Taylor Swift’s “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is worlds away from the original album she released 13 years ago. In response to the talent manager Scooter Braun acquiring ownership of her music in 2019, Swift is on a mission to re-record her catalog and make it something new. “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is the first re-recording of hers that hints at a promising future for other revamped releases. Swift maintained the essence of what made these tracks excellent in the first place while showcasing her talent and improved artistry.
Swift, who previously signed with Big Machine, fell victim to having her catalog of music sold without her consent when Braun bought the label. While her master tracks were owned by the label, she claimed the deal took place without her being notified. Since she did not have a chance to purchase the rights, she regained control by re-recording her past albums.
It is clear that Swift takes full advantage of her newfound artistic freedom. She never attempts to replace or forget the sounds of her past, but rather gives them a twist. Recorded tracks such as “White Horse” and “The Best Day” could easily pass as songs from her recent albums “folklore” and “evermore,” as she moves away from the more country-leaning energy of “Fearless” and replaces it with a more indie-folk twist.
“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is a whopping 26 songs, including the tracks featured on her original platinum edition of the album, in addition to six unreleased tracks from her vault. Swift’s rejected “Fearless” tracks finally appeared, and Swift is proud to share her work even now. The vault’s tracks feel like a time capsule of her country phase, embracing the genre more than pop on most of her tracks. She unapologetically clings to her roots by featuring prominent country artists on these vault tracks, with Maren Morris in “You All Over Me” and Keith Urban in “That’s When.”
From the first track, it is impossible to ignore Swift’s lower, matured voice and heightened confidence. Her lowered register suits the mood of each track much better than the previous recordings. “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” proves that Swift has grown tremendously in her singing. It never seems like she is straining her voice as she belts.
On “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” Swift channels the tenacity of her teenage self. At 31, it’s difficult to exude the same emotions of a first kiss. Yet, somehow, Swift remains as emotive and persuasive as she was when she first wrote “Fifteen,” a track about her first year of high school. She has an impressive ability to emote believably and genuinely. It’s as if she is transported to the state of mind she had during the original recordings.
The production is what really makes the album so engaging. Swift co-produced the album with Jack Antonoff, Christopher Rowe and Aaron Dessner in an admirable and effective way to showcase her independence by demonstrating how meticulous she is about generating a unique style. While the original recording of “You Belong with Me” left her vocals sounding bare, Swift’s voice blended smoothly with the instrumentals and the added layer of harmonies in the re-recorded version.
On “The Way I Loved You” and “Hey Stephen,” I hear the new, refreshed production. The pronounced guitar and bass match Swift’s energy and listeners enter the worlds she creates through her lyrics, which makes these tracks feel more complete.
In “Love Story,” the fiddle part is more striking than in the original recording, which brightens the track. After 13 years, you develop a connection with how a song sounds. It took a song I’ve been listening to for 13 years and made me love it even more, which is no small feat.
The same goes for “White Horse,” which ended up being my favorite re-recorded track. Her mature voice and vocal choices suit the song better than the original. Her choice to employ exaggerated breaths and pauses before she delivers an emotional line conveys themes of yearning and pain. These feelings can only come from a heartbreak that feels like the dissolution of a fairytale. After listening to this version, I will never go back to the original.
“Don’t You” is a runner-up. Swift and Antonoff add a synth that is reminiscent of her “Lover” era, creating a sense of yearning that amplifies her lyrics. It feels almost haunting, especially in lines like “My heart knows what the truth is / I swore I wouldn’t do this.” This song is distinct from the country-pop classics we’ve all grown to love, and is a refreshing surprise. Swift’s production comes off as more polished, bolstered by synths that give it a more novel feel.
“Mr. Perfectly Fine” feels like something that matches the rest of the songs on “Fearless,” a catchy track ripe for blasting in your car. The lyrics themselves are a mouthful, with lines like “So dignified in your well-pressed suit / So strategized, all the eyes on you/Sashay away to your seat,” but Swift delivers them with ease, set to a bright, bouncy melody. One of the best surprises of this album is finding out that “Mr. Perfectly Fine” has been a sibling to a rejected “Fearless” song all along. For the Swifties, the song subtly nods to “All Too Well” from Swift’s “Red” album in 2012. Both “All Too Well” and “Mr. Perfectly Fine” references a lyric of this “casually cruel” man. This song is a testament to what she’s known the best for: writing lyrics that are not only incredibly descriptive but resonate to anyone who’s been in similar situations of heartbreak.
“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” helps us understand Swift’s evolution and her ambitious artistry without being tainted by others. After recording arguably the best music of her career (her Grammy-winning albums “folklore” and “evermore,”) taking the time to re-record “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” shows Swift’s determination to her music. Not only does she care deeply about the work she releases, but she’ll do anything to prove it.
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