As the calendar transitioned to Nov. 12, music services updated to show 30 new songs, marking the official return of Taylor Swift’s Red era. While fans have counted down the days until Red (Taylor’s Version), not everyone understands Swift’s reasoning for the new version, senior Kathy Jung explained.
The “Sad Beautiful Tragic” story of Swift losing her work dates back to her change in music label in 2018, when she left the masters, or the original recording of a song on an album, to her first six albums with Big Machine Records (BMR), Billboard Music explained. She switched labels after the owner of BMR, Scott Borchetta, refused to let her outright buy her masters back.
In 2019, BMR was bought by Scooter Braun, giving him ownership of Swift’s masters. Swift shared she was upset by the sale because it meant she couldn’t own her previous albums, in a June 2019 post to her social media.
“Now Scooter [Braun] has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy,” Swift said. “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”
Since Swift would be unable to get ownership of her first six albums, she would instead “Begin Again” and record new versions of the songs, giving her ownership of her own music, an action largely supported by her fans. She was able to start the re-recording process on Nov. 1, 2020, when her previous contract’s restrictions ended, Billboard explained.
“Taylor deserves ownership of her music and to have control of her own career,” Jung said. “Getting this opportunity for [Swift] to take back what originally should have been hers is really important.”
While the intention of the re-recordings is to replace the original songs, they do have slight differences and new songs are included, Jung said. Part of the release process has been decoding clues Swift leaves behind to explain possible song information or release dates. For both Fearless and Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift released the song titles in riddles for fans to solve.
The new songs are nearly identical to the original, but as Swift has developed as a singer, it has allowed her to perfect her sound. She explained that Swift’s breath control has improved over time, contributing to a more mature acoustic experience in her new albums. When Swift released Fearless (Taylor’s Version) back in April, Jung noticed the slight change in her pauses and inflections of key lyrics.
“[Taylor’s] voice is a lot clearer in the re-recordings, you can hear that her voice has matured a lot,” Jung said. “There’s also those small differences you can catch, [the way] she pronounces her words and puts more [emphasis] on [them].”
The 2020 release of Miss Americana, a documentary following Swift through her album recording process, brought attention to the loss of Swift’s work, Jung said. Jung found out about the issue when she watched the documentary, and immediately supported Swift’s actions to reclaim her work. Jung said it was also a powerful experience listening to Fearless (Taylor’s Version) since she loved the original version as well.
“Fearless has always been my personal favorite album and I wasn’t sure if the recording would live up to my standards, but I was completely proven wrong,” Jung said. “I remember the first time I listened to it, I felt really emotional because I felt very nostalgic listening to it.”
While Swift might “Never Ever Get Back Together” with her masters, she still has the power to stop companies from using the original versions, Billboard said. As a songwriter, Swift is credited on all of her music, and for parties interested in using her music in movies, commercials, television shows, and more, they require Swift’s approval. With this requirement, she can prevent others from using her old music and encourage them to use the new re-records, Billboard explained.
At South, opinions about the re-recordings were split: 54 percent of students did not know that Swift was recording her first six albums, a non-scientific survey conducted by The Oracle found. In addition, 77 percent of students supported Swift’s decision, while 23 percent opposed her planned release, the survey found.
Jung admitted that even among Swift fans, not everyone was excited about the new versions. Before the release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in April, Jung was unsure what her opinion would be but was won over when she first heard the album.
“I was expecting the recording to sound exactly the same as [the] original, [But they showed] how much she’s matured and how her music has evolved so much and for her to go back to her roots just makes it that much more special,” Jung said.