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The reclaiming of Taylor Swift: a living music legend

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Yesterday, it was revealed that Taylor Swift has scored her eighth consecutive number one album in the UK. 

Taylor Swift has been a household name since the release of her first hit single ‘Tim McGraw’ in 2006. In her fifteen-plus years active after shooting into the spotlight, she has left a glittering trail of albums, eps and singles in her wake as she cruises her way through the Milky Way of the music industry. Taylor Swift’s discography is extensive, but from last year her number of new releases has rocketed with two brand new albums Folklore and Evermore dropping in 2020 and the re-recorded versions of her previous albums, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in April of this year and Red (Taylor’s Version) on November 12th. 

The reason behind her process of re-recording is a result of Taylor leaving her original recording company Big Machine, and the record label then being purchased by Scooter Braun. Taylor knew that her masters (the original recordings of her songs) would be sold on after she left Big Machine, however it was soon made clear that Scooter Braun was the very last person Taylor would ever wish to hold the rights to her records. Taylor explained what this new ownership meant for her in her Instagram post in 2019, describing “the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years.” stating “Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter.” In her desperate attempts to buy her music back, Scooter’s team offered Taylor a non-disclosure agreement. She could purchase her music if she stated to never speak negatively of Scooter again. Give up her voice, to get back her music. Taylor refused, and later announced her decision that sent her fanbase into rapture, that she will be re-recording and releasing her first six albums, with additional tracks ‘From The Vault’ of original songs that didn’t make the original albums. 

There has been a continuous buzz of excitement since Taylor’s announcement and the drop of her first re-recorded album Fearless (Taylor’s Version). This month the eagerly awaited Red (Taylor’s Version) was also released. Taylor originally broke the Beatles 54-year record of having three consecutive albums at no. 1 within 364 days when she reached three consecutive number one albums within 259 days. That record was only broken in April, and now seven months later she is celebrating UK no.1 album number eight.  It feels as though Taylor’s newly released music has enveloped the listening world in an inspirational and empowering embrace. Her decision to re-record and reclaim her art couldn’t be getting better recognition by professional critics, famous music icons, and Swift’s own fan base. 

Speaking in her 2020 Netflix documentary Miss Americana, Taylor explains that:

“Everybody in music has their own sort of niche speciality thing that they do that sets them apart from everybody else. And my storytelling is what it is for me. I know that without me writing my songs I wouldn’t be here.”  

Taylor recognises that the personal nature of her lyrical narratives is what sets her apart from a lot of current music artists in the industry. Having a great voice is one thing but pairing that with songs the artist has written for themselves, from themselves adds a deeper dimension to their art. Authenticity is not something that can be forced or falsified, it must be felt. 

“There is an element to my fan base where we feel like we grew up together. I’ll be going through something, write the album about it, and then it’ll come out, and sometimes it’ll just coincide with what they’re going through. Kind of like they’re reading my diary.” 

Taylor’s lyrics derive from her physical and metaphorical diaries. Every song reflects a real experience which to capture, she must mine into her deepest sense of self. Not only does she explore the caves closest to her that most people block off from public view, but she then releases thoughts that she finds from the shadows into a bright, criticising world. The personal nature of her songwriting showcases her vulnerability, a trait that creates loyal attachments between a fanbase and an artist. When talking in her most recent interview with Jimmy Fallon, Taylor spoke about the dynamic between her and her fans, “I really care about their opinions and their theories and their teasing and their mocking and their joking. It’s all from a very loving place.” Taylor has created a fanbase over the years that feels like home, a comparison that I think most ‘Swifites’ will attest to. Taylor has been constantly interacting with fans since her joining of Tik Tok this year, directly liking, commenting, and sharing video content from fans’ accounts.

 “I really do feel like I know them really well. I go online, I look at what they think about things.” 

The release of one particular track from Red (Taylor’s Version) proves just how well Taylor knows and listens to her fans. ‘All too well’ is a shared favourite of Taylor and her fans, often hailed as her greatest break-up anthem. When Taylor revealed that the original version was ten minutes long compared to the five-minute narrative so passionately chanted at her stadium tours, those extra minutes were cried out for. All Too Well (10 minute version) is now included in Red (Taylor’s Version) along with the release of a 15 minute short film inspired by the song. The film is written, directed and stars Taylor Swift. All Too Well: The Short Film has been available to watch on YouTube for one week and already has 42 million views and counting. Proving exactly how interlinked and focused Taylor is on giving her fan’s exactly what they want through Taylor’s chosen approach (which have only ever met or exceeded expectations). I cannot imagine the success Taylor would have entering the realm of feature-length film after this directorial debut. After viewing her short film, I would go a step further to say it is her creative commitment as an individual and her visual eye that sets Taylor apart from other music creators, in addition to her storytelling. Somehow Taylor has managed to elevate her lyrical world to new heights that now makes for the ultimate immersive listening experience. 

At the end of Miss Americana Taylor admits, “As I’m reaching thirty, I want to work really hard while society is still tolerating me being successful.” This confession resonates within the lyrics of one of her new Red (Taylor’s Version) songs ‘From The Vault’ titled ‘Nothing New’ (featuring Phoebe Bridgers). “Lord, what will become of me once I’ve lost my novelty?” “It’s like I can feel time moving”, “And will you still want me when I’m nothing new?” Famed for her addictive vocal bridges, rich imagery, relatable lyrics, and a personality you can’t help but feel drawn to, even Taylor Swift has self-doubts. This is exactly why I don’t think she should worry about her audience becoming bored of her. By letting us in through her music, Taylor has allowed her audience to recognise parts of themselves in her. Such a personal tie is not easily undone, especially if formed over years of listening to her songs. Even through multiple eras of reinvention, public scrutiny and a complete genre move from country into pop, Taylor has not lost her authenticity. If anything, her hardships within the music industry alongside the navigation of her personal life in the public eye have only caused Taylor to take her talent and passion for songwriting and creative performance to new heights. By now she’s above the stratosphere, and I don’t see her success rate falling anytime soon, nor do I think it ever should.

One thing is certain, Taylor Swift’s journey is that of a living music legend. She is creating her lyrical legacy that will live on far past our current generations. Taylor Swift’s undeniable impact on the music industry is here for all to witness and we will remember it, all too well. 

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