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Taylor Swift's Re-Recordings: A Fight for Feminism

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

Written by: Zaria Adnan, 25090021


Taylor Swift re-recording her first 6 albums is not a money move, as many critics claim. It is a fight for property rights. However, it is much more than just that; it is a fight for feminism.


 

Why is Swift Re-Recording Her Music?


The singer started out in the music industry in 2005 with Big Machine Records. As with most record labels, Big Machine owned Swift's albums even when she shifted to Universal Records in 2018.


Swift had made it clear that she wanted to purchase her albums' masters off from Big Machine as she believes that artists should have the right to own their own music. In fact, she has written each and every song on those 6 albums. However, Big Machine sold the masters to a private equity firm, called Ithaca Holdings, for $300 million without Swift's knowledge in 2019.


Ithaca Holdings is owned by Scooter Braun, Swift's former manager as well as the current manager of pop stars such as Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Kanye West. Because the firm legally owns the original recordings of Swift's first 6 albums, she does not receive any money from streams or purchases. This is quite ironic as she is the mastermind behind those songs and albums, not Braun nor any other businessman.


 

Why are the Re-Recordings an Act of Feminism?


The entire record label and equity firm debacle can be termed as "new sexism" against Swift, in sociologist Rosalind Gill's terms. The issue stretches beyond the general sexism that women face in the music industry, such as limited opportunities, representation through the male gaze, or restricted genres. Taylor Swift has very clearly risen above these mentioned issues and is one of the highest-grossing artists of this generation. However, it seems that the music industry has come up with newer, more creative mechanisms to limit women's participation, like Swift's record label selling her music's rights to an equity firm without her consent.


Therefore, re-recording those 6 albums is a power move as it is retaliation to the new sexism. It puts the power back into Swift's hands, as the re-recordings of her albums Fearless and Red have significantly reduced streams and purchases of the originals, which are owned by Braun. Now, Swift can own the music she herself wrote and earn from it, and her fans can listen to her older work guilt-free too!


Additionally, female artists who are new to the music industry, such as Olivia Rodrigo have made it clear that they will ensure that they own the rights to their music. So, apart from reclaiming her own music, Swift has opened similar opportunities for her fellow female colleagues in the industry who may have otherwise struggled to take a stand for themselves.




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It's really cool how you applied the "new sexism" debate to such a contemporary example, and something so relevant to us today as well. Wanted to add that you're seeing similar fights for feminism when it comes to other female artists and their work too. For instance, the somewhat controversial Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion song, "WAP". A lot of women are seeing the song as a reclamation of the female body, because it shows female artists taking control of, and vocalizing their sexuality and sexual lives. In countries like Pakistan, you don't see that happening a lot. Sexual activity is considered taboo in our country right from the bat, so let's take America's example. The reason this song…

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I agree about the sex-positive feminism argument that you mentioned. Nobody in the music industry would've questioned even once if two male singers had sung about their sexual desires and needs; honestly, most songs revolve around just that and nobody bats an eye. However, the moment two of the most popular women in the current music scene feel empowered enough to sing a song like WAP, all hell breaks loose.

We can really see the hypocrisy here!

Additionally, yes, similar fights for feminism are occurring in the music industry. Another comment on this post talks about the "Free Britney" campaign, which I believe is very relevant.

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What's actually really interesting about this whole situation is the change that is reflected in Swift's music. With "Lover" being her first album outside of Big Machine Records, the artist has somehow found herself in her art. I think this somewhat ties into our class discussion about contextualization as well, Swift's situation has transitioned into her music through modes she herself is now comfortable in. In her recent Jimmy Fallon Interview she mentioned how she has artistic freedom with singles she wanted to put out. In music videos as well, with the videos of "Cardigan" and "Willow" you can point out the styling efforts were done to a woman's comfort rather than for the male-lead label. The best example of…

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Yes! She really is making music that she likes, without the pressure of BMR and its male-dominated owners. Even her recent collaborations with Big Red Machine on their two songs -Birch and Renegade- really explore her artistic freedom. It is important to note that neither of the two songs are famous as they do not fit into the current popular genres. A few years ago, Swift featuring on such a song or collaborating with lesser-known artists was a rarity. One can deduce that she now collaborates on such projects because , as you mentioned, she has found her artistic voice that extends beyond trends or popularity.

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Taylor Swift rerecording her previous albums and especially releasing the Red album and renaming it "Taylor's version" to me seems like not just a move to regain the possession of copyright terms but also to regain possession of her musical identity and debase the control that her record label, and Scooter Braun, have had over her music despite having no contribution to it. Mostly Taylor is also reclaiming her narrative that has been up for public debate and ridicule since she entered the industry at the age of 15. Her songs and her music was always demeaned for being over dramatic, sexist jokes were made about her dating life and she was reduced to jokes about breakup songs after every…

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I completely agree, we can also see that this backlash is just irrational dislike masked as criticisms in the way that there are so many male artists who draw inspiration from their lives. We famously know that Drake and artists like The Weeknd have written whole albums about heartbreak and some of their most famous songs like ‘Call out my name’ and ‘Doing it wrong’ are sad songs about breakups. But while their songs are lauded for being raw and emotionally real and they’re praised for being lyrical genius’s, Taylor is not met with the same enthusiasm. Her songs are seen as those liked by teenage girls and really every artist that teenage girls like just by association of them…

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It's sad to see how many layers of oppression women in this society go through in order to make a name for themselves. I would look at this rerecording through the capitalist lens which have dominated our society. It is quite sad to see how these companies are able to own someone else’s work and continue to make profits off of it meanwhile the actual owner don't have a say in it. The neoliberal pursuit of profit and privatization could be seen through this example. The artists are exploited by these big firms under the guise of exposure and opportunities. However, the reality is similar to the phenomenon that you have described as an artist is unable to own the…

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I think your point really resonates with our class discussion about the film, "Eik Hai Nigar." That film showcases the glass ceiling perfectly,i.e., the social barrier preventing women from being promoted to higher-level jobs. The idea portrayed is that women can also join the army and rise to a rank usually reserved for men....but only in the Medical Corp because, well, women are supposed to be caregivers, be it at home, the hospital, or the army!!! Fortunately, I said this sarcastically but the majority of the Pakistani population truly believes this.


This links to Taylor Swift's masters' issue because her existence as one of the highest-grossing, popular, and record-breaking artists of all time depicts this image that women truly can…

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