On February 11, Taylor Swift addressed her day one fans with a lengthy social media announcement about re-recording six of her earliest albums. Today, she has released her first new edition, Fearless (2008)—the RIAA Diamond-certified record that marked Swift as the youngest artist to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
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In that announcement, she described the album as a diary full of “magic and curiosity, the bliss and devastation of youth,” that marks milestones of a girl “learning tiny lessons with every new crack in the facade of the fairytale ending she’d been shown in the movies.”
Scooter Braun acquired Big Machine Label Group, run by Scott Borchetta, in 2019. BMLG served as Swift’s label home since her self-titled 2006 debut. When the deal closed, Braun assumed the original masters of Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation. Her statement take-back was an appropriate response for Swift, who claims neither offered her a fair opportunity to obtain her life’s work. The historic move highlights the importance of masters ownership for future artists.
Though not her seven-time US Platinum debut, Fearless felt like the right place to start the reconciliation. Facing her oldest fans, the artist reminisced on jokes created, hugs exchanged, hands touched, and “unbreakable bonds” formed.” She shared, “let me just say that it was a real honor to get to be a teenager alongside you.”
The coming-of-age collection was where the 18-year-old artist first lamented towards even the loneliest teenage hearts and headphones. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) walks down that same road but with a broader path. The re-recorded copy contains extra tracks from the original album’s deluxe edition, “Today Was a Fairytale,” from a 2010 film soundtrack, and six previously unreleased songs from the era. The 27-song collection harkens back to the advent of a country-crossover act turned global superstar.
The sextet of vintage originals ‘From the Vault’ hardly eclipse her original track list. But, as she noted in February, these are the ones she “absolutely adored” that were held back for reasons that “seem unnecessary now.” To tell the whole story and share her “entire vivid dreamscape,” Swift shared six of the songs she said “killed me to leave behind.”
The genre-spanning musician resisted the temptation to tamper with the characteristic country-pop that defined the album era. By honoring that soundscape, even returning her long-lost twang, the artist retains the emotive connection she established all these years ago throughout the nearly two-hour-long album. Aaron Dessner’s production on “You All Over Me (From the Vault) “architects a sonic poise that develops the teeny-bopper track into a universally resonate offering. Swift’s collaboration with Keith Urban for a duet on “That’s When” and backing harmonies on “We Were Happy,” remain largely in-tact of the type of music they shared on tour in 2008 and serve as reminders of her crossover legacy. Lyrically, these aged songs set the artist apart from her last two albums, folklore and evermore, which boast a certain sophistication. But the nostalgia-drenched “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” “Bye Bye Baby,” and “Don’t You” reflect her roots from which her current musicianship bloomed.
Swift’s seniority suppresses some of the squeakier pre-pubescent perspectives on “Fifteen” and “The Other Side Of The Door.” Her underdog anthems like “Hey Stephen” and “You Belong With Me” reveal emotional distance from the naïve nature of the barely legal singer-songwriter she was in 2008. Yet, evolved vocal talent atones the lost years. Now 31 years old, Swift’s audible maturity enlivens enduring tracks like “White Horse” and the piano version of “Forever & Always.” Her early influence, Colbie Caillat, even agreed to redo her backing vocals on “Breathe.”
With expanded vocal range, the artist emphasizes lyric lines that may not resonate as poignantly with her 18-year-old self. When the album dropped at midnight, Swift quoted an original track on an announcement: It was the night things changed. “Change”—placed in her lucky thirteenth spot—shines, comparatively. Perhaps it’s her sage wisdom, reassuring a younger artist with the confidence that things will and have changed.
Regardless of the modest tweaks, intentional or not, the idea here is to lay the 2008 album to rest and welcome in the rightfully re-done copy. Swift’s earnest offering is just the first step of Swift reclaiming what belongs to her. In doing so, the icon hopes to expand the education and conversation surrounding label contracts and artists’ rights.
In an interview, she shared, “I really just want to make things better for other people. And I want that to start at the record deal in the contract. Artists should never have to part with their work.” Swift concluded, “if I can do anything to change that for a young artist in the future or many or all of them, then I’m going to keep keeping loud.”
Listen to Fearless (Taylor’s Version) here.