Today Taylor swift re-released her highly anticipated album 1989, this time titled 1989 (Taylor’s Version.) However, while fans are excited for Taylor’s new music, it is a double-edged sword as there is also a lingering sadness watching the unfortunate fate of yet another female artist being forced to fight for what's hers.
1989 (Taylor’s Version) features the same songs from the original version of the album, but rerecorded and reproduced. It also includes five new tracks that have not previously been heard, which are Slut!, Say Don’t Go, Now That We Don’t Talk, Suburban Legends and Is It Over Now?
This album is the fourth of Taylor’s remakes, and each one has opened at number one. In 2021, Swifties went into meltdown over the re-release of her chart-topping album Red which featured re-worked smash-hit’s such as ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and ‘22’. As part of the re-release, she also featured nine never released songs written during the same era as the original album. Within these new songs is ‘All Too Well’ – which is set to be released as a 10-minute short film directed by Swift later today – and has been dubbed by the internet as the ultimate ‘anti-gaslighting anthem.’
However, Taylor was only driven to re-release this album – and her 2008 album Fearless - as part of an effort to regain control of her master tapes. Swift was previously embroiled in a nasty battle over the masters of her music with her ex-label Big Machine Records and ex-manager Scooter Braun from 2019. In a nutshell, Taylor left Big Machine Records (where she recorded her first six albums), then Scooter Braun owned them, which meant he was in control of most of her work. In November 2020, Scooter sold the master rights to Taylor’s first six albums in a deal worth $300 million. Taylor revealed in a statement that she had no say in this deal, which had come as a massive blow as she was also trying to buy them back.
Similarly, singer-songwriter JoJo entered the music scene at the tender age of 13 with her massive hit ‘Leave, Get Out'. For many years controversy swirled around JoJo’s self-titled debut album and second album 'The High Road' after she sued former label Blackground Records and its imprint Da Family Records over a dispute about her recording contract in 2009. The record label was run by Barry Hankerson - they also owned the music of star Aaliyah and Toni Braxton.
JoJo was very open with her fans about the label holding her hostage and refusing to let her release any new music. As a result, JoJo also re-recorded her albums featuring songs from her first two albums. Thankfully JoJo was eventually released from the label and signed a deal with Atlantic - she eventually started releasing albums again.
Pop singer Kesha’s fight was slightly different, and even more heart-breaking. She fought for years to be released from the clutches of producer Dr Luke, who she alleges sexually assaulted her, preventing her from releasing music outside of her deals with him. It resulted in the viral #FreeKesha movement in 2014. Dr Luke has continued to deny the claims. He sued Keesha for defamation and accused her of having fabricated allegations she was raped to get out of the recording contract. A New York state judge ruled against Kesha in 2020 and an appeals court upheld that decision in 2021. This year, it was announced Keesha and Dr Luke reached a settlement after the extended legal battle.
While it is deeply sad that these women have had to re-record hugely successful album in order to get the rights they deserve, there is also power in watching them regain control of their music from men. These re-records shine a bright spotlight on the music industry and where the power lies within it. We are watching an industry that is still unbalanced, leaving women to bare the brunt of these unbalanced scales.
Why is Taylor Swift re-recording her albums?
Taylor first spoke about her intention to record her albums in Summer 2019. This was just after music manager Scooter Braun bought Taylor’s original label for just over $300 million. The sale gave Scooter the rights to all the master recordings for Taylor’s past music, meaning that anyone who wanted to license one of her previous songs to play in a movie, TV show or an ad would have to ask for Scooter’s permission and pay him a licensing fee.
But in an interview with CBS, Taylor explained she had a plan to re-record her back catalogue to control the recordings of her songs. Taylor’s deal with Universal Music’s Republic Records, which she signed in 2018, is thought to give her control of her master recordings but she is still determined the take back ownership of her music by creating new versions of her hits.