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Taylor Swift begins reclaiming her music with “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”

“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” mostly sticks to the original but loses some of the nostalgia

<p>Taylor Swift released her first re-recorded studio album, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)," on April 9.</p>

Taylor Swift released her first re-recorded studio album, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)," on April 9.

In a triumph for musician ownership that’s been in the making since Taylor Swift first announced in 2019 that the masters of her first six albums had been sold to someone else, Swift has finally released her first re-recorded album — “Fearless (Taylor’s Version).” The album includes recent recordings of all 19 songs from her original 2008 platinum edition of “Fearless,” with the addition of “Taylor’s Version” of the 2010 single “Today Was a Fairytale.” It also contains six unreleased songs labeled “(From The Vault).” These songs were created by Swift in the “Fearless” era but were cut from the final version of the album. 

“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is meticulously faithful to the original with no noticeable changes on the whole, aside from the crisper production and the maturation of Swift’s vocals. Some songs benefit from these perfecting elements, especially slower songs like “Untouchable (Taylor’s Version)” and “The Best Day (Taylor’s Version).” These slower, less country-leaning tracks showcase Swift’s extensive vocal development since 2008 and align most closely with her recent, mellower moves on “folklore” and “evermore.” 

On the other hand, some of the more upbeat tracks lack the energy and carefree vocals that her younger self was able to give them. “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is not quite as easy to scream along in the car as the original. Neither is “The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version),” where the loss of her younger self’s bright country twang is audible in the more rounded vowel on the titular “you.” 

While all of these changes might be noticeable to long-term fans, more casual listeners likely won’t find much of a difference at all from the original “Fearless.” For these listeners, the most interesting aspect of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is the addition of unreleased tracks.

“Mr. Perfectly Fine” is the most upbeat of these six songs, with a storyline not very far off from “Forever and Always.” In “Forever and Always,” Swift sings, “I was there when you said ‘forever and always,’” and she expresses this same sentiment in “Mr. Perfectly Fine” with the lyric “Mr. ‘Looked me in the eye and told me you would never go away.’” This similarity, likely due to the fact that Joe Jonas was the inspiration for both songs, would explain why the song was left behind from the original album. But today, “Mr. Perfectly Fineis a welcome addition as a satisfyingly nostalgic representation of one of young Swift’s specialties — the perfect combination of teenage relationship problems and beltable choruses, complete with a classic key change in the final chorus.

The other vault songs are not quite as fun or satisfying. Maren Morris and Keith Urban both help Swift retrieve a bit of her country twang on their respective features in “You All Over Me” and “That’s When,” but neither song is better than any of the album’s original tracks. “That’s When” never quite reaches its energetic potential, and the laid-back “You All Over Me” does feature some sweet, pensive sentiments but pales in comparison to Swift’s lyrically similar “Clean” from 2014. The production on “Don’t You” sounds more fitting for Swift’s later album 1989,” while “We Were Happy” is a fairly forgettable slow song. Hardcore fans were quick to catch a slight lyric change in the album’s final “From The Vault” track “Bye Bye Baby,” which was previously available on YouTube as an unreleased track titled “One Thing.” This simultaneously bright and melancholy track is probably the second-most fitting unreleased track for “Fearless,” but it still lags behind “Mr. Perfectly Fine” and most of the album’s originals.

All in all, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” doesn’t make any real improvements on the original, but that’s part of the point. Swift created the album hoping that fans would listen to these songs instead of the older versions that she no longer owns, requiring enough similarity that those older versions wouldn’t be missed. For most fans, Swift succeeded. Taylor’s version of “Fearless” is very similar to the 2008 version, and while most of the bonus tracks aren’t exactly necessary, fans certainly won’t be opposed to having more Taylor Swift songs to add to their playlists. However, diehard fans longing for the nostalgia of the original “Fearless” era might find themselves missing that album’s youthful, bright vocals and less careful production. Will the incentive of Taylor’s ownership be enough to break these fans away from the versions they sang and cried along to when they themselves were teenagers? It probably depends on the fan.