On Nov. 12th, singer/songwriter Taylor Swift took a powerful leap in her journey to redeem ownership of her music: the 32-year-old pop star dropped Red (Taylor’s Version), a re-recording of her fourth album. Red (Taylor’s Version) is Swift’s second re-recording of an album, following her April release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version).
In an August 2019 interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Swift announced that she planned to re-record her first six albums. Her decision to do so revolves around an ongoing controversy with celebrity manager Scott “Scooter” Braun, who allegedly intimidated Swift throughout her music career.
Between 2005 and 2018, Swift was signed to Big Machine Records. However, despite her switch to Universal’s Republic Records in late 2018, Big Machine Records maintained ownership over the original recordings of her first six albums. The company was then sold to Ithaca Holdings, a private-entity group owned by Braun.
Swift openly expressed her dissatisfaction with Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta in a Tumblr post.
“Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter. Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to,” Swift said.
In 2019, Braun sold Swift’s music to Shamrock Holdings, another private corporation. Swift pursued legal negotiations with Braun to obtain ownership over her music, but to no avail. She was unable to enter the negotiations because she refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
“My legal team said that this is absolutely NOT normal, and they’ve never seen an NDA like this presented unless it was to silence an assault accuser by paying them off,” Swift said on social media.
According to the singer, the NDA restricted her from making negative commentary against Braun.
Swift has openly expressed a strong opinion regarding an artist’s right to own their creations. Thus, the ongoing conflict surrounding her master recordings has devastated the pop star.
“Hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make,” Swift said in a Tumblr post.
Not only does Red (Taylor’s Version) symbolize an artist’s profound journey towards self-determination, but also flawlessly captures the phenomenon of human heartbreak.
“Musically and lyrically, Red resembled a heartbroken person. It was all over the place, a fractured mosaic of feelings that somehow all fit together in the end,” Swift said over social media.
As the lyrical genius she is, Swift jumps from various themes throughout the album – from the idea of wild freedom in “22” to the concept of doe-eyed romance in “Starlight.” Each song, when cleverly pieced together, distinctly encompasses the journey traveled by a heartbroken lover.
Swift spurred a massive uproar with one specific aspect of the album: its final track. Titled “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version),” the 10 minute masterpiece made a new addition to the album. In the initial 2012 release of Red, Swift included “All Too Well” on the tracklist; however, the song was a condensed version of the original track. The 10-minute edition of “All Too Well,” until recently, was never released to the public – even though it was written about a decade ago.
Along with the release of “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version),” Swift also released a motion picture titled “All Too Well: The Short Film.” The short film serves as an elaborate music video, starring Stranger Things star Sadie Sink and The Maze Runner actor Dylan O’ Brien. The film’s viewer becomes a witness to the landscape of Swift’s memories; the short film follows the path of specific events described in the song, as if Swift is recalling the distinct course of a previous relationship. The viewer watches said relationship unfold, with Sink and O’Brien portraying the film’s two lovers.
The song itself, similarly, radiates poetic brilliance. Swift encapsulates the listener with the sensation of lost love, allowing even the most naive minds to grasp the concept of heartache.
“And you call me up again just to break me like a promise/ So casually cruel in the name of being honest/ I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here/ ‘Cause I remember it all,” Swift sings during the course of the song, accompanied by swelling instrumentals which enchant the audience.
Swift’s fan base – popularly known as ‘Swifties’ – have taken their own liberties with the song. By analyzing clues dropped throughout its lyrics, various fans have concluded that the song revolves around Swift’s ex and actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Swift sings about the struggles of relationship age gaps in the track; similarly, Gyllenhaal and Swift maintained a nine year age gap in their relationship. As a result, Swifties have launched controversial online attacks against the 41-year-old star.
“Just read the lyrics to ‘All Too Well’ 10 min version and I feel GUTTED. How was Jake Gyllenhaal the WORST boyfriend of all time yet still had the AUDACITY to blame their breakup on the age difference???” Twitter user @namverse said.
Despite the issues surrounding Swift’s ex, Red (Taylor’s Version) remains a work of artistic ingenuity. Through the album, Swift establishes authority over her own music – thus uplifting the fight for musician’s rights – while using lyrical finesse to masterfully illustrate a broken heart.