Taylor Swift didn’t know who she was supposed to be at 15 — but she’s not the teenager who wore t-shirts and sneakers anymore.
Twelve years after the release of her breakout album “Fearless,” Swift has stepped into the driver’s seat of her career. After losing the battle to own her masters — the “source” recording used for streams and sales — Swift vowed to re-record her first six albums, and she began with her twangy, teenybopper sophomore album.
“Fearless” defined Swift as an industry staple, winning the “Album of the Year” award at the 2010 Grammy’s. “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” revisits the modern classic with updated vocals and production but remains fiercely true to source.
The revisited album includes one-off single “Today is a Fairytale” from the 2010 film “Valentine’s Day” and six “From the Vault” tracks — including features with Maren Morris and Keith Urban — written during the time period and never saw the light of day. It’s 26 songs spanning an hour and 46 minutes, so buckle up.
“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is pure nostalgia, by pure design. Swift walks down a familiar road, taking listeners back to the 2008 world the tracks first debuted in. In the decade since, Swift has evolved and ditched her romantic country roots, but she’s welcomed back home with open arms in the updated tracks.
“You Belong With Me (Taylor’s Version)” blows away its predecessor, featuring such boisterous, powerful vocals. The song is sure to transcend listeners back to the days when they’d listen to the original track on their iPod while doodling with Stencils.
The tracks remain firmly in the original wheelhouse, so newer Swift fans may struggle with a return to her pseudo-country roots.
However, Swift’s early fans are sure to find the revisit a reward for years of fandom. Her fuller vocals and richer production culminate in a mastered version of an already strong sophomore effort. The youthful naivete is lost in her voice, replaced by the confidence of a proven-successful woman, adding a new dimension to the nostalgic hits.
Now, for those “From the Vault” tracks.
“Mr. Perfectly Fine” teleports listeners back to the heartache Swift suffered at the hands of Joe Jonas. The lyrics are expectedly juvenile, but they’re more cute than cringeworthy.
“Hello, Mr. ‘Casually cruel’ / Mr. ‘everything revolves around you’ / I’ve been Miss Misery since your goodbye / And you’re Mr. ‘Perfectly fine,’” Swift sings in the hook, evoking the teenage heartache.
Of all the vault tracks, “Mr. Perfectly Fine” offers the most hit material. The beat is infectious and fun, the kind of song a group of high schoolers will sing along to on their way to the football game. It’s a send-up of what made the tentpoles of “Fearless” so impactful.
“We Were Happy” harkens back to earlier Swift imagery of farms, daddy’s approval and Romeo & Juliet love conniptions. It’s pleasant enough but aside from the bridge, not anything special. It makes sense it was in the vault for so long.
While the production remains similar to the 2008 original, closing track “Bye Bye Baby” steps in exciting new directions. The beachy track, co-produced by Swift’s longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, enters with suave, bouncy production. “Bye Bye Baby” feels like a song for swaying in a cornfield.
“There’s so much that I can’t touch, you’re all I want / But it’s not enough this time / And all the pages are just slipping through my hands and I’m so / Scared of how this ends,” Swift sings. The guitar-heavy tune is a strong closer to the revisited album.
In “Fifteen,” Swift sang, “In your life you’ll do greater things than / Dating the boy on the football team / I didn’t know it at fifteen.”
But she knows who she’s supposed to be now. “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” evolves from its predecessor with more mature, trained vocals and an immediate purpose. It’s a welcome retread of the past and should leave Swifties eager for what’s next to come.
“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is available to stream on all major streaming services.