Taylor Swift has just released 1989 (Taylor’s Version), the fourth re-recorded album from her extensive repertoire. In 2021, she released her first re-recorded album Fearless (Taylor’s Version), followed by Red (Taylor’s Version) and Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).
Those who have not followed the “Anti-Hero” singer’s career closely may be wondering why the 33-year-old is revisiting her back catalogue in this way.
In 2019, the music label Big Machine Records, which Swift had been signed to from 2006 to 2018, was sold to music mogul/manager Scooter Braun – best known for discovering Justin Bieber.
Along with ownership of the company, Braun also gained rights to the master recordings of all the music Swift had created during her time with the label. This included her first six albums: Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014) and Reputation (2017).
This meant that anybody who wanted to licence any of Swift’s old songs for a movie or TV show would have to get Braun’s permission and pay him a fee.
“For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in. I walked away because I knew once I signed that contract, Scott Borchetta [CEO of Big Machine Records] would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future,” Swift wrote on her Tumblr account in June 2019.
“I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.”
The “Cruel Summer” singer explained that she too had only learnt about Braun’s purchase of her masters when it was announced to the world. “All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years,” she said.
“Now 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,” Swift said, calling it her “worst-case scenario”.
In August 2019, Swift revealed that she would be re-recording her first six studio albums in order to gain total control and ownership of her past work.
Aside from newly-added “From The Vault” tracks – unreleased songs that didn’t make it onto the original albums – the re-released records are nearly identical to the originals.
Earlier this year, Swift announced that her 2014 album 1989 would be the next Taylor’s Version to be released, saying the record “changed my life in countless ways”.
“To be perfectly honest, this is my most FAVORITE re-record I’ve ever done,” she wrote on Instagram in August.
While Adam White found that 1989 (Taylor’s Version), “lacks the yearning strain of those original outings”, in his three-star review for The Independent, he stipulated that “this revamp does at least serve as a reminder of the album’s untouchable greatness”.
“This is some of the best pop of the 21st century. Potentially some of the best pop ever made,” he added. “A few bits of middling production, or some slightly-too-good vocals, won’t change that.”