When Taylor Swift first began releasing re-recordings of her old work earlier in 2021, it appeared many radio stations were just sticking with the Big Machine oldies they still had on file, if they were going to dip into catalog. But now the largest radio chain in the country, iHeart Radio is making a public pledge that its stations will abide with Swift’s wishes and stick with her remakes, as they come in.
“Whenever Taylor re-records a new track, we immediately replace the old versions,” Tom Poleman, chief programming officer for iHeartMedia, said in a statement. “Our stations will always deliver songs that artists are eager to share and fans want to hear. Listeners have made it known that they cannot wait to hear ‘Taylor’s Version’ of each track. We are thrilled to provide a platform to share those with them, as well as the stories behind the songs from Taylor herself.”
Interestingly, the announcement follows on the heels of a Billboard story from about a month ago saying that most stations that play “gold” tracks in their rotation had never switched from the Big Machine “Love Story” to the new version. Republic Records has not actively promoted any of the sound-alike versions to radio, but many Swifties have been adamant in following the singer’s lead in declaring their wishes that the Big Machine versions be put in mothballs.
For now, the iHeart Media decision only affects the two albums for which Swift has recorded a “Taylor’s Version” alternative, 2008’s “Fearless” and 2012’s “Red.”
That still leaves five more Big Machine studio albums Swift hasn’t issued a new take on yet. If she keeps up the pace she’s on now, of issuing two a year, it would take her until 2024 to wrap up the series. But she seems to have some, if not all, of the new-old material already in the can, judging from how quickly she was able to rush out a one-off “1989” track, “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version),” when the song started to trend on TikTok in September.
Swift has promised to lay Easter eggs during the campaign for “Red (Taylor’s Version),” and fan camps have determined that the next re-record to be released will be either “Speak Now” or “1989,” with plenty of clues pointing toward the former but also a smaller pile of credible evidence for the latter.
Swift announced in 2020 that she would be recording soundalike versions of all seven of her Big Machine albums after the label group was sold to Scooter Braun for $300 million, leaving her out of the loop and, she said, putting her valued work in the hands of someone she considers an adversary. A subsequent re-sale of the company to an investment group did not change her mind about urging fans to boycott the old versions, as Braun will continue to profit from the catalog, she indicated.
“Red (Taylor’s Version)” came out last week and is expected to debut on the charts at No. 1 next week with a unit figure possibly in the 500,000 range, which would make it the second biggest bow of 2021 so far. The bigger bait for fans than the facsimile versions of known tracks is extensive bonus material that includes never-before-heard compositions being put out to the public for the first time. One song, “All Too Well,” exists in two versions on the new album, a recreation of the original and then a new 10-minute version including excised verses. The latter has become a Swiftie phenomenon and was the lone number Swift performed on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend.