The stage is set. The battlelines have been drawn. Taylor Swift vs Scooter Braun has begun. The singer is engaged in a blistering feud, carried out mostly via social media, with Scooter Braun. You might know Braun best as the impresario-esque manager to Justin Bieber, but he’s also now the man who owns most of Swift’s back catalogue after purchasing them from Big Machine, the record company that has produced Swift’s six iconic albums thus far.
Swift is devastated. “This is what happens when you sign a deal at 15 to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept,” she wrote in a Tumblr post. “And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it.”
For Swift, though, the cut that runs deepest isn’t the loss of her life’s work. It’s the loss of her life’s work to Braun, a man Swift has called a “bully” and who, according to her, was involved in the targeted attack against her by Kanye West and Kim Kardashian back in 2016. “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it,” Swift wrote on Tumblr.
The murky world of masters and music rights is full of dark arts, and Swift’s battle to regain control over her back catalogue has been well documented. The reason she switched record labels for her forthcoming album was so that she could ink a deal in which the masters — or the first recording of each song — were in her name and not the record company’s. Her fire and fury in the situation is completely understandable.
But how much of a villain is Braun, really? Several stars have come out in support of the manager, including Demi Lovato, Sia and Bieber, Braun’s most famous client. Scott Borchetta, the original owner of Big Machine, has also disputed some of Swift’s claims, including that he had given Swift some prior notice of the deal and that he tried to work with her on an agreement that would allow her to own the rights to everything she had created while under the umbrella of Big Machine.
According to The Blast, Braun has even tried to reach out to Swift to talk about the deal. So, what is the truth about this ugly feud?
Was Scooter Braun Really Involved in Swift’s Feud with Kim and Kanye?
In a word, yes. Back in 2016 when the feud between the singer and the rapper (and his wife) erupted, Braun was West’s manager. Though it’s possible he had no idea that West was planning to rap about Swift on his single Famous and include a nude mannequin of her body in the video clip, as West’s manager it’s not likely.
Here’s a refresher on that particularly nasty battle: Swift and West first duked it out at the 2009 MTV VMAs. He stormed the stage while Swift was accepting her award — “Imma let you finish,” etc — to tell the world that Beyoncé produced “the best video of all time” and was more deserving of the accolade.
At the time, Swift was just 19. Then-president Barack Obama was filmed calling West “a jackass”. “She’s getting an award, and what are you butting in?” Obama said in a video shared on TMZ. “The young lady seems like a perfectly nice person, she’s getting her award and what’s he doing up there?”
After a while, though, the pair made up, and all was seemingly well between the two until 2016 when West released Famous, complete with the lyric “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous”.
West said he called Swift to check she was happy with the lyric. Swift, via a spokesman, told People that was not true. “Kanye did not call for approval but to ask Taylor to release his single Famous on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that bitch famous’,” the statement read.
But that wasn’t the end of that. West’s wife Kim Kardashian had recorded the phone call in question and released the video on social media with all the requisite fanfare. In the clip, Swift agreed to let West rap about having sex with her, though the use of the word “bitch” is never mentioned. Fans chalked this one up as a victory for West and Kardashian, filling Swift’s social media with the snake emoji and sending the hashtag #KimExposedTaylorParty trending.
For those fans, Swift was caught out in a lie thanks to Kardashian’s canny receipts. And it wasn’t the first time Swift’s feuds had taken on an air of misinformation and revisionist history.
Taylor Swift VS Joe Jonas
Back in 2008, Swift and Joe Jonas were love’s young dream. The two rising musical stars were about as cute a couple as you can imagine, which made their sudden breakup all the more shocking. According to Swift, Jonas broke her heart in a 25-second phone call, providing ample fuel for her songwriting fire. (Forever and Always, on the Fearless album, is about Jonas.)
The comment about the 25-second phone call was made on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show in 2008. “When I find the right person, I’m not going to be able to remember the boy who broke up with me in 25 seconds when I was 18,” Swift said at the time.
The truth of the matter was that the conversation was so abrupt because Swift hung up on Jonas during their conversation. Swift has since apologised for putting Jonas “on blast”. “That was too much,” she said. “We laugh about it now, but that was some mouthy … Yeah, just some teenage stuff there.”
Taylor Swift VS Katy Perry
Today, Swift and Katy Perry are the best of friends, appearing alongside one another in the video clip for You Need To Calm Down. But ’twas not always thus. Back in 2012, after years of close friendship, Swift and Perry’s relationship broke down.
The feud began over what Swift believed was Perry poaching backup dancers from her Red world tour. In reality, the three dancers involved were originally employed by Perry on her California Dreams tour and were offered employment with the singer, again on her Prism world tour. Sure, they had to leave Swift’s tour in order to join Perry’s, but it’s not as clear-cut as it would seem. As the dancers themselves have said, they worked for Perry first and were also able to do more dancing on her tours.
“Obviously, we were with Katy for two-and-a-half years, she’s like family to us,” dancer Lockhart Brownlie said in 2013. “So we were, like, ‘Absolutely’.”
Swift took the defection personally, telling Rolling Stone an unnamed female celebrity “did something so horrible. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re just straight-up enemies’. And it wasn’t even about a guy! It had to do with business.”
Swift added: “She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me. And I’m surprisingly non-confrontational, you would not believe how much I hate conflict. So now I have to avoid her. It’s awkward, and I don’t like it.”
Taylor Swift VS Nicky Minaj
From the fertile ground of the Katy Perry feud did Swift’s Nicki Minaj feud grow. In 2015, Swift was nominated for Best Video at the MTV Movie Awards for Blank Space, while Minaj’s Anaconda was not despite the song’s success that year.
“If I was a different ‘kind’ of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well,” Minaj lamented on Twitter. The rapper’s point was that awards glory, at that point in the industry, was something that was rarely given to anyone who wasn’t white or straight-sized. “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year,” she tweeted.
Swift immediately fired back at Minaj, tweeting: “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.”
The only problem? Minaj wasn’t talking about Swift at all. She was making a pointed remark about the state of the industry as a whole and the way that certain gatekeepers kept minorities from succeeding.
Minaj responded: “Huh? U must not be reading my tweets. Didn’t say a word about u. I love u just as much. But u should speak on this.”
Swift ended up apologising, adding a touch disingenuously that if Swift won the award Minaj should join her on stage. But after the feud continued to grow, and Minaj received support from other artists including Perry, Swift apologised a second time. “I missed the point, I misunderstood, then misspoke. I’m sorry, Nicki.”
Taylor Swift VS Calvin Harris
The same year Swift was feuding with Minaj she was also falling in love with Calvin Harris. The Scottish DJ and the singer dated for 15 blissful months before breaking up in 2016. Swift rebounded with Tom Hiddleston, and the rest is pretty much history.
The feud between Swift and Harris didn’t start at the breakup, though, which was fairly amicable as far as breakups go. It began when Harris released his new single This Is What You Came For, with lyrics penned by a mysterious songwriter called Nils Sjoberg. That person didn’t exist and was, in fact, Swift writing under a pseudonym.
Originally, Swift had wanted to keep her involvement on the single secret, but when the news leaked Sjoberg and Swift were one and the same, many believed Swift had something to do with it. Harris hit back that he had never wanted to mislead anyone about Swift’s involvement on the song. “Amazing lyric writer and she smashed it as usual,” Harris tweeted at the time.
“Hurtful to me at this point that her and her team would go so far out of their way to try and make ME look bad at this stage though … I figure if you’re happy in your new relationship you should focus on that instead of trying to tear your ex bf down for something to do.” He continued: “I know you’re off on your tour and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy ETC, but I’m not that guy, sorry. I won’t allow it.”
So What about Scooter Braun
The jury is still out on who is at fault in this feud. On the one hand, Swift has every right to be devastated at the loss of her masters. The Occam’s razor of the whole thing is, quite probably, that Swift truly believes Braun to be a bully, regardless of whether he is or not, and that sacrificing her back catalogue to him is upsetting for her.
That’s the simplest explanation, sure. But sometimes the simplest explanation doesn’t take into account all the facts. And when it comes to Swift and feuds, it can be hard to figure out what all those facts are.