Taylor Swift’s fans starting making noise on Twitter last night when Good Morning America announced that she’d be appearing on today’s show – and when it comes to a star as big as Taylor, it’s never going to be a small thing. Immediately there was speculation that it had something to do with her rerecording her masters.
Taylor has been promising this for some time. Quick backstory if you need it: she does not own the rights to her first seven albums and this, of course, is the root cause of her beef with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta who signed her to Big Machine Label Group at the start of her career. Since she hasn’t been able to buy back her music, she’s decided to rerecord it, thereby devaluing the originals and taking back what she created.
We first heard a snippet of Taylor’s early classic, “Love Story”, when she gave Ryan Reynolds permission to use it for an ad that his marketing firm produced for Match a few months ago. With three days to go before Valentine’s Day, Taylor has shrewdly decided that now is the perfect time for us to hear the full new “version” of the song:
EXCLUSIVE: @taylorswift13 is dropping a new re-recorded version of her song â€œLove Storyâ€ at midnight! She tells @GMA she has re-recorded her entire â€œFearlessâ€ album and gives us a sneak peek at the new cover! ðŸ’›ðŸ’› #TaylorSwiftOnGMA https://t.co/UQUu2QuE6O pic.twitter.com/8ZvZBmvgiR— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 11, 2021
I emphasised the word “version” because that’s the word she’s been emphasising. It’s to distinguish between the old and the new, obviously, but I also wonder if there’s a legal component to this because when she says “my version”, well, the original, technically, is her version too since she writes and performs her own music.
In addition to “Love Story” though, as she told GMA, Taylor has rerecorded all of Fearless, the album on which “Love Story” was released. Fearless: Taylor’s Version will include 26 songs – all the songs that were on the first Fearless plus “vault” songs that were cut from the track list. Beyond whatever possible legal reasons though for her to be putting a point on the word “version”, it’s also her being as direct as f-ck that THIS is the VERSION that is HERS. So that when you see her music library on Spotify or Apple Music or wherever, there is no doubt about which one you should choose and, obviously, NOT THE OTHER ONE.
I really hope one day she’ll share with us all the meetings and calls that are and have been happening in the background of this because that’s the work that is fascinating for work nerds – coming up with what to call the new album was for sure NOT a casual decision. Naming is never a casual decision, as Duana, our Name Therapist, has been telling us for years.
To go back to the music though, while we know that “Love Story”, Taylor’s Version, will be available tonight at midnight, Fearless: Taylor’s Version, is dropping in April. “Love Story” might be the most famous song on the album but my two favourites are “Fifteen” and “The Best Day”. Right now, I think I could cry if I listened to “The Best Day” because in it she sings about her dad, and I’m lucky enough to have the best dad, and I miss him so much, especially since it’s been months since I’ve been able to spend significant time with my parents, and it’s even harder now during Lunar New Year when we would be together. So I’m scared about Taylor’s Version, now that she’s older and wiser, to hear her sing those lyrics again, I’ll probably be a mess within the first ten seconds.
Not all the songs on Fearless though have that effect and, well, have held up so well. “You Belong With Me”, for example, does not represent who Taylor has grown into, 13 year later. (Isn’t that interesting – her favourite number is 13 and Fearless: Taylor’s Version is coming out 13 years after the original.) These lyrics, in particular, have gotten some pushback through a feminist lens in the years since:
“But she wears short skirts
I wear T-shirts
She's Cheer Captain
And I'm on the bleachers”
I mean, it’s still catchy as f-ck, and while we are all certainly allowed to learn and evolve – a conversation we are having right now in particular as we consider our complicity in Framing Britney Spears– and Taylor has definitely been learning and evolving, this isn’t a case of going back to a song that was written almost 15 years ago; it’s a case of her revisiting a song from then that expressed ideas that she may not be down with anymore…
So what does she do with those ideas now? Does she sing those lyrics as they were? Do you think she might change them? Do you think there might be a tweak on those sentiments?
One of Taylor’s most controversial songs, even at the time, was a track off her Speak Now album, released two years after Fearless, called “Better Than Revenge”, which many have interpreted to be slut-shaming someone who dated a guy after he broke up with her:
"She's not a saint
And she's not what you think
She's an actress
She's better known
For the things that she does
On the mattress”
Taylor’s promised to rerecord ALL of her old music. So, presumably, this song will eventually come up on the redo list too. I’m so curious to see exactly what these updates will sound like – whether it’s exact… or not.