Reclaiming What’s Hers: Fearless (Taylor's Version)
From Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” to Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”, a variety of genres have been created and popularized during the 2010s. There have been many influential moments of the decade, one of which is Taylor Swift’s masters controversy. Noted by Rolling Stone as one of the most important musical moments of the 2010s, the controversy garnered extensive media coverage and resulted in Swift aiming to re-record her past albums recorded under Big Machine Records. This resulted in the recent release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), a re-recording of her second studio album.
For context, Swift’s masters dispute is over the selling of the rights to the recordings of six of Swift’s studio albums: Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation. Swift disagreed with the acquisition by Scooter Braun and publicly denounced the sale. Since, she has noted that she would reclaim her songs by re-recording the albums, starting with her 2008 album Fearless.
Released on April 9, 2021, Swift released her first re-recorded studio album entitled Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The album features her re-performing all of the songs from the original album with six new songs “from the Vault”.
The standard 26-track album features 20 songs from the original album, with a crisper production and more mature, cleaner vocals. The new instrumentals backing Swift’s vocals improve the songs while not detracting from the nostalgic charm the old tracks provide. This can be seen in tracks such as “Love Story”, where the softening and accentuation of certain instruments makes the track smoother overall.
The album was originally recorded when Swift was 18 years old. Since then, Swift’s vocals have matured greatly, especially demonstrated in the re-recordings. While Swift does have more mature vocals, she majestically incorporates the vulnerability that was also apparent in the original album. The blending of the mature and vulnerability results in the creation of a masterful re-recording of the album.
The album also features six new tracks “from the Vault”, which were bonus tracks that did not make the cut for the original album. Two of the tracks feature other artists: Keith Urban and Maren Morris. The standout new tracks include “That’s When” and “Mr. Perfectly Fine”. The latter song features Swift’s strong wordplay with a catchy, Fearless-style backing instrumentation. While a few of the other tracks are somewhat forgettable, the album as a whole is still worth the listen.
Some critics have claimed the re-recording of her albums is a capitalist grab at its core, while many other critics and fans disagree. The massive coverage of her re-recordings signifies the complexities in the ethics of the music industry. The spotlight that Swift herself has shined on the issue could change the music industry, giving way for artists to have a higher say in ownership of their own masters.
This album is only the beginning of Swift reclaiming her masters, making fans eager to hear which album she will re-record next. With the strong fan support off of this album, there is no doubt that Swift will continue her re-recording journey, in her words, “head first, fearless”.