The re-recording and release of Swift’s sophomore album is more than just a makeover.
On Taylor Swift’s sophomore album Fearless, the then-18-year-old singer begged to be saved, but no one was coming to the rescue. Thirteen years later, Swift holds back from altering that innocence with wisdom while re-recording, and captures the same confusion and passion of youth on Fearless (Taylor’s Version).
The now-31-year-old has explored indie-pop on her last two albums; the first of which, Folklore, won her a Grammy for Album Of The Year. In her latest release, Swift sheds the maturity that she has gained over the years and goes back to her country roots, singing about being caught in the rain, 2:00 a.m., or passionate screaming matches (“Fearless,” “Hey Stephen,” “Breathe,” “The Way I loved You,” “Come In With The Rain,” and “The Other Side Of The Door”).
The production is cleaner, and her voice has improved, but at the end of the day, Swift stayed incredibly loyal to the original tracks. The point of the re-recordings is not to perfect these songs; Swift decided to re-record Fearless in order to regain ownership of them.
When her contract with Big Machine Records ended in 2018, she left and signed with Universal’s Republic Records. In her new deal, Swift made sure she has ownership of all her future masters. Regardless, Big Machine still owned the masters of her first six albums. They sold them to private-equity group Ithaca Holdings, which is owned by music manager Scooter Braun.
Swift has spoken publicly about Braun bullying her about the masters, proceeding to sell them for a reported $300 million to Shamrock Holdings. Even after the sale, Braun still profits off streams of Swift’s first six albums. In retaliation, she decided to re-record the tracks, so her fans can play her versions instead of ones that benefit Braun. In an Instagram post, Swift writes that she believes that all artists should own their own songs, captioning the picture with “The artist is the only one who really knows that body of work.”
On Fearless (Taylor’s Version), she embraces her past, instead of shying away from it. Sung years later, and with the added context of time, the lyrics take on new meanings. On “Fifteen” she sings, “Count to ten / Take it in / This is life before you know who you’re gonna be.” She expresses that there was no need for her to be in a rush to grow up and figure everything out. There is peace within the chaotic process of being lost in dreams of alternate futures.
The original “Forever and Always” is filled with Swift’s signature revenge-filled lyrics, sung in a bitter and sarcastic tone, but fans have noticed that the newest version has a completely different feeling. When she sings, “Baby what happened? Please tell me,” the lyric is filled with insecurity, confusion as to where everything went wrong, and most of all, a deep sense of sadness. While years later, Swift forgets about the anger she felt, she remembers the pain her younger self was in, and expresses compassion and understanding towards it. Somehow, in the re-release, Swift has managed to become even more vulnerable with her fans.
Alternatively, ”White Horse” comes off as much lighter in the newest version. Previously, it was sung from a girl in the process of moving on, while now it is sung by a woman who has completely moved on. Fans hear the lyrics, “I’m gonna find someone someday / Who might actually treat me well” as more affirmative than just merely hopeful, knowing that she is currently in a long-term relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn who has been the subject of love songs in her last three albums.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is filled with anger towards boys that broke her heart, herself, and the world. At 18-years-old, Swift writes about fairytale love stories in some songs, while in others she is perplexed as to why there does not seem to be any happy endings. The album shows an inner battle between fantasy and reality.
“Change” takes on a completely new meaning in the face of the conflict that ignited these re-recordings. She sings, “It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.” After being in the music industry for over a decade, Swift is very aware that the way it works is far from just. Confidently, Swift sings, “These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down.” In revisiting her work, not only does she get to explore the anger that comes with youth, but also the unquenchable hope.
While the six previously unreleased songs have the same lyrical tropes that we see throughout Fearless, they sound much more similar to her later work. Swift had no obligation to copy the country style of earlier versions, so she took advantage of this freedom to play around with them. This resulted in these added tracks having more breathing room and a melodic sound. In “You All Over Me (feat. Maren Morris),” Swift explores how she cannot shed her past. “But like the dollar in your pocket, it’s been spent and traded in,” she sings. “You can’t change where it’s been.”
With Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Swift rescues and reclaims what is rightfully hers: her past.