When Starbucks tweeted “It’s Red Season,” they meant it.
The coffee chain teamed up with Taylor Swift for a new collaboration to promote Red (Taylor’s Version), which dropped on Nov. 12. The release also coincided with Starbucks’s annual red cups for the holiday season — a match made in heaven. Fans could order Swift’s regular drink, a Grande Caramel Nonfat Latte, by asking simply for “Taylor’s Version.” The name would also be printed on their drink label, shortened to “Lat (Tay’s),” perfect for those who want to capture an Instagram-worthy picture.
This partnership isn’t the first time a musician has partnered with a brand. McDonald’s did something similar with BTS and Saweetie; Popeyes is working with Megan Thee Stallion; and most recently, Tim Hortons just announced its partnership with Justin Bieber. But this collaboration included an extra promotion: Starbucks locations across the country were exclusively playing Swift’s music. They also created an official playlist for customers to join in the fun at home, appropriately titled “Starbucks Lovers” (in reference to a commonly misheard lyric on the song “Blank Space”).
If you’re a Swiftie who spent all your time in Starbucks while this collaboration happened (like I did), you likely noticed a common thread in the songs you heard inside the café: They’re all songs owned by Swift herself, either from the albums for which she owns the masters — Lover, folklore and evermore — or the re-recorded Taylor’s Versions. The official playlist also includes more than just the popular singles, which any diehard fan will appreciate. At the Ann Arbor Starbucks on State Street, I heard “I Forgot That You Existed,” “Babe,” “Happiness,” “Illicit Affairs,” “Forever and Always” and even “Christmas Tree Farm,” to name a few.
For those who don’t know, Swift is re-recording all of her old songs in order to reclaim her work. After the master recordings of all her old albums were purchased by Scooter Braun, with whom Swift has a longtime feud, she left her previous record label Big Machine Records and signed with Universal Music Group. She was legally allowed to start re-recording her catalog in November 2020 and since then, she has wasted no time. For Swift, these re-releases are about more than just money (though streaming Taylor’s Version prevents Braun from profiting off the new music). She prides herself on being an artist and a songwriter, having written a majority of the songs in her catalog all by herself, and has spoken out for years on the importance of artists being able to own their work.
Not only did this particular caveat of the collaboration ensure that the re-recordings get the attention that they deserve, it also exposed her lesser-known music to a much wider audience. While Swift is already a household name and doing just fine in terms of streaming numbers, there’s still a large amount of the general public who only ever hear her songs that get radio play. The re-recordings are helping to bridge the gap between Swift’s singles and the lesser-known songs more beloved by fans, but this Starbucks partnership took it a step further.
I, for one, am all for it. Most of my favorite songs on Swift’s albums are popular among other Swifties, but are rarely recognized by the general public (unless used in a TikTok trend, for example). I could easily argue that these less celebrated songs are more complex lyrically — which might explain the lack of radio play — and they deserve way more recognition than they currently receive. The partnership is a chance for that to happen. Plus, it’s just as fun to be a serious fan and hear these songs playing from somewhere other than my earbuds!
Daily Arts Writer Hannah Carapellotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.