Column: Taylor Swift has never been overrated

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I know I was not the only one who teared up as I listened to the ten minute version of “All Too Well.” I was 12 years old when the song was first released. The “Red” album was my middle school soundtrack. Before Red, Speak Now and Fearless had taken my friend group by storm. I thought about my crush who I sat next to in seventh grade algebra class as I listened to “You Belong with Me,” and “Mean” when I got teased for being the worst kickball player in P.E. The lyrics held significance.

Although nine years later Taylor’s music means something different to me, there is a sense of nostalgia that comes from hearing her music again. The type of nostalgia that makes you want to give your 12-year-old self a hug.

Taylor’s music is my generation’s coming-of-age soundtrack. She is the kind of pop icon that feels like the older sister I never had. After all, we did grow up with her. It is for this reason that I am breaking journalistic rules to refer to Taylor by her first name. It just feels right.

In a world that glorifies false confidence and playing hard to get, this songwriter gives permission to feel. I think that is what resonates so deeply with me and so many other girls. She sings about canceling plans just in case he calls, and living “for the hope of it all.” In the reemerging ballad “Enchanted” she sings, “please don’t be in love with someone else, please don’t have somebody waiting on you.”

The fact that this line has become a viral audio clip on TikTok is evidence of the power that Taylor’s lyrics hold. The audio clip has been used on over 20,000 videos, with the most popular videos garnering millions of views. Taylor’s lyrics bring girls together in a way that I have never seen from any other musician.

There are other people who can sing well. There are other great songwriters who play the guitar. There are lots of artistic music videos. But Taylor Swift’s work, from her 2006 EP to “Red (Taylor’s Version),” is more than those things. It honors what it means to grow up, especially as a girl. Taylor’s lyrics have made us feel seen. That is incredibly powerful. Yes, there are other singers. But the hype that comes with the re-release of these albums is proof that this music is more than music.

So why is Taylor re-releasing all this music? It all began when she signed with Big Machine Records. Taylor signed a contract where in exchange for marketing, recording resources and more, Big Machine owned the master recordings of her music. This agreement is pretty standard within the music industry. It gives the record label money and lets them take risks on upcoming artists that may never become profitable. Some artists, as time goes on, have bought back their music from their labels. However, most of your favorite artists do not own the recordings of their music.

When a record label owns the master recordings (original recordings of tracks), they can choose what happens to the music, which movie soundtracks it is in, what streaming platforms it is on, etc. The label also makes money and controls money earned from streaming, and the artists receive royalties.

Eventually, Taylor decided that she wanted to buy back her own music. However, according to her, Big Machine was not allowing her to do so unless she signed a contract for another ten years with the label. Knowing that the label would likely be sold, Taylor hesitated to sign such a contract without knowing who the next owner would be. For this reason, she didn’t buy back her music. In 2018, Taylor moved to Republic Records, where she was allowed to own the music she recorded.

When Big Machine Records was sold, it went to Scooter Braun, who has managed Kanye West and Justin Bieber. Due to Taylor’s negative experiences with Kanye West, she seems to have felt uncomfortable with the idea of putting her life’s work in the hands of Braun. After hearing the news that Big Machine Records would be sold to Braun, Taylor shared her feelings in a Tumblr post. This was also after a clip was shared where she heard some potential lyrics for a track in which West mentioned Taylor.

She claims that although she was supportive in the clip, the actual lyrics were never sent, and she never gave permission for what is now “Famous” by Kanye West to be released. Additionally, West released a music video that portrayed Taylor in a controversial manner.

“All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years,” Swift said in the post. “Like when Kim Kardashian orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it. Or when his client, Kanye West, organized a revenge porn music video which strips my body naked. Now Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy. Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it.”

So what did Taylor do? She chose to re-record and release the music that she previously released at Big Machine Records. If any song says “Taylor’s version,” you know it belongs to her. Along with these re-recordings are songs that never made the album and new music videos.

It is a dream come true for fans. But more importantly, Taylor is making a statement. As a woman in a male-dominated music industry, she has taken ownership for her music.

Taylor Swift taught me that it is possible to be vulnerable and powerful at the same time.