REVIEW: ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’ is a cathartic nostalgia trip, and young me is screaming

Taylor Swift on the red carpet at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center, in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, March 14, 2021. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Many people, including myself, have been regressing back into childhood interests during the pandemic. I loved Taylor Swift as a child. There are recordings of a little 9-year-old Alex covering her songs floating in the ether somewhere. When “Evermore” was released back in January I started catching up on Swift’s music after not having listened to her since “Red” came out. 

Swift opted to rerecord her first 6 albums after Big Machine Records was bought by Scooter Braun, who refused to give her ownership of her masters. Master recordings get royalties whenever they are played on the radio or streamed, so Swift not owning her masters prevents her from receiving the royalties. She’s releasing the albums out of order and many fan theories are floating around on which one will be released next.

“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is just as good as the original release, if not better. It sounds the same, but more polished, which is largely due to how much Swift’s vocals have matured since she was 18. I still knew all the words, surprisingly.

Despite her recent music being more indie-pop, she managed to re-create the young, country sound of the original album. Some of the songs have taken on different tones though. “White Horse” sounds much different now that she has found someone who actually treats her well. "The Best Day,” a song about Swift’s mother being her best friend, is much sadder after her mother’s cancer diagnosis in 2015. 

My favorite songs on this album have also changed. When I was younger I really loved "Jump Then Fall" but now I really like “Tell Me Why” and my old favorite just falls short, partially because my taste has changed. The song I was most excited to listen to was “The Way I Loved You” because that chorus is just iconic. I was also a bit swayed by all the TikToks of people sitting in their bathtubs with alcohol screaming the lyrics. The piano version of “Forever And Always” also slaps.

I love the intentionality of the vault songs. The new album starts with “There’s somethin’ bout the way/ The street looks when it’s just rained” and the first vault song starts with “Once the last drop of rain has dried off the pavement.” It creates a cool callback and some of the vault songs are really good. “Mr. Perfectly Fine” is my favorite partially due to all of the jokes about Joe Jonas’s wife, Sophie Turner, posting on her Instagram that it’s a bop after fans theorized it was about Swift’s breakup with Jonas. 

One criticism I have of Swift’s music in general is that she only gives male musicians verses in her collaborations. All of the female collaborators I can think of are only doing background vocals. She rerecorded “Breathe” with Colbie Caillat and while you can hear her better in this version, it’s still a very minor part compared to her songs with Keith Urban. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the album as a whole. It’s hard to mess up something that was already successful once. I normally don’t like country and wouldn’t be a fan of this music if it weren’t for the nostalgia factor, but it’s something fun and familiar in a really uncertain time. Now I, along with other Swifties, will go back to debating over if she’s releasing “Speak Now” or “1989” next.

 

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