Podcasts often blend journalistic investigation with personal reflection, from Serial to Switched on Pop. Their veneer of fiction-as-fact especially confounds representation when podcasts’ voice acting and sound design portray pop stars in caricatured dramatizations. This paper examines reenactments of Cher and Taylor Swift in podcasts that investigate popular music industries and technology. As I show, these stars often are ventriloquized on podcasts due to their respective ages and visibility as women. Podcasts interrogate them for being too old or too young and for trespassing onto the often-male domains of business and technology.
To show how podcast hosts represent women pop stars in particularly gendered and ageist ways, I listen to the sonics of fictionalization of two episodes that mythologize Cher’s Auto-Tuning and Swift’s battle to take back her masters from record industry men. First, American Innovations reenacts Cher’s request to producers to create the Auto-Tune effect, but the male host’s ventriloquy of her voice reduces her artistic and technological prowess to parody as they make her seem outdated. Then, in Business Wars, multiple voice actors reenact Swift’s career from its beginning and depict her as a child who doesn’t know any better. These podcasts blur facts and public opinion with alluring dramatizations of what “really happened,” placing listeners in the scene with compelling voice acting and ambient sound effects. In these reenactments, podcasts’ affordances of intimacy and immersion—which hosts often herald as democratizing—perpetuate cultural mythologies about gender and age in popular music.
[W]omen in entertainment are discarded in an elephant graveyard at 35. […] The female artists have reinvented themselves 20 times more than the male artists. They have to or else you’re out of a job.Taylor Swift1
Of the glut of podcasts today that profess to be non-fiction, how many embellish facts to tell a better tale? Serial, itself on the heels of This American Life, demonstrates the tendency for investigative journalism to reenact and reinterpret subject matter. As has been the case with Serial and Adnan Syed, sometimes hosts’ commentaries hold so much sway that they can reverse court decisions.2 But other times, hosts’ interpretations perpetuate myths and reinforce binaries in the justice system. High production value true crime podcasts like Crimetown and Hollywood and Crime, as Neil Verma points out, “employ dramatic recreations” with “an increasing population of ‘bit’ voice actors.”3 These shows’ hyperbolic voice acting and sound design often produce interpretive bias in reenactments.
Dramatic recreations in podcasts make myths about people in both direct and indirect ways: they can literally twist what a person may have said, or more figuratively bend the truth through a particular affordance of podcasts—sound. Sound design and voice acting are often used in documentary-style reenactments of events, which have become pervasive in podcasts about popular musicians. The lure of reenactment in pop star portrayals especially crops up in industry and technology podcasts that tend to be produced by (and often for) men, as in Business Wars, which recently released a four-part series on Taylor Swift. In this article, I analyze recent podcast episodes where scripted voice actors depict Cher and Swift as being too old and too young, respectively. The gendered and ageist voice acting, background music, and sound design in these reenactments assert producers’ viewpoints that these stars trespass onto the often-male domains of music business and production. Media manipulations of sound, voice, and music, which I call the sonics of fictionalization, do not emerge from a vacuum: they build on radio and earlier podcasts’ use of sound to Other subjects, as well as on a long history of taming women’s “shrill” voices in media. The sonics of fictionalization have lasting misogynist, ableist, and ageist consequences for the immortalization of popular music history on podcasts.
The Sonics of Fictionalization in Audio Media
Audio media are an ideal testing ground to study pop voices as sites where “naturalized markers of age, musical ability, and gender intersect, just as they do in the body—an acoustical site onto which fans project anxieties and fantasies about who these singers were, who they have become, and the culturally gendered spectacle of aging.”4 Hosts’ discourse about pop stars on podcasts has been studied, but less so have the ways that sound effects and voice acting lead listeners to imagine celebrities’ appearances and behaviors. Podcast scholars such as Jason Loviglio have, however, analyzed how “prosody or paralanguage; that is, pitch, intonation, rhythm, loudness, stress and tone” often transmit contradictory cultural and ideological markers of gender, class, race, and more—so much so that listeners often queer Terri Gross and Ira Glass based on assumptions about non-normative pitch and speech patterns. For Loviglio, “these voices function as crucial ‘sound effects’ for conveying the tricky cultural work of NPR, a network trying to straddle a complex set of overlapping and competing audiences, expectations and visions.”5 Similarly, podcasts aim to appeal to wide fan bases by mimicking the well-trodden ageist and sexist mythologies that surround pop stars’ voices—for example, Switched on Pop stresses Britney Spears’s baby-talk and Ke$ha’s bratty tones.6 Podcasts often exaggerate vocal archetypes as shorthand for audiences to identify pop stars by the notorious “sound effects” associated with their personas.
Sonic archetypes that assist fictionalization and mythmaking are also conventional in true crime storytelling podcasts, whether through the confessional tones of hosts like Serial’s Sarah Koenig or In the Dark’s Madeleine Baran, or through interview tape snippets that pit victims against villains to propel the narrative. These shows’ mixes of field recordings and “the intimate personal relationship the host/narrator builds with the audience […] create images and sounds to tell the circumstances of an unsolved crime when this information is largely unknown,” as Amanda Keeler writes.7 Incorporating highly crafted fictionalized elements into crime scene soundscapes opens the door for listeners’ interpretations of murky evidence. Horror programs similarly use imagination-inducing sonic techniques. In Archive 81, which was adapted into a Netflix show in 2022, paranormal activity is haptically and horrifically indexed by crackling analog tapes. Across several genres, podcasts use symbolic soundscapes to imaginatively place viewers in a specific space and time.
As the immersive and interactive sounds of these shows illustrate, the sonics of fictionalization in podcasts are created on both sides of production and reception. In production, speakers use close miking and conspiratorial tones to help audiences visualize people in their mind’s ear. For Alyn Euritt, intimacy is “a quality built, negotiated, and structured among people” on podcasts and stems from physical interactions with technology that users can perceive aurally and even tactilely, in plosives from close miking or the tape hiss also rampant in vinyl fetishism.8 To build on these haptic effects, producers incorporate sounds from listeners’ aural memories to project them into similar fictional circumstances.
In reception, listeners take an active role to fill in senses that sounds evoke, like sight, touch, and even taste and smell—as in the sizzles of frying food in a cooking podcast. Without images, audio media activate one’s imagination to contour the outlines of people and places in narratives. In Western society, Nina Eidsheim writes, “It is assumed that if I listen carefully to a sound—in the absence of a visually presented or otherwise known source—I should be able to identify […] general information about him or her—from broader identity markers to fine-grained assessments regarding health, mood, or emotional state.”9 Listeners connect visual biases to a speaker’s voice, such as the label of “shrill” applied to Hillary Clinton in 2016 that misogynistically heard her as a “nasty woman”—the type of judgment that led the Hollywood studio men in Singin’ in the Rain to dub over Lina Lamont’s “grating” working-class accent.10 Calling women’s voices “shrill,” Jilly Boyce Kay writes, “symbolically register[s them] as being out of place—as irredeemably tainted by an association with the domestic, which also serves as a misogynistic reminder that the domestic is where they belong. As such, when women’s voices are heard as challenging or complaining, this is often mediated and understood through the trope of the nagging wife.”11 Following the work of these sound and voice scholars, I argue that aural cultural codes affect how listeners visualize people and objects: they hasten the transformation of sound into image and become, inevitably, audiovisual codes.
The feminine-coded “sound effects” investigated by Loviglio in audio media have persevered throughout history: in Golden Age (1920s–1950s) radio, women’s voices “were criticized for lacking the proper authority to present the news, for being shrill (which is to say, both high-pitched and emotionally intense) irritating, and having too much personality, according to some critics, or too little, according to others.” Muffled by these value judgments, women were forced to adopt lower voices in a kind of “male drag” that would grant them authority as news presenters.12 Clinton’s “nagging voice” that prompted the nasty woman label is just another case of ostracizing women’s voices from the measured, male voices that uphold capitalist patriarchy. As we will see in podcast reenactments, stereotypes of women’s voices continue to resurface in gendered neoliberal frameworks of mass media. Their sonics of fictionalization trade in archetypes that listeners can recognize and judge, where the medium of voice becomes the message.
The Lure of Reenactment
Myths about women’s voices are perpetuated in mass media through age-old archetypes of the witch, nasty woman, girlboss, and more—these are sonic markers that actively shape the audiovisual stereotyping and listener recognition of pop singers’ identities. These politics of recognition are especially fraught in podcast reenactments, which make us feel like we are co-present with stars even while we recognize their detachment from our time and space. Podcast reenactments have a paradoxical temporality that parallels photographs, which theorist Roland Barthes describes as having “an illogical conjunction between the here-now and the there-then.”13 Aural reenactments on podcasts use candid sonics of fictionalization to deliver a sense of “I am there” rather than just “I was there.” Whether with caricatured voice acting, manipulative background music, or intimate sound design, these sonic elements work together to collapse past and present and individual and collective. Much as Classical Hollywood cinema closely miked women’s voices to reproduce gendered archetypes like the siren and the hysterical woman, podcast reenactments’ placement of voices in the front of the mix imbues them with an immediate presence that playacts as truth in reenactments.14
The lure of reenactment in podcasts emerges from a technological and ideological investment in voice to convey instantly identifiable aspects of a person’s appearance and traits. Scholars like Adriana Cavarero theorize that listeners hear a person’s voice as a unique sonic signature that indexes fixed markers of their body and status. One’s voice, however, is not frozen in time but enacts performances of gender, race, class, and more: the fatigue or age of one’s body or the situations one encounters affect vocal changes, as in the way a singer adopts a different style to talk to thousands of people onstage versus how she addresses her producer or her lover. Podcasts’ flirtation with reenactment hinges on assumptions of what one’s private voice sounds like compared with their public voice—often they collapse the two so that listeners both recognize and form intimate connections with stars’ voices.
But podcasts’ attempts to bring listeners into intimate contact with an individual are in direct conflict with the collective aural stereotypes at stake here. Women’s voices in audio media are not taken seriously if they are heard as too docile, which as Kay argues reinscribes their proper place as the domestic, or too nasty, which prevents people from paying attention to the content of their speech, as with Hillary Clinton. How, then, do reenactments of pop stars’ voices address the expansive variances of a voice’s performativity on the one hand, and the restrictive mythologies they inscribe for listeners on the other? By examining gendered portrayals of pop stars on two ends of an ageist spectrum, I explore how podcasts’ voice acting, sound mixing, and discourse allow producers to construct interpretive slippages that create a semblance of intimacy between audiences and pop stars through recognizable archetypes. To follow Euritt, “To study intimacy is a step toward understanding the underlying power relations that determine how the public is made private, how cultural power inserts itself into people’s lives, and what types of privateness are deemed acceptable for public consumption.”15 Studying the sonics of fictionalization, of feigned intimacy, in podcast reenactments can reveal power relations that are at the core of the music industry: the often-male record producers who determine the arc of women’s careers, the commodification of music and female bodies, and more.
Do You “Believe” in Cher after Reenactments?
“Let’s go back to, oh, summer of 1998.” A male podcast host’s words cue in the sound of a car starting and dreamy vibraphones, which recall the motor noises created by Foley artist John Roesch and his team for Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985).16 These time-machine vibes dissolve into Europop dance music, which signals a jump back in time to a Y2K-era club. In mere seconds, this “How Auto-Tune Works” episode of Stuff You Should Know (Aug. 11, 2015) beams listeners into the debut of Cher’s “Believe.” The episode’s soundscape is carefully constructed to evoke the technological dawn of Cher’s Auto-Tune and Europop era. Stuff You Should Know uses sounds as time capsules to activate listeners’ aural muscle memories, as it draws on the dreamy vibraphones and harps that have come to connote time travel across theater shows and films. This time-travel cue, as well as other types of background music, signal Cher’s use of Auto-Tune as a future-shocking injection into pop music, which ends up bolstering a sexist and ageist interpretation of her innovation.
Perhaps not surprisingly, due to the legal and economic issues surrounding the licensing of copyrighted music in podcasts, the show uses an excerpt of Cher’s “Believe” only once, to demonstrate the song’s use of overt Auto-Tune that would popularize the effect for singers from T-Pain to SOPHIE.17 The hosts run most of Cher’s story against generic club music that, at first listen, may seem innocuous. But even music that’s not meant to be noticed contributes mood and atmosphere: Stuff You Should Know uses vaguely coded Europop music to generate a “factual” sound bath for reenacting the production of “Believe.” The hosts set themselves in the club as if they and everyone else are hearing “Believe” for the first time, saying that the first application of Auto-Tune to Cher’s verse-line “I can’t break through,” “changed the whole tone of the club, like, the club was like okay, but now it’s bangin’.”18 Their bro-y banter proceeds to spend more time on paratextual references to what they are wearing than to the music: Chuck says, “I’ve got on my, uh, my short pants,” to which Josh replies, “I’m dressed like I’m out for a Night at the Roxbury […] wearing a see-through mesh shirt” and jokes disparagingly about his “third nipple really stand[ing] out.”
Moreover, the hosts inject presentist and positivist assumptions onto “Believe’s” notoriously fraught reception history. Their paratextual focus on clothes belittles the more crucial paratexts around the reception history of “Believe”: the gendered and ageist discourse leveraged at Cher by critics who deemed her use of Auto-Tune inhuman and too futuristic, with her voice like “an electric fan,” or too dated, with a “metallic chipmunk sound” that emulates the pitch-shifted voices of the Chipmunks, created on 1950s vari-speed tape.19 The Stuff You Should Know hosts merely skim over the critical backlash Cher received, and they couch it in laudatory tones: “Everybody said, what was that, that was awesome, although some people were like, what was that, don’t ever do that again. But most people were like, wow, Cher just released her biggest hit of her entire career […] She just came back.” They seem to choose Cher for their episode opening because of how obviously cool she should be to their listeners, but they neglect the damaging discourse in 1998 that she was too old to come back—at age 52, she had already had several eras and career comebacks. As the Late Era podcast episode “Cher—Believe (with Brittany Spanos)” stated in 2020, she has been “fighting against how uncool everyone thought she was in every era she existed.” Unlike Late Era, Stuff You Should Know does little to redeem Cher’s underappreciated status. It’s not surprising that the episode’s focus is superficial, as for decades, music critics have focused on Cher’s image over her voice, such as her hippy looks on 1970s Sonny & Cher shows and elaborate costumes on later solo tours. By the time Cher debuted Auto-Tune in such a definitive way for popular music, she was known more for her image than her sonic production. The hosts’ focus on their imaginary clothing reinforces this, although the two straight men’s joke about mesh shirts and third nipples also points back to crucial political valences of Cher’s image production: she has long been an LGBTQ icon for her showgirl glamour.20 Thus, the hosts—perhaps accidentally—mark and mock Cher’s fanbase.
The Stuff You Should Know hosts do give Cher some credit for her sonic production. They discuss how Cher had heard a telephone-like sound in an Andrew Roachford record and asked producers Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling to replicate it. But this interpretation reads Cher as a mindless copier and the producers as masterminds. The hosts grapple with the Auto-Tune effect’s entangled authorship; they ultimately attribute it to the production team but praise her approval of the effect: “if it’s due to her giving it the green light, then that was truly foresight, like, a masterful move by Cher.” This remark reveals how the hosts remain cagey about the extent of Cher’s innovative suggestions—it’s possible they doubt the histories they’ve read to prepare for the show, which happens in the quick turnaround of producing episodes. But their reluctance to more explicitly acknowledge Cher’s sonic decisions ends up framing her reception more in the image-making than sound-making camp.
Another podcast, released nearly at the same time as Late Era, continues to cash in on image-based archetypes for Cher and adds some sonic stereotypes. The American Innovations episode “Auto-Tune: From Cher to Kanye” (November 19, 2020) reenacts a scene from the studio where Cher recorded “Believe.” In a perplexing choice, American Innovations host Steven Johnson plays both Cher and Mark Taylor while also narrating the story in the third person. We hear disorienting interjections from Cher and Taylor in the same male voice, with only slight inflections and stereo panning to differentiate them. As Johnson tells it, while Cher was inspired by the Roachford sound, it was the producers who delivered the goods. After she hears their rendition of her voice, Johnson narrates:
Cher jolts to attention, like she’s been hit with a cattle prod. Her eyes are wide, but so is her grin.
“That’s it! That’s the sound!” [Johnson says as Cher; this exclamation cues in a marimba ostinato that sounds like music-for-genius.]
[Johnson as narrator:] But then she turns to Taylor and points a well-manicured finger in her face.
[Johnson as Cher:] “The record labels are gonna fight us on this. They hate experimentation. But if you let anyone touch this track, I’ll rip your throat out.”
[Johnson as narrator:] Taylor follows the diva’s orders. The mix remains as it is, and so does his throat. The real fight is what happens next: when a little software plug-in becomes a household name. And that name becomes synonymous with the battle for the soul of modern music. This is the story of Auto-Tune.
This reenactment’s gendered and ideological effects stem from two main sonic features—the score and Johnson’s voice acting, which add drama but also misogynist undertones.
Scored by Jason Freeman, the marimba ostinato at Cher’s words, “That’s the sound!” signals achievement with bright and whimsical tones. On the one hand, the music’s entrance at Cher’s approval of the Auto-Tune effect suggests her excitement to innovate musically. On the other hand, read with the grain of the words “Cher” spits out later—“I’ll rip your throat out”—the music gains a valence of nasty woman misogyny. Frank Lehman dubs marimba-like minimalist buildups that score scenes of discovery and innovation “music-for-genius,” which is often coded, Lehman implies, as the male-dominated mathematical sublime. Epitomized by James Horner’s score for A Beautiful Mind, music-for-genius “utilizes quick successions of chromatically related triads to suggest infinitude—numerical and psychic.”21 It may not be accidental that these grandiose connotations of male logic, often pitted against feminine intuition or care work, underscore the podcast’s story of who ends up getting credit for using Auto-Tune. For after using Cher at the beginning of the episode much like Stuff You Should Know did as a kitschy figure to hook listeners, American Innovations leaves Cher behind quickly to focus on Auto-Tune’s inventor, Andy Hildebrand. Moreover, this reenactment potentially confuses listeners because Hildebrand is also voiced by the host, Taylor, who voices Cher during the music-for-genius segment.
Johnson’s choice to voice Cher instead of having a female voice actor join the show to represent her could be said to disingenuously gender this story. But Johnson’s vocal drag of Cher presents a fascinating gender slippage that at once speaks to the number of drag artists who lip-sync to Cher—such as Chad Michaels on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Four—and to Cher’s own transgressive contralto range.22 Yet this vocal drag also reinscribes the predominance of male genius in Cher’s Auto-Tune origin story (especially when set to music-for-genius). The amount of male markers in this dramatization unseat Cher as the protagonist and laud Hildebrand and Taylor—and later in the episode, T-Pain and Kanye—as Auto-Tune’s fathers.
Cher could perhaps be heard as granted masculine agency through the vocal drag, but, as Loviglio reminds us, pitch is only one way that women’s voices have been tone-policed. Johnson’s intonations and descriptions cast her as an antagonist in Auto-Tune’s story when he makes her out to be a cartoon villain with Ursula-like fingernails and a cattle-prod expression. The script fixates on her looks and stereotypes her as having a diva attitude—such as calling her innovative suggestion of the Auto-Tune effect a “vocal thing”—which belittles her production prowess. Like Stuff You Should Know, American Innovations undergirds critics’ tendencies to read Cher as an image before her vocal sound. But while print media in the era of “Believe” reduced Cher to images from a supposedly “objective” critical view, the 2021 podcast hosts personify that view by aurally detaching Cher from her body. The host substitutes his authorial voice for Cher’s like a documentary voice-of-God narrator, who is typically white and male. Voice-of-God narration allows a director to insert his own view over that of the film’s subjects, making them “puppets conforming to a line,” to borrow a phrase from Bill Nichols.23
Similarly, American Innovations puts words in Cher’s mouth. The line about Cher ripping her producer’s throat out renders her as a nasty woman and misquotes her real reaction to Auto-Tune, which was, as she reported in a 1999 interview, “You can change that part of it, over my dead body.”24 The difference is significant, for instead of threatening to kill a man, Cher puts her body on the line for her art. The episode’s fictionalizing interpretations dangerously masquerade as fact in the reenactment mode, as listeners could read this misogynistic portrayal of Cher as truth—and, more broadly, this interpretation perpetuates the notion that men are the only technological innovators in popular music. For Nichols, “reenactments intensify the degree to which a given argument or perspective appears compelling, contributing to the work’s emotional appeal, or convincing, contributing to its rational appeal by means of real or apparent proof.”25 Johnson adds conviction to critics’ ire that Cher was too old to reinvent herself by giving her an ageist, sea-witch-like growl. In Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Ursula steals the voice of young and pretty Ariel, maiming her in the process by taking out her tongue—not unlike the misquote of Cher ripping out throats.26 Johnson steals Cher’s voice to make her sound like a curmudgeonly Ursula, which nullifies her power to express herself in her own voice and words. But like the potential transgression of the vocal drag gives Cher masculine power, Cher also does some vocal borrowing of her own, from Auto-Tune’s futuristic sheen that aligns her with the youth-oriented Europop genre. The use of vocal drag by American Innovations, as with Stuff You Should Know’s murky authorship attributions, leaves the idea of voice-stealing somewhat open to interpretation, but nonetheless charges it in gendered and ageist ways.
By substituting both voice and script as the truth from Cher’s supposed lips, the podcast producers’ sonics of fictionalization figure her as a nasty woman even though she was willing to sacrifice her body for her art. As Hélène Cixous counters misogynistic views of female bodies and voices, “You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing.”27 Medusa was another label for Hillary Clinton, as the visual analog to her “shrill” voice. If we adapt Cixous’s words to a sonic context, we might ask: what would podcast accounts of Cher sound like if they acknowledged her technological decisions? They might start by giving her a separate voice from that of the host, so that the subject can speak more for herself in a reenactment. But even when pop stars have their own voice in reenactments, podcasts are still apt to replicate norms about authority and expertise.
Reenacting Taylor Swift: 13 or 33?
A Taylor Swift reenactment presents the opposite end of the ageist spectrum from Cher, but it is no less gendered—and no less complicated when it comes to questions of authorship and attribution. Swift, while 33, is still viewed by critics as juvenile in many ways: she is painted as ignorant for signing away her master recordings as a teen to Scott Borchetta, the founder of Swift’s first label Big Machine, and to Scooter Braun, the record executive who eventually acquired the masters to Swift’s first six studio albums. In re-recording her masters, but also before then, she wields a juvenile image that appeals to a broad fanbase, even though the songs she penned as a youth now are sung with a mature voice. The tensions between her public and critical reception and her marketing and performance choices have amassed a great deal of scholarship (in this issue alone, see Galloway); here I study a reenactment where voice acting and sound design put into sonic relief the adolescent-vs.-adult Swift paradox.
The epic four-episode Business Wars podcast series “Taylor Swift vs. Scooter Braun” (September 2022) narrates nearly two decades of Swift’s career, beginning in Nashville in November 2004.28 Each series of the podcast examines rivalries like Coke vs. Pepsi; this one rehearses Swift’s disputes with Borchetta and Braun. Business Wars, like American Innovations, is produced by Wondery, which has a partnership to use Universal Music Group catalogs—including Swift’s since 2018—in their podcasts.29 Swift’s hits provide the background music for several of the series’ reenactments, which star Caroline Kinney as Swift and David Brown—who is also the podcast host and narrator—as both Borchetta and Braun. These “recreations” have a disclaimer at the ends of episodes: “In most cases, we can’t know exactly what was said. Most scenes are dramatizations, but they’re based on historical research.” Business Wars rarely pulls tape from interviews (when it does, it’s a few lines from Great American Country and award speeches) in favor of creating a time warp that keeps Swift forever young.
The series begins with a reenactment at the Universal Music Group offices, where Swift first plays her music for Borchetta. Yet instead of a straightforward breakout moment, the narration and voice acting by Brown and Kinney alternately present Swift as both young and old, naïve and savvy. In the first scene, Brown-the-narrator says, “She’s only 15 but she looks older than that.” This quote captures in microcosm how the archetypes of woman genius and innocent girl collide in portrayals of Swift (even Swift’s own, as will be discussed). When “Swift” first speaks, Kinney’s inflections paint her as both an infantile country wannabe and a girl genius: she says to Borchetta, “‘I hope you like this—I worked real hard on it.’” Brown glibly comments that Swift’s introductory song is “surprisingly well written for a teenager” and, as Borchetta, assumes someone had written the song with her. In only a few minutes, the show builds up and breaks down the myth that Swift had what it takes to make it: the voice acting makes her seem both green and ingenious, while simultaneously “Borchetta” expresses surprise at Swift’s knack for songwriting.
While media now celebrate Swift’s range—as The Guardian reviewed her 2023 Eras tour, “[i]n sheer scope of songs and devotion to lyrics, no artist can match her”30—Business Wars predominantly represents her as a monolithic girl in a high-rise surrounded by social media and cats (which are, somewhat paradoxically, associated with spinsters). To reinforce the gendered and ageist connotations of “girl,” the voice acting and sound design keep her perpetually in teenage years, even when she is “playing” a businesswoman. Kinney’s voice is relentlessly breathless, the vocal equivalent of doe-eyed inexperience. Moreover, adjective-packed narrations of Swift’s signature looks, like her blonde curls, blue eyes, and red lips, paint a picture of Swift in our mind’s ear before Kinney speaks, hastening the illusion that she is Swift, as well as coloring her speech and actions as gendered and juvenile.
In Episode 1, when debating whether to sign with Borchetta, “Swift” reads from her diary—a factual moment, as the Lover (2019) deluxe release included pages from her journals.31 This entry reads, “This last week was CRAZY. […] so Capitol Records doesn’t think I’m ready…[but] on the other hand, there’s Scott Borchetta […] and he’s SO passionate about this project. I think that’s the way we’re gonna go, I want to surround myself with passionate people,” Kinney says in the tones of a giddy preteen, which elides the maturity of a nearly 15-year-old who makes self-aware creative collaborations. She doesn’t get the cool, collected sheen of the series’ male unhurried voice acting, as when at her contract signing Borchetta explains to her father that it’s standard for Swift to own the publishing rights but not her master recordings. In a podcast that centers on the drama of her masters, this reenacted crisis invokes a hindsight-is-20/20 mood as the scritch of Swift’s pen on paper dominates the sound design. Much like dynamic uses of Foley in mid-century radio drama to make fiction come to life, the scribblings of pens and rustling of pages perform “the iterative effort of going through the motions of reenacting,” which for Nichols “imbues such facts with the lived stuff of immediate and situated experience.”32 The reenactments (Not Taylor’s Version) ventriloquize Swift and sonically construct career downfalls with an intimacy that presents them as events (The Factual Version).
The series also uses sound design and targeted discourse to belittle Swift’s “screaming, crying fans.”33 High-pitched squeals are made and made much of, suggesting that Swift’s deployment of her fans to get back at Borchetta and Braun is on the one hand playground nonsense, and on the other hand “her most powerful weapon: her rabid fans and acid-dipped lyrics” (Episode 2). In this 2014 moment, the series acknowledges Swift’s growth but uses weaponized language to turn her into a nasty woman. As Brown narrates Swift’s Tumblr post that revealed Braun’s years of bullying before purchasing her masters, “Swift is a long way from that trusting 15-year-old girl, eager to sign on to a label. Right now, as she types on her laptop, she knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s crafting a bomb” (Episode 3), he says amid Hans Zimmer-esque rhythmic strings that map male-coded music-for-genius onto Swift. Such discourse, voice acting, and background music, however, repeats American Innovation’s collapse of Cher into Ursula. Moreover, representing fans as evil ignores the way that fan mobilization was perhaps the only strategy available to Swift because confronting men publicly would render her a nasty woman. As Episode 2 depicts, Swift’s publicist, Tree Paine, warns her not to call out Borchetta for taking credit for Swift’s decision to remove her music from Spotify and tells her to let her fans spread the truth. On the one hand, the scene’s overloud soundscape of purring cats and the miffed voice in which Kinney responds to Borchetta and Paine is difficult to take seriously, making a parody of her as girly in contrast to voices of reason. Or, podcast listeners might hear Swift as a girlboss with raucous cats who has fans do her dirty work. On the other hand, however, we might take seriously Kinney’s chagrin and advice-seeking as part of what Kay calls
The balancing act entailed in locating an acceptably public voice—one that is intimate but does not ‘overshare’; that is not too emotional, not too angry, not too loud; one that is authoritative but not too much so—is a treacherously difficult one to achieve. Indeed, […] it is functionally impossible: not because women fail on an individual basis to find this balance, but because the conditions for its possibility do not yet exist.34
This reenacted moment enacts this very balance: a patriarchal, capitalist view pits Swift as naïve, but a systemic critique accounts for her wisdom to consult experts in the moment, and her right to be angry. The feline sound design thus provides potent sonics of fictionalization from many angles, as it also makes her relatable to the many cat-owning fans she mobilizes.
The podcast’s young/old, inexperienced/experienced confusion may result from, as Tyler Bickford observes, Swift’s choice to “claim the innocence of childhood for herself, well into her adult career […] in a particular version of white femininity that foregrounds innocence, youth, and vulnerability.”35 Swift’s personas have been highly mediated from the start of her career; as Brown muses as Borchetta at her first session in 2004, “Swift looks older than she is, so he might be able to pass her off as 20-something.” Swift’s mature appearance was an advantage to marketing her as a country singer, but so were the freshman year experiences that spawned her breakout hit “Tim McGraw” and her use of MySpace to reach peers and fans of her music.36 Such chameleonic age-shifting works at cross-purposes to the confessional, what-you-see-is-what-you-get authenticity that country singer-songwriters must develop.37 Yet country singers, as Myles McNutt and others have argued, also must take on multiple personas as they tell stories that come from different ages, even different genders, across their oeuvre. Age-shifting—which, as Cher accomplished via pitch-shifting to become relevant to Europop youth—is thus advantageous in the music industry.
Swift also employed age-shifting to her advantage when she turned to pop with 1989 (2014). She worked on this album with “mature” collaborators like Max Martin, who helped diminish her juvenile image to act more like—or surpass—her age. But by releasing bonus voice memos about her song-writing process for this album, Swift could have her cake and eat it, too: these behind-the-scenes snippets promised young fanbases in particular—those flocking to Target to buy the special release—to intimately connect with her recording process in a similar way to the prior confessional country persona.38 While Business Wars does not discuss these voice memos, it provides a foil in Swift’s trip to Walmart to buy Fearless (2008) with “blond hair waving out like a halo around her.” Cast as angelic and innocent in appearance, she simultaneously is lauded for her savvy in dropping a MySpace hint that drew hundreds of fans to the store. By 1989, Swift still communicated on social media as she had done with her country fans—and as the Business Wars sound department emphasizes with clacking keyboards. The busyness of this sound design presents Janus faces of Swift’s genius (savvy businesswoman) and girlishness (flighty social media maven). But when Swift secluded herself before Reputation (2017), her social media and mass media use became even more calculated. Swift’s attempts to distance herself from her teenage image—with darker sounds and darker lipstick—can be seen in the Netflix documentary Miss Americana (2020), which covers her 2018 Reputation tour and political coming-out during the 2018 US midterm elections.39 The tour’s rampant snake imagery shows how Swift self-reflexively adopted the reptilian brand Kim Kardashian had imparted to her after the multi-year dispute with Kanye. Yet the snake imagery also reinforces the gender binary, going the opposite way of cats to label women as conniving instead of appeasing. At this point in the Business Wars narrative of Swift’s career, listeners get the sense that she is on the winning side of the war, though it is no less gendered.
The podcast’s consideration of Swift largely in relation to her label disputes echoes Paul Thèberge’s observation that “[t]he career of a teen pop star, even one as ambitious as the young Taylor Swift, is amplified and channeled through the ambitions of many other people: those of managers, publicists, label owners, producers and…parents.”40 These industry adults have an incentive to keep Swift young, for the longer they do, the longer they can control and profit from her career. This juvenile bias is also productive for the podcast producers, who use it to hook listeners with fictionalized scenarios that can be alluringly fleshed out with elaborate sound design. For example, near the beginning of Episode 2, Swift has a pool party with celebrities from Emma Stone to Lena Dunham as a response to getting “flack on Twitter for her boy obsession,” in Brown’s girlish framing. Immersive sounds of splashing and even baking a cake make it seem like Swift convened a young female coven as a publicity stunt because the women’s laughter is exaggerated as ominous cackles. Witches, as Kay paraphrases Silvia Federici, historically have been “a threat not just to patriarchy but also to private property and capital accumulation. It was in this context that [collective] women’s talk more broadly came to be feared, belittled and despised.”41 As Brown reacts to this reenactment—“It’s no accident that her home is swarming with female celebrities”—and the sound design of the cake-baking ends with the sinister whirr of an electric mixer and the women high-fiving, the podcast frames women’s talk and collective action as menacing. Moreover, the voice acting—with extras besides Kinney—makes Swift and Stone sound like cardboard cutouts of themselves. To help listeners identify these celebrities, sensationalized portrayals are based around Ur-texts, their breakout moments. Archetypes of young, fun women reflect ideal forms of celebrities back to listeners, as blank spaces they desire to occupy. As podcasts trade on disembodied voices that listeners project fantasies onto, Business Wars has an incentive to freeze-frame Swift as a perpetual teenager up until about 2019, when her 29 years far eclipsed that status.
For much of Business Wars, Swift sounds like a whiny teenager who doesn’t get her way. In so doing, the show diminishes the ways Swift “performs a contradictory image, appealing equally to six-year-old girls and sixty-year-old men (that final fanbase, at last, secured by her folklore album).”42 In an age with increasingly anti-elitist arguments about popular media, older men often convince the general public to reframe media previously seen as artificial or lowbrow to middlebrow (think Olivia Rodrigo’s album Sour or the debates around Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie; see also Bimm in this issue). As Christopher Chowrimootoo argues, middlebrows “indulg[e] base desires while laying claim to aesthetic purity […] without shame or irony,” which speaks to how shameless middlebrow poptimism might be a majority male purview, especially in light of Loviglio’s and Kay’s views that women’s voices are silenced when they are perceived as shamefully excessive or inadequate.43 But Swift has figured out how to make seemingly contradictory values work for women, and for capitalism. Simultaneously she is “the girl-next-door/millionaire, the hopeless romantic/savvy businesswoman, and a silly teenager/serious adult singer-songwriter.”44 Business Wars illustrates one such collision when describing how Swift has to re-sign with Borchetta and again forfeit her masters before releasing Reputation. Brown says she cries—the producers’ interpretation, not a known fact—and he concludes dramatically, “She’ll use this sense of shame as fuel to go through a painful metamorphosis. And when she returns to the stage, her lyrics will be weapons, and her new persona will be unrecognizable.” But after Swift self-imposes a nasty woman persona in Reputation, she inverts Kay’s account that “practices that seek to silence, shame and discipline unruly women have been central to the development of capitalist power”—for she turns public shaming into commercial profit.45
While Swift’s persona in Business Wars turns venomous in the Reputation era, the series sensationalizes her nasty woman moment and pits it as antithetical to angelic, youthful emblems like her haloed hair. But either type of allusion, like Cher’s manicured fingernails, reduces Swift to the marked category of “woman artist.” As Mary Fogarty and Gina Arnold argue, “For women in the pop industry, it’s always a tough sell to convince audiences that they are the producers of their words, images, and sounds, especially when they are young.”46 While Swift is judged to cater to adolescents, she isn’t a young girl detached from the realities of the industry. Her young songwriting persona demonstrates her and Paine’s marketing savvy. Music videos also show Swift’s self-reflexive personas, as in her self-directed video for “The Man” (2020), where she dresses as a male alter-ego voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or the video Joseph Kahn directed for “Look What You Made Me Do” (2017), where she “kills off” her previous personas in a comeback. The many characters she writes into songs are how she chooses to voice herself; refracted in videos, voice notes, and interviews, her multifaceted personas reinforce her ownership of her lyrics, sounds, and images.
In all, the podcast tends to voice Swift as either “hysteric girl” or “nasty woman”—two types of rage that are coded, conversely, as playground tiffs versus playacting as an older woman. The voice acting and sound design reduce Swift’s multiple personas to two—girl and girlboss. But Swift herself has complicated that dichotomy by re-recording her first six albums. While Business Wars infantilized her speaking voice, Swift’s singing is noticeably older in 2021’s Fearless (Taylor’s Version) than in its 2008 release. As Diane Pecknold, Kate Galloway, and Travis Stimeling have noted, critiques of Swift’s vocal imperfections map onto those of pubescent girls’ voices.47 But her re-recordings unleash a developed voice that, for Théberge, means “the songs can no longer be easily read as tentative statements penned by an earnest teenager, they are recordings of songs that have already proven their worth, made by an artist who has (finally) matured.”48 Swift also recognizes the change: on Good Morning America, she reported that in “the older music, my voice was so teenaged sometimes […] it makes me feel like I’m a different singer now.” Countering Théberge’s point that Swift’s records are tried-and-tested products, she continues, “[I]t’s been the most fun to re-record ones that I feel like I could actually possibly improve upon the song.”49 Swift’s business acumen joins with what John McGrath has termed “the return to craft,” as she seizes the opportunity to rebrand her songs not only with an older voice, but with the experience that comes with it.50 The multiple remakings of Swift’s voice are not reflected in Business Wars, which casts only one actor for her and complicates its own youthful elixir with plenty of nasty woman moments, which, in their alignment with Hillary Clinton, tend to skew older. While some fans expressed that “the girl they got to do the voice nailed it!!!,”51 the result often homogenizes Swift’s voice, which, like Cher’s ventriloquized voice, raises concerns for reenactments in podcasts in the future.
Epilogue: Aging Ever After
Podcast reenactments run the gamut of ageism for women pop stars, from Swift’s voice eternalized as juvenile to Cher’s voice caricatured as a male Ursula. These ventriloquizations take stars’ voices out of the lives they’ve lived, and yet, these podcast reenactments become gospel in listeners’ ears because they perpetuate pop star archetypes. When a male host ventriloquizes Cher, he nullifies vocal drag’s transgressive power by putting untrue words in her mouth and emblazoning them in history. And the more realistically voice-acted Swift risks hearing the star in our mind’s ear as forever the teenager. As Nichols writes on documentary films, “Reenactments are clearly a view rather than the view from which the past yields up its truth. Reenactments […] reconcile this apparent contradiction by acknowledging the adoption of a distinct perspective, point of view, or voice. Such perspectives can proliferate indefinitely, but each of them can also intensify an awareness of the separation between the lost object and its reenactment.”52 For all the clarity that Nichols suggests in reenactments, what might hold in an audiovisual documentary does not in an audio medium that relies on sonic proximity. Thus, even though the reenactments’ voice acting could be said to adopt some distance from stars’ real voices, critics and media representations caricature them in listeners’ aural memories, and consequently, dramatic recreation collapses into mythology that could circulate as truth.
When podcasts succumb to the lure of reenactment, the format’s affordances of voice acting, sound design, and intimacy muddle fact with interpretative sonics of fictionalization. But there is an alternative from reenactment: properly quoted anecdotes as in 2020’s Late Era podcast episode “Cher – Believe (with Brittany Spanos),” which situates Cher as a pioneer of technological innovation. The hosts contextualize Cher’s career through her own responses to critics—including the “over my dead body” line. Instead of reenacting the production of “Believe,” the hosts frame it as historical research, beginning from the premise that Cher herself suggested the Auto-Tune effect. This anecdotal framing offers a more balanced account than the reenactment because it separates the host’s voice from that of the subject. One step further is to interview the celebrity in question, as in Dolly Parton’s America (2019). Intentional framing that incorporates stars’ quotes or audio clips draws clearer lines between fact and fiction and works to debunk myths forged by gender hierarchies.
Podcasts have enormous power for representing spaces and times, but they are not historical reproductions, no matter how real they might sound. Close attention to how podcasts use voice acting, sound design, and background music reveals their status as not reproductions but re-presentations of entrenched stereotypes. Listeners must unpack these podcasts’ audiovisual codes and understand them as interpretations informed by biographical and historical material. Yet, when framed with context and the aural inclusion of interviews and citations, historical viewpoints can coexist with those of critics if these different voices are clearly demarcated. Situating voices in their embodied contexts is crucial to draw the lines between fact and fiction in podcasting.
Taylor Swift quoted in Miss Americana, dir. Lana Wilson (Tremolo Productions, 2020).
Anastasia Tsioulcas, “Prosecutors Drop Charges against Adnan Syed, the Subject of ‘Serial’ Podcast,” NPR, October 11, 2022. https://www.npr.org/2022/10/11/1127986399/prosecutors-drop-charges-against-adnan-syed-the-subject-of-serial-podcast
Neil Verma, “The Arts of Amnesia: The Case for Audio Drama, Part One,” RadioDoc Review 3, no. 1 (2017): 13.
Jessica A. Holmes and Michael Kinney, “Céline Dion’s and Cher’s Vegas Residencies: The Envoiced and Embodied Spectacle of Feminine Aging on the Vegas Stage,” in The Possibility Machine: Music and Myth in Las Vegas, ed. Jake Johnson (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2023), 113.
Jason Loviglio, “Sound Effects: Gender, Voice and the Cultural Work of NPR,” The Radio Journal – International Studies in Broadcast and Audio Media 5, nos. 2 and 3 (2007): 68, 73.
Simon Reynolds (guest); Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan, prods., Episode 102, “Do You Believe in Life After Auto-Tune?” Switched on Pop (January 22, 2019, USA; Panoply), https://switchedonpop.com/episodes/102-do-you-believe-in-life-after-autotune?rq=autotune.
Amanda Keeler, “Listening to the Aftermath of Crime: True Crime Podcasts,” in Saving New Sounds: Podcast Preservation and Historiography, ed. Jeremy Wade Morris and Eric Hoyt (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2021), 126.
Alyn Euritt, Podcasting As an Intimate Medium (Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2022), 18.
Nina Sun Eidsheim, The Race of Sound: Listening, Timbre, and Vocality in African American Music (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019), 2.
Liz Greene and Tina Tallon have studied cases of “shrill” female voices across history. Liz Greene, “Speaking, Singing, Screaming: Controlling the Female Voice in American Cinema,” Soundtrack 2, no. 1 (2009): 63–76. Tina Tallon, “A Century of ‘Shrill: How Bias in Technology Has Hurt Women’s Voices,’” The New Yorker, September 3, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/a-century-of-shrill-how-bias-in-technology-has-hurt-womens-voices.
Jilly Boyce Kay, Gender, Media and Voice: Communicative Injustice and Public Speech (Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2020), 102.
Loviglio, “Sound Effects,” 74.
Roland Barthes, “Rhetoric of the Image,” in Image, Music, Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang,  1977), 44.
On Classical Hollywood cinema’s containment of women through vocal archetypes, see Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1988).
Euritt, Podcasting As an Intimate Medium, 19.
For more on Roesch’s Foley effects, see Benjamin Wright, “Footsteps with Character: The Art and Craft of Foley,” Screen 55, no. 2 (Summer 2014): 204–220.
For a recent summary on the debates of copyright and licensing popular music for use in podcasts, see Ellis Jones and Jeremy Morris, “Competing Sounds? Podcasting and Popular Music,” Introduction to the “Podcasting and Popular Music” Special Issue of Radio Journal 20, no. 1 (April 2022): 3–15.
For further analysis of Auto-Tune’s image-shaping effects on Cher’s career, see Amy Skjerseth, “Gimmick Music: Negotiating Auto-Tune’s ‘Cher Effect,’” in “Sounds of Accompaniment: Transcript from an SCMS 2022 Panel on Music, Technology, and Labor,” Andy Kelleher Stuhl, Alexandra Hui, Alexander Russo, Amy Skjerseth, Journal of Popular Music Studies 34, no. 3 (2022): 23–29.
Josh Tyrangiel, “Singer’s Little Helper,” Time International (South Pacific Edition) 173, no. 6 (February 16, 2009): 41–43, 39; David Hajdu, “David Hajdu on Music: Imperfect Pitch,” The New Republic (July 12, 2012): 29.
Mitchell Morris, The Persistence of Sentiment: Display and Feeling in Popular Music of the 1970s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 167–68.
Frank Lehman, “Transformational Analysis and the Representation of Genius in Film Music,” Music Theory Spectrum 35, no. 1 (2013): 2.
For more on vocal drag, see Judith Peraino, Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), Chapter 4, and Jacob Smith, Spoken Word: Postwar American Phonograph Cultures (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), Chapter 4.
Bill Nichols, “The Voice of Documentary,” Film Quarterly 36, no. 3 (1983): 27.
Cher quoted in Neil Strauss, “Cher Resurrected, Again, by a Hit: The Long, Hard but Serendipitous Road to ‘Believe,’” New York Times, March 11, 1999.
Bill Nichols, “Documentary Reenactment and the Fantasmatic Subject.” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 1 (Autumn 2008): 88.
For more about stolen voices and reembodiment in The Little Mermaid, see Katherine Meizel, Multivocality: Singing on the Borders of Identity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020), 164.
Hélène Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa,” in Feminisms Redux: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism, ed. Robyn Warhol-Down and Diane Price Herndl (New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2009), 424.
“Taylor Swift vs. Scooter Braun” was released in September 2022 as Season 74. All subsequent citations unless noted are from this podcast series. The first episode, “On the Outside,” narrates Swift’s early career, from 2004–2011. Episode 2, “Bad Blood,” follows Swift’s battle with Scott Borchetta to de-countrify her albums, from 2014–2018, when Scooter Braun acquired Big Machine Records, Borchetta’s label. Episode 3, “Revenge of the Swifties,” opens in 2019 when Borchetta and Braun merged and covers Swift’s fight to take back the masters for her first six albums, including rerecording Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version). The final episode, “Breaking Down the Big Machine,” shelves the reenactments in favor of insights from Chris William, a Variety senior music writer who interviewed Swift early in her career.
Wendy Lee, “Universal Music Group Partners with Wondery, Which Produced ‘Dirty John’ Podcast,” Los Angeles Times (April 17, 2019), https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-universal-music-group-wondery-podcast-20190417-story.html.
Adrian Horton, “Taylor Swift Review—Pop’s Hardest-Working Star Gives Eras Tour Her All,” The Guardian (May 18, 2023), https://www.theguardian.com/music/2023/mar/18/taylor-swift-eras-tour-review-arizona.
See Margaret Rossman, “Taylor Swift, Remediating the Self, and Nostalgic Girlhood in Tween Music Fandom,” Transformative Works and Cultures, 38 (2022): https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2022.2287.
Nichols, “Documentary Reenactment,” 80.
Rossman, “Taylor Swift, Remediating the Self, and Nostalgic Girlhood in Tween Music Fandom.”
Kay, Gender, Media and Voice, 7.
Tyler Bickford, Tween Pop: Children’s Music and Public Culture (Durham: Duke University Press, 2020), 107.
Myles McNutt, “From ‘Mine’ to ‘Ours’: Gendered Hierarchies of Female Authorship and the Limits of Taylor Swift’s Paratextual Feminism,” Communication, Culture and Critique 13, no. 1 (2020): 72–91.
Christa Anne Bentley, “Los Angeles Troubadours: The Politics of the Singer-Songwriter Movement, 1968-1975,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2016.
Maryn Wilkinson, “‘Taylor Swift: The Hardest Working, Zaniest Girl in Show Business…’,” Celebrity Studies 10, no. 3 (2019): 441–44.
Annelot Prins, “On Good Girls and Woke White Women: Miss Americana and the Performance of Popular White Womanhood,” Celebrity Studies 13, no. 1 (2022): 102.
Paul Théberge, “Love and Business: Taylor Swift as Celebrity, Businesswoman, and Advocate,” Contemporary Music Review 40, no. 1 (2021), 45.
Kay, Gender, Media and Voice, 4.
Mary Fogarty and Gina Arnold, “Are You Ready for It? Re-Evaluating Taylor Swift,” Contemporary Music Review 40, no. 1 (2021): 2.
Christopher Chowrimootoo, Middlebrow Modernism (University of California Press, 2018), 8.
Fogarty and Arnold, “Are You Ready for It?” 2.
Kay, Gender, Media and Voice, 4.
Fogarty and Arnold, “Are You Ready for It?” 4.
Diane Pecknold, “‘These Stupid Little Sounds in Her Voice’: Valuing and Vilifying the New Girl Voice,” in Voicing Girlhood in Popular Music, ed. Jacqueline Warwick and Allison Adrian (New York: Routledge, 2017), 77–98. Kate Galloway, “Musicking Fan Culture and Circulating the Materiality of Taylor Swift Musical Greeting Cards on YouTube,” American Music 38, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 252. Travis Stimeling, “Taylor Swift’s ‘Pitch Problem’ and the Place of Adolescent Girls in Country Music,” in Country Boys and Redneck Women: New Essays in Gender and Country Music, ed. Diane Pecknold and Kristine M. McCusker (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2016).
Théberge, “Love and Business,” 57.
Taylor Swift quoted in Will Richards, “Taylor Swift says re-recording old music is ‘an amazing adventure,’” NME, November 26, 2020, https://www.nme.com/news/music/taylor-swift-says-re-recording-old-music-is-an-amazing-adventure-2825681.
John McGrath, “The Return to Craft: Taylor Swift, Nostalgia, and Covid-19,” Popular Music and Society 46, no. 1 (2023): 70–84.
User nvonb, “New Season of Podcast Business Wars on Taylor’s Fight to Win Her Masters,” October 2022, Reddit, https://www.reddit.com/r/TaylorSwift/comments/x8fvto/new_season_of_podcast_business_wars_on_taylors/.
Nichols, “Documentary Reenactment,” 80.