Taylor Swift fans reflect on her musical journey

By Carolina Garibay

The music industry has developed dramatically over the past several years as artists have entered and left the spotlight. We can easily define each year of music by who dominated the charts and radio stations.

Though artists constantly break records and re-define the music scene, no one has dominated the music industry or paved the way for its future as 10-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Taylor Swift.

“My sister’s two years older than me, and I remember going with her to pick out the ‘Fearless’ album CD when it came out,” says Rebecca Madden, junior in community health and avid “Swiftie,” or Taylor Swift fan.

Madden says she became a fan, though, after getting the “Speak Now” piano sheet music book. She says that she and her family would listen to Swift’s songs all the time, and each family member had a favorite song.

“She has an album and a sound for everybody,” Madden said. “Everyone has a different order they would rank her songs.”

Greta Lilly, junior in family development and studies, also remembers when she first became a Swiftie in third grade.

“I remember going home from school one day and going onto YouTube and watching it for the first time and thinking, ‘Oh my god. This is the greatest thing ever,’” Lilly said. She praises Swift’s storytelling, which is something she’s known for.

At Swift’s core, she is a songwriter, and fans admire her ability to tell vivid stories through her music and weave connections between songs.

“I loved her lyrics from the beginning,” Lilly said. “I love how they always tell a story you can follow. It’s very specific in the way of her storytelling, and I always thought that structure was cool.”

Swift has been praised for her songwriting since she released her first album, “Taylor Swift,” in 2006 when she was 16 years old, and since then, she has released eight more studio albums. In the past couple of years, though, Swift has struggled with owning the rights to her masters (master recordings).

In November 2018, Swift announced that she was leaving Big Machine Label Group (BMLG), her recording label at the time. Since then, she has signed with Republic Records and Universal Music Group, where she was allowed to own the rights to her master recordings. After leaving BMLG, Swift had been trying to buy back her masters to release music.

According to “Variety,” in 2019, Scooter Braun, CEO of Ithaca Holdings LLC. acquired BMLG from Scott Borchetta, CEO of BMLG, in a $300 million deal. Since Swift recorded her first six albums at BMLG, Braun now owned Swift’s entire masters from her first six albums. Swift learned about this deal as it was announced to the rest of the world.

In November 2019, Swift announced on Tumblr that Borchetta and Braun weren’t allowing her to perform any of her old songs at the American Music Awards, where she would be honored with the Artist of the Decade Award. She asked her fans for help in telling Borchetta and Braun, who she said were exerting “tyrannical control” over her, how they felt about the situation.

“I was frustrated because it made me think about the CDs that I had gotten that had made me so happy and the posters I got when I was a little kid and just thinking about how there was such a deep level of exploitation in there that I didn’t even realize,” Madden said. 

She also says that so many other lesser-known artists are dealing with the same situation. Many young artists make contracts without knowing the consequences that might come up several years down the road.

Lilly shares a similar feeling and says that she doesn’t understand why people in the music industry let it slide. She says that she thinks a big part of this complacency toward Swift having her music sold is partly due to internalized misogyny in our culture.

“I think people judge her just because they feel like they can, and they have a say in her life versus they wouldn’t second guess if a man did any of the things she has,” Lilly says that this type of double standard has existed throughout Swift’s career. Many people’s perceptions about Swift come from what they heard from others’ opinions, which are often misinformed.

Swift, however, has put an end to others controlling her life and announced that she started re-recording her first six albums in November 2020. She said in a tweet in February that her new version of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is coming out soon (fans found a clue in her message that suggests this new version is coming out Apr. 9), as well as six never-before-released songs. She also released her new version of “Love Story,” titled “Love Story (Taylor’s Version),” in February, which fans loved.

“I was so happy with it,” Madden said. “Just the slight maturity in her voice singing the same words she wrote when she was 16 was super interesting.” Madden says she can’t wait for the rest of the albums’ re-releases, specifically “Speak Now,” which Swift wrote entirely independently.

“I just think there’s something so powerful about an entire album of just her words being owned by her,” Madden said.

Lilly also looks forward to the latest version of “Speak Now,” specifically the unreleased songs Swift is planning on releasing along with the re-recorded album. She hopes that the other re-recorded songs will hit the same way “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” did.

“That was like the first song I noticed her from when I was younger, and it got me excited about her and reminded me of being a third-grader and getting super into Taylor Swift,” Lilly said. “It was kind of nostalgic in a way, and it shows how much she’s grown, and I’ve grown in the past 15 years of music.”

That parallelism of Swift and her fans growing up together through her music makes the relationship between each other strong and unique. This relationship looks as if it’s only going to grow stronger as Swift continues to release music and fans continue to support her as they’ve done for the past 15 years.

“I think what makes her stick out is her honesty in her music. She tells a story. It’s like her own diary, and she lets the world hear her feelings,” Lilly said. “They want to know how she sees the world.”

Madden says that much of Swift’s success and her fans’ dedication is due to her ability to experiment with several different genres while still maintaining her unique sound.

“She’s gone full back-woods country, she’s gone full pop, she’s done more of like an electro-pop type of vibe, she’s done indie music. She’s covered the spectrum and saturated the market,” Madden said. “Everyone has a song that you listen to, and you’re like, ‘God damn – that one hits particularly hard.’”

Swift’s new version of “Fearless” will be out on Apr. 9, and you can listen to “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” now.