With ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version),’ Taylor Swift begins the arduous process of reclaiming her music

by Sofia Noorouzi

With ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version),’ Taylor Swift begins the arduous process of reclaiming her music

Taylor Swift

Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift · April 9, 2021

With ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version),’ Taylor Swift begins the arduous process of reclaiming her music

At 16 years old, Taylor Swift signed a contract with Big Machine Records. Unbeknownst to the teenager, she sold away the rights to owning her master recordings, which made her vulnerable to the whims of a multi-million dollar label and stripped the young singer-songwriter of ownership. All six of her first albums were put out by Big Machine from 2006 to 2017. Swift vowed to recover the rights to her work pre-Lover that was put out by her original record label, and later bought by Scooter Braun. She disapproved of this sale and has publicly expressed her dislike for the music manager. Braun recently sold the rights to another company, but Swift’s fight for ownership persists.

13 years later, Swift revisits her sophomore album, Fearless, and the new version totals to an hour and 46 minutes of 20 re-recorded songs and six new releases. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is the first installation to this arduous process of reclaiming her music after waiting years to start re-recording due to contractual commitments.

This is Swift’s third album release in the last nine months, following the albums Folklore and Evermore, both of which venture into the folk and alternative rock genres. Against that backdrop, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) jolts fans into the artist’s country-pop roots. The 2008 album launched Swift into stardom and earned her a Grammy for Album of the Year. With two more Album of the Year Grammys for 1989 and Folklore, Swift has become one of the best-selling musical artists worldwide.

Swift ensures that all 19 tracks from the Platinum Edition of Fearless remain unchanged in the new versions, which have the same lyrics and banjo-playing. All that is missing is her slightly nasal southern twang, which faded over the years, with Swift’s controlled vibrato taking its place. “Fifteen (Taylor’s Version)” is almost indistinguishable from the original, and will immediately transport listeners to their own adolescent heartbreaks, or allow them to agonize over fresh heartache through a nostalgic retelling. Swift’s melodrama in “The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version)” is excessive and immature, which rings true to the 2008 record. Her lyricism has expanded over the past decade, but deep cuts like, “The Best Day (Taylor’s Version),” where Swift reminisces on her relationship with her mother, are timeless.

Written by Swift during the early aughts, the six “From The Vault” songs were not previously included on the album and offer fans a novel listening experience. They all strike a balance between her youthful country narration and contemporary production from the likes of Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner. “Don’t You” stands out the most. It leans more towards a pop ballad rather than a country ballad, and heavy synth laced with echoing vocals and flute tones creates a master work, one that seems unimaginable if it matched the debut production style.

Swift collaborates with country singers Keith Urban and Maren Morris on two of the other “From The Vault” songs. On “That’s When,” Urban’s harmonies elevate Swift’s verses, amounting to a powerful song about lovers’ dissolution and reunion.

“Mr. Perfectly Fine” conforms to Fearless with its catchy chorus, chock-full of Swift’s spiteful verses sung over a bright and lively beat. Her vulnerable storytelling is rooted in country music, and it is comforting to hear Swift’s mature vocals on the reproduced tracks where fans can now know that their beloved artist owns the rights to the art that means so much to them.