By Laurynn Davey, Assistant Editor
Photos from Google
Although we may be living in the world of 2021, this past weekend took us on a journey all the way back to the year 2008 when iPods were still around, and we still wore headbands with high-waisted shorts. But most importantly, it was the year we first listened to “Fearless” by Taylor Swift. Fast-forward 12 years later, Swift has done it again (literally) by re-releasing her “Fearless” album this past Friday. The catch? It’s all been re-recorded.
After publicly calling out her former record label Big Machine Records (BMR) and founder Scott Borchetta for selling her masters to Scooter Braun, with whom Swift has a troubling past, Taylor decided to re-record her first six albums. For those who do not understand what a musician’s “masters” are, they are defined as the official recordings of a song, sound, or performance. Taylor Swift has never owned her own masters under BMR despite writing her own songs and spending years offering to pay for them herself. However, now that Swift is finally under a new record label, Universal Music Group (UMG), and her contract with BMR is over, she has the power to re-record every song she has ever written and produced with BMR. This will ultimately give her the ownership rights and power to distribute her music as she pleases.
Taylor Swift on CBS Sunday Morning, announcing her plans to re-record (August 25th, 2019) [Photo: CBS News]
The first album on her list? “Fearless”, her sophomore album which is credited to starting her career. She coined the term “Taylor’s Version” on the album name and every song that comes with it. When you purchase or stream “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” you will find a whopping total of 26 songs, including all the songs from the “platinum edition” of her second album and six additional songs from what she deems “the vault.” In multiple different interviews, Taylor described the vault as the “rejects” – AKA songs that never made it to the finalized version of “Fearless.” Now that she is free from BMR and has the power to do whatever she wants, Taylor will feature vault songs across all re-recorded albums, so fans get “the entire vivid picture” of the writing process.
Fearless (2008) & Fearless (Taylor’s Version) 2021 [Photo: Time Magazine]
Taylor has described the re-recording process as a fun trip down memory lane and even changed the artwork to a more sophisticated look. But the album artwork isn’t the only difference that separates “Fearless” from its re-recording. To put it simply, the production of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is cleaner. The vocals are both deeper and effortless. Swift no longer has to strain her voice to reach those high notes and simply sounds comfortable behind the mic, making subtle changes to her pitch. Swift never once abandoned the teenage angst of her songs, rocking that same attitude of hers as if she were still 18 years old. In addition to her vocals, there is also a huge difference in the music. The guitars are cleaner, the banjos are louder, and the drums go harder. She didn’t make any drastic changes to the songs, only improving what she felt were “imperfect” from the original recordings. The vault songs were a great addition to the album, some better than most songs written today despite being deemed the “rejects.” It makes you wonder what else Swift has stored.
Full Tracklist for Fearless (Taylor’s Version) [Photo: Genius]
As a self-proclaimed “swiftie” and long-time fan, the first couple seconds of the title track “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” already had me in the feels, and it was quite the emotional journey re-experiencing each song. Despite having listened to the songs for years, my blood rushed, and my heart was pumping as I sang along (or more accurately, screamed through my tears) to each one like I was still in middle school, experiencing what I believed to be heartbreak and love. It’s almost poetic because now, as a graduating college student, I can fully understand the two and listen to the songs I grew up within a whole new light.
Not only can fans who were present the first time around support her music all over again, but Swift’s smart promotion through popular Gen Z stars such as Olivia Rodrigo and Conan Gray (who have made videos dancing to “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” allows room for the younger generation to discover her music without giving BMR, or any new owner of her masters, a single penny. I look forward to the rest of Taylor’s re-recordings, and I cannot wait to hear what else she has hidden in the vault.