The first song I ever loved, truly loved, was “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. At just six years old, I thought it was literature. My sister performed it at our school’s talent show because we knew it was an instant classic.
Now, about thirteen years later (of course, it’s thirteen), Fearless (Taylor’s Version) has been released.
Swift is fighting the long war against Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun in owning her masters. Re-recording her first six albums is ambitious, but if anyone could do it, it would be Taylor Swift. She’s had hit after hit, award after award, proving her legend status.
But, I’m not here to delve into the ways Taylor Swift is an icon, it’s evident through her history of breaking records. I’m here to really evaluate Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and how much it means to a lifelong Swiftie.
I’ve been incredibly nervous about all of these re-recordings. I can let go of slight differences in an album like “reputation” or “1989,” but “Fearless” is sentimental to me. I grew up screaming “You Belong with Me” in the car and crying to “White Horse.” I grew up with these. What if she didn’t give the shaky breath between the chorus and verse? What if she didn’t over-exaggerate her country twang?
Of course, I’d listen to these re-recordings over the old version no matter what. After everything Taylor Swift’s done for me, there was no way I would ever betray her (again).
But, the re-recordings are perfect. Sure, there are tiny differences in maybe a few songs, but overall the album carries the same fairytale-like quality. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was on a walk in my neighborhood the first time I listened to Taylor’s Version in full and had a total breakdown to “Fifteen (Taylor’s Version).” She’s found a way to recapture the exact way I felt as a little girl, dreaming of love.
The album starts off with “Fearless (TV).” Those intro drums give me butterflies, even all these years later. It’s still the perfect start of the album because it sets the tone for the ride Swift will take us on. There’s a slight change to the pronunciation. In the second verse at “capture it, remember it,” she’s lost a bit of her country twang.
“Fifteen (TV)” hits harder than ever before. Immediately, I’m transported to a younger version of myself, dreaming of what it would be like to be older and a fifteen version of myself, heartsick in my room. It gave me goosebumps when she sang, “You sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail and soon enough your best friends.” This line is even better knowing that Abigail and Taylor are still best friends.
But, my favorite line now is, “Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday, but I realized some bigger dreams of mine.” When I hear this, I imagine a young Taylor Swift promising herself the heartbreak would be worth it because she’d reach her goals. At the time, it was her manifesting that into the world. But now, at thirty-one, she remembers how she once felt. This song has become more nostalgic and reminiscent with the re-record.
As I got older, I started to appreciate “Love Story” less and less. I sang it nearly every day as a kid and it was always a skip for me. But when Taylor’s Version came out, I couldn’t stop listening to it because it truly has one of her bridges. The only difference I noticed was, “Oh Oh cause you were Romeo, I was a Scarlet Letter,” was sharper and more pronounced.
“Hey Stephen (TV)” is fun. It’s pure fun. To me, it’s the perfect song to listen to on a spring day. And her updated laugh gives me life.
Okay. “White Horse (TV)” hits so hard. I’m angry at Joe Jonas for the way he treated her...but it also produced one of the best break-up songs for a Tennessee girl from a small town like me. And the lyric, “I’m gonna find someone someday who might actually treat me well,” makes me cry, knowing she did find someone and their name is also Joe.
“You Belong with Me (TV)” was honestly a little strange to listen to her in a mature voice. I felt like at thirty-one she was still pining for a seventeen year old; nevertheless, this bridge goes so hard. I think it’s impossible not to scream it. The only difference is no country twang.
“Breathe (feat. Colbie Calliat) (TV)” was the first time I ever even listened to this song. I never heard the old version for some reason, but this song is pretty good. It’s not in my top fifty Swift songs, but I didn’t hate it like I thought I did for so long. Because I never listened to the old version, I don’t know about any differences.
“Tell Me Why (TV)” is powerful. Now and then. In my mind, she’s singing this to Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta instead of a boy. “I’m sick and tired of your reasons, I’ve got no one to believe in,” now feels like a direct call out to the two men holding her masters captive. Then, she ends with “I take a step back, let you go” in her re-recording, where she finally lets them go.
“You’re Not Sorry (TV)” feels the same to me. It didn’t feel any different to me except for her matured voice.
I might get some hate from the Swifties on this one...but I was a little disappointed with “The Way I Loved You (TV).” It’s perfect up until the post-bridge chorus. In the original, she sings, “It’s 2AM and I’m cursing your name,” with a broken whisper on “cursing.” It’s painful and screams teenage love. Now, she doesn’t whisper it but sings it. It’s not a big deal at all, but this is definitely one of my favorite songs off the album and a part of me just wishes she whispered it like before.
“Forever and Always (TV)” makes me really evaluate listening to the Jonas Brothers sometimes. Both this and the piano version are powerful in different ways. The original version has more of an angrier version of Swift, sarcastically belting. The piano version has a painful moment that turns into confusion. I genuinely didn’t hear any differences.
I haven’t listened to “The Best Day (TV)” because I’m not mentally stable enough to do this. I went to a pumpkin patch with my mom as a kid and this song never fails to bring me back to that exact moment in my childhood. Then, I start thinking about how much I love my mom and how much she does for me and then I can’t stop crying. I’ll listen when I’m good and ready, but I’m sure she did it justice.
This song needs a little backstory. Taylor Swift was Big Machine Records first signed artist. They were a tiny label outside of Nashville and she was their big star. One night, she wins an award at the CMAs and out in the crowd, she sees Scott Borchetta crying out of joy.
That inspired the song “Change (TV).” This gives me chills just writing about it because the meaning has changed entirely now. This was her anthem of hope that a teenage country singer might make a name for herself and maybe even change the industry. Now, she’s promising things are going to change. She won’t let herself be walked over again, and she’s taking hold of her music and tearing down the “walls they put up to hold her back.”
“Jump Then Fall (TV)” sounds nearly the same, minus the country twang. The song is good, but definitely not the best off of the album.
“Untouchable (TV)” is the only cover on the album. It sounds so much better with her mature voice, too. It feels like a whole, sentimental song that’s perfect for a quiet night drive.
“Come in With the Rain (TV)” also sounds much better with her mature voice. In the original, it seems as if some of the notes strain her voice and it takes effort to reach some of those notes. Now, she reaches them with ease. This is not a fan favorite, but personally, I love this song. It’s a perfect example of her fantastic imagery abilities.
“Superstar (TV)” is a country song through and through, and it deserves the country twang! Still, she faked the accent then, so I get why she can’t fake it now, but that’s my only critique on this song. Bring back the country twang for “Speak Now (TV)”!
“The Other Side of the Door (TV)” has the most iconic outro of all time. It’s fun, it’s fast, she made it addictive, and thirteen years later, it stays that way. I was apprehensive about this outro because there is nothing better than screaming this on a summer day, and I was hoping it’d stay the same, and it did! She perfectly captured the way she once sang it.
“Today Was A Fairytale (TV)” was originally a movie single and not on “Fearless” but it definitely fits the fairytale, perfect type of love vibe. I haven’t spent a lot of time on this one either, but it’s still so fun.
In addition to completely re-recording her album, Swift also released six previously unreleased songs from the vault. These were cut from the album initially, but now there’s no risk in releasing them.
“You All Over Me (feat. Marren Morris) (TV) (From the Vault)” is a sad, heartbroken country ballad. This may be controversial, but I think it may be the worst on the vault, even if it’s still a good song. Her lyricism doesn’t seem on par with the rest of the album, so I see why it got cut. You really can hear the longing and heartbreak in the lyrics, though.
“Mr. Perfectly Fine (TV) (From the Vault” should’ve made it onto the original album. It’s scathing, sarcastic, and addictive. If she released this, Joe Jonas would’ve had to go into hiding because it would’ve played on every radio station on loop. I see why it didn’t get put on the album though. I truly believe if she did, she would’ve been labeled as a drama queen and been involved in a terrible new ring of gossip. Also, there was a time in my life when I definitely would’ve related to this way too much and I think it’s best for me it was released now instead of when I was in high school. The bridge and key change are both iconic Taylor Swift.
“We Were Happy (TV) (From the Vault)” is a good but strange song to me. It switches between heartbreaking to “aww, remember when?” The melody kind of gives me whiplash, but the lyrics show she’s had the writing abilities of “Folklore” all along.
“That’s When (feat. Keith Urban) (TV) (From the Vault) is a great duet! I love the story it tells, and their two voices blend together really well. I think it’s such a romantic song, but it doesn’t fit the vibe of the rest of the album.
“Don’t You (TV) (From the Vault)” makes me want to send a personal thank-you note to Jack Antonoff. I’m not sure why she included such a “1989” song on this set of vault songs. Many people think it’s an Easter egg for “1989 (TV)” which seems reasonable to me since Swifties are pretty sure that’s the next re-record. Although it’s not particularly country, this song is amazing. It’s a beautiful synth-pop ballad that uses a double meaning of the phrase “don’t you” in a heartbreaking way. She warns a previous love about pretending to want her again, saying, “don’t you do this,” only to end the chorus by asking, “why don’t you love me?” Heart-wrenching.
Finally, “Bye Bye Baby (TV) (From the Vault).” I’ll be honest, this one didn’t capture my attention. I listened to it once when the album was first released, but nothing stuck out to me about it. I’m sure I’ll come back to it soon, but it’s not my taste right now.
“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is absolutely worth the listen, even over a decade later. It’ll bring you back to a simpler time and make you love Taylor Swift even more. It’s a risky move to re-record, but I have no doubt Taylor Swift will only continue to be successful with the next ones!