Taylor Swift has dominated pop music again this year, perhaps more than ever before. Not only did she release two (!) albums by complete surprise, she also helped to expose the grimy and underhand ways in which executives can screw over artists. After her masters for every album she released up until 2019's Lover were sold without her notification (and later sold again), the world learned that no amount of fame, reach or wealth can protect an artist from outside forces messing with their art.
Never one to sit idly by, Swift accepted her circumstances and found a solution: re-record every album she no longer owns. That's 2006's Taylor Swift, 2008's Fearless, 2010's Speak Now, 2012's Red, 2014's 1989 and 2017's reputation. Seven old albums that Swift now gets the chance to make new once again.
Make no mistake, this is a huge deal. This is the first time our generation has seen a task like this undertaken by such a visible pop artist. So, we've got some questions to pose to Taylor to get an idea of how exactly she's going to pull such a mammoth task off – and what the re-recordings mean for our longtime favourite Swift tracks.
Will Swift Force Her 2020 Self To Sound More Like Her Younger Self For Consistency's Sake?
The biggest challenge Swift faces with these re-recordings is that she's not the person she was when she made any of those albums. She's aged, her Southern accent has completely disappeared and her voice has deepened dramatically. These re-recordings are going to sound different to the original versions purely on that basis alone.
But will Taylor try her hardest to replicate herself to keep longtime fans of the songs happy? We've already heard a snippet of the new version of "Love Story" and, while it's markedly different, it's still too early to tell the route she's going to take with her re-recordings overall. But, if there's anything good in this world, she won't resist her voice's natural progression.
Taylor opened up a little on the topic recently during an interview with Good Morning America, too. "[So far] I think it's been the most fun [re-recording] 'Love Story.' Because the older music, my voice was so teenaged and sometimes when I hear my older music and my older, young teenage voice, it makes me feel like I'm a different singer now. And so it's been the most fun to go back and re-record ones that I feel like I can actually, possibly improve upon the song. So that's been a really amazing, fun adventure," she said.
Swift will have to pull out all the cards to encourage her non-diehard fans to listen to these albums as opposed to the originals, and embracing how life and experience has changed her voice is a clear first step in making sure they do.
If Taylor Swift Spots Improvements That Could Be Made To Her Songs, Will She Make Them In The Re-recordings?
Taylor Swift is 31 years old. Her first album came out when she was 17. She's almost twice the age she was when she first started making commercial music. Besides the vocal changes, she's no doubt wiser, more weathered and creatively mature than 14 years ago. Not every song she's ever written is perfect – and we're sure that Taylor knows that. So, if she thinks a song can be improved, will she improve it?
There are pros and cons to tweaking the originals. The pro is obvious: the song will be improved. New life will be breathed into a song that otherwise may have fallen by the wayside in Taylor's storied legacy. Fans who were too young to process Taylor's earlier work get the chance to rediscover old songs along with veteran Swifties. Making changes to songs could be a real unifying experience among one of the world's fiercest fandoms.
However, the major con is that any 'improvements' could do a disservice to that very fandom. Taylor obviously has the right to do whatever she wants with her re-recordings, but there's a chance she could alienate some fans by changing the songs too much. If one fan has a special connection to "Fifteen" as it stands, for example, and then Swift severs that connection by transforming the song, that fan is then left in a conundrum: they either listen to the new version they dislike, or listen to the old version that they love even though it directly supports the same people that screwed Taylor over in the first place.
Will We Get Unreleased Songs As Part Of The New Album Releases?
There must be thousands of songs that Taylor has written through the various album sessions that never made it onto a final tracklist. In fact, extensive lists exist online of the unreleased songs that we allegedly do know about. But, seeing as she's been given this pretty rare opportunity, it feels amiss to not at least deliver some of Taylor's favourite beloved unreleased tracks as a little bonus. Obviously, shoving them into an official album tracklist would mess with the integrity of each record as they stand, but offering them as bonus tracks could be a little treat to her fans.
Exclusive new releases will only serve to benefit Swift in the long-run. Someone who enjoys Swift's music, and isn't deeply immersed in the politics of the industry, is going to listen to "Blank Space" regardless of whose pocket it lines. But, offering new tracks from each album's old sessions is a huge incentive for laissez-faire fans to dive into these new records, while still getting access to the old songs they love so much. This'll deter streams away from the original versions.
Will These New Albums Be Put On Streaming Services At All?
The music industry is at a crucial point. After a year that has seen musicians en masse lose more money than ever, and countless furloughs among the millions of others that keep the show running behind the scenes, streaming giant Spotify has come under fire for how little royalties it pays artists per stream: reportedly just US$0.00348, a truly abysmal amount.
Swift is one of the industry's most powerful artists. She's previously called out streaming services for their lack of respect for artists via their crummy payment schemes. She literally got Apple Music to pay royalties to artists during streams made in users' free trial periods. While her relationship with streaming services in recent years has been conflicting and volatile, with these re-recordings Taylor Swift has the opportunity to once again make waves for the benefit of all artists.
By withholding these re-recordings from Spotify in particular, she can influence her very large and very dedicated fanbase to move to platforms that pay artists a slightly fairer rate, or invest in physical copies. Not only does this put more money in her pocket, but it takes it right out of Spotify's. In fact, the loss for the streaming service could be so great that they might consider upping their royalty rate.
Of course, the responsibility to reform an entire industry isn't Swift's and Swift's alone. But if there's a chance she could spark a streaming revolution, why shouldn't she take it?
Are ANY Changes Being Made To "All Too Well" And If So, Please Reconsider.
Don't fuck with perfection, Swift.
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