Taylor Swift is no stranger to controversy, and when news broke in 2019 that, as part of a deal to buy her former label, the masters of her first six albums were now owned by music impresario Scooter Braun. , all eyes were on Taylor to see what she would do next.
There was certainly no love lost between Scooter and Taylor, who accused the label owner of bullying him. Soon colleagues in the music business and fans suggested that Taylor might re-record her first six albums and in an interview, when asked if she intended to do so, Taylor replied “absolutely”.
Fast forward to 2021, and the first of those re-recordings has arrived in the form of Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The results are impressive; not only has Taylor stayed true to the original songs, but her vocals even sound similar, despite releasing the original album 13 years ago when she was 18.
The re-recorded album is set to earn Taylor her seventh UK number 1 album this Friday – the original topped number 5.
Taylor’s situation is perhaps quite unique, she is certainly not the first artist to challenge the status quo and take control of her own career or material. We look at a few other stars who have decided to do things their own way.
The former child star, who debuted with a number 2 hit in 2004 with Leave (Get Out), JoJo has been embroiled in a lengthy legal battle with her home label Blackground. When that was over, in 2015, she signed a new contract with Atlantic and continued releasing music, but when it came to her self-titled debut album and its follow-up The High Road, JoJo was in a similar situation to Taylor.
When the albums were pulled from streaming services, JoJo couldn’t wait for fans to hear them — so she decided to re-record them. “If it wasn’t for my fans very vocal on social media, I wouldn’t have done that,” she told Billboard. That’s Stan power for you!
Jojo reworked songs and cover from her 2004 debut
The late icon was known to be very protective of her material, her image and her career. Amid a contract dispute with his record label in 1993, Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and became known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince (or “Artist” if you were in a hurry). He changed it in 2000 once all legal cases were eliminated.
Prince liked having strict control over how and when his music was released – which is why he fell out with his label in the first place – and he was not a fan of seeing his music exist digitally. Talking about the effect of the Internet on music, he said, “Personally, I can’t stand digital music. You get sound in bits. It affects a different place in your brain. feel anything. We are analog people, not digital.
For quite a long time, his music was scarcely available for download or on streaming services, although he signed up to be on Tidal when Jay-Z revived it. Since his death in 2016, more of his music — including unreleased tracks from his infamous vault — has found its way online. This July sees his unreleased Welcome 2 America, which he recorded in 2010 – and the title track speaks to his perspective on the superficial nature of social media and corporate monopolies in the music industry.
The Spice Girls
Mel B, Mel C, Emma, Geri and Victoria were all about Girl Power, and they took it to the next level when they sensationally walked away from their manager, twice! Original manager Chris Herbert, who helped form the group, was dropped shortly before their success, with the Spice Girls moving to impresario Simon Fuller.
Then, at the height of their success, it was Simon’s turn to be left behind, because towards the end of 1997, the Spice Girls chose to go it alone, as it were, and manage themselves- same. Unfortunately, the group of five couldn’t “hold together” for too long – within six months Geri took control of her own career and left the group to go solo. Discover the Spice Girls’ record history in their archives.
There were warning signs with George Michael when, during the campaign for his 1990 album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 – his second solo release – he chose not to appear on either the artwork or in the song’s accompanying videos. That’s why we have the iconic Freedom ’90 video, featuring a slew of models, yes, but it turns out George wasn’t too happy with his record deal, and the fact that his record label would be able to reject any material that he would not like.
Cue a long legal battle to get George out of the deal which meant he didn’t release an album for five years and ultimately the case went against George and he lost. Another label came to the rescue and bought him out of his contract, so George could release Older in 1996, landing two number 1 singles in the process. He also dug around the label a bit in Fastlove’s video, and it seemed like all ties had been cut. But no, after two albums on Virgin, he returned to Sony on his own terms. Never say never when it comes to getting back together with an ex!
George wasn’t in the video, but he was on set with the models.
Who run the world? Queen B has been in the business since she was a kid and has certainly learned more than a thing or two about managing her own career. Things really accelerated when in 2011 she fired the services of her manager after 21 years. It may not sound too impressive, but his manager at the time was his father, Matthew.
Who runs the Louvre? Bey!
Beyoncé’s next album was recorded in secret, complete with a full set of accompanying videos, then released as a surprise in December 2013 as an Apple exclusive. Since then, Beyoncé has exercised strict control over her entire career: she hardly does interviews in person, and even written ones are a no-no, she would rather write a play herself than answer questions.
Two subsequent albums, Lemonade (accompanied by a short film of the same name) and her team up with husband Jay-Z, Everything is Love, were also released without any hints. For the APESH*T video, Beyoncé and Jay even managed to film the lot at the Louvre – with unheard-of access – without anyone beyond their entourage knowing. God knows what she’ll do next, but you won’t know until she’s ready for you to know. Beyoncé pulls the strings. See Beyoncé’s full chart history here.
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