Fearless: Taylor’s Version is the first of six planned re-recordings of albums initially released on her former label Big Machine. Swift pledged to re-record the albums after Big Machine’s 2019 sale of master recordings to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings – a sale that infuriated the singer. At the time, Swift described Braun as a bully and that never in her “worst nightmares” did she imagine he would end up with her catalog. (Braun has since sold the catalog to Shamrock Holdings.)
Swift’s plan is to re-record all six albums to encourage her legion of fans to choose her new versions over the old ones.
On ABC’s morning show today, Swift announced the midnight release of “Love Story,” and said the upcoming release of the entire rerecorded Fearless album would include 26 songs – twice the number on the original album. She described the additional music, which includes six never before released songs, as music “from the vault,” explaining that the previously unreleased songs had almost been included on the original album.
On her social media accounts today, Swift further explained her reasons for the Fearless re-recording, writing, “I’ve spoken a lot about why I’m remaking my first six albums, but the way I’ve chosen to do this will hopefully illuminate where I’m coming from. Artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work. For example, only I know which songs I wrote that almost made the ‘Fearless’ album. Songs I absolutely adored, but were held back for different reasons (don’t want too many breakup songs, don’t want too many down tempo songs, can’t fit that many songs on a physical CD).
“Those reasons seem unnecessary now. I’ve decided I want you to have the whole story, see the entire vivid picture, and let you into the entire dreamscape that is my ‘Fearless’ album. That’s why I’ve chosen to include 6 never before released songs on my version of this album, written when I was between the ages of 16 and 18. These were the ones it killed me to leave behind.”
Taylor Swift is re-recording her first six albums as a way of reasserting control over her master recordings. First up is Fearless: Taylor’s Version, due out April 9th — a new recording of the 2008 album that set her on a course to being one of the biggest pop acts of her generation. In this story, originally published in 2018, we spoke with the people who helped Swift make that breakthrough.
Taylor Swift spent the year following the release of her 2006 debut on the road as the opening act for country stars like George Strait, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill. Her relentless new touring schedule left her alone for long periods of time. After spending several years in Nashville co-writing sessions, she suddenly found herself seizing the chance to create on her own. “If you’re in Arkansas, who’s there to write with?” she said.
The album that eventually came out of this process — including “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me,” her first two Top 10 crossover pop hits — would introduce Swift to the pop mainstream. But when sessions first began, Swift was simply trying to build off her trailblazing debut. “There was definitely an unwritten stress,” says studio engineer Chad Carlson. “We knew we could make a monster record, but we put a lot of pressure in ourselves.”
One of Swift and producer Nathan Chapman’s reference points for the album’s sound was the bright 2007 hit “Bubbly,” by Colbie Caillat, who would end up co-writing and guesting on the Fearless track “Breathe.” “There was a certain honesty and commitment to keeping the arrangements simple that that record had,” says Justin Niebank, who mixed Fearless. “Taylor and Nathan loved the fact that on ‘Bubbly’ you could really sense that it was just an honest person sitting in a room surrounded by musicians.”
Swift, who co-produced the album, worked on Fearless throughout 2006 and 2007, in short spurts during time off between touring — this time, with a newfound focus on de-emphasizing country signifiers. “We wrote ‘You Belong With Me’ in one or two hours,” said Liz Rose. “When she’s writing something, she’s already producing in her head.” Ultimately, it was Swift’s rapidly progressing, increasingly personal songwriting that made Fearless feel pivotal, as heard on songs like the empathetic “Fifteen” and the downcast “White Horse.”
“When I knew something was going on in someone’s personal life and they didn’t address it in their music, I was always very confused by that,” Swift said at the time. “I owe it to people from letting them in from Day One.”
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