The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because she’s re-releasing her old albums.
On the morning of April 9, Taylor Swift released the first of her re-recorded albums, Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The album came after much anticipation from fans and critics. Following the releases of her groundbreaking albums folklore and evermore, Swift began teasing the re-recorded albums. This review will focus on the previously existing songs from her first release of Fearless and the newly released ‘From the Vault’ songs.
However, before we can begin reliving her sophomore album all over again, it is important to know the background of why Swift is re-recording and releasing her first six albums again. Swift signed to Big Machine records in 2005 with a contract lasting until 2018. However, it is common for the record label to own the masters or original recordings of an artist’s work. This was true for Swift as her albums that made her a household name were technically owned by the label. While this was devastating to Swift, she went on to sign with Universal Republic Records in 2018, who allowed her to own all of her original work. Everything seemed fine until the summer of 2019 when Big Machine records was purchased by another record label owned by music manager Scooter Braun. Braun who oversees managing superstars like Ariana Grande, also manages Justin Bieber and Kanye West who Swift has had notable public disputes with. After the deal was made, Braun refused to allow Swift to own her masters. This loss led her to the decision to re-record all her old songs and release them under her new label with herself as the sole owner of her music.
Now with that out of the way, we can begin diving into one of the most influential country albums of all time. The album begins with the title track Fearless, which serves as a perfect introduction to the album itself. Combined with a country twang and iconic lyrics, Swift sounds more confident than ever while singing. Originally released in 2008, the re-recorded version has a more mature feel with upgraded vocals and melodies.
The album continues with fan-favorite songs such as, Fifteen, Love Story, Hey Stephen and White Horse. Listening to these songs for the first time felt like stepping into a time machine. For many fans, including myself, these are songs that we listened to during our childhood. The feeling of nostalgia elicits so many emotions that I didn’t even know I had. Listening to Fifteen as a 20-year-old not only makes me feel old, but also makes me reminisce about being 15 and having all of these problems that when you think about it don’t really matter at all. Regardless of how the song makes you feel, there is no denying that she perfectly captures the feeling of being young.
As a fan for over a decade, I was a little apprehensive when Swift announced that she would be re-recording her old albums. There’s something so satisfying about her voice in the early years of her career. My biggest fear was that she wouldn’t be able to keep the same emotion and feeling that she had when she first recorded them; especially the songs that I had essentially grown up with. However, after hearing some of my personal favorite songs like You Belong With Me, Forever & Always and The Best Day those fears were put to rest.
What really sells the album for me is the maturity in her voice. As we’ve seen across her career, Swift is not afraid to sing different genres of music. We saw her explode onto the country scene and then embark into pop/electro and in her newer work, folk and alternative sounds. Her voice has gone through a lot of changes and while it may not sound like the heartbroken, teen angst versions that we had all come to love, it’s impressive to see her reinterpret these songs.
In songs like Tell Me Why and The Way I Loved You, the richness of her voice improves the song overall. With the improvements in her vocal ability, Swift is able to hit notes and belt like she’s never done before.
As with the original release of Fearless, there are the same deluxe tracks featured at the end of the album rather than the beginning. Another personal favorite for me is her version of Untouchable. When I first heard this song as a child, I assumed that it was an original; it wasn’t until a friend told me much later that it was actually a cover of Luna Halo’s 2007 song. While I may be biased, I think Swift does an excellent job of telling the story through her eyes and it was only improved in the re-release. The lyrics are so relatable, and this was one of the songs that I thought sounded better than the original cover.
In addition to including Today Was A Fairytale, (a song recorded for the 2010 film Valentine’s Day, which Swift actually starred in) Swift announced that she would be including songs that didn’t quite make the cut the first time around. Cleverly named ‘From The Vault,’ Swift wanted to feature songs that were unreleased to the public. There are six songs in total, two of which have features from country stars Maren Morris and Keith Urban.
The concept itself is genius, as a songwriter Swift has written thousands of lyrics that have never been heard by anyone but herself. The new songs serve as a thank you to her fans for being so patient and accepting of the journey. Fans have already embraced songs like You All Over Me and Mr. Perfectly Fine, proving that Swift made the right decision including them on the album. When looking at her entire discography you can see the improvements in her songwriting as a whole. Obviously, these songs were written by a 17-year-old Swift, but they sound so mature and wise that you wouldn’t be able to tell.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) isn’t just a cheap exploitation for money or fame, it’s a statement to anyone in the music industry that artists should own their work. Music is such a powerful tool and for people like Swift whose songs are incredibly personal, and all written by her, it should never be a debate who owns what songs.
There are still five more albums that need to be released and with theories and easter eggs swirling around the internet, there’s no telling which album will come next (I think it’s 1989), but it’s safe to say Swift will be in the forefront of our minds for the next coming year.