Apr 30, 2021 | LIFE | By Katherine Moynihan | Illustration by Xixi Qin
“This is life before you know who you’re gonna be,” Taylor Swift sings in the chorus of “Fifteen,” one of the most lauded songs on her 2008 album “Fearless.”
Indeed, Taylor Swift is no longer fifteen, or a teenager for that matter. She is 31 years old and a successful songstress. In December, she released her eighth critically acclaimed album “evermore,” sister album to 2020’s Album of the Year “folklore.”
Taylor’s prolific streak did not end before the new year. On April 9, she released a new version of her sophomore album“Fearless.” With updated vocals and melodious twists, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”is not one to miss.
“Fearless,” the 2008 original, catapulted Taylor Swift into international stardom. She went from an admired country singer to a curly-haired celebrity phenom. “Fearless” won four Grammys and millions of new fans.
Listeners today remember watching the “You Belong with Me” music video on repeat and singing along to the passionate prose on “Forever and Always” as if 2008 were yesterday.
The nostalgic love songs about growing up and falling in love cemented ”Fearless” in the hearts and heads of fans everywhere. That adhesive relationship proved useful last week, when Taylor released the re-recorded version, along with seven new songs “From the Vault.”
The story of Taylor’s re-recordings began in 2019. Scott Bruschetta, her old producer, sold the masters to Taylor’s first six albums to Scooter Braun, most famous for managing Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, for $300 million.
Controversy erupted when Taylor revealed Bruschetta did not give Taylor the opportunity to acquire the masters to her own work, but instead sold them to Braun, whom Taylor named “an incessant, manipulative bully.”
The masters controversy inspired spiteful songs on “folklore,” her surprise album released in quarantine. On “madwoman,” Taylor sings “I’m taking my time … cause you took everything from me.” Two years was enough time to take apparently, because her first batch of re-recordings are here.
The 13 original songs sound almost identical to the original. Her matured voice glides over the all-too familiar melodies that take nostalgic teenage listeners back to their childhood bedroom, a friend’s house, or the window seat of a car.
Some songs take on a new meaning in 2021. For example, Swift’s teary-eyed guitar masterpiece “The Best Day,” written about her mom, is extra emotional on record. In 2015, Swift revealed her mother Andrea Swift’s cancer diagnosis.
Swift has since opened up about her mother’s health and its impact on her life. In 2019, she said, “It’s taught me that there are real problems and then there’s everything else.” Swift’s closeness with her mother shines through on the re-recorded “The Best Day.” The raw mother-daughter love mirrors the song “Soon You’ll Get Better,” also about her mom, on Swift’s seventh studio album “Lover.”
Swifts’ adolescent story-telling style comes into full view on the seven “From the Vault” songs. Similar to most songs on “Fearless,” these additions describe teenage love struggles.
On the song “You All Over Me,” featuring singer Maren Morris, Swift exclaims, “and I lie, and I cry, and I watch a part of myself die.” These words resonate with young people navigating relationships, a topic with which Swift has no shortage of expertise.
With “folklore,” “evermore,” and “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” all released in eight months, Swifties have lots of content to decode and discuss.
As for Taylor herself, she is no longer a dreamy teenager writing songs on her bedroom floor. That said, there is always a market for love songs, and Swift is unapologetically generous in offering her talents to the table.