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Taylor Swift planning to re-record old songs to spite former label

By | Published on Thursday 22 August 2019

Taylor Swift

All the best work is laborious, spiteful and driven by a sense of revenge. So goes the old saying. And so, with that in mind, Taylor Swift is planning to re-record some of her old songs where former label Big Machine still owns the master recordings of the originals.

Although Swift had a long and fruitful relationship with Big Machine and its founder Scott Borchetta – who set up the label in 2005 in order to sign her – things turned somewhat sour, of course, after she signed a new deal with Universal Music in 2018. Then more so when Borchetta sold his record company and its catalogue of recordings to Scooter Braun earlier this year – something she described as her “worst case scenario”.

Swift claimed that Braun has bullied her for years, and that Borchetta knew this, implying that, in part, he’d done the deal to spite her.

Particularly galling was the fact that she had been unable to regain her master rights from Big Machine when attempting to negotiate a new deal with the firm. Which was part of the reason why she left for Universal, where she negotiated a contract allowing her to keep the rights in her future material, starting with upcoming new album ‘Lover’.

After Swift went very public over her anger at the Big Machine deal, and with Borchetta quickly responding online, everyone had an opinion on the whole bust up, one way or another.

Among the social media missiles was a tweet from Kelly Clarkson, who wrote to Swift: “Just a thought, you should go in and re-record all the songs that you don’t own the masters on exactly how you did them, but put brand new art and some kind of incentive so fans will no longer buy the old versions. I’d buy all of the new versions just to prove a point”.

Now it seems that Swift is actually planning to do this. At least that what she suggests in a new interview with ‘CBS Sunday Morning’, set to air this weekend. On Sunday morning, in fact.

“Might you do that?” asks interviewer Tracy Smith, referencing Clarkson’s plan.

“Oh yeah”, Swift says.

“That’s a plan?” Smith asks.

“Yeah, absolutely”, Swift says.

I mean, that’s literally it, but she definitely says it’s “a plan”. I think that’s good enough, isn’t it? I think we can assume it’s definitely happening. Unless her deal with Big Machine scuppers it – many record deals place specific limitations on re-records for a set time period to avoid exactly this happening.

Assuming such limitations do not apply, it would be interesting to see if Big Machine and their lawyers could find any other legal technicalities to stop such a re-record plan. I mean, trying to do so would be kinda petty and vindictive. So I’m guessing they will.

And even if there are no legal problems, there are other potential issues. She would not be the first artist to go down this route. Some – like Simply Red and Cracker – chose to record new versions of older songs, but if you really want to put the knife in, you’re going to need to try to recreate the originals. That poses its own challenges.

When Def Leppard set about making “forgeries” of some of their early hits, frontman Joe Elliott admitted that hitting the high notes his 22 year old self recorded 30 years previously proved challenging. In the case of Swift, she’s potentially going to have to find a way of sounding like a fifteen year old, which might be a taller order.

But maybe she won’t be aiming for perfect copies. Maybe she’s just going to knock out a load of quick acoustic versions of her hits, like Willie Nelson’s ‘The IRS Tapes’ album (recorded to pay a tax bill, rather than spite a label). But I think the real thing we should be talking about here is that I just got about 650 words out of an eleven word section of an interview.

Speaking of words, elsewhere in Taylor Swift news, she has apparently removed the “hey kids, spelling is fun!” spoken word bit of lead ‘Lover’ single ‘Me!’ from the version on streaming services. Which is good. Although she could really improve the new album by dumping that track altogether.