At midnight on April 9, Taylor Swift fans around the world could be found belting along to hits like “Love Story” and “You Belong with Me,” just like any other night since the initial release of the album “Fearless” in 2008. Only this time, for the first time ever, the songs they were listening to were completely owned by the artist.
In 2019, a controversial feud broke out between 11-time Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter, Taylor Swift, and record executive Scooter Braun. The feud began after Braun purchased the masters to Swift’s complete music catalogue for over $300 million. While Swift no longer owns the master recordings of her songs, she still owns the artistic content — a loophole that has allowed her to re-record her own versions of her first six albums.“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is the re-recorded version of Swift’s second studio album, and includes six songs “From the Vault,” which she wrote as a teenager for the original album, but were cut from the tracklist. These previously unheard songs allow listeners to travel back in time as they combine Swift’s emotional lyrics about her high school woes with the catchy pop production that has become characteristic of her recent music. Songs like “Hey Stephen” and “Untouchable” have benefitted from Swift’s artistic growth, while others like “Tell Me Why” need that country accent, lively banjo strumming and hint of nostalgia that only the original recordings can satisfy.
To most listeners, the twenty re-recorded songs sound almost identical to the originals, other than the occasional change in the instrumentals or a difference in vocal inflection. Diehard fans, however, will recognize a true maturation in Swift’s vocal performance from the breathy, country twang that once dominated her songs to a stronger and more mellow tone that reflects on her lyrics with the wisdom that she’s gained over the years.
In the fight for ownership of her own music, Swift seems to have won this round. Now it’s time for listeners to prepare themselves for five more “Taylor’s Versions” as the battle continues.