On Thursday night, Taylor Swift, the country-turned-pop-turned-folk darling, dropped her re-recording of her 2008 album Fearless. The release comes after a public spat with Scooter Braun, who acquired Big Machine Label Group, the record company that owns Swift’s masters. This development took away a significant amount of Swift’s control over the use of her original music and brought attention to an often overlooked issue in the arts.
Swift’s decision to re-record her first albums is partially economic — the re-recordings keep Braun from making huge profits off her work. But the release is also personal for fans. Swift paints the album as a reclaiming of her work and autonomy over her artistry, and it’s appropriate to start out with her sophomore release, a fan-favorite country album.
In addition to the re-recordings, Swift also added six new songs “From The Vault,” which were written for the 2008 album but didn’t originally make the cut.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) sounds noticeably different from the original version. Complaining about changes in Swift’s voice seems futile, as Swift has changed genres (arguably twice) since the original release and is 13 years older; however, listeners can tell that Swift attempted to revive some of her endearing country twangs for the recording, such as her vowel enunciation in the opening line of “The Best Day.”
In conjunction with distinct changes in Swift’s vocals and enunciation, the album also features updated instrumentals on the openings of beloved tracks like “You Belong With Me,” which opens with a comparable but not quite identical guitar solo to the original.
Her most popular tracks being slightly off from the originals serve as a stark reminder that Swift is an extraordinarily different artist now than she was in 2008. Everything about the sound of the re-release is more modern, killing part of the joy in listening to Fearless and being taken back to a different time in life. All of this is expected, but it also shows the challenges that come with re-releasing a beloved album over a decade after the original.
Swift’s decision to include six new songs “From The Vault” in her re-release further demonstrates the demand for nostalgia among her fans. Frankly, none of the songs “From The Vault” are particularly remarkable, and her songwriting is evidently inferior to other tracks on the original album — there was a reason they were left in the vault.
“Mr. Perfectly Fine” has the most intriguing lyrics of the vault tracks, aided by the social media frenzy surrounding Joe Jonas’s reaction to the song being written about him in 2008. The personal narrative and classically-Swift angsty bridge give fans a glimpse of a return to the Fearless age, but “Mr. Perfectly Fine” lacks the strong instrumental backing and endearing country charm that is present throughout the original album.
As far as the new tracks from the vault, Swift’s lyricism is disappointing, and the ear-catching country-pop beats are lacking. “That’s When,” featuring Keith Urban, is repetitive and lacks Swift’s detailed storytelling, instead opting for vague romantic lyrics paired with a catchy, country-pop beat.
Swift fans will not be disappointed by Fearless (Taylor’s Version), but the general public has no real reason to seek out a new version of the 2008 album. Cult classics such as “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story” will remain loved, but will probably not be remembered for their 2021 re-release.
If you’re a 2000s kid who wants to be comforted by immense nostalgia in this trying time, you have good reason to tune into Fearless (Taylor’s Version). If you’re a more recent fan of Swift’s music, hearing Fearless will show you the roots of her storytelling abilities and well-deserved musical fame.
But nostalgia has its limits, and old fans will notice clear differences between the two albums. After a first listen, it’s likely that many will be scrolling through Spotify to the classic 2008 release when they want to reminisce.
Daily Arts Writer Madeline Poupard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.