REVIEW BY JULIA SWAIN
From Twilight to High School Musical 3, Britney Spears to Jay Z and Beyonce, 2008 was a year to remember, and for Taylor Swift, who was only eighteen years old at the time, it was the year her life began to change forever.
Hits like “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story” off of her sophomore album Fearless shot her fame into the stratosphere and the incident at the VMA awards involving Kanye West interrupting her speech following her win for best video made sure that the world knew the name “Taylor Swift”. Then, she made a seemingly even better album, Speak Now, and the world turned to hits like “Mine” and “Back To December” instead. The world moved on quickly, as we certainly do in this day and age where our attention spans are faster than ever before. Swift seemed to move on too, as most artists do, to bigger and better things, as well as genres.
However, everything changed in 2019 when the rights to her first six albums were first sold, causing Swift to either not own the rights to her songs forever, or to re-record them. Swift chose the latter.
So finally, as of April 9, Swift finally owns the rights to these songs and will release the other five albums in the next couple of years, with no official release date for those as of right now.
Although the original intent of the album was to simply own her own songs (crazy, right?), Swift somehow did the unthinkable and made the album better. Yep, heard it here first, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is better in every single conceivable way. But, how?
Well, to answer that question, we first have to look at some of the already extremely popular songs like the ones mentioned above. “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story” were two of these songs that fans showed the most interest and excitement in, and neither one disappointed.
An extremely obvious difference between the older versions and the newer versions is the production value and the increased maturity and strength in Swift’s voice. Although it seemed that Swift was doing her best to make her voice sound eighteen again, there were moments in most of these songs that proved the thirteen year difference in Swift’s voice, which is definitely not a bad thing.
Next, we look at some of the less popular songs, or those that the casual listeners may not have even heard of the first time around, let alone the second time, like “The Way I Loved You”, “Change” and “Untouchable”, just to name a few. These songs also showed major improvement as these songs in particular felt a lot more mature the second time around.
Then there are songs like “White Horse” and “Fifteen” which fall into that middle ground where most fans know them, but do not often make the effort to listen to them. These songs also fall into the category of some of the most emotional on the album and some fans worried that a thirty one year old Swift would not be able to capture the same emotions that she was able to back when she was in high school, but she was able to do just that and more.
Improved range in songs like “Forever & Always”, “The Other Side Of The Door” and “Fearless”, among others, shows how much Swift has grown and although that may take away the “magic”of these songs for some Swift fans, for me, and for a lot of others it seems, it makes it so that haters can no longer claim that Swift is only famous for her writing, because these songs now have the vocal prowess to match the A-game that Swift brings in her lyrics.
Other songs like “Hey Stephen” and “The Best Day”, which were often viewed as cheesy fillers in the original album, also made major strides, specifically in the way that Swift was able to show her improvement and newfound vocal prowess in the simplest of ways in these songs, because she herself seems to understand that these songs are not loved for its complex lyrics or big notes, but rather for the joy they exude.
Songs like “Breathe”, “Come In With The Rain”, and “Superstar” were songs that I often put at the bottom of my list, as did most of Swift’s fans in the increasingly popular Fearless rankings on TikTok. These songs, once considered bottom of the barrel, made sure that they were heard on this album and were not skipped, like they so often were on the original album.
Then there were the songs known more for their instrumentals rather than the actual song like “Jump Then Fall” and “Tell Me Why”, who made their presence known on this album with better vocals and improved production value. It is not often that these songs land in the top half of rankings of this album, but it seems from the fan response that they are doing just that.
“Today Was A Fairytale” falls into a unique category as the only song released in the Fearless era that was not on the original album. It was actually featured on the popular movie Valentine’s Day soundtrack but reached critical acclaim nonetheless. It was also added to the set list for the Fearless tour, which seems to be the reason that it was grouped into this album. This re-recording seems to make fans wish it were on the original album as it seems to be a fan-favorite in the few rankings that have appeared on TikTok.
Finally, the six “vault” songs as Swift has coined them, were all songs that were cut from the original album, and to fans, that is a travesty due to how good they are. “Mr. Perfectly Fine” and “You All Over Me” were the two released prior to the full release of the album, and they were good predecessors for how great the vault tracks were going to be, as they fit the 2008 mold flawlessly.
Songs like “That’s When” and “Don’t You”, were only underwhelming in title, as many consider the latter of the two songs the best vault track. They showed the greatness of Swift’s songwriting even back then.
Finally, “We Were Happy” and “Bye Bye Baby” were intriguing title wise and did not disappoint as they showed off some of the better vocals of the vault tracks. They also included moments where it felt like Folklore and Evermore vocals were being showcased.
So, was it better than the original album? Absolutely. Was that even the original intent of the album? Not at all. Because, only Swift can take an already insanely great album and make it better without even trying.
Her technically tenth studio album is an ode to Swift’s greatness as both a songwriter, and for the first time with these songs, as a singer as well.
She is finally Fearless.