How Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now’ Became the ‘Scary’ Version
Rachel Hunter could not wait to play her new vinyl recording of Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now.”
After waiting weeks for its arrival, Ms. Hunter placed the orchid-colored vinyl with Ms. Swift’s face on its center on her record player, lifted the needle and let it play. But instead of Ms. Swift’s catchy choruses, acoustic guitar and banjo strums, another woman’s voice came out.
“I quit seeing people, quit looking at the flakes of flesh and dancing organisms,” an echoing voice said, without music in the background.
Maybe there was something wrong with the speed, Ms. Hunter thought, or maybe it was one of Ms. Swift’s notorious Easter eggs. She flipped the record to the other side, but it only got weirder.
“The 70 billion people of Earth, where are they hiding?” a man’s eerie voice said repeatedly.
“It was a little scary. I was by myself,” Ms. Hunter recalled. “I thought, Is this a horror film? Because it didn’t feel like real life, especially when you’re expecting Taylor Swift.”
The record wasn’t haunted. It was just British electronica music.
Universal Music Group, which represents Taylor Swift, and Above Board Distribution, a small British label, use the same printing plant in France. But instead of pressing Ms. Swift’s “Speak Now” album, the plant accidentally pressed “Happy Land,” a compilation of British electronica from the 1990s, onto the purple vinyl and put it into the “Speak Now” jacket.
The first song Ms. Hunter heard was “True Romance,” which features more than 11 minutes of electronica by Thunderhead, and the second was “Soul Vine,” a deep-house track by Cabaret Voltaire, one of the most influential groups of the genre.
That revelation materialized only after Ms. Hunter posted about her experience on TikTok: “Does anyone else’s ‘Speak Now’ vinyl not have Taylor Swift on it?” she asked. The video has been viewed over four million times.
Now she’s fending off offers of $250 for the record. Her video set off a lengthy discussion on Discogs, an online music database, among collectors who are hoping to find another copy. Fans of Cabaret Voltaire have reimagined the band’s vinyl sleeves with the names of Ms. Swift’s albums; one even mixed Ms. Swift’s song “All Too Well” with Cabaret Voltaire’s “Nag Nag Nag.”
In a statement, Universal said it was “aware that there are an extremely limited number of incorrectly pressed vinyl copies in circulation and have addressed the issue,” adding that if customers receive a misprinted vinyl, they should contact their retailer.
Ms. Hunter, who purchased the album through Ms. Swift’s official store in Britain, requested a new copy but had not received it as of Friday.
Dan Hill, the managing director of Above Board, said the label had printed a couple hundred records of “Happy Land,” and he assumed that the stamper had been accidentally left on the machine and used for the “Speak Now” discs.
“What’s happened in the making of this record is kind of like making a cake — they mixed up the ingredients,” he said, adding that misprints had happened from time to time, including with albums by Beyoncé and the Beatles, “but maybe not with this profile.”
Mr. Hill believes there might be at least one more pressing out in the world like Ms. Hunter’s. He is looking as hard as the next record collector.
“This is a total Willy-Wonka-style golden ticket. If someone has one, these could be worth thousands,” he said. “But no one knows how far they are.”
Joe Muggs, a British music writer who reviewed the reissue of “Happy Land” for the online magazine The Quietus earlier this spring, said the tracks came from a variety of genres, including heavy dub reggae, industrial and electronica, that come together to make a “very narcotic kind of sound” that was emblematic of the 1990s.
“That’s what makes the music on this album really exciting,” he said, “its ability to startle even now when someone hears it out of the blue.”
The Cabaret Voltaire song is one of the darker tracks, he said, but many of the songs had a “pop compatibility” and were “very funky; there’s a lot of melody in there.”
“The fact that TikTok will fling up these random things does leave the window open to magic in terms of changing people’s tastes or sparking little fires,” Mr. Muggs said.
That’s exactly what Stephen Mallinder, a founding member of Cabaret Voltaire, is hoping for. Cabaret Voltaire has always appealed to new audiences, he said, but being jump-started by Ms. Swift’s audience “is a different kind of magnitude.”
“It has captured everyone’s imagination because it’s a cultural clash of big proportions,” Mr. Mallinder said, adding, “If we can convert a few and get them into electronica stuff, clubby stuff, that’s all right by me.”
Remy Tumin is a reporter for The Times covering breaking news and other topics. More about Remy Tumin
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