Why 2021 Will Be Taylor Swift’s Biggest Year Yet
Celebrations were in order on November 1, with fans across the globe voicing their support for Taylor Swift, and #TaylorIsFree quickly began trending on social media.
Fourteen years after she signed with Big Machine Records, Taylor is now free of her contractual obligations and can legally re-record her old music catalogue. This includes all-time classics, such as You Belong With Me, Romeo and Juliet, and Love Story.
Since announcing that she would be doing just that earlier this year, we got our first glimpse of the new recordings when Love Story made its debut as the soundtrack for match.com’s latest advert, which features Ryan Reynolds.
While the singer recently shut down rumours that a third surprise album is also in the works – after she dropped Folklore and Evermore with less than 12 hours’ warning – we have wagered that 2021 will undoubtedly see more of Taylor’s re-recorded masters. To quote her directly, the decision to re-record her masters feels very much like a ‘f*ck you forever’ to music mogul Scooter Braun, who she has been feuding with for a number of years.
In June 2019, Braun bought Big Machine Records for a whopping $300 million, a move that Taylor described as her ‘worst case scenario’ in a Tumblr post, in which she branded Braun an ‘incessant, manipulative bully’.
Long story short, Taylor had been trying to gain ownership of her masters for years. But after Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta – ‘someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept’ – sold them to Braun, this became somewhat impossible, as per Taylor’s post.
‘Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it,’ she said, adding, ‘Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine the buyer would be Scooter.’
She would later reveal in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that the feud was the precipice for Mad Woman and My Tears Ricochet, on which she directly references her departure from Big Machine Records: ‘And when you can’t sleep at night … You hear my stolen lullabies.’
In November, Taylor revealed that her music had been sold for a second time without her knowledge; Braun had sold her masters to investment fund Shamrock Capital for $300 million, and will continue to profit off her old music catalogue for many years.
Despite the loss of her masters, it seems the singer has made peace with her past. Taking us back to the woods, she dropped Folklore this summer with little warning to her fans. The album – much more mellow than some of her previous work and a perfect encapsulant of Taylor’s ability to tell great stories – has an intense focus on imagery, such as ‘the tree swing in the woods of [her] childhood’ or the ‘cardigan that still bears the scent of loss 20 years later’.
This was closely followed by a sister album, Evermore, which paints even more vivid narratives of new characters as they lose, find, and then lose each other again throughout the album. Released without the typical buildup that came before her previous work, Taylor said it was something she has ‘never done before’.
‘In the past I’ve always treated albums as one-off eras and moved onto planning the next one after an album was released. But, to put it plainly, we just couldn’t stop writing songs,’ she explained.
On Evermore she gives us the version of Taylor Swift that is the closest to country music since the beginning of her career. The stripped-back production, coupled with the depth of story-telling, is both a nod to her early days as an artist, while also being a fierce display of her growth.
As she wrote herself in a recent tweet: ‘I felt less like I was departing and more like I was returning.’