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'Fearless (Taylor's version)' is Swift's most authentic, emotional album yet

Taylor Swift's re-release of her critically-acclaimed sophomore album "Fearless" features 26 tracks, including unreleased content and remakes of classics like "Fifteen." – Photo by Taylor Swift / Twitter

Taylor Swift gifted fans her first rerecorded studio album, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)," on April 9, and in a statement on Instagram, Swift described the album as “full of magic and curiosity, the bliss and devastation of youth.” After listening to the album, I couldn’t agree more.

In 2008, I bought a CD of the Grammy Award-winning album, “Fearless,” not knowing that the music I would blast in my mom’s car as an 8-year-old would stay close to my heart as an almost 21-year-old.

In this new-old album, Swift doubles down on the standard edition’s number of songs, her lucky number 13, with a whopping 26 songs. Swift, a lover of Easter eggs and numerology, has given us a lot to enjoy and unpack in approximately 2 hours of wonderful music.

The personal element of the album lies within the pair of words enclosed in parentheses accompanying the album title and each song name: “Taylor’s Version.” This album is predicated on creative ownership, legacy and a musical trailblazer of our generation taking control of work that is rightfully hers.

Swift signed a deal with the label to produce her first six albums, at only age 15 in 2005, three years before “Fearless,” Swift’s sophomore album, was released by Big Machine Records.

Following a complicated legal battle with Big Machine Records executives and investors over her masters, Swift signed with the label Republic Records in 2018 and started rerecording her back catalog in November 2020.

Liberated from the greed of men making a profit off her intellectual property, Swift has persevered and begun a journey of reclaiming her past. The Guardian called the rerecording effort “a labour of revenge, but also of love.”

Swift is still the same talented singer-songwriter glowing and flipping her hair on the golden cover of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)." Though her hair isn’t as curly, she sports her signature bangs and, though I might be reading into the visuals a bit too deeply, is posed the other (right) way, the opposite of the original cover, perhaps symbolically.

The album begins with the titular track, “Fearless (Taylor's Version),” a pop-rock hit that empowers you to take a chance on, fall in love with and dance in the rain to this re-energized body of work all over again.

Fifteen (Taylor's Version),” sung with the matured vocals of a 31-year-old Swift, still blooms with the same innocence as the original, as she sings about first crushes, kisses and heartbreaks.

The song now devotes itself more wholeheartedly to Swift’s friendship with girlhood best friend Abigail Anderson in a touching lyric video filled with goofy pictures of the pair.

Love Story (Taylor's Version)” was the first rereleased single off the album and is arguably Swift’s most well-loved and famous song. This Shakespearean tune is easy to scream along to and is the first of many literary references Swift will make throughout her career. The song was also remixed by Swedish DJ Elvira as the bonus track for this album.

Hey Stephen (Taylor's Version)” is a gutsy, starry-eyed song a young Swift wrote about her crush on country singer Stephen B. Liles, nodding back to the days when the artist directly named names, while “White Horse (Taylor's Version)” is a country breakup song that radiates perfect sadness.

A day before the album was released, Swift sent a sneak peek to her “kids,” Olivia Rodrigo and Conan Gray, who, like many of us, were raised on this music. Rodrigo and Gray, in a pure fangirl moment, put on their cowboy hats and made an adorable Instagram reel celebrating the song.

A notable feature of the album is its vacillating mood shifts. For instance, “You Belong With Me (Taylor's Version),” a karaoke classic most famous for its music video and naive high school imagery, is followed by “Breathe (feat. Colbie Caillat) (Taylor's Version),” an acoustic, melancholic song where the country-pop stars reminisce about the loss of a friendship.

Switching tones again, the following track “Tell Me Why (Taylor's Version)” is upbeat, as Swift vents her frustrations at a boy who brought chaos into her life. And, as we can probably piece together from the pattern, “You’re Not Sorry (Taylor's Version)” brings us back to the dreariness of heartbreak.

The Way I Loved You (Taylor's Version)” and “Forever & Always (Taylor's Version),” are all about passionate love now lost and are brimming with energetic vocals and mixed emotions, with “Forever & Always (Piano Version) (Taylor's Version)” being a longer, stripped down and more pained version of the original.

The Best Day (Taylor's Version)” is an incredibly moving track about familial love and serves as an ode to her family, with the lyric video consisting of childhood memories.

The 13th track, “Change (Taylor's Version),” was my favorite. This head-banger from the original album takes on a new, hopeful meaning as Swift perfects her original art. When the album was finally released, Swift tweeted the poignant lyric: “It was the night things changed.”

Jump Then Fall (Taylor's Version)” is a hopelessly romantic track on how we should be unafraid of love and its endless possibilities. Similarly, “Untouchable (Taylor's Version)” is a gentle and sweet ballad, covering an intense rock love song performed originally by the band “Luna Halo.”

Come In With The Rain (Taylor's Version)” preserves the slowed-down mood and patiently waits for love to be realized. “Superstar (Taylor's Version)” recalls the experiences of a “wide-eyed girl” and her celebrity crush.

The Other Side Of The Door (Taylor's Version)” picks up the album’s pace by describing the tumultuous push-and-pull of wanting someone back. “Today Was A Fairytale (Taylor's Version)” presents us with an idealistic vision of love and was recorded for the soundtrack of “Valentine’s Day,” a rom-com that Swift acted in, released in 2010.

The last six songs are titled, “From The Vault,” which were previously unreleased outtakes. The vault songs have now left the secrecy of Swift’s diaries and been brought to life in the studio by her 2020 dream team, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner.

First up is “You All Over Me (feat. Maren Morris) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault),” which is about the lingering presence of a relationship after it’s over and makes one’s head sway. 

Mr. Perfectly Fine (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)” is the best vault song. It’s catchy, witty and has a great backstory about her famous ex Joe Jonas, who broke up with a teenage Swift in a 27-second-long phone call. A hilarious Internet frenzy ensued after Sophie Turner, Jonas’ wife, and Swift interacted over the song on Instagram.

We Were Happy (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)” is an unsurprisingly very sad, acoustic guitar song that features subtle but strong backing vocals from Keith Urban.

Urban is one of Swift's most favorite country influences and collaborates with her on the next track, a conversational duet titled, “That’s When (feat. Urban) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault),” that explores the aftermath of picking up the pieces post-breakup.

Soft and slow sounds flow into “Don’t You (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault),” which explores a hurtful encounter with a former love. The singer bids farewell to a failed relationship with “Bye Bye Baby (Taylor's Version) (From the Vault)," her final song.

Swift revisits the autobiographical, country-pop nostalgia of “Fearless” in a time where she has continued to push boundaries as a genre-crossing storyteller in pop and alternative music. “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” lives up to its name. This timeless and authentic album is irrevocably and joyously Swift's.

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