The global superstar is wasting no time as she presents fans with a new Vault teaser for her upcoming new album, but why is Taylor Swift re-recording her albums anyway?
Taylor Swift is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, and she has just become the first female artist in Spotify history to reach 100 million monthly listeners.
Following the gargantuan success from Midnights (awarded the best-selling album of 2022 after just one week) 'Bigger Than The Whole Sky' was praised for helping women process miscarriages was just one of the tracks adored by Swifties all over the world.
Currently in the midst of her Eras Tour, the singer-songwriter officially started teasing her 272 million followers on Instagram on 19 September 2023 about her next re-recording of 1989 (Taylor’s Version).
She’s been re-recording her music since 2021, but many are confused about why she’s doing it and which albums she’s re-releasing. Here’s everything you need to know…
Why is Taylor Swift re-recording her albums?
Taylor Swift is re-recording her albums so that she will own their masters – or in other words, the original recordings. The decision to re-record her albums comes after her former record label (Big Machine Records) sold her back catalogue, leaving her with no control over how the songs are used.
The singer’s contract expired with Big Machine Records and she moved to Universal’s Republic Records in 2018, but following Taylor’s separation from them, the company sold her masters to a private equity group Ithaca Holdings, owned by Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta, also more famously known as Scooter Braun.
By re-recording her albums, Taylor will own the songs and therefore be able to give permission for their use, in advertisements or in films, for example.
In an interview with Billboard in 2019, she explained: “Every week, we get a dozen synch requests to use ‘Shake It Off’ in some advertisement or 'Blank Space' in some movie trailer, and we say ‘no’ to every single one of them. And the reason I’m rerecording my music next year is because I do want my music to live on. I do want it to be in movies, I do want it to be in commercials. But I only want that if I own it.”
She added: “I spent 10 years of my life trying rigorously to purchase my masters outright and was then denied that opportunity, and I just don’t want that to happen to another artist if I can help it.”
That same year, Taylor Swift released her album Lover, the first album she fully owns. Prior to this, the majority of Taylor’s work was released under a deal she signed with Big Machine Records when she was 15, which gave the company ownership of her first six albums.
In 2018, Taylor moved to Universal's Republic Records in a new deal that would allow her to own her masters going forward. However, this didn’t apply to her old work.
Who is Scooter Braun and who did Scooter Braun sell Taylor’s music to?
Scooter Braun is a music manager and founded Ithaca Holdings, which bought Big Machine Records and therefore Taylor’s original recordings.
Taylor Swift might have been happy to never own her old masters, if it wasn't for Big Machine selling the rights to music tycoon Scooter Braun, therefore giving him ownership of her previous work.
In a public statement, Taylor labelled Scooter Braun a “bully” and said he was blocking her from performing a medley of her songs at the American Music Awards (AMAs) because it would constitute “re-recording them before I'm allowed to next year”.
She said: “I feel very strongly that sharing what is happening to me could change the awareness level for other artists and potentially help them avoid a similar fate. The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished. This is WRONG.”
Taylor also took to Instagram in June 2019 to explain what was really happening so that her fans could understand the ongoing battle.
Uploading a screenshot of Justin Beiber’s post (captioned “Taylor Swift what up”), the popstar wrote she was “sad and grossed out” and revealed details about her “worst case scenario."
She wrote: “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 would sell the label, thereby selling me and my future. 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.
“When I left my masters in Scott’s hands, I made peace with the fact that eventually he would sell them. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever.
“Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future… I will always be proud of my past work. But for a healthier option, Lover will be out August 23.”
Big names such as Ariana Grande, Kayne West and Demi Lovato were also on Scooter’s impressive roster of artists but have since left the talent manager, with Justin Bieber rumoured to have followed suit, although this has not been confirmed yet.
Can Taylor Swift legally re-record her albums?
Taylor Swift can legally re-record her albums because she writes her own songs, meaning she owns the publishing rights to them. This allows her to cover her own songs without having to do anything with the masters.
However, according to TMZ, Big Machine Records has an original production clause that prohibits Taylor from making the re-recordings sound exactly like the original – that's why the songs she's re-recorded so far sound slightly different from the previous versions she's released.
In addition, Taylor's contract with Big Machine gave her the right to re-record her older songs beginning in November 2020.
Though Shamrock Holdings will still be able to profit from Taylor's old recordings, iHeartRADIO - one of the largest radio broadcasters in the United States - have pledged to only play the remakes.
Tom Poleman, chief programming officer for iHeartMedia, said in a statement: "Whenever Taylor re-records a new track, we immediately replace the old versions. Our stations will always deliver songs that artists are eager to share and fans want to hear. Listeners have made it known that they cannot wait to hear ‘Taylor’s Version’ of each track. We are thrilled to provide a platform to share those with them, as well as the stories behind the songs from Taylor herself."
Which album is Taylor Swift re-recording next?
Following Fearless, Red and Speak Now, Taylor is now re-recording 1989, which features fan favourites such as Shake it Off, Style and Bad Blood.
Due to be released on 27 October 2023, Taylor dropped the biggest hint yet about the highly-anticipated album on Instagram.
The reel shows ‘the vault’ (all the songs that Taylor wrote for specific albums but were never recorded and put on the album) and the letters ‘L’, ‘T’, ‘U’ and ‘S’ tumbling out, with the caption: “You can tell me when the search is over… if the high was worth the pain” – lyrics from hit single Blank Space.
What’s different about Taylor’s Version?
With each new album release, the 33-year-old postfaces the title with ‘Taylor’s Version’ which is simply her recreation of the album that was previously owned by her old record label.
Which albums does Taylor Swift have left to re-record?
- Taylor Swift - originally released in 2006
- 1989 - originally released in 2014
- Reputation - originally released in 2017
Which albums has Taylor Swift re-recorded so far?
So far, Taylor Swift has re-recorded Fearless, Red and Speak Now. Fearless was the first album she re-recorded, and she released Fearless (Taylor's Version) in April 2021 - 13 years after the original album was released.
Fearless was Taylor's second studio album, leaving many fans wondering why it was the album she chose to re-release first and not her debut, Taylor Swift. There have been several fan theories around this - with some believing the 13 years between the two is significant, because 13 is Taylor's lucky number.
However, in an interview with Republic Records via Just Jared Jr, Taylor explained: "I always gravitated towards Fearless because I think that, as an album, it was a real coming-of-age. I look back on that album and it fills me with such pride, and it was an album about hope, and lessons learned, and the effervescence of teenage youth and all that. What more fun than to go back and explore that?"
While she added that she tried to keep the new version as close to the original as possible, she also added six new songs that were left off the 2008 version.
Meanwhile, the second album she re-recorded, Red (Taylor's Version), includes a ten-minute-long version of fan favourite 'All Too Well', accompanied by a music video featuring Sadie Sink and Dylan O'Brien, which is widely believed to be about the singer's relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal.
Red (Taylor's Version) was released in November 2021, just over nine years after the original album.
Now that Speak Now (Taylor's Version) has been released, Taylor Swift took to Instagram to reflect on what the album means to her. In a heartfelt post, she wrote: "It’s an album I wrote alone about the whims, fantasies, heartaches, dramas and tragedies I lived out as a young woman between 18 and 20. I remember making tracklist after tracklist, obsessing over the right way to tell the story. I had to be ruthless with my choices, and I left behind some songs I am still unfailingly proud of now."
She added: "I recorded this album when I was 32 (and still growing up, now) and the memories it brought back filled me with nostalgia and appreciation. For life, for you, for the fact that I get to reclaim my work. Thank you a million times, for the memories that break our fall. Speak Now (MY VERSION!) is out now."
Does your child enjoy music? Discover 72 things to keep your kids entertained – check out #7 for music fans! And, noughties pop band S Club 7 is returning with a 25th anniversary tour across the UK – here’s how to get your hands on tickets for October 2023.
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Ellie is Goodto’s Feature Editor, having joined the team as a Junior Features Writer in 2022, and covers everything from wellbeing for parents to the latest TV and entertainment. Ellie has covered all the latest trends in the parenting world, including baby names, parenting hacks, and foodie tips for busy families. She has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University, and previously Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies.
- Daniella GrayStaff Writer
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