NPR

Still 'Fearless': Re-Recording The Past On Taylor's Version

On the re-recorded Fearless (Taylor's Version), Taylor Swift – and her fans – reconnect with the past; we asked writers and musicians to share how they hear these songs now.
Source: Photo Illustration by Renee Klahr

On Nov. 11, 2008, then-18-year-old Taylor Swift released her sophomore album, Fearless. The record would become Swift's first No.1, spending 11 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 and becoming 2009's best-selling album (to jog your memory, the year's other best-sellers included Micheal Jackson's Number Ones, Susan Boyle's I Dreamed a Dream and Lady Gaga's The Fame). Fearless would go on to win the 2010 Grammy Award for album of the year — Swift's first win in said category, making her the youngest AOTY winner until Billie Eilish's 2020 win — as well as best country album.

It's been 13 years — a very Swiftian coincidence, as her purported lucky number occupies an outsized role in Taylor lore — since the release of Fearless, and in the intervening years, plenty's changed. From the coming-of-age country pop of Red, to the harsh heel turn of reputation, to her pandemic-era collaboration with Aaron Dessner, Swift's switched up her sound and stayed centerstage in an ever-evolving industry. But on her latest release, Fearless (Taylor's Version), released April 9 via Republic Records, Swift returns to the past, revisiting a breakthrough moment as an act of reclamation. The result of a high-profile ownership dispute, it's the first of what promises to be a series of re-recordings of her early material in order to regain artistic and financial control of her masters.

Mining the past and making use of a time when touring is off the table may prove to be a savvy business venture, but the long-term impact of and the full re-record project — remains to be seen. For fans, whether you were , or when debuted, feels shrouded in an air of whimsical nostalgia. Swift herself even indulged in a little sentimentalism in the re-release announcement, calling it "an album full of magic and curiosity, the bliss and devastation of youth." In hindsight, it's easy for Swift to sum up the record's warmth; for our assessment of , we chose to consider the perspective of the fans that have grown up — and evolved — alongside Swift. We invited writers and musicians to revisit, NPR Music's version, track by track (almost) in its entirety. —

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