Once again, Taylor Swift has stepped up to save what was set to become a terrible year, and a terrible Valentine’s Day, while continuing her fight for artists’ rights.
Not contempt with having been the most productive human being of 2020, after releasing a documentary (Miss Americana), two albums (folklore and evermore), and a documentary/concert (the longpond studio session), Swift has shocked the world by announcing that the first of her highly anticipated re-recorded albums, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is done, and releasing its first single into the world: ‘Love Story (Taylor’s Version)’.
In case you have been living under a rock for the past two years, or you think that ‘Love Story’ is just a TikTok hit, let me backtrack a little bit.
The original ‘Love Story’ was the lead single in Taylor Swift’s breakout album Fearless, released in 2009. It quickly became one of the most-sold songs of all time and turned her into a star. Fearless was at the time also awarded four Grammy nominations, a reward that turned Swift into the youngest artist to ever win an Album of the Year award (until Billie Ellish came into the picture). Taylor made country cool for young and international audiences, becoming a breath of fresh air for the genre.
However, despite the huge significance of ‘Love Story’ for Taylor Swift’s personal and professional life, she doesn’t own the song, or any other songs in her first six albums.
The master recordings of Fearless and Swift’s first six albums were owned by her record label, Big Machine Records, who later sold them to Scooter Braun, better known as the manager of stars such as Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Once the news of the purchase were made public, Swift spoke out about how she had requested to buy these masters herself but was denied a fair opportunity to do so. She used this experience to highlight one of the biggest injustices in the music industry: the contract clauses by which they don’t own their own art. We explored this controversy and its significance for the music industry in this article.
Back then, Taylor promised she would fight for her music and for the rights of all artists, and she has.
As a songwriter, Taylor still has the right to give permission for other artists to record covers of her songs. And that’s what she’s going to do, for herself.
The recently released ‘Love Story (Taylor’s Version)’ is the first of Taylor’s covers of her own songs, released just in time for Valentine’s Day. Although fans were speculating whether Taylor would choose to make the new versions different from the original, this has not been the case. The differences between the old and new ‘Love Story’ are only obvious in terms of the quality of the production and the sound of Taylor’s more mature vocals, which contrast with her 18-year-old higher-pitched voice and country accent.
The differences are significant enough for Swifties to be able to separate the two versions and be aware of which one is playing at a certain time. However, it still maintains itself so true to the original that people used to hearing this country classic will not feel the need to go back to the original version. And that’s exactly Taylor’s goal.
Swift has re-recorded her songs, not because she wants to make new versions of them, but because she wants the songs she wrote in her bedroom while she was a teenager to belong to her. To transform them from their original tone and style would be to betray and deny her past self and her origins. She isn’t trying to replace the original songs she recorded for Big Machine Records, she just wants to own her work.
“I’ve spoken a lot about why I’m remaking my first six albums, but the way I’ve chosen to do this will hopefully help illuminate where I’m coming from,” Swift has said. “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.”
With this new recording, Taylor will be able to sing ‘Love Story’ and allow for it to be placed in commercials and movies, without people even noticing which version of the songs she’s playing. Moreover, the fact that she has chosen to name all the new records ‘Taylor’s Version’, will allow for everyone to be aware of which side companies and movie producers lean on and whether they stand by her and her fight for artists to own their art.
As she explained in her acceptance speech for Woman of the Decade at Billboard, Taylor does not need the money. The incredible success of both folklore and evermore shows that she doesn’t have to rely on her old singles to continue to be relevant or to sell albums. She’s doing this to make a point about the fairness of the contracts that new artists are pressured into signing and how that affects the rest of their careers.
However, her re-recordings will have new things in store for fans. Although Taylor still hasn’t announced whether there will be new music videos or when are the rest of her re-recording albums set to be released, she has said that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) will include six unreleased songs that she wrote between the ages of 16 and 18 and that were cut from the original recording.
That brings the tracklist of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) to 26 songs. They will undoubtedly be full of that young perspective about love and heartbreak, and Taylor’s incredible lyrics, which used to be much less cryptical than her more recent ones, but still feel like a dagger directed to your heart. I can’t wait to hear them.
Some known unreleased songs from the time that could be in this recording include ‘Permanent Marker’, ‘Tell Me Why,’ ‘I’d Lie,’ ‘Dark Blue Tennessee,’ and ‘The One Thing.’
In my opinion, this is a perfect way of maintaining the essence of Fearless, as including songs that she had just written would clash in both tone and style with the rest of the songs on the album. Moreover, Taylor has also brought back all the musicians that played in the original recording of ‘Love Story’, as a way of making it as close to the original as possible and showing that she has no issues against that original recording, just against the person that owns it.
I’m thrilled to tell you that my new version of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is done and will be with you soon. It has 26 songs including 6 never before released songs from the vault. Love Story (Taylor’s Version) will be out tonight. Pre-order now at https://t.co/NqBDS6cGFl 💛💛 pic.twitter.com/Vjyy2gA72O
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) February 11, 2021
Taylor has made her move. And while we wait for April 9th to come so that we can listen to these new songs, it’s time for the music industry to position itself and choose who they are going to support. But, no matter the outcome of this, it is clear that Taylor has given musicians a way out and the courage to fight for their rights.
The new version of ‘Love Story‘ is nothing new, but it will make history.
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