Taylor Swift has turn out to be the newest popstar to re-record her lyrics with the intention to keep away from inflicting offence. A brand new model of her 2010 music, ‘Higher Than Revenge’, seems on the re-release of her album, Converse Now (Taylor’s Model). Within the unique music, Swift takes goal at ‘an actress’ her ex ran off with, who’s ‘identified for the issues she does on a mattress’. Within the 2023 re-record, this line is swapped for one thing extra innocuous about moths being drawn to the flame.
Some followers have cheered the transfer, claiming that the unique lyrics have been ‘slut-shaming’ the unnamed actress. Others are much less eager. In any case, the unique album was supposedly written as no-holds-barred confessional of Swift’s failed relationships. The brand new, extra anodyne lyrics clearly lack the rawness and bitterness of the unique.
The brand new lyrics for ‘Higher Than Revenge’ are usually not the one change to the album on this re-release. Swift has been re-recording most of her again catalogue since 2021, following a dispute along with her former document label over the possession of the grasp recordings. The re-release is intentionally meant to make sure adjustments for ‘Taylor’s Model’.
In fact, Swift has each proper to re-record her songs, and the originals are nonetheless obtainable to stream or purchase. The issue is that that is removed from an remoted incident. The re-recording of music lyrics is turning into increasingly more widespread. Supposedly offensive phrases and phrases are being scrubbed out, normally simply to appease the mob on social media. And pop music is being sanitised within the course of.
Each Beyoncé and Lizzo re-recorded songs final yr – in each circumstances, to take away the phrase ‘spaz’. They have been accused of ableism, though this was clearly not intentional. In black American slang, ‘spaz’ means ‘freak out or lose management’, and it has not one of the offensive connotations it has within the UK, the place it’s a derogatory time period for disabled folks. When even megastars like Beyoncé are permitting social-media customers to successfully rewrite their lyrics, it’s clear that the simply offended have the higher hand.
In reality, some artists have gone additional than altering their lyrics. In response to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the band previously often called the Dixie Chicks minimize the ‘Dixie’ from their identify. It seems that the phrase dixie derives from the Mason-Dixon Line, which separated the northern and southern states within the US within the 1760s. The Chicks have been frightened that folks would suppose their outdated identify was glorifying slavery within the South. (Actually no sane individual thought this.)
Calls for for artists to vary their lyrics or clear up their act are nothing new, in fact. However what has modified lately is that bands and singers not appear ready to insurgent towards censorship. Simply over a decade in the past, when BBC Radio 5 Dwell requested Rage Towards the Machine to not swear throughout a reside efficiency of ‘Killing within the Identify’, lead singer Zack de la Rocha yelled the notorious line, ‘Fuck you, I gained’t do you what you inform me!’, even louder than normal. Again in 1967, Mick Jagger reluctantly agreed to vary the lyrics of ‘Let’s Spend the Evening Collectively’ to ‘let’s spend a while collectively’ for a efficiency on the Ed Sullivan Present, however he at the very least made his irritation clear with an exaggerated eye roll. For many of the historical past of pop and rock music, censorship was seen as one thing to withstand, circumvent or to mock.
Immediately’s artists, then again, seem like taking the initiative to censor themselves. Typically that is in response to stress from the mob, as we noticed with Lizzo and Beyoncé. In different circumstances, as with Taylor Swift, self-censorship will be preemptive reasonably than reactive. Maybe we are able to anticipate extra artists and even complete document labels to begin sanitising their again catalogues to chase away potential Twitter storms.
This drive to expunge any lyric which may trigger offence is making a stifling local weather for pop. It dangers stripping artists of the liberty to push at boundaries, and to discover the much less savoury facets of life of their music. Swift’s catty traces about her exes’ new girlfriends will not be the peak of artistry, however they at the very least add some much-needed chew to a music that’s speculated to be about revenge.
Maybe it’s time for pop artists to rediscover their grit.
Ella Whelan is the creator of The Case For Ladies’s Freedom, the newest within the Academy of Concepts’ radical pamphleteering collection, Letters on Liberty.
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