After two surprise albums in the past nine months, having to wait two months between the announcement of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and its release on April 9th felt like an eternity. I know I shouldn’t be complaining about having to wait two months for my favorite singer’s third album in the span of the year, but in the midst of the endless midterm season, I felt like April 9th couldn’t come fast enough. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was everything I wanted it to be and more. I could write an entire dissertation on why this album is revolutionary, exquisite and utterly necessary, but I decided to narrow down my thoughts into the top 13 takeaways from this masterpiece of an album.
- I’m experiencing conflicting emotions over how much I love this album.
The reason I say this is only because of the circumstances that caused her to re-release the album in the first place. I wish she owned the rights to her masters, because I wholeheartedly believe that every artist deserves to own the music that they create. However, I absolutely adore this album and every re-recorded song, and if Scott Borchetta hadn’t sold her first six albums to Scooter Braun, we wouldn’t have been able to re-experience this journey back to Taylor’s country roots. It’s hard to feel a hundred percent ecstatic about this album because of the circumstances that birthed it, but it’s all the more reason to celebrate what an accomplishment and power move it is.
- Taylor’s voice has matured immensely in the past 13 years.
My biggest question going into release day was what the songs were going to sound like. Was Taylor going to try to replicate her original recordings? Or was she going to switch them up and create a brand-new experience for the listener? The result was a combination of the two, but more heavily focused on the former. She shared that she went through each of her songs line by line, studying the inflections that she had made so that she could reproduce them or make them better, if she thought that was what they needed. As someone who has listened to the original recording of Fearless approximately one billion times, it was such a relief to me that this was the approach she took. I would’ve been disappointed if the songs were obviously different from the original ones, because I’ve subconsciously memorized and internalized each wave of vibrato and each breath taken. The biggest difference, therefore, between the original and new recordings was the quality of Taylor’s voice. It’s obvious just how much more control Taylor has now, 13 years later. Her voice sounds more controlled yet more effortless, resulting in a richer, more graceful sound that’s so refreshing to hear.
- The release date was no coincidence.
Since Taylor doesn’t do anything without thinking 13 steps ahead of everyone else. It’s no coincidence that her album was released on 4/9; not only do the digits add up to 13, her lucky number, but it’s also a symbolic celebration that she now owns full rights to four out of her nine albums. Taylor Swift is notorious for the Easter eggs she hides in every post, interview and comment, causing her fans to notoriously interpret everything as an Easter egg. The purposeful date of April 9th has all of us speculating when her next re-recorded album (presumably 1989) will drop. After furiously attempting to decode her latest interview with Stephen Colbert, the current guess is that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) will drop June 6th, making it her fourth album release in 11 months, but only time will tell if the Swifties have cracked the code.
- Taylor Swift is a marketing genius.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as Taylor Swift has always gone above and beyond to market her albums, releasing deluxe versions of her albums by pairing them with anything from fake magazines to her real diary entries. But, to build up to her 10th album release, she created day-before buzz by teasing snippets of different songs on every notable social media platform. She shared snippets of “Fearless” on Good Morning America, “Breathe” on Tumblr, “Fifteen” in a Snapchat lens, “Hey Stephen” on Twitter, and “You Belong With Me” and “White Horse” on Instagram and TikTok via Olivia Rodrigo and Conan Gray. Sharing the new music with Olivia and Conan was an especially smart move, as she simultaneously celebrated these two young artists, calling them “my two kids,” and thanking them for their superfan support over the years. If you somehow missed the videos, watch Conan’s here and Olivia’s here for the purest content you will ever see.
- Fearless (Taylor’s Version) illustrates the timelessness of Taylor Swift, and this album in particular.
Fearless means so much to so many people and it doesn’t look like that’s changing any time soon. At the 2009 Grammys, Fearless won Album of the Year and 12 years later, the album is now the top release of 2021 to date and has had the biggest first week of a country album in the last six years. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) reached 50 million streams on its release day and 30 million more on day two, proving that the love for this album is everlasting. People were as excited to listen to these songs as when they first came out (if not more so), which is an extremely impressive feat for the sophomore album of an artist who’s only 31.
- Taylor’s goal of her fans choosing her version over the original is working.
Even though it’s only been a week, people are streaming Fearless (Taylor’s Version) at a 30:1 ratio compared to the original recording, according to The Ringer’s Nathan Hubbard. On streaming services like Spotify, Taylor and her fans are literally changing the algorithm of suggested songs. Already, songs marked (Taylor’s Version) are the top result when you search any of her Fearless songs, which will likely influence people to gravitate towards listening to her newer recordings over her old ones. Take that, Scooter Braun.
- Her re-release isn’t about the money, but about setting a precedent and changing the functioning of the music industry.
Taylor’s re-recordings aren’t only momentous for her, but for all artists. If someone as powerful as Taylor Swift can get screwed over by record labels, it’s certainly happening to artists much smaller than her. By using her voice (literally) and influence, Taylor’s making a bold statement that the music industry has to undergo a fundamental change to allow artists to own their work. She’s raising awareness about what goes on behind the scenes and calling out injustice where she sees it happening so that she can hopefully save future artists from undergoing the same wrongdoings.
- I gained a new appreciation for old songs.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I ever had a negative thought towards a Taylor Swift song, but I used to have an inexplicably strong dislike for the song “Change.” I distinctly remember bus rides home from elementary school during which my best friend would aggressively sing the song at me to push my buttons. I have no good reason as to why I didn’t appreciate or even like the song at the time. It’s grown on me in the years since, but it still isn’t one that I get particularly excited about. However, I finally realized the mistake of my past ways when listening to the re-recorded version of “Change.” Taylor originally wrote the song about Scott Borchetta and how he changed her life; in her famous liner note secret messages, the one for “Change” read, “You made things change for me.” The irony is that the song has taken on a brand-new meaning in 2021. Although the context is still Scott Borchetta, the change that Taylor is singing about now comes from within herself. The walls that held her back are the walls that Scott and Scooter constructed, but it’s Taylor who caused them to fall. It’s incredibly powerful to witness the same words infused with newfound passion and pride.
- I’m in love with the six songs “From the Vault.”
These songs have only been in my life for eight days and I already can’t imagine not knowing them. I’m happy with the 13 songs that made the original album, but the world would have been missing out if these songs had never seen the light of day. “You All Over Me” is a beautiful country ballad featuring Maren Morris, a harmonica and a hawk screech. “Mr. Perfectly Fine” is “not NOT a bop,” in the words of Sophie Turner, the wife of Joe Jonas, who the song is supposedly about. And she’s not wrong; something about the upbeat song makes you want to jump up and down and scream the lyrics at the top of your lungs. “We Were Happy” tells the story of reminiscing about a past love and while the chorus of “That’s When” (featuring Keith Urban) doesn’t logically make a lot of sense, it’s addictingly catchy. “Don’t You” has a sort of dreamlike quality to it and “Bye Bye Baby” may be my favorite Vault track of all—it contrasts the fairytale expectations of a relationship with the doomed reality.
- Taylor Swift and Keith Urban were meant to sing together.
The Taylor-Maren duet on “You All Over Me” and the reimagined duet with Colbie Caillat established the features on this song as immensely strong, but Keith Urban’s vocals alongside Taylor’s are unmatched. The duet is especially meaningful since Taylor was Keith’s opening act during her own Fearless tour back in 2008. Keith’s background vocals on “We Were Happy” elevate the song to the next level, and their back and forth verses on “That’s When” give me goosebumps; who let their harmonies sound so good together?
- Hearing 2021 Taylor sing her Platinum songs and “Today Was a Fairytale” brought me back to childhood.
There was something extra special about hearing the re-recorded versions of the six Platinum edition songs and the 2010 single, “Today Was a Fairytale.” I first heard the Platinum edition a few years ago when I got my Fearless (Platinum Edition) as one of my first albums on vinyl. I spun this album over and over on my record player, so they will always have a special place in my heart. It was a lot of fun listening to them years later, in my college apartment rather than my childhood bedroom. The re-recordings breathed new life into them and made me love them even more.
- Taylor’s new laugh in “Hey Stephen” gives me life.
I’ve always loved hearing Taylor’s laugh in songs like “Hey Stephen” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” but the Taylor’s Version laugh is the cutest little giggle and I am absolutely here for it.
- My favorite Taylor’s Version songs are…
The cop-out answer is that all of these songs are my favorite. But if I absolutely had to choose, my favorite Fearless (Taylor’s Version) songs include:
“You’re Not Sorry”
“The Way I Loved You”
“The Other Side of the Door”
“Bye Bye Baby”
[bf_image id="q5alhz-6u12xs-f1rgws"] I wasn’t expecting to write an essay about my thoughts on Fearless (Taylor’s Version), but I can’t say I’m exactly surprised. I can’t wait to keep re-living the Fearless era through these new-and-improved songs until we start the re-release process all over again for 1989.