Taylor Swift’s Newest Feud Proves Everything Is Political

Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/Assistant Opinion Director

Taylor Swift has a new enemy: venture capitalism.

Before you say she should write a song about it (clever!), it’s her ability to perform that’s being compromised. And she should be able to talk about this as much as she wants.

On Thursday, Nov. 14, the singer published an open letter to her fans, spilling, among other things, that she wouldn’t be allowed to perform any of her old hits at the American Music Awards after winning “Artist of the Decade.” This was due to corporate claims that it would be re-recording her masters a year before she is allowed to do so.

The news comes several months after Swift revealed that she lost the rights to her first six albums through Ithaca Holdings’ acquirement of Big Machine Records, the company she signed to at age 14.

As expected, fans and fellow artists alike have been quick to defend Swift. Contracts stand, but barring the singer from performing her self-written hits on live television feels unfair, especially when you consider that an awards show performance of a greatest hits medley doesn’t exactly constitute a re-recording.

At this point, the legal grounds for either party remain mostly unclear, but the debacle has sparked people’s attention for an entirely different reason.

I wrote a column addressing the predatory undertones of Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun’s transaction in August, but it turns out that there’s a lot more to it. The list of public figures supporting Swift this time around extends beyond musicians who have also had a bone to pick with their corporate overlords. 

As New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren were quick to point out, the singer’s brawl with Big Machine Records extends far beyond music and is very much reflective of the state of our country’s private equity industry, which has been hurting Americans for decades.

On paper, the process of private equity firms partnering with investors to buy companies and then selling them is meant to improve said companies over time, generating good investment returns and ultimately helping small businesses grow. What we don’t often consider is that these firms’ leveraged buyouts of small companies often results in the little guy getting hurt, as workers get laid off or lose their severance.

Ithaca Holdings’ acquirement of Big Machine Records is a great example of this, even if the multi-billionaire losing rights to her music feels different from a retail worker losing his severance package. 

One look at the replies to AOC’s Twitter thread reveals an interesting paradox about both her and Swift’s detractors. Those using the popstar’s wealth and privilege as an argument for how this is seemingly a non-issue aren’t just missing the bigger picture. As their profiles will attest, most of them are also conservatives who support venture capitalism and don’t really believe in the concept of privilege.

“Taylor is rich, so why is she complaining?” won’t be the argument they use when the time comes for them to push against the politician’s plan to tax the wealthy.

Therefore, I’m having a difficult time believing that a lot of the pushback Swift is facing isn’t actually rooted in personal bias, especially now that the artist has become more outspoken politically. There’s something about the chauvinists flogging her on social media whenever she brings up a relevant issue such as sexual harassment or record labels’ exploitation of up-and-coming artists, that reminds me of the many uncomfortable discussions I’ve had to sit through in class. The ones that end with a student (usually female), getting yelled at by another student (usually male), for bringing up X social issue and “making everything political.”

Excuse Patrick Star for living under a rock, but everything is political.

The constant change in narrative concerning who is allowed to talk about politics and when has become exhausting. Saying celebrities shouldn’t do so is also stupid, especially when there’s one sitting in the Oval Office eating Doritos as I type this.

Streaming “The Man” off of Taylor Swift’s newest and first self-owned album probably won’t solve anything, but at least you’ll be supporting a song she has ownership of. If anything good comes out of this brawl, maybe she’ll finally make the feminist bop her next single.

Featured photo by Eva Rinaldi on Flickr.



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