Taylor Swift officially commenced her crusade to immortalize her artistic legacy. On February 11, the global phenomenon revealed 2008’s Fearless—her best-selling album to date—would be the first of six she is re-recording to release and maintain rights to as “Taylor’s Version.”
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The artist signaled the first battle cry in August 2019 after Scooter Braun’s company, Ithaca Holdings, acquired Big Machine Label Group. The Music Row powerhouse, run by Scott Borchetta, served as Swift’s label home since her self-titled 2006 debut through 2017’s reputation. When the deal closed in June 2019, Braun assumed the original masters of her Big Machine Records—Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and reputation.
This statement take-back was the only fitting response for Swift, who claims neither Borchetta nor Braun offered her fair opportunity to reclaim her life’s work. The historic move highlights the importance of masters ownership for future artists facing the industry’s seemingly corrupt corporate ongoings.
“From a psychological perspective, what you do to an artist when you separate them from their work,” Swift explained in an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “You break something, and I’m trying to figure out how to put that thing back together in away that heals what was broken by a system that is not designed for artists to have a chance at.” She added, “That’s an artist’s pension plan, that’s their retirement, that’s their legacy, that’s what they want to leave to their children.”
In true Swiftian fashion, her social media announcement coded the arrival date on the full album, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), with misfit capitalizations, spelling out April 9. Purposefully, the release date—four plus nine—sums her lucky number 13. The re-record, available now for pre-save, includes 26 songs, including six never-released.
On social media, she reflected fondly on the record as a milestone. Fearless, from her perspective, was, “the diary of adventures and explorations of a teenage girl who was learning tiny lessons with every new crack in the facade of the fairytale ending she’d been shown in movies.”
The 31-year-old artist embarked on her journey through the past, sharing her first re-recorded single, “Love Story (Taylor’s Version).”
The accompanying lyric video includes an evocative reel of her rise through the ranks. It features the glitzed up pop-country sensation kicking cowboy boots across global stages, surrounded by her fanatic following of all ages. The track marks a moment in time, chronicling a coming-of-age narrative Swift was able to share with the world.
“Let me just say that it was a real honor to get to be a teenager alongside you,” she posted as a nod to her most loyal following. “For those I’ve come to know more recently than 2008, I am ecstatic that I’ll get to experience a bit of that feeling with you in the very near future. Now that I can fully appreciate it in its whimsical, effervescent, chaotic entirety.”
“Love Story” was an idyllic outlook Swift penned furiously on her bedroom floor amidst a feud with her parents. They would not allow her to date an older boy with whom she was infatuated. In that moment, Shakespeare’s star-crossed story finally made sense. While her understanding of Romeo and Juliet may have evolved, returning to those inspired moments brings her career full- circle.
“You don’t want to feel like it’s your homework got destroyed, and so now you have to redo your homework,” she laughed in the Apple Music interview. “It’s not like that at all; it’s extremely fulfilling.”
Swift received the green light to begin re-recording in November. This placed her on the tails of July’s folklore and just ahead of its surprise sister record, evermore. Balancing these projects in the studio entangled threads—recording her present truth while simultaneously revisiting her past lives.
Swift recalled to Lowe that she was working on her 2010′ Song of the Year’ nominee “You Belong With Me” and “Happiness” from evermore on the same day during those sessions. The paradox made her feel “really proud of the sort of scope of things. And looking back when I was a teenager, and I would write about my troubles in high school and the drama and the pining away and all that stuff, that was all so valid to me at that time in my life,” she shared. “Just as much as evermore is so valid to my happiness at this time in my life.”
Swift is a vehement proponent of artists owning their catalogs. She believes, “if you are the creator of all of this music, you’re the only one who actually knows the ins and the outs of it. You’re the only one who knows what almost was written. You’re the only one who knows the kind of secrets of the journey of making this music. So you’re actually the only one who has the ability to share it with the fans the way that can make everyone the happiest and the most excited.”
For this reason, the six bonus tracks from re-recorded Fearless are songs that the label held back the first go-round. Now, with full artistic freedom, Swift can share the “entire vivid dreamscape” including the “ones it killed me to leave behind.”
The vetted artist, who was merely a teenager when she signed on to Big Machine, is rerecording her music, so her successors don’t have to. She insists young artists weigh stability against artistic control without an adequate understanding of the consequences. Wielding her experience navigating this labyrinth, Swift engages record labels in rights-related conversation behind-the- scenes.
“You don’t know the music industry until you know it,” the artist shared. “And because I have learned what I’ve learned, I really just want to make things better for other people. And I want that to start at the record deal in the contract. Artists should never have to part with their work.”
“Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” is the first down the path to reclaiming what is rightfully hers. In doing so, Swift hopes that ownership of a future artists’ masters will no longer be a question. In her interview with Lowe, she concluded, “if I can do anything to change that for a young artist in the future or many or all of them, then I’m going to keep keeping loud.”