Apr 16, 2021 | OPINION | By Emma Logan | Illustration by Xixi Qin
The last year has been a godsend for Taylor Swift fans. She released two new albums during quarantine, brought home a Grammy win, and most recently announced that she will re-record her first six albums.
This decision comes after a public criticism of Scooter Braun, a music industry manager, for buying the rights to her masters in a $350 million deal with her previous record deal, Big Machine Records, which happened without any consideration of Swift herself.
This transaction came shortly after the original contract came to a close in 2018 when Taylor finally became free from the legal restrictions she signed at only 16 years old.
In the wake of this legal battle between Swift and her previous representation, she publicly swore to re-record her critically acclaimed work in order to regain control of content available in media and streaming services, as well as stand up for the many young women who are taken advantage of in the music industry.
This ultimately culminated last Friday, when Taylor officially released “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” which includes complete covers of the 20 songs that earned her “album of the year” all the way back in 2010. This historic move provides us some context for what this process of rerecording will look like.
In addition to these hits, Swift also decided to release six never-before-heard songs labeled “From the Vault,” which generated buzz around her “new” music. These songs, however, are anything but new, and she actually wrote them alongside the original tracks as a teenager.
These songs, including titles such as “Mr. Perfectly Fine” and “Bye Bye Baby,” bring the listener back to a simpler time of up-beat fiddle solos, basic guitar progressions, and most notably some fairly transparent lyrics. This early songwriting is in direct juxtaposition with the complexity we expect from Swift today.
In her most recent albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” Swift gifted us with heart-wrenching lyrics heavy with metaphor and meaningful language such as “Is it romantic how all my elegies eulogize me?” “Long limbs and frozen swims, you’d always go past where our feet could touch,” “Second, third and hundredth chances, balancing on breaking branches,” “They told me all of my cages were mental, so I got wasted like all my potential,” and “While I bathe in cliffside pools with my calamitous love and insurmountable grief.”
When we listen to the songs she recently pulled from the vault we are presented with phrases such as “It’s such a shame ‘cause I was Miss ‘Here to stay’ now I’m Miss ‘Gonna be alright someday’” and “I heard she’s nothin’ like me I’m sure she’ll make you happy.” Which, through no fault of their own, are obviously a bit more basic. However, they were not written this decade.
With this context in mind, be sure to refrain from any thoughts that in a move closer to her roots, Swift has given up the beautiful intricacy her audience has come to expect of her. In fact, a willingness to publicize her old work may revitalize her current abilities and cement her storied reputation. A reputation, I would argue, she has long deserved.