Both 2020 and 2021 and have seen an uprising for Taylor Swift. She released two albums out of quarantine, one which showed a clear delineator in her personal style, and the second while people were still gushing over the first. Now, she has begun to re-release her old music using more authentic versions of the songs after acquiring the rights to them from her producers and labels.
The album, produced by the singer-songwriter herself and released by label Republic, is the first of a series of re-recordings from Swift’s older albums. The album runs approximately an hour and a half and features 26 tracks, each of varying lengths. The album comes off the heels of Swift’s controversy with her producers about the master copies to her songs. She eventually won and was able to re-release the album under her direction.
This album is a big middle finger to Scooter Braun, the infamous Hollywood manager who has tarnished many a singer’s reputation and artistic goals all in the pursuit of money. Swift has fought long and hard to get the master copies of her singles back so that she can retake her power. The album is not simply a money grab by the singer. Swift is instead telling Braun and others that wish to defy her to step off because she is in control of herself again.
The issue with this album came in the form of the relationship to her fans. Most of the time, Swift frames the release of her music as giving a gift to her listeners. However, that narrative doesn’t really fit when you’re asking fans to re-listen to old music. This fear, however, is quickly washed away because instead of getting a caricature of the country music industry at the time of “Fearless’” original release, we get an almost melancholy presentation of the music we know and love. This album feels like an uncomfortable conversation between the modern Taylor Swift and her past self – a conversation we so desperately need.
One could certainly split hairs about the difference between a remix, a cover of oneself, or a re-recording but why would you want to? The music is raw all by itself and wholly nostalgic. Swift laces each new track with little music Easter eggs that let us know the truly biting nature of her project on the first of these six albums. These songs have a little more life to them one might remember. The sound is brighter than before. The mix is clearer than before. These versions almost feel like a new Instagram filter on an old photo.
The most obvious change is Swift’s voice. As she has gone through her twenties and written more and more music, Swift’s voice has become far more resonant than her younger self’s voice. She is able to support her sound far more and that provides a richness to the narrative of these older albums.
“Fearless” is just as great as we all remember. The rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia are not present here. Swift, once again, hits a homerun by stepping out on a limb. “Fearless” receives an A rating.