Taylor Swift’s Fearless album was initially released in 2008, when I was in elementary school. Growing up, I was a huge fan. I can still remember the enormous glittery poster I made about her in 5th grade when we had a class assignment to give a presentation on our hero. For many years, this memory embarrassed me, but now I’m back to embracing all of the things I loved most when I was little. This includes the color pink, dresses and (of course) Taylor Swift. “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” was released on April 9.
Swift announced in 2019 that she would be re-recording her earlier albums so that she would own the content. While the backstory is messy and sometimes controversial, many of her fans were excited about the re-recordings and for Swift to take ownership of her earlier work.
As I’ve grown up, my enthusiasm for celebrities has waned. I don’t follow many celebrities on social media or buy products based on the recommendations of the famous. I have favorite actors and artists, but I’ve stopped caring about their personal lives. It’s not a big deal to me if a person that I don’t know and will probably never meet has a baby or breaks up with their significant other. If I don’t connect with their work, then they slip off my radar. Swift’s “Reputation” era wasn’t my favorite, so even though I still sang along to her older songs when they came on the radio, I no longer listened to her albums on repeat or dreamed of going to her concerts. It felt like I had outgrown her and I was okay with that.
Around this same time, my youngest sister was becoming a super fan. She has multiple t-shirts with Swift’s face plastered on them, every album on CD and she attended one of Swift’s concerts a few years ago that she still considers to be the best night of her life. When she got her wisdom teeth out, the only way I could stop her from sobbing was to search up Swift’s live performances and Grammy wins on YouTube. Because I’m at college and we have a four-year gap between us, my sister and I have grown apart since I moved out of our parents’ house. To try and bridge that, I listened to every track on “Folklore” and “Evermore” right after each album was released so we could talk about them afterward. I enjoyed them both more than I thought I would. Once again, I felt that the lyrics were personally relatable to where I’m at in my life. A few songs made it onto my Spotify playlists, but overall I didn’t feel myself slipping back into becoming the fan I was when I was 12. “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is different.
I was surprised to find my eyes tearing up during the first song. It felt like reliving my adolescent years, but with all of the perspective that comes with age. In a way, Swift’s music always made me feel like I was growing up with her. I watched her mature as an artist as I was in the process of becoming an adult myself. Now, with the release of all these re-recorded tracks, her voice is so much stronger and more confident than it was when she was 18. She’s not a teenager anymore, but she’s still able to revisit her old work, recognizing and even validating the feelings that drove her to produce it in the first place.
For me, this is part of a larger and more important lesson. Instead of treating our younger selves’ interests and feelings as cringy or embarrassing, we should practice compassion for every version of ourselves at every stage of our lives. I miss the simpler time when I would come home after school, curl up in my bed and listen to a Taylor Swift CD like it was the only thing holding me together. These re-recorded songs feel kind of like coming home to my younger self and giving her a hug. “Fearless” was the soundtrack to so much of my pre-teen experience and, yeah, it was awkward and not the proudest time of my life, but those years were also so formative to who I am now.
My personal re-recorded favorites on this album are “Fifteen,” “Fearless,” “Love Story,” “White Horse” and both versions “Forever & Always.” The vault tracks that I liked the best were “You All Over Me,” “Mr. Perfectly Fine” and “We Were Happy.” I’m surprised that “Mr. Perfectly Fine” in particular wasn’t included on the original album and released as a single because it’s the kind of song that you hear on the radio on repeat. It’s the kind of song that makes you forget that Joe Jonas is now a husband and a father, transporting you back to 2008 when he was just a total heartthrob and the co-star of “Camp Rock.”
After a year as complicated as this one, it was nice to remember a simpler time when I didn’t know or care how problematic it can be to glorify celebrities. Taylor Swift is far from perfect, just like everyone else, but I would argue that “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is almost a perfect album that was released at exactly the right time.