Press Play: Taylor Swift makes a fearless transition with “Fearless: Taylor’s Version”

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Photo credit/ Autumn Bohner

“Fearless: Taylor’s Version” is the first re-recorded album to be released and includes six never-before-released tracks “from the vault.”

Michael Kelley, Staff Writer

It has been 13 years since music sensation Taylor Swift garnered acclaim with her first Grammy-winning album “Fearless.” Now Swift is reclaiming her music and her legacy with a re-recorded version of the album.

When Swift signed with Big Machine Records in 2004, the label received ownership over her original recordings or masters. Essentially, Big Machine Records could license the masters for use in mediums like movies and commercials.

Four years later, Swift released her second studio album “Fearless,” which became a massive catalyst for the young singer-songwriter’s career and ultimately received a Diamond certification from the RIAA for selling over ten million copies in December 2017.

It is also widely acknowledged as being the project to make the country-pop singer into a household name, as seen by how it was the first country album to be named Album of the Year at the 2010 Grammys. While that was an achievement, in and of itself, it also made the then 20-year-old singer the youngest artist to win the category until Billie Eilish won at 18 years old in 2020.

Once Swift released her sixth album, “Reputation,” in 2017 and fulfilled her 12-year contract with Big Machine, she left the label to sign a new deal with Universal Media Group the following year. However, despite her departure, Big Machine retained all the masters Swift recorded during her tenure at the label.

The singer alleges that she made various attempts throughout 2018 and 2019 to buy the masters of her first six albums from her former label. Although, the two parties failed to reach an agreement before Nashville-based label Ithaca Holdings, headed by controversial record executive Scooter Braun, bought out Big Machine and consequently owned the masters of Swift’s first six albums for over $300,000,000 in June 2019. This action led Swift to announce that she would be re-recording all her old music to reclaim the masters from her back catalog.

“Fearless: Taylor’s Version” is the first re-recorded album to be released and includes six never-before-released tracks “from the vault.” There is a lot that hardcore fans of Swift will enjoy when they listen to this album. On the other hand, casual fans may be confused about how these recordings are different from the original album.

Even though the re-recorded versions of the 19 songs from the platinum edition of the album do feel nearly identical to their original 2008 counterparts, “Taylor’s Version” features the inclusion of harmonies. Additionally, Swift’s voice on the re-recorded tracks is much more mature. I actually love how the re-recorded album allows listeners to hear how Swift’s voice has developed over the years.

The tracks also have more thorough arrangements and production improvements that have made them feel much fuller and more blended than the originals. These additions allowed me to grow fonder of multiple tracks I did not enjoy from the original album, including “Breathe,” “Tell Me Why” and “The Way I Loved You”.

While I had never listened to the original recording of “Today Was A Fairytale,” which was released in 2010 to promote the film “Valentine’s Day,” the re-recording has blown me away and has quickly become one of my favorites from “Taylor’s Version.” In a similar vein, although I have always enjoyed “You’re Not Sorry,” “Forever & Always,” “Change” and “Come In With The Rain” from the original album, their re-recordings have exceeded my expectations tenfold and left me entranced to hear them again.

Despite the re-recordings, I continue to believe that “The Best Day” and “Superstar” feel superficial and generic at best. Regardless, these titles do not stop me from genuinely appreciating the quality of work she put into this release.

At first, I did not think that the vault songs would fit remarkably well alongside the rest of the tracklist. Even though I loved the Maren Morris collaboration “You All Over Me” by itself, it was peculiar to think about it working well alongside the rest of the album. To my surprise, it, and the other additions to the original album mesh perfectly with each other. I genuinely enjoy all of them, except for “We Were Happy,” and can see myself coming back to listen to them every week.

A great example of this is “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” which was released last week, and how it has gone on to live up to the same appreciation as “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story” with hardcore fans. On top of that, I never knew I needed a collaboration between Swift and Keith Urban until I heard their dynamic chemistry on “That’s When.”

Since Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner were also extensively involved in creating “Folklore” and “Evermore,” the vault songs ended up feeling like an extension from those two albums. It is rather intriguing to hear these songs now since we will likely never hear the original recordings.

Whether you love her or hate her, you must admire Swift’s dedication to her work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Swift was able to work on two albums, a live album, and the start re-recording her old albums. To me, that is greatly impressive, and you must give credit where credit is due.

With “Fearless: Taylor’s Version,” she delivers the same amount of charm found from the original album but with a multitude of skills she and her collaborators have learned over the years that drive me to want to hear what comes next from her re-recording era.

Between the strength of her closest supporters and the immeasurable impact she has made on the music industry over the past decade, the re-recordings are sure to live up to the same success as the original, if not surpass them.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Vinyl
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Twitter: @mkelleyww