Taylor Swift fearlessly reclaims voice with new album

By Carolina Garibay

In 2005, 16-year-old aspiring country artist Taylor Swift signed a 13-year record deal with Big Machine Records (BMR). Sixteen years later, Swift is now a record breaker and an 11-time Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. Most recently, Swift became the first female artist to win album of the year three times.

But that’s old news.

On Friday, Swift released “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” the first of her series of rereleases that was a result of a feud between Swift and Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun. If you haven’t heard about this, basically Borchetta sold BMR to Braun (which included the original recordings, or masters, of Swift’s first six albums) without giving Swift the option to purchase them herself. Braun then sold Swift’s masters in a $300 million deal with Shamrock Holdings.

Swift decided to rerecord her first six albums to not only reclaim her life’s work but also her brand and the sense of pride she had when releasing “Fearless” in 2008.

Swift announced the release of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” in February, saying, “Artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work.”

With this announcement of the “Fearless” rerelease also came a wave of emotion and excitement from fans, many of whom see “Fearless” as a defining moment of their teenage years.

“Fearless” is a look into Swift’s teenage diary, which for many fans, was pretty similar to their own lives, which is why so many Swifties feel such a close connection to this album and were so excited for its rerelease, among millions of other reasons.

No one was really sure whether to expect a copycat version of “Fearless” or instead, a reimagined album with several noticeable changes. What Swift gave us was both strikingly similar to the original album but also contained just the right number of differences, mostly stylistic ones, for hardcore fans to tell that this album, like Swift herself, has grown up.

For the most part, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” sounds identical to the 2008 album, the biggest difference being the maturity of Swift’s voice. She obviously sounds older, but she also sounds more confident (maybe because she’s surer of herself knowing how big this album was). But she also retains the youthful sound and energy she had in “Fearless,” which is what makes this album so nostalgic yet so new at the same time.

The song “Fearless” was a genius way for Swift to start the album in 2008, and it’s just as iconic in 2021. When that first guitar strum hits fans’ ears, they’re immediately brought back to their childhoods when they were first enamored by the way Swift perfectly captured all of their experiences in one album.

Many fans, though, are younger than Swift and saw “Fearless” as a collection of experiences to look forward to in the future. “Fifteen” was once a reflection of an age that seemed so important to Swift fans but is now probably the cause of a lot of cringing and self-reflection about some questionable outfit choices. This song also holds more weight for fans since they can now look back on the age of 15 and relate more to lyrics like, “But in your life you’ll do things / Greater than dating the boy on the football team.”

“Hey Stephen (Taylor’s Version)” invites fans to remember their first crush’s name when they probably haven’t thought about that person in years. Fans get to relive the first time they heard Swift sing, “All those other girls / Well they’re beautiful / But would they write a song for you?” followed by Swift’s iconic, playful laugh.

Swift released “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” in February and contains the most noticeable differences, mainly the way Swift sings certain lyrics. “You Belong With Me (Taylor’s Version)” is just as serotonin-inducing as the original, and you can almost hear Swift smiling throughout the song as if she’s saying, “Yeah, I know this song is one of the greatest songs ever released,” because it is.

Fans listening to “That’s The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version)” now know that the narrative Swift described in “That’s The Way I Loved You” was totally unrealistic. Swift sings, “I miss screaming and fighting / And kissing in the rain,” but how many people actually kissed someone in the rain and can honestly say, “I’m so in love that I acted insane”?

“Forever & Always (Taylor’s Version)” is one of the best songs on this album and instantly makes you want to dance around your room and sing into your hairbrush again, and there was nothing wrong with it when you were eight, and there’s still nothing wrong with it when you’re 21.

Swift also released “vault” songs, which are songs that she wrote for the album but didn’t end up including for reasons that she says “seem unnecessary now.” The best of these are “Mr. Perfectly Fine (Taylor’s Version),” inspired by Joe Jonas, and “That’s When (feat. Keith Urban) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault),” which was surprisingly one of the best songs on the album.

If you find yourself on Taylor Swift TikTok, you’ll be met with thousands of clips comparing the two albums and pointing out every difference down to the way Swift breathes on each version. But every Swiftie’s experience listening to “Fearless” and “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is different, and everyone has different connections to certain songs.

Swift, like Swifties, is grown up now, and though you can hear the maturation in her voice, the lyrics and music are identical, which provides fans with the same satisfaction as “Fearless.” This album is a musical representation of what it means to be a teenager and grow up and learn that though we should always be learning from our past, we never really need to leave it behind, and actually, it’s OK to embrace your youth and dance around your room to Taylor Swift, no matter how old you are.