Taylor Swift has released a re-recorded version of her hit single Love Story, as part of an attempt to regain control of her music.
The star’s master recordings were sold against her will in 2019, prompting her to return to the studio and make new recordings of her first six albums.
Swift will retain ownership of and royalties from those sessions, which she hopes will replace the originals.
So how does Love Story 2021 stack up against Love Story 2008?
The star, who produced the new version herself, hasn’t tinkered with the arrangement or the lyrics, although the musicians are new.
“I really wanted my touring band to get a chance to play on this version,” explained Swift, “because you know they spent a lot of years playing this song over and over again”.
The biggest difference is the fidelity. Everything sounds crisper, with more separation between the instruments. That allows you to pick out little details that were buried in the original – the sound of the pick on the banjo strings or the cymbal hits in the middle eight.
Swift’s voice has matured, too. There’s added depth and warmth to her vocals; and she enunciates more clearly (compare the separation between the words “my eyes” in the opening verse). Nonetheless, she does a good job of capturing the romantic innocence she first conveyed as an 18-year-old.
Other small details pop out. The electric guitars in the song’s dénouement are slightly less strident. A violin that was previously buried in the mix – and entirely absent from the UK release – is suddenly much more prominent.
But you can switch between the two songs and barely notice the difference. Which is exactly what Swift wanted: The new recordings are intended to diminish the value of her original master tapes.
New version of Love Story:
Original version of Love Story:
The star lost control of those recordings in 2019 when her former record label, Big Machine, was bought by Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.
The deal included the rights to Swift’s first six albums, enabling him to profit from sales and streams of the records.
Swift was incensed. Braun, a music executive who manages Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, was previously associated with her longtime nemesis, Kanye West. She saw the purchase as an act of aggression that “stripped me of my life’s work”.
“All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years,” she said.
Last year, Braun sold Swift’s catalogue to the investment fund Shamrock Capital for more than $ 300 million. According to the singer, Shamrock offered to work with her, but she declined when she learned that Braun would retain a financial interest in her music.
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 last year, 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.
Now, she will exclusively licence her re-recordings to film and TV companies, effectively cutting Shamrock and Braun out of the picture.
Love Story 2021 – officially called Love Story (Taylor’s Version) is the first re-recording to emerge from the sessions. An expanded version of her album Fearless will follow in April.
Fans greeted the new recording, and its storybook lyric video, with enthusiasm.
It “sounds exactly like the original but also sounds completely different thanks to her new mature vocals,” wrote Alexander Goldschmidt on Twitter. “I don’t know how to explain it and I won’t be explaining it.”
“Listening to this song again for the first time in years is like opening a time capsule,” said Reddit user Sisiwakanamaru.
“Most artists who make it big aren’t comfortable with their early work and would always dwell on how they could have made it better,” added another Redditor, Alice K. “But not Miss Swift and I respect that.”
— Alex Goldschmidt (@alexandergold) February 12, 2021
I’m so proud of Taylor and I’m so grateful that I grew up listening to her music. I remember making up dances to her songs in my basement with cousins. This feels so full circle 😭❤️ #TaylorsVersion
— hannah (@hannahsgolden) February 12, 2021
— VNCNT 💛💛 (@vncdtsk) February 12, 2021
— Jayme™ ✨⚔️ (@Strudelmeow) February 12, 2021
the power of Love Story (Taylor’s Version) dropping on the same night that i’m staying up writing an essay about romeo and juliet … love the energy
— abby druckenmiller (@AbbyDruck) February 12, 2021
love story love story
(taylor’s version) pic.twitter.com/RWdXqanUTr
— grayson (taylor’s version) (@williambowerys) February 12, 2021
A tweet by Netflix saying they “cried four times” after hearing the song was liked by Swift – prompting speculation from fans that a documentary was being prepared about the re-recording of Fearless.
me after “Love Story” (Taylor’s version) drops tonight pic.twitter.com/80hrolcacT
— NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) February 11, 2021