The reason for Fearless (Taylor’s Version) lays deep within the machinations of the music industry. As an unknown act Taylor Swift signed to Big Machine Records in 2005. In exchange for the label’s much-needed services, Swift signed over the rights to the master recordings of her first six albums. Upon her contract’s expiration in 2008, she re-signed to Universal. Her masters, however, remained with Big Machine.
Why Did Taylor Swift Rerecord Fearless?
In 2019 a private equity group headed by music industry veteran Scooter Braun acquired Big Machine for a staggering figure. Tipped off by her father, who was a shareholder in Big Machine, Swift was quick to take action. Yet despite a multimillion-dollar bid to rebuy the masters, Swift was ultimately unsuccessful. To add insult to injury, Swift was offered the masters in exchange for royalties from her future albums. Swift was disillusioned. She had trusted her label. But in the world of business, an emotional connection to her music had meant very little. At least not next to a multi-million dollar payday. Commerce, it seemed, had triumphed over creativity.
Taylor Swift Today
Until now. Today, Taylor Swift has re-released one of her most famous records Fearless, along with several unreleased songs from the same era. The songs capture all the best parts of the original recording. With one difference. They sound more alive. Swift, now a veteran performer and recording artist, delivers them with a higher energy. Even small touches indicate Taylor’s version is a better record. One is example is that the famous guitar solo from title-track ‘Fearless’ sits more forward in the mix. The bass guitar is more present. Swift does not break from the past entirely though, she brings back collaborator Colbie Caillat for ‘Breathe’.
More Clarity, More Confidence and More Emotion
On ‘White Horse’ Taylor’s vocal performance is more seasoned. She sings with more clarity, more confidence and more emotion. The track is softer and more intimately, demonstrating years of vocal studio recording practice. The same goes for ‘Forever and ‘Always (Piano Version)’. She extends the final note in ‘Change’, demonstrating better breathe support and more vocal power. The instrumental is much more complex, particularly notable in the drum arrangement. Even ‘Untouchable’ is warmer and softer than previously heard.
Yesterday Was No Fairytale
Longtime fans of Taylor will be able to hear the influence of Swift’s deep dive into pop music in the years following Fearless‘ original release. Gone is her country twang. This is most obviously heard on her reimagined version of ‘Today Was A Fairytale’.
Swift’s Back Pages
The last six new tracks are titled ‘From the Vault’. This collection holds all the best parts of Swift’s original songwriting. ‘That’s When’ fittingly features a staple of country music Keith Urban. Maren Morris features in the first single from this collection of songs ‘You All Over Me’. This number holds some of the strongest melodies of these unreleased tracks. ‘We Were Happy’ demonstrates the very best of the soft romantic and melancholic tone of Swift’s early work. ‘Bye Bye Baby’ closes the record, sending the album off on a memorable note, another standout of the newer tracks.
Taylor Swift Is No Damsel in Distress
This Fearless will be, for many millions of fans at least, superior to the original. The next five of Swift’s rerecording’s, which will include her best-known albums and breakthrough Red, will provide a far greater hurdle. Swift however has already proven herself more than up at the task. While many would have cautioned against re-recording any of these albums, Swift’s musical instinct told her something critics did not. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) needed to be done. Taylor Swift could not control the past but she could write her future.
A Musical and Personal Triumph
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) has drawn an outpouring of fan support and enjoyment. The current mania surrounding the release is equal to an album of all-new material. (Which considered Swift’s role as one of the world’s most eminent musical acts is no small feat.) The power of this new version may lay in something besides the emotion and accomplished rerecording. Swift has reclaimed her story. She has aimed at something many think impossible. Swift has faced the improbable and pulled it off. She thinks for herself and refuses to be led. As a musical achievement, Fearless is a strong entry to Swift’s body of work but as a personal triumph? It’s greater still.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) Tracklist
You Belong With Me
Breathe (Ft. Colbie Caillat)
Tell Me Why
You’re Not Sorry
The Way I Loved You
Forever & Always
The Best Day
Jump Then Fall
Forever & Always (Piano Version)
Come In With The Rain
The Other Side of the Door
Today Was a Fairytale
You All Over Me [From the Vault] (Ft. Maren Morris)
Mr. Perfectly Fine [From the Vault]
We Were Happy [From the Vault]
That’s When [From the Vault] (Ft. Keith Urban)
Don’t You [From the Vault]
Bye, Bye, Baby [From the Vault]
Love Story [Elvira Remix]
More reviews here.
A triumph for musicians
A triumph for women
A triumph for Taylor Swift
Others are not so lucky
Swift may never see those masters
Scooter Braun remains at large