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Fans Will Almost Certainly Recognize Taylor Swift's New Single

NOEL KING, HOST:

Taylor Swift has a new single that sounds a whole lot like one of her old singles.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE STORY (TAYLOR'S VERSION)")

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone. I'll be waiting. All that's left to do is run.

KING: It's called "Love Story (Taylor's Version)." It's a brand-new recording. But if you know the song, you probably couldn't tell it apart from her first Top 10 hit on the pop charts. It was the same song. The original came out in 2008 on her second album, "Fearless." She rerecorded that entire record and plans to release it in April as part of a bigger plan to take control of her early work. Lyndsey McKenna is an editor with NPR Music. She's been following this story. Hey, Lyndsey.

LYNDSEY MCKENNA, BYLINE: Hey there.

KING: So how did Taylor Swift get to this point?

MCKENNA: Yeah. So for the last couple of years, Taylor Swift has been involved in this high-profile fight to control the master recordings of her first six albums. These are hit records that she made with her former label, Big Machine. Now, it's common for a record label to maintain the recording rights to an artist's work. But in 2019, Big Machine and, subsequently, Taylor's masters were sold in a $300 million deal to a person that Swift really does not like. The buyer is a powerful music manager named Scooter Braun, who Swift has accused of years of incessant, manipulative bullying, which, we should say, he denies. Still, it was after that the Swift announced she would rerecord those early albums, essentially creating a new set of masters that would closely match the ones that she didn't own.

KING: And what would that mean, exactly?

MCKENNA: The owner of the masters controls the use of those recordings. So then you can sell them as records or license them for use on TV or other media. And if you're Taylor Swift, the hope would be that you could convince fans, filmmakers and others to use the new versions - those are Taylor's versions - instead of the originals. And we should mention that in her new deal with Universal Music Group, Swift will own the masters for any new music she makes moving forward.

KING: OK. So is she really going to go back then and rerecord all of her old albums?

MCKENNA: That's the big question.

KING: Yeah.

MCKENNA: I guess we'll see. Swift says that her contract allows her to rerecord those first five albums. It's not clear about the sixth, "Reputation." And we do know that her second album, "Fearless," has been rerecorded already. And it'll come out in April. But to address your larger point, I think plenty of people were really incredulous when she said she was going to do this because, after all, Taylor Swift is in her creative prime. She's got a whole career in front of her. But there's a principle here. These past records clearly matter to Swift and to her fans. And there's precedent. Artists including the Everly Brothers, Def Leppard and JoJo have all rerecorded songs after disputes with their labels.

KING: So this is a woman with a large and very loyal fan base. What has been the reaction from the Swifties, her fans?

MCKENNA: The Swifties are all over this, of course.

KING: Yeah.

MCKENNA: I think they're pretty supportive. They're even enthusiastic. They want to see her reassert control over her career and her art. And, of course, it's unleashed a whole wave of nostalgia even though it wasn't that long ago.

KING: (Laughter).

MCKENNA: When "Love Story" was released last week, they took to social media. And they compared what they were doing in 2008 to now. One woman posted an ultrasound photo from 2008 alongside her grown child. And as for me, I was 17 and in high school when "Fearless" was released. And here I am still talking about Taylor Swift today.

KING: Here we all are still talking about Taylor Swift today. Lyndsey McKenna of NPR Music. Thanks, Lyndsey.

MCKENNA: Thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE STORY (TAYLOR'S VERSION)")

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) You'll be the prince. And I'll be the princess. It's a love story. Baby, just say... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.