PopOff! Commentary: Greatness Is Never Out Of Style

There is something I can’t quite place my ears on in, “Style Taylor’s Version” that feels off to me.

Listening to her rerecorded track and the original from 2014 I am trying to deduce why Swifties are divided on which is better. Also I’m am checking to see if my favorite Taylor Swift song is still as good as the nostalgia wants me to remember it.

To the latter point. It is. This is the most fun she sounds on record and is one of the great pop bangers of the 15 years (possibly all time), in my book.

To The former point… my ears keep saying is sounds basically the same but…

And it does sound more or less identical. Though the vocal “fixing” on the new version stands out more because her voice has changed a bit since she recorded the original both in quality and experience. And maybe it’s the being young and in love and that cannot be reproduced and you can just feel the energy is off.

The side by side listen, clearly shows she was trying to make as close a copy as possible to the original, though she couldn’t get the original producers to work their magic the second time. And so from my experience, the Swifties going at it about which version is better and how different they are… Yeah I don’t see it, really. Those fans on team “Taylor’s Version” I get the feeling were predestined to love it more as a way to further support her reclamation efforts and fend of the nostalgia that might conflict with that. And those who say the original is better are probably letting nostalgia win.

The two versions sound more or less the same to me.

But also, I am not a super fan. I haven’t spent time with this song daily like some fans. But I wonder if you did a blind taste test, could the average fan really tell the difference here?

Honestly, I listened side by side in ten second intervals because I was questioning which version I was listening too, despite them being clearly labeled. So yeah I am not picking on the up “vast changes” people are on about when they say, “OMG! This new version is just perfection. I cannot even.” Or when nostalgia addicts claim the new version “Doesn’t have enough bass or synth”. What?! Are we hearing the same thing? And I have bum ears.

That said, the new version definitely lacks for me. And I think it is because she tried so hard to make a carbon copy, and business reasons aside, I feel like what’s the point? You can’t recapture your time as a young person and the way you felt then because new experiences have shaped you. So it all feels kind of pointless to me just from a music standpoint.

But artists sing their hits on tour well into old age and people seem to want these artists singing it like just like the record (i.e. Madonna “Open Your Heart” on her current tour).

She could’ve recorded her old songs anew like other acts as Kylie Minogue did on The Abbey Road Sessions, or Peter Gabriel did with New Blood. Nothing is going to please everybody, so why not go for something new entirely.

But of course the reason this whole project was done was to reclaim her past masters from those who sold it off to others. And so trying to stay as close to originals was part of the business plan because she wanted the old fans to buy something they more or less already owned all over again as a middle finger to those who own the copyright. Also anyone using her music in the future is more inclined to use the “Taylor’s Version” because it more or less sounded like the original and the don’t risk not being able to work with Swift in the future due to bad blood.

But copyright is already a wonky issue because who owns what and how much. In the case of 1989 she wrote the song with Martin and Shellback. And Martin and Shellback produced the song… They also played on the song. Swift just sang the vocals on the track. So, how much copyright ownership should they get vs. Swift herself?

Swifts catalog is probably the most valuable of any modern pop singer at the moment. And recording her back catalog again was an attempt to make that original catalog worthless. At least that’s what I was told.

I doubt that would even be possible, really, the people who buy and sell these things own so much entertainment real estate that they use their copyright holdings however the please. So even if she refused to work with somebody who used the old recordings, that might prove difficult because they all the other companies she is trying to work with.

But let me just call it out for a second here so I can get this out of my cold black heart and relax.

If the motivation was solely all about reclamation of her own recordings and copyright of the… Well, why not just rerecord them all and do a special edition box set? Boom! Done! None of these grand roll outs and Easter eggs.

As we have seen, that probably would’ve have be perfectly successful, but ultimately um… absolutely stupid from a business standpoint. These new albums are making her boatloads of money (all over again) between vaults tracks and variants. It is one of the most savvy and cunning business moves I’ve ever seen an artist make in my 40+ years as a music fan. The only crazier move I can think of is Prince changing his name to a symbol and that didn’t make him a billionaire.

Sure many artists (or more likely labels) have released older albums anew with added tracks to get people to buy them again. But these albums are not full on rerecorded. And in the digital age you can just by the extra tracks without having to buy the entire album all over. It’s the rerecording that is a major selling point along with the middle finger to copyright holders.

So, I wonder if other artists will follow suit to reclaim their old work? Or simply to make another round of cash off stuff everybody already owns? I am picturing, Teenage Dream Katy’s Version.

Or will record labels find some legal language to use to close this loophole or certainly maximize their take on such a venture?

1st: I don’t think any other artist has the pull or the money to do what she has done. And more importantly I don’t think any artist has as rabid a fan base invested enough to spend the kind of money Swifties are spending.

At this point Swifties to me come off as text book addicts. Whatever their dealer Swift supplies they will buy. Every variant off every album or even other merch when they know it not the best quality, just because it is Swift. It is akin to the most rabid comic book collectors I’ve seen, with their figures and comic con poster variants and all that.

And it seems like she is all dominating and as a music fan and writer I hate hype so it can get exhausting but- I have to remind myself in my friend circle there are really only 2-3 I know who ever speak of her or her music. And one person LOATHES her as some poor man’s Lana Del Rey wannabe. So she is undeniably big but only in a certain segments of the population. And out of the millions/billions on the planet…

Sorry I got side-tracked and went on a tangent… That is just how much I LOATHE hype. It triggers me bad.

Anyway, artistically, the new version of “Style” doesn’t do anything for me as a music listener and, casual at best, Taylor Swift fan. If it was truly Taylor’s Version in that it was what she envisioned the song to be from the very beginning, well she got it right the first time.

If it is solely Taylor’s Version simply to own the copyright on it well, I already own the original song so nobody is getting any money off of me playing it at home or at clubs or on stream (and that suits me just fine). So I don’t need to buy the new version and add my chump change to a wealthy person’s bank account.

From an intellectual business angle I do find it fascinating. Especially for an artist to go back a literally try to copy herself, rerecording songs she has performed in public countless times but recorded at very different stages of their life. It is similar to me reading poems I wrote in my twenties at open mics in my forties. I know the words and I recall how I felt but sometimes, I’ve moved on and so to inject the same level or type of emotions into it would not really be adding anything new. But then is there anything new add? If you got it right the first time it shouldn’t need a rework and the original recording of “Style” will never go out of style.

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