taylor Swift’s first six albums. Her breakthrough 2008 album Fearless, celebrated 2012 album Red and 2014’s 1989 were amongst them.
Swift, who had been trying to buy back the masters, was furious. She quickly took to Tumblr to express her thoughts. In the now-famous post, she described Scooter as “incessant, manipulative [bully].”
The bad blood continued to unfold over several months. The musical copyright dispute became a very public affair, rivalling even Micheal Jackson‘s famous outbidding of Paul McCartney for the publishing rights to The Beatles‘ songs in 1985. (The Fab Four unwittingly signed away ownership of their songs in 1963.)
When it came to Swift and Braun neither side gave ground. The public was largely on Swift’s side. The law, however, appears to favour Braun.
This week Swift appeared on Good Morning America. She announced what she had long been threatening to do. Swift had begun re-recording her albums, starting with Fearless. Her new album, titled Fearless (Taylor’s Version) includes all of the original tracks, as well as six unreleased songs from the same era.
Fearless was first released in 2008 when Taylor was just 18 years old. It was her second album, and her first big mainstream success, even going on to win Album of the Year at the Grammys at its time of release. The album represents a time before Swift was the world’s biggest pop star. At this point, she was still a small-town country singer.
The album is quintessentially Taylor Swift. It embodies why fans fell in love with her. Fearless provides honesty and relatable perspective on teen issues. The album is widely regarded as more ‘country’ than pop, a sharp contrast to more recent hits such as ‘Shake it Off’ and ‘You Need To Calm Down’.
Love Story (Taylor’s Version) Brings the Story Full-Circle
The re-releasing of Fearless marks a full-circle moment in Taylor’s career. Since 2006, when Swift was 16 years ago, she has released nine studio albums. The evolution of her image and relationship with the media over the years has been reflected in her music. This is particularly obvious in her 2017 album, Reputation, which commented on a very public scandal with Kanye West.
In 2020, the world saw another change in Taylor Swift. In what many fans saw as a return to her roots, she released folklore. The paired back folk album was significant. It represented Swift breaking free from the pop mould.
It was so well received it was eventually accompanied by a sister album evermore. The album also became her 8th consecutive Number One US album. Swift’s return to folk and country, not to mention freeing herself from public expectation, segues perfectly into revisiting of Fearless.
Is Love Story (Taylor’s Version) a Substitute for the Original?
Swift kicks off her re-release with a re-recording of one of Fearless’ most memorable songs, ‘Love Story’. The move has been widely applauded by fans and famous friends alike. Several questions arise with the song’s release.
Is the move something more than simply symbolic? Can it really hold a candle to the original? If not will it occupy another place in Swift discography? Or will it simply be forgotten? Will it stop fans from streaming the Scooter Braun-owned version?
To her credit, Swift has faithfully recreated the sound and feel of the original. Fans can debate whether it recaptures the youthful energy of her 2008 vocals. Functionally it does the job.
Love Story (Taylor’s Version) Poses a Moral Question
Swift herself has felt empowered by the move. “This process has been more fulfilling and emotional than I could’ve imagined,” she has shared via Instagram, “and has made me even more determined to re-record all of my music.” Her fans are also sharing in this enjoyment on mass.
At the time of writing ‘Love Story (Taylor’s Version)’ is the most listened-to single in the US. The hashtag #TAYLORSVERSION is trending on Twitter. The question of which version is prefered is ultimately a moral rather than an aesthetic one. One which millions of fans answered in the affirmative.
Taylor Swift is a Cultural Institution
Swift’s new version of fearless is not just for longtime fans. The publicity of the move will no doubt draw in new fans too. Swift has never been more popular than she is now. In 2021 Taylor Swift has become a cultural institution.
One example of the change of public perception toward Swift has been the way she has been adopted by the Queer Community. For many people, Taylor Swift has been the epitome of the ‘straight, white woman’. In 2020, a rabbit hole was opened by LGBT+ fans as they traced back to lyrical moments in Taylor’s history theorised to be queer allegories. Many believed folklore and evermore confirmed these rumours, though Swift has made no official statement on the matter. The conspiracy is perhaps not as important as the fact that many are now looking at Taylor’s music through a new lens.
A New Era
‘Love Story (Taylor’s Version)’ is a culmination of the blood, sweat and tears that have been put into Taylor Swift’s career. The re-recording of the song along with Fearless has been a cathartic process for the artist herself. It is a celebration of her past and present. Whatever the future may hold, ‘Love Story (Taylor’s Version)’ is just the beginning of a new era for one of the pop’s most prolific artists.
Purchase a digital copy of ‘Love Story (Taylor’s Version)’ here.
'Love Story (Taylor's Version)'7
Swift reclaims her narrative
Fans have taken a stand
It's looking like another #1
Braun is still at large
The original still sounds good
Re-recordings may divert her from new material