When Scooter Braun bought Taylor Swift’s masters for an alleged $300 million in 2019, there was no doubt in Swift’s mind that she would be reclaiming her first six albums through carefully constructed re-recordings. This would both make the original records worthless and give Swift full ownership of her back catalogue.
It makes sense that Swift re-recorded her 2008 sophomore album first. Fearless garnered Swift her first Album of the Year at the 2010 Grammys. It catapulted her into mainstream consciousness with hits like ‘Love Story’ and ‘You Belong with Me’. It is a testament to the strength of Swift’s self-proclaimed “sharp pen and thin skin and open heart” that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) feels brand new, 13 years later, without changing much at all.
We return back to a world of princesses, fairytales, 2AM, kissing in the rain, and a host of turbulent teenage emotions. Coming off the back of folklore and evermore, with their fictionalised storylines of adult themes like marriage and adultery, ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’ could have fallen flat. However, the release felt less like a complete 180 and more of a playful nod to the past. Swift offers us a rich reinvention of a timeless album, this time without the slightly embarrassing country twang and the reedy vocals that come with being eighteen and green. ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’ feels heraldic and victorious; it did what it came to do, did it cleanly and succinctly, and left its antecedent behind.
Alongside the original Platinum Edition tracklist, the album features 6 unreleased tracks subtitled ‘From The Vault’. The vault songs follow in the same vein of teen-angst heartbreak, some a little more forgettable than others. Tracks like ‘Bye Bye Baby’ and ‘We Were Happy’ don’t particularly add much to Swift’s extensive musical canon, but others do shine. ‘Mr. Perfectly Fine’ is a particular standout, a scathing, pop-driven breakup track that delivers blow after sarcastic blow about a subpar ex.
While Swift’s desire to remain faithful to the original record doesn’t allow for much change, there are a few slight alterations throughout the re-recording. One perceptible lyric change sits in power ballad ‘White Horse’ – in the bridge, Swift sings “I’m not a princess / This ain’t our fairytale” instead of the original “I’m not a princess / This ain’t a fairytale”. The change to “our” had fans frothing at the mouth, the pronoun possibly alluding to Swift having found eventual happiness with long-term partner Joe Alwyn in 2016, after she swore she would “find someone someday who might actually treat [her] well” in ‘White Horse’. It is a clever nod to her adult life, subtle enough to feel personal but overt enough to remind us that she is not the teenager she once was.
Hearing 31-year old Swift sing about teenage heartbreak is gently bittersweet. Her vocals are confident and effortless. Her iconic guitar melodies sound vibrant and full. Highlights include ‘Fearless’, ‘The Way I Loved You’, and ‘The Other Side of the Door’. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) has convinced me of Swift’s ability to recreate her old music in a way that is still relevant. I tip my cowboy hat to her. Here’s to the next five albums.