Fearless (Taylor’s Version): A Review

It is still Fearless, my fellow fandomites.

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is many things, and it might be considered nothing but a reissue by some. There’s several layers in the decision to re-record and re-release this album but let’s try and get a few things cleared up. The original Fearless stands the same in your memory as it has always been. This one feels almost like a new concept. The music is there, evocative of the first album. I don’t see it replacing the first one or being a copy. It’s Fearless all right, the same concept reworked by a songwriter mistress and a professional music performer. This album is basically Fearless revisited and remastered by the same artist at the top of her game.

(Credit: Taylor Swift)

I wish I could make every song a highlight, but that’s not a reviews work. Remember that regardless of my opinion, you’re still entitled to your opinion and having your favorites. We start, of course, where the album starts. It’s “Fearless”.

The sound of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is basically the standard on which most of the songs are produced. It follows mostly the same instrumentation and arrangement of the original. Taylor’s voice has evolved, however. You can hear how she has honed her craft and although she hits the same beats and keeps the same rhythm you can hear the experience in her tone and pitch.

I could say the same thing about “Fifteen (Taylor’s Version)”. It is, for all intents and purposes, the same song but the artist has considerably improved. That being said, Taylor performs this one very close to the classic song. You’ll see this is the case for a few songs in the album. Initially I thought that would be the case for all the classic tracks, but there’s a few surprises in the track list coming up later.

For me, the new sounds start with “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)”. My personal bias is that I’ve always thought that this song is Taylor’s most defining magnum opus of both songwriting and performing. This version of the song gave me a heightened production vibe the more I listened to it. I want to say she’s up the instrumental arrangement here, but I’m not sure because I happen to be very biased about this song. I just think this one adds a crispier sound than the original, but I’m willing to concede that it may be just the fan in me really getting into it. This is where the review critic backs off and the fanboy prevails. Definite highlight.

“Hey Stephen (Taylor’s Version)” definitely has a new arrangement. However, I have to put a little bit of a disclaimer here… This one has never been my favorite Fearless song. Yeah, sorry you can unsubscribe, unfollow and block me now. The hmm’s are still in there, but even Taylor has ad-libbed some lyrics here and there so they don’t drag in too long. The arrangement is ok, I don’t think it hurts the song but I don’t think it adds a lot either. Don’t kill me, ok? Same thing I said applies here, she has a better voice singing it but the song is what it is.

“White Horse (Taylor’s Version)” starts with a crispy clear guitar and slowly brings in the violins and the rest of the instruments. I think this song really benefits of Taylor’s more mature and professional voice. Don’t get me wrong, I would still hear the original as hearing young Taylor’s performance has some nostalgia in itself. However, this sounds or at least feels like a more honed pitch. I might be wrong but I think Taylor’s voice has been put more in the foreground than the original, so much so that it sounded like a live performance when it started. And yes, she still does that slight dip in her voice as she goes into the bridge. Highlight.

“You Belong With Me (Taylor’s Version)” has a particularly teenage-y vibe to it. I dare say that Taylor is channeling her younger self when she sings this one. I can even feel some sassy inflection such as the one from the original. I think she feels this song really belongs to the era of her younger self (as well as our younger selves, sigh). I am ecstatic to report the pauses for the two claps are still in the bridge. It wouldn’t be this song without them. Highlight.

“Breathe (Taylor’s Version)” revisited was a wave of nostalgia. It’s more of a country song in some aspects than most of the tracks, at least in the traditional sense despite the fact that it sounds like a pop ballad in the chorus. Hearing Colbie Caillat harmonizing with Taylor just brings me back to older times. I didn’t felt any critical changes in the classic arrangement. I would have loved to hear Colbie taking lead in one of the verses though.

“Tell Me Why (Taylor’s Version)” still has its runaround violins and that is a great thing. Taylor’s voice really kicks in in the high notes, more finely tuned that her younger self. You can feel she could really go a bit higher now without less strain. In general, I’d say the changes in pitch are a bit smoother, not that the original had anything wrong with it. I think the transitions are more fluid, but I’m not a vocal coach so this might just be my impression. Taylor has definitely more range now, but I don’t mind hearing this song from teen or grownup Taylor either way.

“You Are Not Sorry (Taylor’s Version)” still feels like a song about teenage angst, although with a more practiced Taylor performing. I still remember the waterfall that was used when this was the closing number during the Fearless Tour, inspired by the time she used it on stage at an award show during the early days. It still sounds brand new, even though I don’t hear any changes in this one except for Taylor’s voice.

“The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version)” is a bit of a forgotten gem. I feel this song is underrated. I missed the drums that almost make it feel like a march. Did they sound so distinctly in the older version? Add the electric guitar and I’m back in the middle of one of Taylor’s earlier concerts. The bridge where the instruments quiet down to let Taylor’s vocal take the front stage still sounds as fresh as ever. I think the ending has a little bit of an extra oomph to it, or am I imagining things? Highlight.

“Forever & Always (Taylor’s Version)” has something added to it. Like, all over it. I hear Taylor leaning into the verse and adding a tone shift here and there. I hear more production into it. Taylor sounds a lot more definite, her voice adds just a tiny more amount of power. I think where this song used to be an acquired taste back in the day, now it feels more concise. Or perhaps I’ve become more of a fan of it. Definite highlight.

I feel Taylor’s voice sounds younger in “The Best Day (Taylor’s Version)” for some reason. I think I hear a slight rearranging on the background guitar, like a few notes have been added or slightly changed. Or I am once imagining things. Taylor seems to be using the same exact inflections of her younger self on her voice, although the pitch changes are smoother. I’m sure I hear slightly more on the bridge. And I think that quiet moment in one of the last verses wasn’t there or wasn’t as pronounced before.

“Change (Taylor’s Version)” got a little more power in the string instrumentation. Taylor is also injecting some additional voltage to her vocals. It’s not that she didn’t have the range but I her voice is fuller and she easily rises her pitch without breathing for air in this one. I love the original and I love this one too. Highlight.

“Jump Then Fall (Taylor’s Version)” sounds happier… Ok, I know that sounds silly but this song has always been playful. Now let me make it clear, the entire album sounds crispier, but it does feel like Taylor’s voice is more invested, more involved. It’s like she’s having more fun recording this one this time around. I also feel there’s a couple of extra ad-libbed lines after the bridge, but then again I could be fanboying again. Highlight.

“Untouchable (Taylor’s Version)” seems to have cleaner instrumentation, but I didn’t see nothing new in the arrangement. I do feel Taylor does extend some of the notes a little longer. This song was originally played by band Luna Halo. Back in 2009, Taylor rearranged this song and changed a few lyrics for the Platinum Edition of Fearless. They gave Taylor a writing credit on this song for her contribution to it. Unfortunately, Luna Halo disbanded in 2012 but their names are still featured as composers even in this new version.

“Forever and Always (Piano Version) (Taylor’s Version)” is beautiful. Both the piano and Taylor’s vocals sound really good, and I dare say better than before. I think this might be my favorite version of this song. Even if no rearrangements were made, which I can’t be sure, this one is the best. Definite highlight.

“Come In With The Rain (Taylor’s Version)” is not a bad song, but… Ok, how do I say this without angering other fans… I’ve always felt the transition between verse and chorus is a bit jarring. It’s just not a favorite of mine. That being said, I know this song has its fans so all I can say is it has been kept the same. I can’t see any arrangement changes.

I think I see some changes in “Superstar (Taylor’s Version)”. Just sparse notes and added instrumental notes. The lyrics of this one are very quotable, but the melody doesn’t do much for me. Sorry, just being honest. The arrangement is definitely new. Definitely some changes in the ending too.

“The Other Side Of The Door (Taylor’s Version)” is another of those songs that really has great lyrics. I do put the song itself above the two previous ones, but it lacks a better hook to become more memorable. There are some slight changes on the arrangement. That run along sentence at the end is likeable but that’s it.

“Today Was A Fairytale (Taylor’s Version)” does have more pep and brings the mood up again. I don’t think there are any changes in the arrangement but it does feel like the instruments are slightly more uniform with the rest of the album so it fits better with the rest of the tracks than the original more pop version.

“You All Over Me (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault) [feat. Maren Morris]” is a rather unique unicorn. It’s an old-new song by Taylor that is all Country but is produced anew. I think both Taylor and Maren sound really good here and good harmony, but I wish Maren would have featured in a more happier song and perhaps get a verse for herself. Then again, we don’t know the circumstances or timeframe for her involvement, so perhaps there was not enough time for anything else.

“Mr. Perfectly Fine (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” is a definite highlight. Yes, this song slaps and there’s no comparison with any previous versions. I keep trying to recall if I ever heard the older version or it’s just the songwriting feels like old school Taylor. I would call this one the breakout song out of all the From The Vault songs. There’s also the thought that this song is about someone specific, but I’d rather not say. No one really ever wins in heartbreak warfare.

“We Were Happy (Taylor’s Version)(From The Vault)” is ok. Just ok. Sorry, I really needed something with a little more zest to make an impression. There’s nothing wrong with this song, except it doesn’t stand out for me. Perhaps when sung live and acoustic it will make more of an impression. The lyrics sound really familiar, so perhaps I have listened to it before.

“That’s When (Taylor’s Version)(From The Vault) [feat. Keith Urban]” is perhaps a step above the previous track and this is why Keith was featured here. It still lacks a lot more spring to make it a real bop. I know someone might pick this one as a favorite, but it sounds just like an average song. I also think that the best song would Keith would include a chance for an electric guitar solo, but perhaps that’s just me.

“Don’t You (Taylor’s Version)(From The Vault)” actually sounds a lot better than the previous tracks and has some nice lyrics to boot. Also that line, “sometimes I really wish I could hate you” speaks volumes about real world relationships. I think this is one has more potential to stand out. It’s not quite a highlight, but it’s definitely not filler.

“Bye Bye Baby (Taylor’s Version)(From The Vault)” sounds very familiar in my head, but then again I’ve played a few times for that very reason and now I’m biased. I think this one could grow on me to be included into regular rotation. I almost want to call it a highlight, and I would’ve done that if it had more of a kick. I think something extra in the bridge could be arranged.

If you made it this far, congratulations! Overall, All classic tracks still have some very memorable sounds and hooks to make this playable all the way up to the piano version of Forever & Always. After that, there’s a few songs that I would be skipping from a favorite rotation. Hopefully if I highlighted one that you didn’t quite pick up on this makes you consider listening to that one again. Overall Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is very much recommended listening for everyone in the Taylor Nation and perhaps even a few new fans as well.

(Sources: Taylor Swift. Photo: Taylor Swift)