By: Miranda Heinrich
On April 9, 2021, Taylor Swift re-released her 2008 hit album “Fearless.” Having been a die-hard fan of hers for eight years, the 2021 version absolutely took my breath away.
Since its release, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” has garnered over a million sales in the United States, and fans have opted out of listening to the original to listen to the new Fearless album as an ethical choice to undermine the commercial value of the “stolen” work.
Taylor is re-recording and re-releasing her 13-year-old album in order to regain ownership of her masters. Her original album was sold from her old record label Big Machine to Ithaca Holdings, managed by Scooter Braun, who has sold them once again to Shamrock Capital.
Taylor was unaware of these transactions beforehand and ultimately had no say in the ownership or what would happen to her own music. As Taylor explains in her introductory statement on the physical version of the album, “Artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really “knows” that body of work.” In order to own her first six albums, she is undergoing the time-consuming and difficult feat of replicating them so that fans can listen to her music as they are owned by their creator.
With 26 songs on the record, six of them “From the Vault” (previously unreleased tracks), Taylor has flawlessly reconstructed her old record to an almost uncanny level of accuracy. To the casual listener, it is barely distinguishable from the original, accurate down to the giggle in “Hey Stephen.” Taylor, at 31, with strengthened vocals, has channeled her 17-year-old style with a little less country twang and a little more maturity.
One particular song that destroys me to hear now is “Fifteen,” where Taylor sings about being heartbroken in high school with her best friend Abigail.
In her new lyric video for the song on YouTube, a slideshow of old photos of them coupled with the lyrics, “In your life, you’ll do things/Greater than dating the boy on the football team/I didn’t know it at fifteen” is both nostalgic and reminiscent of their teenage experience as it compares to how far they have come in life.
Thirty-one-year-old Taylor realizing those “bigger dreams” that she sings about in the song at an older age is evidence of growth at its finest and will ring true to many other teenagers from that time who are re-listening to her albums as adults.
If you are old enough to remember 2009, you know the country-pop sensation that is “You Belong With Me.” A story about a girl and her love interest who lives next door. Her vocals are especially prominent in the rerecording; as many people have pointed out, her enunciation of words and notes is more pronounced and sustain through each beat.
As she reaches the bridge of the song, she carries the words with a stronger body and controlled breath, showing off her decade of vocal improvement. The way she distinguishes the notes in the line “Can’t you see that I’m the one who understands you” brings me to tears. Leave it to Taylor to take one of her biggest hits and strengthen its musical impact.
“The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version)” was one of Taylor’s personal favorites to re-record because of her grown-up voice and the ease that she found in singing it again. Compared to the way she used to struggle to sing them live, she is able to nail the larger octave jumps and imbue clarity in the notes that ring out after she’s spoken them. This song is one of my favorites from both versions; Taylor has effortlessly recreated the insanity and desperation that fosters the feeling of young love.
A touching song about her mother Andrea Swift, “The Best Day (Taylor’s Version)” is beautifully simple, clear, and yet another call-back to Taylor’s relationships with the people important to her in her teen years. She has since made other heartbreaking songs about her mother, including “Soon You’ll Get Better” from her hit album, “Lover.” It’s a song of hopeful prayer and devastating circumstances surrounding her mother’s battle with cancer.
It’s hard not to be overcome with emotion when you hear adult Taylor sing about her memories with her mom, and the lyrics serve as a reminder of how much she has grown and endured since then. The line “I know you were on my side/Even when I was wrong” still rings true, as Andrea Swift is consistently there to support Taylor in all of the obstacles that she is yet to discover at 18.
“Untouchable (Taylor’s Version)” feels like an upgrade from its old counterpart. Each note sparkles brighter, her voice supporting the weight of the notes and adding greater depth to the emotional effect of the song. I didn’t find the 2008 version particularly exciting, but in 2021 Taylor does an excellent job revamping “Untouchable” in a way that is freshly illuminating while still staying true to the original.
Plainly put, “The Other Side of the Door” (new and old) is an incredible song. Outstanding in both versions, the vivid description of a rain-soaked fight coupled with the way it builds to an intense resolution is country-pop storytelling perfection. The lines “You carry me from your car up the stairs/And I broke down cryin’ was it worth this mess?/After everything and that little black dress/After everything, I must confess I need you,” are a brutally honest and breathtaking ending, especially in Taylor’s improved voice.
“Mr. Perfectly Fine,” one of the new vault tracks, is an upbeat song of heartbreak. It’s another classic bop with underlying themes of sadness and revenge directed at Joe Jonas, her ex-boyfriend from that time.
Though they all joke about it now, the repetition of “Mr.” and the caustic accusations littered throughout the track is intense; “Mr. Insincere apology so he doesn’t look like the bad guy” being a notable remark from the song. The key change following the bridge is a perfect excuse to scream your heart out.
Both “You All Over Me” and “That’s When” (another two vault songs) feature modern country singers Maren Morris and Keith Urban, respectively.
They also present classic Taylor-Swift-country style acoustics and her favorite music producers, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. The style of all these artists makes for a unique combination of older Fearless style and newer “Folklore/Evermore” sounds (her latest albums).
Taylor Swift never fails to impress, and she’s outdone herself in her re-release of “Fearless.” Her musical prowess and determination are on full display with the way she is able to embody her younger self while showing her growth as a vocalist and as a person.
Her ability to transport her audience to 2008, and allow for retrospection at the same time is flawless and dreamy.
She is timeless, and she’ll never let us forget it. Be on the lookout for her other 5 re-recorded albums, coming soon.
In the meantime, I suggest screaming the words to “Love Story” again in your bedroom.