P.D. Magnus (research)

Tell Me Why This Isn't a Cover

with Cristyn Magnus, Christy Mag Uidhir, and Ron McClamrock

Applying lessons from the philosophy of covers to Taylor Swift's re-recordings.

Versions available


If some random musicians were to record Taylor Swift's back catalog with painstaking sonic fidelity to the originals, the products would be cover versions. We begin with the question of whether Swift's own re-recordings of her earlier albums should also count as covers. It is tempting to say that Taylor's Versions are just versions, rather than covers, and maybe that is right. Regardless, lessons from the philosophy of cover songs apply. We can ask whether these are better understood as mimics (meant to sound the same) or renditions (meant to sound different). The criteria for what makes a good mimic cover are different than the criteria for a good rendition cover, so the difference here matters for how we should judge Swift's remakes. Covers can also be used to mean something different than the original, so we should ask whether Swift's remakes mean something different than the original tracks. Maybe they do. Some covers not only mean something different than the original but are also about the original. So we ask whether Swift's remakes are referential in that way. This, too, has consequences for how we appreciate and assess them.


	TITLE = {Tell Me Why This Isn't a Cover},
	AUTHOR = {Cristyn Magnus and P.D. Magnus and Christy {Mag U}idhir and Ron McClamrock},
	BOOKTITLE = {Taylor Swift and the Philosophy of Re-recording},
	EDITOR = {Brandon Polite},
	NOTE = {Forthcoming}

The first on-line draft of this paper was posted 5jan2024.