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Taylor Swift - Fearless (Taylor's Version) (Album Review)

Wednesday, 14 April 2021 Written by Simon Ramsay

Classic albums are often born when a variety of unique factors such as time, place, collaborative chemistry and the artist’s mental and emotional state all conspire to conjure a creative storm. As such, any time musicians have attempted to re-record hallowed work further down the road, that same spark is usually absent. But if anyone can defy the odds and capture lightning in a bottle twice, it’s undoubtedly someone as driven, determined and, in this case, defiant as Taylor Swift.

After Swift’s former label Big Machine (and with it the rights to her first six albums) was sold to music mogul, and bitter enemy, Scooter Braun in 2019, Nashville’s former sweetheart began recreating those records note for note in order to take back some level of ownership of her work and reduce Braun—who remains a financial beneficiary after selling Swift’s catalogue to LA private equity group Shamrock Capital—to a lesser player in the story.

A sublimely crafted, pop-country crossover packed with effortlessly charming singalong hooks, radiant melodies and heart-on-sleeve tales of melodramatic young love, in 2008 ‘Fearless’ was a superstar-making sophomore juggernaut.

Propelled by its breakout hit single Love Story, it remains Swift’s best selling effort and is therefore perfect to kick off this arresting campaign. 

You can instantly hear the time, effort and love that’s gone into reproducing this material to the very highest standard. Although the production is warmer, brighter and boasts a more contemporary, arena-ready fullness, there are no major sonic or structural differences at play. Some of the instruments sit slightly differently in the mix, but overall it’s a faithful recreation that bests the original thanks to Swift’s improved vocal ability.

It’s not just that her tone is more soulful and her delivery better controlled, she’s now able to translate the songs’ personal, yet universal and timeless, sentiments with a greater depth of emotion than she could at 19 thanks to a wealth of increased life experience. This makes a subtle but telling difference to these nostalgia-rich tunes, delivering added perspective, reflective poignancy and a previously unappreciated gravitas to Fifteen, Best Day and White Horse. The only time it doesn’t quite work is on You Belong To Me. Very much the crush-driven outpourings of someone in their youth, the original’s bratty vocal captured adolescent angst more effectively.

The second disc features re-recorded bonus tracks from the original version of ‘Fearless’ and six previously unreleased cuts from the same sessions. Omitted in order to swerve musical and thematic repetition, the quality of songs such as Untouchable and 9 carat pop-diamond Mr Perfectly Fine, a near criminal exclusion that would have been a signature smash for most artists, is so high almost all of them could have appeared on the original record without lessening its impact.

That said, having been spruced up by Swift’s current producers Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, those tracks from the vault actually boast a more modern sheen, making songs such as Bye Bye Baby and the Keith Urban duet That’s When seem more like outtakes from her recent records than long lost gems from yesteryear.

You have to hand it to Taylor Swift. Regardless of what we may think about all her feuds, and in this instance few could argue against her stance, it’s admirable how she always fights her corner and continually finds a way to triumph over adversity. No matter what motivated these re-recordings, they represent a fittingly fearless endeavour that has been flawlessly executed.



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