Taylor Swift has begun re-recording and re-releasing her original albums. Why? Well, a quick google search can explain the whole story, but basically — she lost ownership of her previous work, and this is how she is taking her power back.
Skipping over her first self-titled album “Taylor Swift,” she started out with the absolutely iconic “Fearless” from 2008.
I was curious about what direction Taylor would choose to take, regarding redoing her old music. Would she aim for identical, or different? Taylor has explained her goal as — “the same, but better.” Line by line, she tried her best to match the original sound as closely as possible. But with her current and more improved knowledge of music, she’s not afraid to tweak the sound just ever so slightly. And of course, her matured voice is not as high-pitched as it once was, but still great.
I would like to write this review from two points. As a once die-hard TS fan, I had extensive knowledge about this album from Taylor’s perspective that I’d like to share. But on the other hand, I’d also like to share my own, personal, unique interpretation and reaction — from when I first heard it as a young teen, to how I feel about it now as a young adult.
It was my fourteenth birthday, in November 2008, and my parents had gotten me exactly what I wanted — the new Taylor Swift album, “Fearless.” I remember the excitement of opening it up at the dinner table; I remember playing the CD on my boom box when my friends came over that Saturday night for a sleepover party.
Taylor Swift was 18/19 when Fearless first came out. The album would go on to win a grammy, and she would set record as the youngest artist to win a grammy at twenty-years old. Now, Taylor is 31, just recently broke a new record as a three-time grammy-winner after 2014’s “1989” and 2020’s “Folklore.”
“There’s something bout the way the street looks when it just rained, there’s a glow off the pavement, you walk me to the car, and you know I wanna ask you to dance right there, in the middle of the parking lot, yeah.”
Taylor wrote this song at a time when she was single. This isn’t about a real date, but an imagined date. It’s about feeling your fears, but pushing past them anyway. Choosing to live in the moment bravely, rather than worry about what the future holds.
This is probably my favorite song on the album. It’s a great introduction to the album and really sets the tone for the songs to follow.
“Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday, but I realized some bigger dreams of mine.”
Taylor originally wrote this song specifically for her best friend Abigal, from high school. And while it still involves her, she explained that it ended up morphing into something more universal, about the whole high school experience in general, mainly for all young girls. Just like Abigal, most freshmen girls are very naive, and have this vision that their lives are all figured out by this point, when really your life is only starting to begin. Many girls will put love first, before their own hopes and dreams, and when they get their heart broken, it really does feel like the end of the world.
I think this is a great song about growing up and looking back and realizing how naive you were, but instead of blaming yourself, you look at the bigger picture and see that there were just so many things that you didn’t realize or understand yet. Although I do have a problem with the line, “hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say ‘you know I haven’t seen you around before,‘” — okay, most senior boys are adults and most freshmen girls are minors, barely even teenagers, so that line really bothers me! Not OK!
3. Love Story
“I love you, and that’s all I really know. I talked to your dad, go pick out a white dress. It’s a love story, baby, just say ‘yes.'”
I’m not sure what specifically inspired this song for Taylor, but it’s just great. I believe this is another imagined-song. The original music video shows present-day girl and boy, on a school campus, spotting each other from the distance. And then the rest of the video is a medieval, fairytale-esque fantasy with ballgowns and castles, something out of a Shakespear play. This ended up being possibly her most popular song, ever.
I love this song, I love the whole fairytale thing, and it’s just a genuinely sweet song that you usually wouldn’t hear on pop radio.
4. Hey Stephen
“All those other girls, well, they’re beautiful — but would they write a song for you?”
This is a song about a boy named “Stephen” — not a boyfriend, but a total crush. Nobody knows for sure who Stephen is, but a few years later was rumored to be about Stephen Barker Liles from the band Love and Theft.
I also really, really love this song. It’s super sweet, and cute, and romantic — and very simple.
5. White Horse
“This is a big world, that was a small town, there in my rear-view mirror disappearing now. And it’s too late for you and your white horse to come around.”
This was originally not supposed to be included on the album, until they wanted to put it on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I’m surprised, because it really fits the fairytale theme well — except it’s more about a “reality check” and also sounds similar to “Fifteen” but sadder. Taylor wrote this about a boy who cheated on her, who she found out about through a friend, and was begging for forgiveness from her, but she would not take him back.
This is a really, really sad song — but it’s therapeutic and it ends on a hopeful note. I don’t think it has to be necessarily about cheating, but really any type of disappointment in general. It’s about falling for someone and feeling so hopeful about everything, and then this person crushes your dreams, and you have to be strong enough to walk away. I like how it ends with a mindset that the world is a big place and you don’t have to stay stuck on someone who doesn’t treat you right.
6. You Belong With Me
“I’m in my room, it’s a typical Tuesday night, I’m listening to the kind of music she doesn’t like, and she’ll never know your story like I do.”
Aside from Love Story, this song was also a super huge hit at the time. The music video is really cute too, with Taylor playing both the “mean girlfriend” and the “nerdy friend.” Taylor wrote this about a friend of hers who she was crushing on, who had girlfriend.
When I first heard this song, I thought, “wow, this is so sweet and pure!” And then thinking about it more, over the years, I’m kinda like, “wait… this is kind of a home wrecker song disguised as something innocent…” I still enjoy this song, but it’s funny how it sounds so light-hearted and then you dig deeper into the lyrics and see how there’s a scandalous love-triangle happening.
7. Breathe (ft. Colbie Caillat)
“People are people and sometimes we change our minds. But it’s killing me to see you go after all this time.”
Taylor originally described this song as a story she made up in her head, about a relationship that ends, but it’s no one’s fault — which is the hardest part. Later articles say that it was inspired by a friend, and friendship loss.
This song is super sad yet calming at the same time. It’s about learning to accept sadness, disappointment, and loss. Colbie Caillat has a beautiful voice, and I feel that in the newer version of this song, you can hear her voice a lot more clearly which is wonderful.
8. Tell Me Why
“Here’s to you and your temper, yes I remember what you said last night. And I know that you see what you’re doing to me, tell me why.”
We don’t know who this song is about, but it was certainly inspired by a specific person who may remain nameless forever. This is a love interest who Taylor was dealing with, finding it very frustrating, because one day he was very nice to her, and other days he was terrible towards her.
This is a great song and I think almost anyone can relate to this at any point in their lives, dealing with someone who plays games with you and won’t be straightforward.
9. You’re Not Sorry
“You don’t have to call anymore, I won’t pick up the phone. This is the last straw, there’s nothing left to beg for.”
This was never confirmed, but highly speculated to be about boyfriend Joe Jonas. It’s about feeling very hurt and disappointed by someone who seems like they don’t even care.
I really love this song. It’s very sad, but somehow in an empowering way. It’s like saying, “you have hurt me so much… but you’re not going to hurt me anymore!”
10. The Way I Loved You
“Breaking down and coming undone, it’s a rollercoaster kind of rush, and I never knew I could feel that much.”
This is another one of those “imagined” songs that Taylor wrote, not of anyone in particular, but imagining about. She described it as being in a “perfect” relationship, but there’s no passion. Meanwhile, you are missing someone who you had a lot of conflict with, because it was so passionate.
I think this is an important song but can also be misunderstood. It’s not about choosing “the bad guy” over “the good guy” at all; it’s not about choosing “drama” over “simplicity”; it’s about craving someone who challenges you to be better, rather than someone who is just there for the ego boost.
11. Forever & Always
“Was I out of line? Did I say something way too honest? Made you run and hide, like a scared, little boy.”
This is confirmed to be about Joe Jonas, written immediately after their split. Taylor went on the Ellen show to tell the world that Joe had broken up with her out of the blue, with a 27-second phone call. It was the last song written for the record right before release. Taylor describes it as very sarcastic.
I think this song is so perfect and funny. It’s an angry and vengeful song, but it’s also, hysterical and makes me laugh. It’s basically one of those “WTF?” moments. Like… “uh… I guess it’s over now…?!?!?!”
12. The Best Day
“It’s the age of princesses and pirate ships and the seven dwarves.”
Taylor wrote this song about her childhood with her mother. She tells a story of how she dealt with bullying in middle school, and her mom made her feel better about everything. She also shout-outs her brother and father, who she’s also so thankful for. It’s a very sweet, acoustic melody.
I really love the message of this song, how the world can be a harsh place, but you can turn to your family for support. It also captures the cuteness of childhood. I think it’s a lovely song. But one thing that bothers me, is that not everyone has a stable family that they can rely on, not everyone had a safe childhood with a big house to run around in. I understand she has positive intentions, she is simply being grateful for what she has, but it does feel slightly braggy and inconsiderate to me… No disrespect towards anyone who loves this song… that’s just my personal opinion… overall it’s still a great one.
“They might be bigger, but we’re faster and never scared!”
This one is actually quite ironic, looking back. Taylor wrote this about her first record deal, with “Big Machine.” They were a small label, and she was only sixteen when she signed with them, and so she felt that the odds of receiving pop-star status were stacked against her — yet she was determined and eager to win! As you can see, Taylor made it very far since then… alongside, the whole conflict with Big Machine Records is the reason she re-recorded this album. The record label she was once sticking up for, is now the record label she is fighting against.
This is the perfect underdog anthem. This can apply to any situation, where you feel small, and you feel like the odds are set against you. You could be competing with someone who has more privilege than you, or some type of unfair advantage over you. But your determination is all you need.
The following are songs that were not included on “Fearless” in 2008, but the bonus album that was released in Fall 2009.
14. Jump Then Fall
“You got the keys to me, I love each freckle on your face. Oh, I’ve never been so wrapped up. Honey, I like the way you’re everything I ever wanted.”
This is a really sweet song about encouraging someone to fall for you, don’t be scared, because you are 100% in this with them and promise to catch them.
“In the middle of the night, when I’m in this dream, it’s like a million little stars spelling out your name.”
This is a cover song, originally by Luna Halo. This is also another favorite of mine. This is about feeling in love with someone who seems untouchable because you can’t reach them, they’re too far away.
16. Forever & Always (Piano Version)
“And it rains in your bedroom, everything is wrong. It rains when you’re here, and it rains when you’re gone.”
I learned to play this on piano many years ago… but sadly forgot! I love how this uses the same lyrics as the original “Forever & Always,” but sets a whole new tone. Instead of angry and sarcastic, it’s very sad and vulnerable. My mom really liked the verse, “and I stare at the phone, he still hasn’t called, and then you feel so low, you can’t feel nothing at all.”
17. Come In With The Rain
“Talk to the wind, talk to the sky, talk to the Man with the reasons why.”
This was an unreleased song originally intended for Taylor’s first album, which was a lot more of a country-style. You could find a low-quality version of it on Youtube. This is about feeling tired of waiting for someone.
“I’m no one special, just another wide-eyed girl, who’s desperately in love with you.”
I felt that this was inspired as a response to Joe Jonas, when he released his song “Much Better,” digging at Taylor Swift with “now I’m done with superstars, and all the tears on her guitar” — referencing her first single “Teardrops on My Guitar.” Because when they first dated, he was a huge pop-star, and she was a country singer who was just beginning her music career. And then she would go on to gain popularity, and Joe’s career would kind of sink.
19. The Other Side Of The Door
“I don’t need you, but I do, I do, I do.”
This is about running away from someone, but wanting them to keep on fighting for you. This is when you have too much pride, instead of meeting halfway, you expect them to chase after you.
20. Today Was A Fairytale
“You were the prince, I used to be a damsel in distress, you took me by the hand and you picked me up at six, today was a fairytale.”
This was a part of the soundtrack for the movie “Valentine’s Day” that Taylor Swift took part in. This song perfectly matches the fairytale theme, which is obvious in the title.
Songs from the vault:
These are never-before-heard songs that were originally written around the time of “Fearless,” 2008. I’m not going to rate these, because it’s the first time I’m hearing them, but I’ll give my initial reaction!
21. You All Over Me (ft. Maren Morris)
This is a breakup song, and definitely sounds like a Fearless-era song, you wouldn’t realize that it was new. Reminds me of a mix between “Breathe” and “Come In With The Rain.” I’m not too familiar with Maren Morris, but beautiful collab.
22. Mr. Perfectly Fine
This is about parting ways with someone, and he seems perfectly fine, like he was never hurt, meanwhile you are left crying and miserable.
23. We Were Happy
A slow and reminiscent song, strong nostalgia vibes.
24. That’s When (ft. Kieth Urban)
Okay, I don’t like many country artists, but I actually have always really loved Kieth Urban since middle school! So this is exciting! This song is melancholy yet upbeat.
25. Don’t You
Another breakup song, how you really miss someone, and they try to act like everything is normal and okay. The melody is very bare and stripped-down.
26. Bye Bye Baby
And yet again another breakup song! But this is more about finding closure instead of feeling upset and bitter about things.
27. Love Story (Elvira Remix)
This is an interesting remix… it’s like a club mix but it’s also stripped down… also very choppy… it’s really hard to describe, you have to just listen to it yourself. I definitely prefer the original, but this is… different!
Overall thoughts regarding “songs from the vault” — I think it’s so cool that she took these “underground songs” and brought them back to life. To me, they sound like a mix between “Fearless” and “Folklore/Evermore.” Although they were all written during the Fearless era, most of these tracks have that melancholy vibe of “Folklore/Evermore.” I like them, but not necessarily more than the originals — but maybe that’s just because I don’t have any nostalgia associated with them. I’m not thinking, “OMG I wish I heard these when I was fourteen!” — I can see why she left them out, they don’t necessarily fit with the theme of the album, and I don’t think my fourteen-year old self could relate much to them. But hearing them today is exciting, and again, it’s cool that she did that!
I’m excited for what’s next! Some questions… Which album will she record next, since she seems to be going out of order? Will her first album be skipped over, or will she come back to it? Will she make any updated music videos for her old music? Can we finally hear the ten-minute version of “All Too Well” from her “Red” album, please?!?!