Photo Credit: Jay L Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock
Some artists revisit stories to pick up where they left off after going away for a while. Others retell the same stories through new lenses, offering perspectives that were missing from the first go-around. Taylor Swift’s newly re-recorded version of her 2008 blockbuster album Fearless is an example of an artist choosing the latter—a retelling that speaks softly and carries a very big stick.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) isn’t a retelling of the album Fearless as much as it’s a retelling of that period in Swift’s life. Six unreleased songs “from the vault” are along for the ride this time, including rarities featuring Keith Urban and Maren Morris. Of these unheard songs, “Mr. Perfectly Fine” grabs the most attention with its tabloid-baiting callback to Swift’s days as a Jonas Brothers groupie; the tune previews the upbeat sounds she would later explore on Red, and captures her tremendous knack for pop choruses.
Fixation on Swift’s record label woes reached a fever pitch when Scott Borchetta sold Big Machine Records, where Swift got her start, to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings (it’s worth noting that Braun plays doting manager to Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and more of Swift’s most immediate peers). Both sides wielded accusations of deception as Swift sought control of her precious masters and Braun sought to defend the valuable commercial rights he’d acquired.
Swift’s master plan to replace her first six records is well within her right — she wrote or co-wrote all the songs — and she’s now made history by vaulting two unique versions of the same album to the top of the Billboard 200 with twelve years between them. It’s a titanic feat that speaks to Swift’s dominance in pop culture. While Taylor’s versions of “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” will hurt Braun’s wallet most from lost royalties and licensing fees, though, the intent of the new and improved Fearless is most passionate and pure on her re-recorded version of “Fifteen.”
Swift is now 31-years-old and her teenage years are firmly cemented in the rear view mirror, so when she sings, “I didn’t know who I was supposed to be at fifteen,” it’s as if the sky cracks open and a cathartic deluge pours forth to slap us all in the face. “I swore I was gonna marry him someday // But I realized some bigger dreams of mine,” hits a lot harder when it comes from the first woman to win three Album Of The Year awards at the Grammys.
The young girl who wrote out her most intimate thoughts and feelings for all to hear has lots to reflect on now. This journey through her past is a chance to remind everyone that she’s always really been the same person, even if her music styling’s have evolved. Beginning her re-recording journey with her sophomore album is an artistic statement of reclamation: this is the album where the world truly came to know the name Taylor Swift, and Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is our realest glimpse yet at the woman behind the moniker.