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On Friday, April 9th, at exactly 12 AM, Taylor Swift dropped her latest studio album, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), sending millions of fans worldwide into a fury of excited dancing, singing, and perhaps even some crying. The album itself is part of a larger project of Swift’s, in which she has vowed to re-record her first 6 albums (Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation). This move comes just months after the news that Ithaca Holdings, a corporation run by Scooter Braun (the infamous manager behind Justin Bieber) acquired Swift’s original label, Big Machine Records, for over $300 million. With this acquisition came the ownership of the “masters” – essentially the legal rights to determine where, when, and how the music is used – of Swift’s first 6 albums. In a post shared to her 150 million followers, Taylor lamented the contract that she signed at age 14 and explained that it now prevented her from owning her art. Braun and Swift have been industry foes since early in both of their careers, and when her team attempted to negotiate the purchase of her masters back from Big Machine, he was instrumental in preventing the deal. This war over Taylor’s creative property inspired Fearless (Taylor’s Version), which features all 13 tracks from the original Fearless album plus 7 deluxe songs from this era, all re-recorded in the past year. In addition to this, Swift included 6 unreleased songs she had written during the time she was creating the first version of Fearless, offering fans a new glimpse into the storyline of the album. 

The standard version of the album includes hits like “You Belong with Me” and “Love Story,” as well as deeper cuts like “White Horse,” “Breathe,” and “The Best Day.” In Taylor’s Version, Swift paid special attention to keeping these classics almost exactly the same, both vocally and instrumentally. While her voice sounds more mature than it did at 16, her ability to retain the original sound is impressive. As the album moves into bonus track territory, Swift begins to take more risk in straying from the original version in favor of more interesting (and less country-sounding) vocal runs. Among these 7 songs, “The Other Side of The Door” and “Forever & Always” (Piano Version) stand out as instant hits. Somehow, Swift has reinvented these songs, and they sound better than the originals. 

The most exciting element of this new project is the addition of 6 never-before-heard songs (“You All Over Me” (feat. Maren Morris), “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” “We Were Happy,” “That’s When” (feat. Keith Urban), “Don’t You,” and “Bye Bye Baby”). During the firestorm of Scooter Braun drama, Swift was adamant that artists should own their work since they are the only ones who know the story behind it. She builds on this point by supplementing Fearless (Taylor’s Version) with a multitude of songs that “almost” made the album, releasing them to fans now as a way to thicken the plot. These “From the Vault” songs are where Taylor really shines, whether on ballads like “We Were Happy” or “You All Over Me,” or the upbeat “Mr. Perfectly Fine.” Despite the redundancy of this new album, Swift’s fandom sent Fearless (Taylor’s Version) to number 1 on the US iTunes Chart in under 24 hours. This latest development in her career not only expands her discography but also establishes her dominance on the business side of the music industry. Toe to toe with Scooter Braun, a power player in his own right, Swift proves she is not the same bright-eyed teenager who hastily signed a record deal that withheld ownership of her music. Instead, she has become an artist with enough talent and power on her own to challenge the establishment that built her career. 

Maddie is a junior at Brown from Connecticut. She is concentrating in Economics.
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