Fearless (Taylor’s Version): A nostalgic callback to a generation-defining album

Fiza Kuzhiyil

If you owned a radio in 2008, you heard a song from Taylor Swift’s album, Fearless.

We danced to “You Belong With Me” at middle school dances and tried to shake earworms like “Love Story” out of our heads for years. This record defined a generation.

Now, nearly 13 years after its original release, Swift’s rerecording of Fearless, titled Fearless (Taylor’s Version), occupies the country charts once again. After topping alternative charts with the releases of folklore and evermore, Swift is turning back to her country roots.

Swift has a history of genre versatility. On March 14, she won a Grammy for Album of the Year for her alt-indie album, folklore. In 2016, she won Album of the Year for her pop debut, 1989. Fearless, her first Album of the Year winner, is a country classic.

Swift started rerecording her albums after her former label, Big Machine Records, sold the rights to her original recordings in 2019 without consulting her. Swift never owned the original recordings of her first six albums. Taylor’s Version, even in name, shows that the goal isn’t money, but an artist’s right to own their work.

Her rerecorded songs are sonically similar to the originals, down to the giggle in “Hey Stephen.” The attention to detail is a demanding task, and if it’s done correctly the differences between the recordings are invisible to listeners. No longer 18 years old, Swift’s voice is richer and fuller, but the songs still sound all but identical to the original.

Some songs, like “Forever and Always,” fall short of capturing the emotional gravity of her experiences from 13+ years ago. When she sings “I was there when you said forever and always” in the original, you feel the naive yearning for a lost lover. In Taylor’s Version, Swift seems to reflect on the experience without the fog of heartbreak.

Still, songs like “Fearless” and “The Way I Loved You” capture the same magical, nostalgic feeling of young love. Fearless resonated with audiences for years because of the universal themes of growing up and falling in love. From the girl next door in “You Belong With Me” to the confused freshman in “Fifteen,” many of us have been the characters in Fearless. Listening to Fearless (Taylor’s Version) transports you back to that place.

But the album is not without any surprises. There are six additional songs from “the vault,” allowing room for more stylistic interpretation.

Previously unreleased songs like “You All Over Me” match sonically with the rest of the album while also relating to her more recent songs like “Clean” and “cowboy like me.” Others have the same country radio feel as the rest of the album. Good luck trying to get “Mr. Perfectly Fine” out of your head.

Recreating any type of art is a risk, but Swift’s careful articulation and attention to detail show that the rerecordings are a labor of love. While fans wait for the next album in line to be rerecorded, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) will hopefully engage listeners in conversations about music ownership.

Rating: 5 “Hey Stephen” giggles out of 5