Taylor Swift

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is on fire.

First of all, she released a new album. And she’s in the news for her back catalog, namely a new company’s acquisition of her songs and her intention to re-record it all to thwart them.

But let’s start with “Lover.” Swift’s new album dropped last week, and, I must begrudgingly admit, it is good.

It reminds me of a particular scene in the movie “High Fidelity.” John Cusack’s record shop has been plagued by these skate punks who hang out nearby and shoplift. But when the elitist music snobs inside hear their record, they have to admit it’s actually decent.

“It’s really ... it’s really (expletive) good,” Jack Black moans as he drops his head into his hands.

That’s where I am. “Lover” is, well, really good. I admit it.

I didn’t much like “Reputation,” Swift’s last album. After a successful turn from country to pop, that album was her attempt to turn once again to serious adult music. It was occasionally (and unintentionally) goofy. It took itself too seriously, almost like a teenager who turns 18 and swears up and down that they’re now an adult, thank you very much.

But now we have “Lover,” which still takes itself seriously but also offers some fun pop music. It’s in Swift’s wheelhouse for sure.

At 18 songs, it’s a little bloated, but it’s a bright record full of hooky earworm choruses and dance beats. It’s great music for rolling down the windows and going for a late summer cruise.

Take “The Man,” a song about gender discrimination that also has a killer beat. It’s a song you’ll start humming to yourself during the quiet moments. There’s “I Think He Knows,” a cleverly produced track about a sexy crush. Of course, you also have “You Need to Calm Down,” a song that takes on a generation of social media bullies that I heard in my head on repeat after hearing it a single time.

Swift’s record would do fine on its own. It holds up.

But all this drama about the label acquisition and, now, re-recording her fans’ favorite songs only fuels the frenzy around her new music.

So here’s the thing: Why would she even try to re-record her back catalog?

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Let’s start here: Her former label, Big Machine, was acquired by another company. That company, headed by Justin Bieber manager and apparent Swift nemesis Scooter Braun, now owns the rights to every recording she made until this year’s new album.

Re-recording past hit material isn’t as uncommon as you might think. Artists whose early material is tied to labels do it to make a little extra money and exert a little extra control, especially in this new streaming era.

The idea is this: Someone searches for a hit song. They’ll click play on whichever pops to the top of the search results. If that’s the old version, the label takes a cut of the proceeds before the artist gets the royalty. If it’s the new version that gets played, the artist skips the label and gets it all for themselves.

The label owns only the rights to the original recording. Any new recording of an old song belongs to that artist. (The songwriting rights are separate, of course.) It’s how many artists are able to do cover songs. But in this case, the artist in question is covering themselves.

Here’s the problem with the re-recording idea: It’s a pain. To successfully put out a new version of an old song, Swift wouldn’t simply karaoke her old tunes. She’d have to hire producers, musicians and engineers to carefully reconstruct those songs from scratch. If the new recording is too far off from the original, fans will notice the difference.

Of course, maybe it’s all a ploy. She could use the threat of re-recording her old music as a way to try to pry that music (or at least some measure of control over it) from Braun’s company.

She could want the extra money. She could very well want the attention for her new music.

But what will happen?

Per the details of her contract, according to Billboard, Swift isn’t able to start releasing those new recordings until 2020. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Reporter - Entertainment/music/concert

Kevin Coffey is the entertainment editor and critic, covering music, movies, video games, comic books and lots more. Follow him on Twitter @owhmusicguy. Phone: 402-444-1557.

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