FEARLESS (TAYLOR'S VERSION) ALBUM REVIEW


I don't know how it gets better than this, but Fearless (Taylor's Version) is here and I couldn't be more excited! To mark the beginning of her journey of re-recording her first six albums to re-claim ownership of her early work, she started with her record-breaking sophomore release of Fearless. In an interview with Republic Records, she said "Deciding on what album to re-record first was pretty easy for me. I always gravitated towards Fearless because I think that, as an album, it was a real coming-of-age. And I look back on that album and it fills me with such pride, and it was an album about hope, and lessons learned, and the effervescence of teenage youth and all that. What more fun than to go back and explore that?"

In case you aren't caught up with why Taylor is re-recording her first six albums, I'll give a brief background. For the past few years, she has been very vocal about re-recording her first six albums as a way to reclaim ownership of her early work after the rights to the original master recordings were sold by Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta to Scooter Braun and his company, Ithica Holdings in 2019 for $300 million. In a 2019 letter, Taylor says she was never given the option to buy the rights back to her albums, and the masters being sold to Scooter Braun was her "worst case scenario". She continues by saying, "This is what happens when you sign a deal at fifteen to someone for whom the term ‘loyalty’ is clearly just a contractual concept. And when that man says ‘Music has value’, he means its value is beholden to men who had no part in creating it." In 2020, the masters were sold again to Shamrock Holdings without her knowledge. She ended her letter by saying, "Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make." 

Even though she doesn't own the rights to the original master recordings, she does have ownership of all of the lyrics and melodies because she wrote them all. She was eligible to begin re-recording her first five albums in November 2020 and her sixth album, Reputation, is eligible in 2022. For a more in-depth timeline of the ongoing fight for her masters, check out Entertainment Weekly's article that breaks down all of the details here

Re-recording albums isn't a new concept for musicians, but Taylor is going about this process in such a loud and public way, which is reminiscent of the time she made a point out of pulling all of her music from streaming services between 2014 and 2017. This was a controversial move for her at the time because she was/is one of the highest-grossing artists and doing this made her music less accessible. However, it was in order to bring attention to how services like Spotify and Apple Music were undervaluing the artists on their platform, especially when it comes to smaller musicians. At the time, Spotify paid less than a penny per stream, with all of the money going to the record labels and not the artist themselves. After Taylor's new record deal with Republic Records and Universal Music Group in 2018, she fought to have a portion of the label's Spotify shares distributed to every artist signed to the label. Taking her music off of streaming services right around the time when 1989, one of her most successful albums to date, was released was a very bold thing for her to do and ended up shifting the future of the music industry in the age of streaming. With Taylor making her reasons for wanting to own her masters so public, I do think that it will help smaller artists to not be taken advantage by record labels in the way that many have in the past. I also think that we will see a rise in modern artists that don't already own their masters publicly talking about it and fighting so they can own the rights or re-recording their old work if they are able to. Just like what she did in 2014, this opens a bigger conversation of the value of one's art they create that will once again shape the future of the music industry as a whole.

Fearless (Taylor's Version) has a total of 26 song on it; all of the original and deluxe tracks, a remix, a single from the soundtrack of Valentine's Day, and six unreleased songs "From The Vault".

Fearless was such a formative album for me when I was growing up and holds so many special memories. I first discovered Taylor in 2008 when I was nine years old through some of her early hits with songs like "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me". I remember getting the Fearless CD for my 10th birthday and blasting it all the time in my room (which I still do all the time!) I know that many others became fans of Taylor at this time too, so it was really a perfect choice for her to release Fearless (Taylor's Version) before the rest, since it holds so much significance in that way. Before the full album came out, she first released "Love Story (Taylor's Version)", which starts with the line "we were both young when I first saw you, I close my eyes and the flashback starts", which is just one of the many lyrics from this album that holds so much meaning in a different context than the way it was first written. I have loved seeing these songs take on a new life over the past 13 years!

I loved getting to revisit Fearless in such a different way with a new perspective and outlook on the stories being told. Music like this just means something different from the first time I heard it at nine years old versus now at 21 years old. It holds so much nostalgia for me and now feels so much more relatable than I have ever realized before. 


Overall, she pretty much stayed true to the original by working with many of the same studio musicians, producers, etc. in order to stay as close as possible to the original. She did improve upon the 2008 version in many ways with her stronger vocal delivery, cleaner production, and even slightly changing some of the lyrics so it makes more sense than the original way it was written - I'm also glad that she stopped singing with a fake Southern accent since then too. The attention to detail when replicating the magic of the original album must have been a very meticulous task for all involved, but it was executed so well. Any noticeable changes she has made in Fearless (Taylor's Version) are just enhancements to the beauty of original. Hearing how much her voice has changed when listening to the original paired with Taylor's Version, makes me so excited for the rest of her albums to be re-recorded in the future, especially her earlier work. 

Some of my favorite songs from Fearless have always been "Forever & Always", "Jump Then Fall", "Hey Stephen", "Superstar" and of course "Love Story", "Fearless" and "You Belong With Me". She did a really great job with all of these songs in particular and continue to be what I gravitate toward the most when listening to this album. 

I have also gained a new appreciation for songs like "Fifteen", "The Best Day", and "Breathe" featuring Colbie Callait, among others. I absolutely love the final verse of "Fifteen" when she sings, "I found time can heal most anything, and you might just find who you're supposed to be, I didn't know who I was supposed to be". 

I also don't know why I never properly gave "White Horse" and "Untouchable" a proper chance before, but both of those songs are so stunning lyrically and are some of the strongest vocal moments on the entire album. 

I love that she included "Today Was A Fairytale", which was originally released as a single for the 2010 movie Valentines Day. This gives me hope that other songs she wrote for soundtracks, like "Safe and Sound", "Eyes Open" and "Sweeter Than Fiction" will be a part of the Red or 1989 re-recordings!

"Change" is another song that holds a different meaning than the time it was first written in 2008 when she called it her "underdog story". She sings "Tonight we'll stand, get off our knees, fight for what we've worked for all these years, and the battle was long, it's the fight of our lives, but we’ll stand up champions tonight." This song was first written about her aspirations of being a successful musician in the very early days of her career when she was the only artist signed to Big Machine Records, which was then just a small independent country music label in Nashville. She says it took her a long time to finish writing, but she was moved to finish it when she saw Scott Borchetta crying when she won her first Country Music Award. She finishes the song by singing, "It was the night things changed, can you see it now? when the walls that they put up to hold us back fell down, it's a revolution, throw your hands up, 'cause we never gave in." Obviously the circumstances have changed surrounding her initial inspiration for this song, but the sentiment still stands and the long stretch of hallelujahs at the end does feel even more symbolic now than it did 13 years ago. 

One of the most exciting things that Taylor is incorporating into her new versions of these albums is never before released songs "From The Vault". Fearless (Taylor's Version) has six new songs that she wrote between the ages of 16 and 18 that didn't make the cut the first time and as she said "killed [her] to leave behind". Since they were never heard before, she was able to rework the production into something more true to her style of music now. Jack Antonoff, who has been a big part of her musical journey since 2013, produced four of these songs and Aaron Dessner, who she primarily worked with for both Folklore and Evermore, produced the other two. She was also able to add in new collaborations, "You All Over Me" features Marren Morris on backing vocals and "That's When" featuring Keith Urban, who she opened for on tour around the time Fearless was first released. The songs from the vault mostly sound like they were written to be country songs, but the production makes it feel more modern and fits into her style of music now. The song "Don't You" reminds me of something that would have been a track on 1989, which just makes me even more excited to hear the unreleased songs from that album! 

One of the best songs on the entire album, that I cannot believe was "in the vault" for 13 years, is the incredible "Mr. Perfectly Fine". In a recent Amazon promotion, Taylor shared her thoughts on this song; "It was definitely an early indicator of me sort of creeping towards a pop sensibility. I’ve always listened to every type of music and even though Fearless is a country album, there were always these pop melodies creeping in." I also love hearing the origin of the iconic "casually cruel" phrase that she used again in "All Too Well" too! If this song was released on the original version of the album, I definitely could've seen it being one of the big memorable hits from Fearless - I can only imagine what other musical gems she hasn't released yet!  



I'll always love the original Fearless and appreciate the impact it made on me and so many others - but there is something so special and symbolic about Taylor's Version of this album. This was a beautiful introduction to this journey of re-recording her albums and makes me look forward to what's to come for the other five albums soon! 

Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! 💛💛

-Melissa 

Photo Credit: 

Taylor Swift, Taylor Nation, and TAS Management


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