Taylor Swift’s re-recording of her sophomore album, “Fearless”, is her latest push to make the music industry a better place, especially for vulnerable artists. Swift is hardly the first artist to face devastation at the hands of their record label, but she might very well be the first one to fight it so openly. What the public views as a catfight between high-profile celebrities is essentially a battle for her life’s work; the very work that the media continues to claim is too personal. In between slut-shaming her, the public continues to claim that Swift is a money-hungry vulture who masterminded every controversy surrounding her in order to increase profits.
It is completely beside the point to argue that Swift does not need the extra money from her rerecordings – what she is doing is setting a precedent.
She has expressed her belief that artists should have the rights to their work, or at least be given the opportunity to buy them back at market value, and she is acting on it. It may not make a huge financial difference for Swift, but it could mean the world for a struggling artist—just like her groundbreaking work in pushing Spotify and Apple Music to pay artists more. Even back then, she was one of few big-name artists who took a stance and stuck to it. At every step, Swift has pushed to make the music industry a better place. Somehow, society has normalized punishing Taylor Swift just for being herself and telling her truth.
This anti-Taylor sentiment peaked in 2016, with the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty. Coming off of an iconic high with her album 1989, the public decided that they had enough of Swift and turned on her rapidly. Between her new feud with the Kardashian-West clan and her breakup with Calvin Harris and subsequent rebound with Tom Hiddleston, the media frenzy was out for blood.
In her Netflix documentary about this tumultuous time period, “Miss Americana”, Swift shares her struggles with an eating disorder, the invasive media coverage of her life, her legal sexual assault battle, and her battle to speak out for what she believed in politically. Each and every one of these issues brought an avalanche of criticism onto her, not to mention the casual sexism she has been forced to endure throughout most of her career. Buried under all of this, Swift was at the cusp of becoming a relic of the past.
And yet she didn’t. Swift pushed back, reinventing herself once again with the edgy “Reputation”. Despite claims that she was no longer relatable, Swift went on to put together a visually stunning stadium tour that made millions. All this to say that Swift is no stranger to the crowds turning on her.
The latest disparagement surrounding Swift’s re-recordings probably won’t be enough to deter this talented and hard-working artist, but just because Swift doesn’t let the mud-slinging drag her down doesn’t mean that it’s harmless. There is nothing cool about undermining a driven artist who is putting themself on the line in order to pave the way for future generations.
It’s inevitable that Swift will go down in history as one of the defining artists of this generation; it’s time for the public to get behind her. Even people who think they don’t like Swift’s music should really check out her “Fearless” re-recordings — Taylor’s discography is truly wide enough to please everyone. Swift has always been both a talented artist and one who is working to make the industry a better place; she never disappoints, and it’s about time we stopped letting her down.
Art by Nicholas Regli for the UC San Diego Guardian.