Within a year, Taylor Swift surprised her fans with four new works: Folklore, Evermore, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), and Red (Taylor’s Version). The last two are new versions of her previously released albums in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Some of the most critically acclaimed tracks include Red’s “All Too Well” (10-minute version), Folklore’s “Betty” and “August”, and Evermore’s “No body, No Crime”. Overall, the four records represent a huge success for the 31-year-old singer-songwriter.
Folklore: July 24, 2020
“Folklore” is Taylor Swift’s eighth studio album. It was produced almost entirely in quarantine, in collaboration with her producers Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonnof. The process of writing and production was held remotely, with Swift recording in her home studio and her team of producers operating from New York and Los Angeles - involving a lot of back-and-forth file sharing.
On its release day, “Folklore” broke the Guinness World Record for the biggest opening day on Spotify for an album by a female artist. Later, it would become the best-selling album of 2020, standing on the top of the US Billboard 200 for eight weeks and three singles reaching the top ten in eight different countries. As expected, “Folklore” won the Album of the Year at the 63rd Grammy ceremony.
“Folklore” (name inspired by Swift’s desire for her music to have a lasting legacy) stands out for its lyricism and poetry. With its main focus on romance and nostalgia, the album follows a story arc of teenage love and heartbreak involving three fictional characters. Through its indie-folk sound and soft melodies, “Folklore” gloriously reflects Taylor Swift’s creative journey so far, one that can only get better.
Evermore: December 11, 2020
A sister album to “Folklore”, “Evermore” is Taylor Swift’s ninth studio album. It was released immediately after “Folklore” by Republic Records. After “Folklore”, Swift went on writing songs with her newest producer, Aaron Dessner.
The release was announced through the singer’s Instagram account the day before her 31st birthday and was to take place that same day at midnight. The release was accompanied by the premiere of the music video of “Willow”, the album’s opening track.
“Evermore'' explores a variety of genres and styles, such as folk-pop, rock, country, ballad, and even a little waltz. It features a very interesting dynamic with fictional stories and characters that are not connected, unlike in ”Folklore”. The main theme of the album seems to be endings, coping with loss and nostalgia. The soft guitar lines, the extremely expressive piano melodies, and the strings background featured in most songs give “Evermore '' a special and enjoyable atmosphere. The collaborations of artists featured in the record are just right, adding to Taylor Swift’s style and the album’s musical variety.
Shortly after its release, the album reached number one in Argentina, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Greece, New Zealand, Croatia, and many other countries. With a million copies sold globally in its first week, the record's success was immediate. “Willow” reached the top of Billboard 100, her second single to reach the highest position after “Cardigan”, from “Folklore”. “Evermore” still stands today as the US best-selling LP and CD of 2021 and is nominated for Album of the Year for the 64th Grammy award ceremony.
At the very beginning of her career, Taylor Swift had signed up with Big Machine records. When talent manager Scooter Braun bought the label, the deal included the rights to her first six records’ masters. In the years that followed, the singer was involved in several confrontations with Braun about the ownership of her master recordings and made many attempts to get them back. After the label challenged Swift’s claims and the disputes increased, she decided it was unacceptable for them to continue perceiving any income for her work. Thus, Taylor Swift’s efforts during this last year have been focused both on producing new music and regaining ownership of her previous releases. But why is it so important to Swift - and any other artist - to get the property of their own music? Within the music industry, Copyright laws exist to protect an artist’s work from being copied or reproduced by someone else without authorisation. This means that the owner of the rights, the musician or composer, must authorise any use of the music. Whether it’s for a film, advertising or broadcasting, and should receive a certain income for the appearance of the music in any piece of media or streaming services. When Taylor Swift lost the property of her works, she also lost all of these rights.
A very smart move, on April 9, 2021, Taylor Swift released “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”, a re-recorded version of her previous “Fearless” (released in 2008), granting her full ownership of her old masters by re-recording them into new versions, including the 19 tracks featured in the platinum edition of the original.
Earlier this month, on November 12, Swift announced the release of “Red (Taylor’s Version)”. The album features 30 songs from the deluxe edition of “Red” (released in 2012), and it includes the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” (made into a short film starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien) and six songs “from the vault” that didn’t make it to the first version.
The album also includes the collaboration of artists like Phoebe Bridgers and Ed Sheeran.
Both re-recorded albums broke sales records shortly after their release. “Red (Taylor’s Version)” hit the charts around the globe and turned Swift into the fastest soloist to collect four number one albums in Billboard 200 - something that took her less than 16 months to achieve, surpassing Elton John’s 46-year-old record.
The release of the first two of a series of six new masters of her records had great media coverage, encouraging the discussion about intellectual property, royalties, and ethics within the music industry, putting the artist’s right to own their work in the spotlight.
Hopefully, Taylor Swift’s actions will encourage new artists to put their right to full ownership of their work first.