When Taylor Swift’s back catalogue was bought in June 2019 by Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings, the superstar almost immediately announced she would re-record her first five albums in an attempt to regain control of her music.
“I think that artists deserve to own their work,” she said. “I feel very passionate about that.”
According to the terms of her recording contract, she was allowed to start re-making those records last November.
We heard a snippet of her UK breakthrough single Love Story in December – and now the star says she’s finished work on the album it came from, Fearless.
Originally released in 2008, it won album of the year at the Grammys, the Country Music Association Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards.
It’s also her only record to be certified diamond in the US, representing 10 million sales.
But rather than making a simple facsimile of the original, Swift has decided to go back and add extra songs “from the vault” to the new version.
“My version of Fearless will have 26 songs on it because I’ve decided to add songs… that almost made the original album,” she said on ABC’s Good Morning America programme.
“So everyone will be able to hear not only the songs that made the album but the songs that almost made it. The full picture.”
The star said the full version of Love Story would be released at midnight on Friday, 12 February – exactly 12 years and five months after the original.
She didn’t announce the release date for the album – but hinted it would arrive in April in a coded message on her social media accounts.
The 31-year-old posted a long essay about the record, written entirely in lower case except for the letters APRIL NINTH.
Swift described the album as “the diary of the adventures and explorations of a teenage girl who was learning tiny lessons with every new crack in the facade of the fairytale ending she’d been shown in the movies.”
Discussing her decision to re-record her music, she added: “Artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work.
“For example, only I know which songs I wrote that almost made the Fearless album. Songs I absolutely adored, but were held back for different reasons (don’t want too many break-up songs, don’t want too many down-tempo songs, can’t that fit that many songs on a physical CD).
“Those reasons seem unnecessary now. I’ve decided I want you to have the whole story.”
Swift added that the process of recording her old songs had been “more fulfilling and emotional than I could have imagined, and has made me even more determined to re-record all of my music”.
The star will have complete control over the new recordings – unlike the originals. Those master tapes were sold to Ithaca Holdings in 2019, then again to investment company Shamrock Holdings last year.
That means Shamrock receives money when songs like Shake It Off, I Knew You Were Trouble and Love Story are sold, streamed or placed in films and TV shows.
Swift, as the writer or co-writer of her music, still owns the publishing rights, which means she has power to veto some attempts to exploit her recordings.
Speaking to Billboard magazine in 2019, she said she had turned down “dozens of requests” for the use of Shake It Off every week since Braun had bought her back catalogue.
In future, it is likely that she will only licence the new versions to TV shows, movies and video games. Whether fans prefer to stream the originals or the re-recordings remains to be seen – but completists will want to own both versions.
Swift’s announcement caps off a busy 12 months. As well as revamping Fearless, she has created two albums of new music – Folklore and Evermore – the first of which has been nominated for album of the year at the Grammys.