By: Rhea Kohli and Saranya Mandapaty
“Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.¨ Taylor Swift is indefinitely one of the most influential pop icons of the 21st century. With eleven albums, thirty-two Grammy nominations, and eleven wins, Swift has truly proved herself to be the artist of the decade. Whether you are the forced radio listener, casual swiftie, or die-hard, screw Jake Gylennhal, give-it-all-up-for-Blondie type of fan, you’ve probably listened to Swift’s popular songs. However, behind Swift’s fame is a dark truth: Swift currently has no rights over her music.
It all began with Scott Borchetta. Borchetta founded the Big Machine Label Group in 2005, and Swift was the first artist he signed. At the time, the aspiring musician was just fifteen-years-old. Swift describes being manipulated into signing contracts when she could barely understand them. Borchetta and Swift worked together for a large portion of Swift’s career. According to the lens of the media, their relationship dynamic seemed pretty concrete. Even so, there was more to the story than what the public could see. Underneath it all, Borchetta and Swift had deeply rooted bad blood. Unfortunately, there’s still one character yet to be introduced to this treacherous story.
Scooter Braun is the musical producer/manager of many famous musicians in Hollywood, including, until November of 2019, Taylor Swift. Braun acquired all financial control over Taylor Swift’s first six albums in 2019 after he purchased Big Machine Records. He then sold the rights to everything from Debut (2006) to Reputation (2017) to an investment company without Swift’s consent.
Cases like this are seen so often that women entering the music industry would almost believe it was normal. We know all too well that gender inequality is ubiquitous, and Swift is just one of the many women who have fallen prey to the music industry. Swift wrote in a tweet, “[Braun and Borchetta] have now said that I’m not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year.”
Not only that, but Braun and Borchetta also censored the use of her music in her 2020 documentary, Miss Americana. Nonetheless, Swift wasn’t going to stand by and let her work be taken by yet another spiteful man. Unquestionably, there’s nothing Swift does better than revenge.
To gain control over her original work, Swift found a loophole in her contract which stated that after a certain amount of time, she would be able to re-record her previous albums. Swift saw this for what it was, a chance to take back what was rightfully hers. She deemed it necessary to go through the hassle of re-recording all her songs. Not only for her fans, but for herself. Her original work is what made her who she is today. Braun’s thievery not only took away her rights but a part of herself as well.
So far, Swift has re-recorded two of her previous albums, Fearless and Red. With more still to come, we are nowhere near the endgame. The new albums have additional songs that Swift wrote in those eras, but decided not to put on the original versions. This provides fans a continuation of these albums and allows them to unlock memories from over a decade ago. The unreleased songs on Taylor’s Version are labeled, “From The Vault.”
Taylor’s Version highlights different production, her mature voice, and most importantly, integral intentions—something Scooter Braun never had. While some may argue that these re-recordings are “bland,” or “sound the same as the originals,” there’s more to these albums than the ear can hear. The albums are a representation of Swift earning her rights back and are a way Swift can own her art, forever and always. They are also a symbol to other musicians fighting the system. “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,” declared Swift. Understanding the story between those parentheses is vital when choosing to stream her previous albums. The re-recordings are her version, not Braun’s, not Borchetta’s, hers. Her chance to begin again. That is how Taylor Swift reclaimed her name.
Picture Source: NME.com/Beth Garrabran
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