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Revisiting 1989: Taylor Swift’s Musical Time Machine in “Taylor’s Version”

Taylor Swift, Spotify’s No.1 Global Artist, recently reclaimed her birth year, 1989, by re-recording the 2014 album that first branded her as a pop artist. Through 1989 (Taylor’s Version), the week of October 27, 2023 marked the biggest opening sales week of her career, reaching a high of 1.6 million copies purchased in the first week alone. Through re-recording her album as a new “Taylor’s Version,” Swift transports listeners back to the pop sensation that is 1989 and reasserts her ownership over the album. 

In 2019, American entrepreneur and music executive Scooter Braun purchased ownership of Swift’s first six albums that she released through Big Machine Records: her self-titled debut Taylor Swift, Fearless, Red, Speak Now, 1989 and Reputation. Through a deal with Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Big Machine Records — Swift’s previous label that had ownership over her music — Braun bought the master recordings of Swift’s albums, gaining control over all six albums. 

Swift, however, did not hear about this act until the rest of the world did — when Braun and Borchetta’s deal was publicized. After publicly slamming the business deal with a detailed post on Tumblr, Swift called it her “worst case scenario,” and claimed she had faced “incessant, manipulative bullying.”

Said Swift during her Aug. 22, 2019 appearance on Good Morning America, “I think artists deserve to own their own work.”  On GMA, she announced her plan to re-record all six of her stolen albums. 

“Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy,” Swift said. “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.” It was then that she became a symbol of resilience and determination for young artists everywhere. 

Swift would go on to leave Big Machine Records and start her own production company, Taylor Swift Productions. Through this company, Swift signed a deal with Republic Records and Universal Music Group, with the clause that she would have full ownership of any music she released with Republic Records.

As a young woman in a vastly growing music industry, Swift seeked approval from her audience and did not expect to be stripped of her life’s work in the way that Braun and Borchetta did. The act of re-releasing her albums not only encouraged other female artists that were taken advantage of, but showed the truth behind what went on behind the scenes when getting exploited. Swift showed that choosing to re-release these albums is a step against the common act of taking advantage of young artists in the industry.

Marking the start of the “Taylor’s Version” era, Swift released Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in April of 2021. “I’ve spoken a lot about why I’m remaking my first six albums but the way I’ve chosen to do this will hopefully help illuminate where I’m coming from,” she wrote in the album’s prologue. “Artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work.” 

Taylor Swift went on to release Red (Taylor’s Version) in November 2021 and Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) in July earlier this year. On Aug. 9, 2023, Swift announced that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) would be released in October. It had the biggest debut for any album since Adele’s 25 released eight years ago, securing 176 million streams on Spotify within a week of its release — the most in a single week out of all four re-recordings. 

Through her re-recordings, Taylor Swift connects to young fans and shows them that during the worst of times, anyone can come back stronger than a 90s trend.

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Scarlett Guy, Writer

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