It’s because Taylor Alison Swift is one of the biggest and most influential artists in the world. Thanks for reading my comeback article. See you next week for more hot takes.
In all seriousness, what other artist out there today can choose to re-record nearly their entire discography while captivating fans and casual listeners alike all over again?
So Why Does Taylor’s Version Exist?
When it was announced that Ithaca Holdings, a company owned by superstar music manager Scooter Braun, had purchased Big Machine Label Group back in 2019, Taylor Swift went to Tumblr to reveal the malignant relationship she had with Big Machine regarding the rights to her first 5 albums and Scooter’s alleged long-term bullying.
Long story short, Big Machine was only willing to hand her master recordings back for each new album released. Taylor refused, understandably so. Then, Scooter Braun swoops in and buys the label, meaning Taylor Swift does not own each of her albums before 2019’s Lover.
So in a bid to reclaim her life’s work, enter Taylor’s Version – recording past material, both released and unreleased. Though it may sound like tedious work, her efforts have been paid off in spades.
From a business standpoint, it was a resounding success. Last week’s newly released Red (Taylor’s Version) scored the most-streamed album in a day by a female artist – with over 90 million streams globally. Not too shabby for a 9-year-old album. Loading it with 30 tracks, this re-recording gave Taylor the perfect excuse to game streaming services with a hefty tracklist, while still making it come across as a justified artistic decision.
More songs mean more streams equalling more album sales.
But How Did Taylor’s Version Captivate The World?
Setting a global record with an almost decade-long album isn’t something that happens incidentally. These re-recordings are reaping the benefits of Taylor Swift’s life under the public spotlight for her entire career.
After scoring a sweep of industry accolades early in her career, including an Album Of The Year Grammy for Fearless, she was thrust into the public spotlight and with that naturally produced a giant target painted on her back for celebrity gossip. Then came a string of high-profile relationships with men from Hollywood and beyond, creating a perfect self-sustaining storm that provided ammo for Taylor’s songwriting arsenal and gave TMZ more sneaky photo ops to drool over.
Just like that, internet sleuths that masqueraded as Swifties were born. “Dear John”, “Last Kiss”, “Out Of The Woods” and so much more all hold little easter eggs about each track’s subject, each riveting in its own way as online information of her exes were just a Google away. Cross-referencing probably never felt so fun.
Taylor Swift lore felt inescapable at some point in the 2010s. Anyone who had an inkling of an online presence (Tumblr, specifically) came to know how much her career and brand revolved around her relationships and how she sang about them.
It’s this casual knowledge of Taylor’s personal life that created a narrative that’s easy to digest and follow. Then with the simmering hype leading to the release of “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”, it was hard not to get swept up in the juicy details of a relationship that was already 10 years dry. I mean, who wouldn’t?
So it’s not a stretch to say that going from caring about Taylor Swift’s love life to rooting for her to regain what’s rightfully hers is a relatively easy leap for most people to take, perhaps indicating that the success of Taylor’s Version never took much convincing when it came to winning over general audiences. Anything that she chooses to make public becomes part of her career’s ever-expanding narrative.
How Interesting Will Taylor’s Version Continue To Be?
The novelty of 31-year-old Taylor Swift channelling the energy of her 18-year-old self on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) made it an intriguing listen – keeping the wide-eyed wonder of the original while still sounding much more poised. Red (Taylor’s Version) felt the same way, even if though the freshness had mostly dissipated. The album was still a compelling insight into how she re-juggled the balancing act between her country and pop sounds.
I have little doubt that the Taylor’s Version of her self-titled debut and Speak Now will absolutely floor me with its updated arrangements and vocals – once again pitting current Taylor against young Taylor. However, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re getting pretty much the same records again, which makes me especially concerned about 1989 and Reputation.
These aren’t exactly old albums. You can put on 1989 today and it’d still sound as timeless as it did upon release. Meanwhile, Reputation has just aged like milk and a direct recreation of that just feels like baking a cake with said spoiled milk. Unless Taylor throws us a curveball, maybe different production (to make up for a lack of Max Martin-ness) or a revamped tracklist, these Taylor’s Versions might be fuelled by pure pettiness.
Given her established strength as a songwriter, it’s hard to see the novelty wearing off anytime soon. I mean, come on, I’m already salivating at the slightest possibility of a 10 minute “Dear John”. Still, how much nostalgia can one fanbase handle? There’s only so much rehashed content people can take before deciding that they need to give their rose-tinted glasses a rest.
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