Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Taylor Swift reflects and reclaims in her most recent release

Taylor Swift's 2008 Fearless gained her two Teen Choice Awards, an American Music Award and two Grammys - including the first of her three Album of the Year awards. It projected Swift into the public eye and has since become an essential album for any Swift fan. 

It is a hugely pivotal album, so how does she maintain that significance, its relevancy, and individuality, over ten years later? She has long since branched out from her country roots and has cultivated a sound and reputation that defines her in an increasingly saturated industry. 

It would be easy to label a re-record from 2008 regressive or repetitive or to say that one of the things that keeps Swift relevant and exciting is her extraordinary capacity to reinvent herself, switching aesthetic and sound with almost every album. The secret to Fearless’ success is not that she has copied it note for note, or that she has completely changed it, but in her reclamation. 

Particularly in songs like “Change”, a testament to Swift’s resilience has taken on a new meaning as she takes back her music from Big Machine Records.  You can hear in the music how much she cares about these songs, even if her lyrical and vocal ability has come a long way. This benefits the album, helping many of the songs take on a reflective nature, perhaps most obviously in “Fifteen”.


The core of the album is much the same - bubbly love songs in “Hey Stephen” and “You Belong with Me”, hurt and loss when love fails, most obvious in “Breathe” and “White Horse”. There are hits and misses, with the stand-out songs “Love Story” and the title track “Fearless” dominating and defining the feel for the album. The sound however is well maintained, creating a balance of nostalgia for old fans and simultaneously an opportunity to rediscover old favourites, or retry songs that weren’t.

Swift’s broad vocals and innate gift for storytelling were impressive in 2008, but combined now with more mature vocals and thirteen years’ worth of experience adds a reflective, adult feeling to an already well-structured and thought-out album. Her songs and the stories she depicts are unmistakably her own, but she generalises enough that it isn’t alienating, creating relatability and immersion, obvious in “The Way I Loved You” and “Forever & Always”.


The six “From the Vault” tracks, included as a gift to the fans, offer insight into Swift’s life, as well as demonstrate how far her songwriting has come. “Mr. Perfectly Fine” and “You All Over Me”, the lead singles, are the best of the six, with the others feeling slightly like worse versions of songs that made the original final cut. Despite that, any fan will be delighted for the opportunity to not only rediscover Fearless but to gain something new from the album in the new songs.


Overall, Taylor Swift has successfully crafted, then re-crafted, an album that skyrocketed her career and has stuck fast as a favourite for fans. Her bold reclamation shows us that Taylor is as she has always been: Fearless. 

Ruth Page 


Image: Fearless (Taylor's Version) Official Album Cover

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