Technology

1989 (Taylor’s Version): Why Taylor Swift is rerecording all her old songs


Taylor Swift has just announced she’ll be rerecording 1989. In true Swiftian fashion, she announced it on August 9, the ninth day of the eighth month, during a performance at her sold-out Eras tour.

Swift began releasing her rerecorded music in April 2021, when she dropped Fearless (Taylor’s Version), a new take on her 2008 sophomore outing. It was followed by Red (Taylor’s Version), released in October of the same year, which drew its buzz from the release of a new 10-minute-long version of Swift’s classic “All Too Well.” In July of this year, she dropped Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), a new take on her 2010 third album. With 1989, she’ll be returning to one of her most critically acclaimed albums, which arguably cemented her transition from crossover teen sensation to full-fledged adult artist.

The whole process began, though, back in 2019. That’s when the news broke that Swift’s old record label — Big Machine Records, which she left in 2018 — had been sold to music megamanager Scooter Braun. The sale gave Braun the rights to all the master recordings for Swift’s old music, meaning that anyone who wanted to license one of Swift’s old songs to play in a TV show or movie or an ad would have to ask for Braun’s permission and pay him a licensing fee. And given that Braun used to work with sworn Taylor Swift enemy Kanye West, Swift was devastated. In an emotional Tumblr post, she called the news “my worst case scenario.”

Not long afterward, in an interview with CBS’s Tracy Smith, Swift said that she planned to sidestep Braun by rerecording everything in the songbook that he now owns, meaning all the songs she had released prior to her August 2019 album Lover.

When Swift switched over to Republic Records in the fall of 2018, she negotiated to own the master rights to all the music she creates going forward. So by rerecording her old songbook with Republic Records, she will own the copyright to all of the new recordings. The move would give licensers the option to work directly with Swift and her team rather than go through Braun. And that, in turn, would allow Swift to reclaim some command over her music and how it’s used.

While rerecording her old masters, Swift kept busy throughout the pandemic. In 2020, she surprise-dropped two new albums: July’s Folklore and December’s Evermore. And now she has three of her earlier albums back out in the world on her own terms.

Update, August 10, 10:45 am ET: This story was originally published on February 9, 2021, and has been updated multiple times, most recently to include information about the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version).