Release Date: Apr 9, 2021
Record label: Republic
When the master recordings of Taylor Swift's first six albums were sold to Scooter Braun, Swift promptly announced she was going to re-record her music. It's fitting that she started with one of her most popular albums, Fearless, which was released in 2008. Fearless, Swift's sophomore album, perfectly captured the universal experiences of being a teenage girl -- friendships, falling in love, falling out of love and figuring out one's place in this world.
The only reason a "Taylor's Version" of Fearless is here is due to the strangely public battle over the rights to her masters (she alleges that they were sold without consultation, and that she was not offered first refusal on the sale), and Swift, rightfully, wants to reassert her control over a back catalogue she signed away as a teenager. We know that all of her albums pre-Lover are being rerecorded or amended in some way, so why begin with Fearless? Could it be that it contains the first indications that Taylor would go on to conquer the world in "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me"? Could it be that the wealth of extra songs she recorded around the same time would give her an opportunity to rerecord and release nearly two hours of material for fans to get lost in all over again? Whatever the reasoning, Fearless is absolutely the right place to start. The new recordings (all 26 of them), offer a treasure chest of riches.
When Taylor Swift announced that she planned to re-record each of her albums to effectively take control of her masters and stick it to famed music manager Scooter Braun, the move was quintessential Taylor: strategic, savvy, and easily mapped onto an empowerment narrative. This wasn't simply a cynical IP grab with purely financial implications; this was also a woman quite literally reclaiming her past selves. For listeners, however, the value proposition seemed less clear.
Like a restored photograph brightening from black and white into colour, 'Fearless (Taylor's Version)' is the same, but better. Embroiled in a high-profile battle over the ownership of her own music, Taylor Swift shakes away the sad context of this re-recorded album, and in turn, shakes the cobwebs off her old hits simply through the power of sheer joy. The anticipation around this re-recording and how she would do it was high, wondering whether she would totally change her early work to watch her new indie-infused 'folklore' sound as she kept her collaborators Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff close.