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Interim President Jeff Ettinger inside Morrill Hall on Sept. 20, 2023. Ettinger gets deep with the Daily: “It’s bittersweet.”
Ettinger reflects on his presidency
Published April 22, 2024

Eaton: The Evolution of Taylor Swift

We can learn more from the pop icon than just how to write a killer breakup anthem.

Taylor Swift is an icon. Regardless of your opinion on her music, her impact on popular culture is hard to ignore. Now, she’s re-recording her first five studio albums made under the music label Big Machine, with the public reason being to reclaim rights over her previous work after it was sold to music executive Scooter Braun. But, these re-recordings are reflective of her growth, not only as an artist, but as a public and political figure.

Swift largely stayed out of politics early in her career, and white supremacist groups latched onto her silence as support for their cause. It wasn’t until 2018 that Swift began to come into her own in the political sphere. Now, in 2021, Swift is a prominent advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, gun control and the freedom to choose. She’s an outspoken feminist, dropping tracks like “The Man” and “Mad Woman” which speak to the trials of misogyny in everyday life.

Re-recording her albums is more than just a f— you to Scooter Braun. By Swift’s account, Braun has repeatedly bullied her. He also closely associates with Kanye West, who Swift has a contentious relationship with following the 2009 MTV Music and Video Awards. In re-recording her albums, her goal is to override her previous work — keeping Braun from profiting off of her music. It’s a manifestation of how she has changed and grown as an artist, a reclamation of her identity and reputation. She exerts control over her music, releasing all of the songs she wants, not simply the ones deemed good enough for the album by producers.

In the era of cancel culture, proving personal growth by literally going back over your past is an influential move.

For a long time, Swift remade herself with each album. She didn’t just release songs, she changed her personal style, altered her public image and curated a musical theatre production for each world tour. As she grew from a teenage country singer to the 31 year old pop icon she is now, her sound grew with her.

Her last two albums, Folklore and Evermore, have been a departure from that. They tell the stories of other people, real and make-believe, and have none of the pomp and circumstance of her earlier work. Swift is no longer conforming to the music scene. She’s not a malleable teen girl listening to the whims of producers and agents trying to make her famous; she’s come into her own. That sense of self allows her to re-record all of these previous albums in a way that is true to who she truly is.

Swift’s actions do more than provide her fans with content to consume. Not only does she regain the rights to her previous songs, she’s able to alter her earlier music to accurately reflect who she has become — and leave behind who she is not. She is no longer a politically silent poster child for neo-Nazis and white supremacists, nor is she an innocent teenage girl singing country ballads about heartbreak. Taylor Swift is simply Taylor, without the perceptions and misconceptions of society.

I am looking forward to Taylor’s new tunes and seeing the path she continues to carve for herself, both politically and personally. And, as my roommate said, “I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to write about Taylor Swift.”

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