Taylor Swift’s first re-recorded album is finally here! Thirteen years after the album’s original release, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) sees the pop star officially begin to take back control of her art.
In case you forgot, the aim of the endeavour is to devalue the master recordings of her first six albums, which were wrongly sold out from under her by her former record label. For that reason, all the songs have been produced with the intention of identically replicating the originals so that they sound as similar as possible to them. And it’s pretty incredible how well of a job Taylor’s done — if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought I’d been transported right back to 2008.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Taylor project if there weren’t a few surprises thrown in along the way! Alongside the standard tracklist (plus the platinum edition bonus tracks), there are six brand new songs ‘From the Vault’. These are never-before-released songs, written between the ages of 16 and 18, which almost made it onto the original Fearless album. According to Taylor, these are the ones it “killed” her to leave behind.
All the new tracks are special in their own way, but only one can take the official top spot as I review them track-by-track. Let the games begin…
1. Don’t You
Favourite lyric: Don’t you say you’ve missed me if you don’t want me again
The crown goes to this devastatingly beautiful song which sits deservingly in place as the ‘track five’ of vault songs. Taylor sings about the painful experience of running into a former lover and seeing them move on while she’s still in love with them. It’s melancholic and haunting, with breathy background vocals that will send chills down your spine. The Jack Antonoff production is noticeable, almost making the track sound as if it could easily have been on evermore.
2. You All Over Me ft. Maren Morris
Favourite lyric: But I did, so I smiled / and I melted like a child
Essentially the ‘lead’ vault single, it’s a song about being unable to move on from a relationship as “no amount of freedom gets you clean” from it. Honestly, I was hooked from the very first line; there’s just something about Taylor’s voice and her intonation in it that feels heavenly.
As someone who’s listened to the original version of most of these unreleased songs (sorry Taylor), I was curious to see how they were going to be reworked. Aaron Dessner’s influence on the track is instantly clear, with the opening bars sounding similar to folklore’s ‘peace’ and an added harmonica that sounds similar to the one in ‘betty’.
3. Mr. Perfectly Fine
Favourite lyric: So far above me in every sense, so far above feeling anything
Taylor woke up and decided to choose violence when she surprise dropped this song on Wednesday – an acerbically sassy tune about feeling bitter when your ex moves on a bit too quickly and comes out seemingly unscathed. 11-year-old me would’ve definitely put these lyrics in her MSN screen name.
It’s ‘Forever and Always’ x ‘Better Than Revenge’, but with more perspective. It’s a bittersweet sensation hearing a mature Taylor singing from the place of her 18-year-old self’s heartbreak. The lyric “And someday maybe you’ll miss me, but by then you’ll be Mr. Too Late” feels all the more poignant now.
Special shout out to the drums that make this track an incredibly fun bop to listen to.
4. We Were Happy
Favourite lyric: You threw your arms around my neck, back when I deserved it
I was surprised to see this appear on the tracklist as it’s a long-time fan favourite from a 2004/2005 demo CD – meaning it technically predates the Fearless writing period. There is a possibility Taylor was saving it for the album. Like she says, the beauty of these vault songs is that she’s the only person in the world who truly knows the full story behind her art.
The song sees Taylor look back on a previous relationship and recall the special times they shared together. They’re breaking up, but it’s hard for them to say goodbye to each other as they can’t forget the happy memories. I personally think the deeper meaning behind the song is that fame got in the way of Taylor’s personal life. She talks about the relationship beginning “Before I had somewhere to be” and ending with “Voices telling me I’m not in love anymore / They don’t give me choices” which sounds like her management team possibly encouraging her to focus on her career.
5. That’s When ft. Keith Urban
Favourite lyric: When I wake up in the morning / That’s when, when it’s sunny or storming
For this track, Taylor has enlisted the help of Keith Urban. It’s a full circle moment as she was the opening act for his tour back in 2009. Compared to the original demo, Taylor’s now flipped the script so that she’s the one who, after “some time and space”, is asking to come back to a relationship.
Its a catchy song but, if I’m honest, I don’t really understand what half the lyrics in the chorus mean. The switching back and forth between the two perspectives also makes it hard to understand who’s saying what. Maybe that’s the point, though. “When can I come back?” I have absolutely no idea, Taylor, but it’s a bop.
6. Bye Bye Baby
Favourite lyric: Then the here and the now floods in / Feels like I’m becoming a part of your past
I’m afraid this is a song that I think sounded far better in its original demo form. A lot of the lyrics have been reworked, which is fine, but the biggest shortfall is that the entire song just seems to have lost its spark. I loved the sassiness of Taylor’s voice in the original – it was almost like she was yelling the words. You could feel the teenage angst and I loved it.
It’s still a good song, it’s just not my favourite. I think the best part about it is the bridge, but overall it’s a slightly lacklustre closer to the album.
Do you agree with my ranking? Let me know how you’d change it in the comments!