Do you know what makes great art? Bitterness. Sure, talent and hard work go a long way, and everybody understands that a fair amount of luck is also involved. But in order to truly make it in the dog eat dog music industry, an artist’s greatest asset is pettiness. Aggressive, weaponised pettiness that takes a scorched earth approach to deal with business matters and scorned wrong-doings.
When Scooter Braun, the media proprietor and manager of major artists like Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, and Justin Bieber, acquired the masters of Taylor Swift‘s first six albums in 2019, the situation quickly turned ugly. Swift alleged that she was offered significantly less money than the masters were worth and that her record label, Big Red Machine, was offering unfair conditions for her to take ownership of her back catalogue. The record company denies it, but most of the anger has been centred on Braun.
Braun’s role in all of this is fascinating. He facilitated buying the masters, and was allegedly manipulative over the use of the songs. Swift wanted to perform some of her own material at the American Music Awards, but Braun attempted to block her from doing so (she performed her old songs, including hits like ‘Love Story’ and ‘Shake It Off’, in a medley despite the blocks). Then Swift concocted a solution: she would re-record her past material and ask her fans to buy and stream those versions, which she has ownership over, instead of the old material.
Top shelf pettiness right there. Wonderfully vast in its intention, perfectly middle finger heavy in its execution. Swift’s fans, among the most loyal and enduring of all pop music fandoms, gleefully embraced the concept, and each time a new ‘Taylor’s Version’ is released, the streams that the songs and albums get are a constant and relentless “F U” to Braun. The drama is downright delightful to watch.
Swift put out her completely re-recorded version of her second album Fearless in April of this year. Apart from Swift no longer sounding like a teenager, the album sounds almost identical to its original version (which is probably for the best), but Swift wisely included a number of bonus tracks and guest appearances that justify all the effort that it must take to painstakingly re-record each album. It’s Swift providing even more content for listeners without taking any of the bite out of the reason behind the re-release. It’s a win-win, unless you happen to be Scooter Braun.
Today the story is in a new chapter. Braun sold his shares of Big Red Machine to Disney, but offered it to Swift first on the condition that she sign an NDA that barred her from criticising Braun in public. Swift refused and is carrying on her crusade against Braun by re-recording her fourth LP Red, which is set to come out on November 19. Swift is also in the process of re-recording her fifth LP 1989, and we’re getting the first taste of what that will sound like today with a new version of ‘Wildest Dreams’.
Swift isn’t messing with the formula, and the new version of ‘Wildest Dreams’ sounds almost imperceptibly the same as the old version. But you know what, if it continues to piss off Braun and make for indelible copy, I say keep it going, Taylor. Get the money you deserve, and keep throwing daggers at this fool. It’s truly a sight to behold.
Check out the new ‘Taylor’s Version’ of ‘Wildest Dreams’ down below.