Opinion | Swift should not seek awards with ‘Red’ re-release

By Talia Duffy, Columnist

Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is a perfect piece of art — an improvement on what was already one of her most versatile and impactful albums.

Despite the bombardment of critical and commercial success the album received in the mere two weeks since its release, Swift shouldn’t submit her version of “Red” for consideration at awards shows this season. 

It’s unclear whether she intends to do so, but a growing number of fans are voicing their support for the idea.

Originally nominated for Album of the Year at the 2014 Grammy Awards, “Red” was the only time Swift didn’t win the category after nomination. Following Daft Punk’s win for their final LP, “Random Access Memories,” fans felt Swift was snubbed. It’s still a sore spot in the fanbase, mentioned frequently on subreddits and fan pages. 

But Swift’s motive isn’t vengeance against the Recording Academy or giving “Red” a second chance at the prize. That would take away from the reason she started this re-recording project in the first place. 

By now, the conflict between Swift and Big Machine Records, her former record label, should be well known. After she departed from Big Machine, Swift was denied ownership of her first six albums — from her 2006 self-titled debut to her 2017 revenge LP, “Reputation.” 

Negotiations for Swift to purchase the rights to her work failed, as Big Machine allegedly demanded Swift sign a contract of silence on the issue before she could even read the deal. Scooter Braun, a talent manager and owner of the label, eventually sold her music for over $300 million to private equity firm Shamrock Holdings.

Instead of continuing to adhere to unfair contracts and the whims of greedy men — instead of trying to play the game she’d been trapped in since she first entered the music industry as a teenager — Swift changed the rules. In 2020, she began to re-record the six albums that Big Machine and Scooter Braun stole from her. 

And this time, she would own the tapes herself.

It’s a story of empowerment and taking back what was always hers. But for those who don’t know the story, which sadly seems like most of the general public, Swift’s re-records appear to be just another scheme to make money off of her most popular songs. 

While this is a false assumption, criticism of Taylor Swift has historically caught far too much traction. She’s a highly successful public figure, so skeptics and haters will leap at any chance to take her down.

If Swift and her team decide to compete for awards for “Red (Taylor’s Version),” they’re giving those haters a leg up. Yes, the original 20 songs were masterfully recreated. Yes, the nine new songs included on the album especially “Nothing New” with Phoebe Bridgers — are equally amazing. And yes, “Red” just might have deserved that Grammy in 2014.

But trying to win awards would decrease the legitimacy of the re-recordings and overshadow the great bounds Swift made for artists’ intellectual property rights. At this point in Swift’s career, it’s not about success or maintaining status.

Instead, it’s about what these re-recordings mean to her as an artist. It’s about the message she’s trying to send to her old label, to the industry and to the fans that supported her through it all.

So stop all this talk of awards and go listen to this brilliant new album. Go listen to the message — it’s about time Taylor’s version is heard.

 

Talia is a freshman in Media.

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