celebrity

This isn't about Jake Gyllenhaal.

It would not have been fun to have the last name Gyllenhaal this week.

In case you are unaware, the very famous man with that last name has faced the wrath of the entire internet since November 12, the release date of Taylor Swift's Red (Taylor's Version), the second release on her quest to re-record her first six albums in order to own her entire catalogue.

For a musician who is often mis-characterised as just a 'break up writer', Red, first released in 2012, is her one true 'break up album'. A chaotic, rollercoaster ride of emotion, it was both specific enough to pique the interest of anyone who'd seen the tabloid pictures of her and a boyfriend, and universal enough to make anyone who had experienced heartbreak - which is almost everybody - think "same".

Watch: The horoscopes after a breakup. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Nowhere is this more pronounced than in 'All Too Well', a deep-cut that Swift always knew was her favourite on the album. She didn't tell anybody this, but when it went off into the world, she realised that it quickly became a fan favourite too. It was more than five minutes long - not suitable for radio or the single treatment, so it never received airplay or a music video. But still, it took on a life of its own. 

She performed the song at the 2014 Grammy Awards after fans overwhelmingly requested it, and has spoken often about how the reaction to this song changed its meaning for her: it has gone from being one she cried while performing to one she couldn't help smiling during, especially as a full stadium screamed every word back at her.

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She has also spent the past nine years being hounded to release the original extended 10-minute version, which she let slip existed in an interview. 

Last week, she finally released it.

The entire reason we are even having this discussion now is because in 2019, the ownership of Swift's first six albums with her ex-label Big Machine Records were sold to music manager Scooter Braun. 

Swift went public at the time to express her anger and disappointment at the sale, which she said sold her "life's work" to a man who she had a long-standing distrust for (Braun is the manager of Justin Bieber, and former manager of Kanye West). Braun on-sold most of these rights to a private equity firm in November 2020, but he still makes money whenever those songs are streamed.

In an attempt to devalue the original recordings and take ownership of her own art, Swift is re-recording those first six albums. Throughout the journey, she has shone light on the ways in which record labels exercise their power over artists, and how often artists have little say in the use of their own art. 

She is one of the few artists big enough to speak out against the industry, without career consequences.

Image: Getty.  

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So far, she has released Fearless (Taylor's Version) and Red (Taylor's Version).

Fans always knew most of Red was about Jake Gyllenhaal. Swift rarely actually confirms the subject of her music, but there are specific-enough references in a lot of its songs to figure it out. 

There's nothing wrong with identifying these recipients. We do it all the time.

We know what Fleetwood Mac songs are about other members of Fleetwood Mac. Everyone knows the early Justin Timberlake songs are about Britney Spears. Ed Sheeran wrote a song about Ellie Goulding cheating on him with Niall Horan, and no one really bat an eyelid.

I remember the absolute chaos of Ariana Grande's 'thank u, next', when she saved us the trouble and just namedropped them all herself. Swift has long played the game too, releasing 'hidden messages' in the album notes of her first few albums to give fans clues.

But following the release of Red (Taylor's Version), the focus has become about the men (previously) in Swift's life rather than the huge, industry-shifting undertaking she is in the middle of.

Swift and Gyllenhaal, both pictured in October 2010. Image: Getty. 

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Everyone's taking sides in a decade-old relationship.

Gyllenhaal's Instagram comments are just a sea of red scarf emojis. Passionate Instagram commenters have moved onto Maggie Gyllenhaal's social media too, as well as Gyllenhaal's current girlfriend, Jeanne Cadieu.

On the other side of the internet, Swift is being made out like a vindictive, bitter woman who cannot let go.

Along with each re-record, she is releasing 'from the vault' tracks that didn't make the original set lists, for boring practical reasons like being 'too pop' for a country record or because record labels are not going to allow an artist to release a 30-track body of work until they reach the level of influence of 2021 Taylor Swift. 

It's not like she is still writing about Gyllenhaal, 10 years down the line and five years into a much more serious, long-term relationship with Joe Alwyn, so why are we acting like she is?

She may have felt like a victim in that relationship. She's entitled to write about her experience and feelings. Hell, that's what 99.9 per cent of songwriters do. But she's moved on. Red scarf jokes may be funny, but they're not necessary in Gyllenhaal's Instagram comments.

Swift also felt like a victim of the industry when her masters were sold without her permission. But she's not a victim now. Swift has become one of the most powerful people in the music industry, and these re-records are only making that more true. With each release, fans and radio stations switch out their song versions. No movie or TV series is likely to ever use a non-'Taylor's Version' ever again, for fear of the backlash. 

She is winning, but the war is not with her exes.

This should be a celebration of her success, not a post-mortem on her past.

Image: Getty. 

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As far as we know, Swift and Gyllenhaal are on fine terms. 

"I heard from the guy that most of Red is about," Swift told New York Magazine in 2013. "He was like, 'I just listened to the album, and that was a really bittersweet experience for me. It was like going through a photo album.' That was nice. Nicer than, like, the ranting, crazy e-mails I got from this one dude. It's a lot more mature way of looking at a love that was wonderful until it was terrible, and both people got hurt from it - but one of those people happened to be a songwriter."

There are definitely discussions to be had more generally about dredging up the past, age-gap relationships (you can read my own opinion about the All Too Well: The Short Film casting here), and power dynamics.

The All Too Well short film explores this, but Swift even said at the premiere that the heated argument featured in the video was created for that moment, so it is not meant to demonise or represent Gyllenhaal. The entire purpose of the extended version and its film is to give the fans something special, for a song that she has come to consider the most important in her relationship with them.

In an ideal world, Swift would tell people to focus on that part, the intent behind the re-recordings, and how much they enjoy the art, rather than a decade-old drama. 

Because people are missing the point.

The songs may be about Gyllenhaal, but the reason we are revisiting them now is not.

Chelsea McLaughlin is Mamamia's Senior Entertainment Writer. For more pop culture takes, sarcasm and... cat content, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Getty/Taylor Swift/Mamamia.

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