Swift retribution (Taylor’s version)

Pop star releases her new rerecording, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” 13 years after original topped the charts

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Ronald Woan

A TALE OF TWO TAYLORS: As part of her “Reputation” tour, Swift performs at what was then called CenturyLink Field in Seattle on May 22, 2018. Since this tour, Scooter Braun sold Swift’s masters to another record company that he controls. Her solution to regain control of her own work is to re-record her songs and mark them as “Taylor’s version” so fans can tell them apart. Image accessed on Ronald Woan Flickr account. Reposted with permission under a creative commons license.

Ingrid Smith, Mac photojournalism

Fearless, Swift’s second album, released in November of 2008, skyrocketed her to fame through teen pop anthems and heartbreaking ballads about love and the struggles of growing up that granted her a loyal fan base that has stayed strong through the years. Her honest lyrics and charming personality made her well-loved by millions and led to her ongoing long and successful career where she has so far released nine studio albums and sold over 200 million records worldwide, not counting her two newest releases Evermore and Fearless (Taylor’s Version).

Although the old versions of her albums will probably not disappear, when she releases the new recordings, listeners will have the option to listen to the music she fought to own and support her in the battle to regain ownership of her work.”

When in 2019 Swift announced that she would be rerecording and releasing six of her albums in order to regain ownership of her music, she was met with full support from fans and fellow celebrities alike.

Taylor Swift originally signed with Big Machine Records when she was 16 and left in 2018 when she was presented an unfavorable contract. The label was later sold to an umbrella company owned by Scooter Braun, a controversial figure in the music industry who is publicly disliked by Taylor Swift. Swift claims that she did not know about this sale and that when Braun sold her catalog consisting of her masters, music videos, album art and other original creations, in a $300 million deal to Shamrock Holdings where Braun would continue to profit from her work, she was not given the option to buy back her own artistic expression, including the masters of her original songs.

Because Swift has songwriting credits and the publishing rights for all of her songs, she is able to re-record and release new versions of her first six albums and completely own the re-recordings under the contract with her new record label. Although the old versions of her albums will probably not disappear, when she releases the new recordings, listeners will have the option to listen to the music she fought to own and support her in the battle to regain ownership of her work.

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was announced in February of this year and released on April 9. The original Fearless, released in 2008, is one of the biggest albums of the 21st century. It contains songs like “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story”  that are 2000s classics and staples on many people’s playlists. The re-recorded album had very big shoes to fill as the original record was so well-loved by both fans and critics. Fearless was her first album to win Album of the Year at the Grammys and, according to “Taylor Swift Wiki,” the album that made 18-year-old Swift “The youngest artist in history to have a year’s best selling album.”

I was a bit skeptical at first of whether or not the rerecording made by 31-year-old Taylor Swift could capture the essence of the original. I wasn’t sure if the youthful and country vibe of the original album could be emulated so many years later.”

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) includes all of the songs on the platinum edition record along with six “from the vault” tracks that she wrote in the Fearless era but didn’t make the album. “Love Story,” arguably the most important song of the start of her career, was released with the album announcement in February. The song was a good choice for a promo song because it has the same sound as the original but with just enough changes that it got fans excited.

I was a bit skeptical at first of whether or not the rerecording made by 31-year-old Taylor Swift could capture the essence of the original. I wasn’t sure if the youthful and country vibe of the original album could be emulated so many years later. While the re-recorded album does seem to have a country-pop sound, Swift doesn’t use a country accent, and it is clear that she has moved away from the country genre in recent years. Every time I listen to the album, however, I feel instantly transported to my childhood, and I am hit with a wave of nostalgia.

The production in Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is similar to the two albums she released in 2020: Folklore and Evermore. This similarity is due in part no doubt because she recruited the producers of those albums to produce her rerecording. The three albums are sonically similar, though Fearless (Taylor’s Version) possesses a clear country-pop edge.

Also, some of the members of Swift’s old touring band played instrumentals on these tracks. This was not a casual decision but rather a way to realize her intention to “to stay very loyal to the initial melodies that I had thought of for these songs.” The central objective, Swift said, was to “go in and try to create a ‘the same but better’ version” but that “If there was any way that we could improve upon the sonic quality, we did.”

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) … is a win-win for everybody as it has improved sound and quality, and by listening to it you support Taylor Swift in her battle to own her work.”

One noticeable change on the rerecording is the improvement of her vocals, which could be expected considering how far she’s come since 2008. You can easily hear improvement in her vocals on songs like “Forever and Always Piano Version (Taylor’s Version)” and “Tell Me Why (Taylor’s Version).” Similarly, I think the “from the vault tracks,” two of which feature country music stars Keith Urban and Maren Morris, sound similar to her two 2020 albums, so I think they would’ve had a much different sound if they were recorded in 2008.

Overall, I think the standout songs on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) are “Hey Stephen (Taylor’s Version),” “You Belong With Me (Taylor’s Version),” and “Breathe (Taylor’s Version) [feat. Colbie Caillat].” Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is now her third No. 1 album within a year having sold over 291,000 units in the week following its release on April 9 and 50 million Spotify streams on release day.

As a longtime lover of the album Fearless and a self proclaimed “Swiftie,” I can confidently say that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) exceeded my expectations by staying true to the original in sound and feeling, but adding a new meaning that continues the album’s legacy and timelessness by making it just as good in 2021 as it was in 2008 without feeling any less authentic. I believe this rerecording is a win-win for everybody as it has improved sound and quality, and by listening to it you support Taylor Swift in her battle to own her work.

The release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) marks an important moment in music history as it is a big deal for an artist as successful as Taylor Swift to re-release her chart topping music in the name of owning and having full control of her own work and career. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) has made a powerful statement in that it has reinforced just how important it is for all artists no matter their level of success to be able to own and share their music with the world in the way they wish. Like many other Swifties, I will happily be putting the 2008 album to rest, now that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is here and better than ever.