The importance of Taylor Swift releasing a 2021 recording of her 2008 hit Love Story is not in the track itself, but what it means for the future. This is the first track in a journey that Swift has been on for years, which Swifties like me have been following along with her. So, this track is probably the most important track Taylor Swift has released in the past 10 years.
I love the track, but we will get to that later. Like everything on Prime Time Jukebox, we need a history lesson first. Taylor recorded her first six records (pretty much everything up until 2019) on Big Machine Records. At the time, Taylor was looking for a label to give her a chance and Big Machine was there and gave her a platform to release some of the most important pop / country records of the past 15 – 20 years. However, music industry big wig Scooter Braun bought Big Machine for roughly $300 million in order to own Taylor’s masters.
Now, owning an artist’s masters is a big deal. This limits Swift’s ability to remix anything, control how they are used and make money off of them. Moreover, owning an artist’s masters is like owning their voice and their story, which is quite personal. Understandably, she wanted control of them, but Scooter fought her at every turn and a lengthy series of court battles ensued. Now, Taylor Swift is someone you do not want to fuck with. She does not take shit from people like Scooter Braun and does not let pesky things like court rulings stand in her way. If she couldn’t own the masters from Big Machine, which includes unreleased tracks that did not make the record, she said that she was going to re – record them herself.
So, Tylor set off on re-recording her first six or so records in order to get control of her masters and control her art. Over the years, Taylor has been more involved in the entire recording process. For example, on folklore and Evermore she wrote songs, collaborated on production and even collaborated on the art design. Me and other Swift fans followed this story closely and wondered when these re-recordings would drop and what they would look like. In fact, when there were whispers about Swift recording over the pandemic we thought she would release the first of her re-recorded albums. Instead, we got folklore and that turned out to be the best record she ever created. Then Evermore dropped and we thought “Man, these records are amazing and I’m going to create a series of stained glass windows depicting how these records changed music history and place them in my Taylor Swift church, so I can properly praise these works of art.”
Ok, maybe I was the only one who thought that. Seriously though, most people thought we were years off from the re-recordings after such a creative explosion. I mean, I need a nap after mowing the lawn, let alone after putting together two critically acclaimed records with some of the hottest bands out there. But to our surprise, she was also working on the re – recordings and Fearless (Taylor’s Version) will drop in April! I guess I have to get working on some more windows.
The track itself shows how Swift has evolved as an artist. Love Story (Taylor’s Version) remains true to the original lyrically and structurally. However, the changes illustrate how Swift has gained a mastery of her sound and of instrumentation. Musically, the track is tighter with an inviting warmth that rings more of wisdom over the years since 2008, than her idealistic teenage pop 13 years ago. At the time, Love Song was written as an imaginary future where Taylor would look back at her relationships from a different perspective. Now, she has lived that life and these future tense lyrics have additional depth and meaning. Swift underlines this with a wistful slowed down and full vocal sound, as opposed to the sharp pop staccato in the 2008 version. She stretches some of the words out, which creates an emotive space you can dive into. For me, this track packs more emotional punch both musically and lyrically.
Swift’s Love Song (Taylor’s Version) is not simply a track, but her personal statement of agency and freedom. You can hear in her voice that she is breaking free of all the court battles, multinationals and rich male music mogul bullshit to show you her true self. The re – recordings are not simply about owning masters, but about owning her story. It is self – actualisation in musical form. To underline this point Taylor stamps “Taylor’s Version” on her tracks to highlight that this is her voice, this is her story and no one can own that. This is not just a track, but the first step in owning her voice. What’s musical is personal. Ownership is power…and I am hyped to listen to all of it.
Listen to Love Song (Taylor’s Version)