[Republic; 2021]

Let’s face it: the past year has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us to get through for a number of reasons, but most notably the coronavirus pandemic, which is still affecting millions of people all around the world. And because a bunch of us were/are stuck at home quarantining, we have had plenty of time for entertainment. And, if you are a Taylor Swift fan, you’ve had lots of music to listen to to take your mind off things.

In 2020, the singer-songwriter surprised fans all around the world when she surprised released folklore, an album that had no prior announcement. Then, just a few months later, evermore had a similar release pattern, and both albums went on to extreme success.

But if you were to tell Swift in 2008, after she just released her second studio album Fearless, that 13 years later she would re-record the whole thing, she wouldn’t believe you. But you really can’t blame her. After the Big Machine Records acquisition essentially rendered her old albums corporate-owned, Swift’s Lover was the only album of hers that she, herself, owned.

So now, starting off with Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Swift is on a long journey to re-record and re-release her first six albums, and so far, she is off to an excellent start. This redo of her 2008 classic comes loaded with all of the songs fans love from the deluxe edition of the country record alongside six never-before-heard songs, known as ‘From The Vault’ tracks.

And amazingly, even if you have heard Fearless in its entirety before, you’re probably going to come out of hearing this new recording of it feeling like you’ve just listened to a new album altogether. The production value here is wonderful; all of the twang and country-infused beats from tracks like “Love Story” and “Fearless” are back and they sound better than ever before.

But, aside from the instrumental content, the lyrical content here is just as good as it was 13 years ago. Plus, there’s something magical about a full-on-adult Swift singing tracks such as “You’re Not Sorry” and “Fifteen”; they feel much more impactful and honest this time around.

A lot of listeners are naturally going to be quite interested about the ‘Vault’ tracks. Fear not, because they’re great. It’s understandable why some of them got canned back in 2008, especially “Don’t You”, a song that ultimately feels like filler. And while “We Were Happy” is a bit reminiscent of something on folklore, it suffers from the same pointless feel of “Don’t You”. One of the true standouts, though, is “You All Over Me” featuring Maren Morris. “No amount of freedom gets you clean / I still got you all over me” is peak 2008 Swift in all her glory.

Swift has definitely evolved significantly as a songwriter since the original Fearless, but it’s still a load of fun to get a glimpse into what she was feeling as a teen all those years ago. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) has some filler and it may be a wee-bit too long at one-hour and 46 minutes in length, but it’s a genuinely important album. Not only is it a brilliant start to Swift’s journey of reclaiming her discography, but it’s a excellent way to show executives that ultimately your songs are, well, yours.