Taylor Swift’s re-recordings give new life to old songs

Noa Gilbert

In 2008, Taylor Swift released her sophomore album Fearless to widespread critical acclaim. In 2021, after a series of financial fights over the control of her catalogue, Swift released the rerecorded Fearless, Taylor’s Version. Fearless TV includes the 13 tracks on the original Fearless album, the 6 songs released with the platinum edition, Today Was A Fairytale (originally recorded for the soundtrack of the movie Valentine’s Day), and 6 songs that Swift wrote for Fearless but were cut from the track list. Fearless TV topped the Billboard 200 chart and reached 50 million global streams on its first day on Spotify. 

It is near impossible to tell the 2021 recordings from the 2008 original cuts. The producers on Fearless TV imitated the instrumentation and energy of the original recordings, and Swift even puts a little bit of country twang into her voice. However, Swift’s voice has noticeably matured over the 13 years since Fearless’s original release. Part of the appeal of the original Fearless is the youthful enthusiasm and anger in songs like Forever and Always, Love Story and The Way I Loved You. With Swift’s current vocals, it feels more like a wise adult reminiscing on their teenage experiences than a teenager actually living them. 

When Swift signed a record deal with Big Machine Records at age 14, she agreed to give Big Machine Records the rights to her first six albums. Swift’s contract expired in 2018 and she signed a new deal with Republic Records, one that allowed her to own the rights to every future album she released with them. In summer 2019, Big Machine Records (and the control of her fist six albums) was sold to Scooter Braun. Swift released a statement expressing her anger that her music was sold without her knowledge of the buyer and accusing Big Machine Records and Scooter Braun of bullying. In October 2020, the first six albums were again sold to Shamrock Holdings. Swift said that while she was offered the opportunity to purchase her masters, she would also have to sign an NDA requiring her to not speak publicly about her experiences with Scooter Braun. Swift refused. She later announced her decision to rerecord her first six albums in order to have total creative control over their use. 

Red, Taylor’s Version is set to be released on November 19, 2021. It will include vault tracks, features from Phoebe Bridgers and Chris Stapeleton, and a 10-minute version of All Too Well, often cited as Swift’s best song. It’s fun to hear new versions of old favorite songs, and Swift taking a stand to own her music is an important statement to the music industry. Still, the original tracks hold a lot of sentimental value, and it will be hard to leave them behind.