By Aoifke Madeleine
After a period of uncertainty surrounding the purchase of Taylor Swift’s masters – the first six albums of her career – with the sale being operated without her knowledge, the triumphs of Swift feel monumental when you consider the history of albums like Fearless. Last Friday, Swift re-released her sophomore and arguably her break-out album filled with iconic tracks such as ‘You Belong With Me’, ‘Fifteen’ and of course, ‘Love Story’ along with six previously unheard tracks from the vault.
I remember watching Swift’s documentary ‘Miss Americana’ on Netflix where she mediated on the longevity of fame and her legacy as a woman in the music industry. Reaching thirty, she felt that her time as a star was fading considering the difficulties of becoming an older woman in an industry that prioritises those who are younger. Her seventh album (and the first that she owned under new label Republic Records) Lover she believed to be her last win, her last success. Considering the critical acclaim and records broken with her surprise releases of folklore and evermore in 2020, with the former winning Album of the Year at the Grammys, Lover doesn’t feel like the end of the era that she expected. Instead, it’s a re-birth. A revision. And the impact is legendary.
Fearless for many is the first album we heard from Swift. It’s the songs that coincided with our first crushes, first heartbreaks, it’s a rite of passage for so many women (including myself) as we entered those teenage years. Even though its initial release was in 2008, it was this album that I remember so clearly when I think of my high-school years. The beauty of the re-recording is that it’ll influence a whole new generation of young girls as they grapple with growing-up. It evidences the timelessness of Swift’s work and its impact.
In fact, the re-recording of the album that has now become Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is arguably better than the first. The difference is small; the album still sounds pretty much exactly the same with Swift adopting that fake country twang in her accent, perfect for songs like ‘The Other Side of the Door’ and ‘The Way I Loved You’. The maturity of Swift’s voice complements the music perfectly as the pitch is even more controlled – a minimal change and one perhaps not noticeable to those who aren’t major fans, but it’s a difference that really benefits the composition and quality overall. The instrumentation is better, too, most likely a benefit from the ‘loudness war’ era having ended. The instruments all work together without any clipping or audible distortion, songs like ‘You Belong With Me’ and ‘Fearless’ really benefit from this as Swift’s voice rings pure and not in battle with the loud instrumentation which was the case for the original album. It proves even more benefits of re-recording.
The main excitement surrounding the re-release is the inclusion of six previously unheard songs from the vault. It’s a genius marketing decision, providing an incentive for fans to buy the record whilst adding to streaming numbers. Each song is stellar but a few stand out tracks include ‘Mr Perfectly Fine’, ‘Don’t You’ and ‘That’s When’ (featuring Keith Urban). ‘Mr Perfectly Fine’ is a scathing, teenage-angst filled break-up song – a little bit more pop than country, perhaps the reason for its absence on the original. ‘Don’t You’, co-produced with frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff, is a lyrical masterpiece with slightly more synth it does feel like it belongs on ‘1989’— but it’s got a maturity and understanding of relationships that 2008 Fearless didn’t have. It’s a track of hindsight, so it’s understandable that it didn’t make the final cut. My personal favourite is ‘That’s When’ with Keith Urban, another country music legend. It’s a happy song with a perfect chorus, evidencing how even if Swift has a stellar record- those songs in the vault aren’t anything short of fantastic. It proves promising for the next 5 re-records she will be releasing of her back catalogue.
With Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Swift proves what was already known: that she is the music industry, where re-releasing a thirteen-year-old album can have more of an impact than totally brand new records of today. It’s a reclamation of her history, her past, and ultimately our pasts also. The years we spent listening to this album when younger are back with us again, where we can stream guilt-free. Its success promises excitement for the rest of her re-records and proves that ultimately, Taylor Swift will always win.
Image: Wikimedia Commons