Last month, Taylor Swift became the first artist ever to simultaneously hold the top 10 spots on the Billboard Top 100 Charts. Those 10 songs were all off of her new album, “Midnights,” which sold more copies in its first week of release than any album since Adele’s “25” in 2015. At just 32 years old, Swift has won 11 Grammys.
She is not a fictional character.
Swift has been a force in the music industry since she released her first album at just 15 and is now arguably the most popular musician in America. Following the release last month of her 10th studio album, “Midnights,” it is clear she has a tight bond with her fans, both old and new.
Piper Jones, a sophomore film major, cofounded the Taylor Swift fan club at LMU with her Josephine Spanier to allow other devoted fans to find a place to converse about their favorite artist.
“I always liked her songs on the radio, but I used to be super pretentious about my music taste and just said it was my guilty pleasure,” Jones said. “In film school, there is this big thing where people love Taylor because she is a storyteller. I came to LMU as just a casual fan but now I am a president of the Taylor Swift fan club — I really just love her.”
There was a time when not everyone had this massive admiration for Swift and her work. Following a very public feud with Kanye West starting with him interrupting her VMA acceptance speech in 2009 to a leaked phone call in 2016 between the artists surrounding his song “Famous”. After this, many turned on Swift and called her a liar. Using this public image that had formed around her name, she released her “Reputation” album, which would later turn into one of her most streamed albums and a sold-out stadium tour.
Josephine Spanier, a sophomore film major and fellow president of the fan club, has been a fan since she was a kid, and remembers listening to Swift on the radio while being driven to school.
“During the ‘Reputation’ album era, I turned against her and I wish that I hadn’t,” she said. “The online discourse around celebrities is always changing. It is sad that we let ourselves be shaped by what other people’s opinions were.”
After her first six albums, she chose not to re-sign with her longtime label, Big Machine Records, at the end of her contract. Instead, Swift took her talents to Universal Music Group.
“For years I asked — pleaded — for a chance to own my work. Instead, I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in,” Swift wrote in a June 2019 Tumblr post after news broke of the sale of her masters.
It is common for artists to sign away their master tracks and no longer have ownership of that work once those songs have been recorded. When Big Machine Records was sold to Scooter Braun, the manager of artists including Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, he became the owner of Swift’s first six studio albums.
This led to Swift’s all but unprecedented re-recording project. In August 2019, Swift announced she would re-record her first six albums so that she could own the rights to her music once again. More than a decade later, she is recording the same songs she made when she was 15, now with a more mature voice. She is creating the opportunity for fans to either re-experience or experience these songs for the first time, and in doing so, she is taking her voice back. In addition, Swift is releasing “from the vault” tracks, giving fans songs that did not make the cut originally.
“The re-recordings are one of the most insane and awesome things she is doing,” Jones said.
Even with all of this happening, Swift was able to write and release new music that sounded completely different from what was already in her discography: albums “Folklore” and “Evermore.”
“How does she know everything that has ever happened in my life?” said Spanier. “She puts feelings so beautifully into words in her songs and I felt like I could really connect and felt like she just understood what I was going through.”
Releasing these during the pandemic gave fans something to connect to when the world felt isolated.
“‘Ivy’ is my favorite song,” Jones said. “Being a queer woman, I feel like she just told the nuances and I felt so seen by that song. I could see a movie in my head as I listened… Seeing it all play out in my head, I wrote a screenplay based on that song.”
With more re-recordings still on the way and a new album released just a couple of weeks ago, Swift announced that next year she plans to return to touring with the Eras Tour.
“At first it was this whole thing where she was a young prodigy,” Spanier said. “Then everyone called her a liar, and now she is an icon for so many people and will continue to be.”