Taylor Swift’s Fearless: A Roundtable

On April 9th, Taylor Swift released Fearless (Taylor’s Version), a remake of her 2008 classic album. Our staff writers Dana, Olivia, Will, Jack, Betsy, Brewster, and Megan sat down to discuss the album in a roundtable format.

First impressions…

Dana:

It just means so much to me. That’s it. It really feeds into the whole “nostalgia” moment that’s going on and it’s been really interesting to see a new take on old content.

Olivia:

I actually thought from “Love Story” that everything was going to sound exactly the same, because when the “Love Story” re-record was released like a month ago, I was like, “This just kind of sounds like ‘Love Story’”. I didn’t think that it was anything super special. I thought it was good but I didn’t think it was super different. I was very happy to be shocked by a lot of the other tracks, which I was not expecting.

Will:

I have a very intimate relationship with Fearless, because I remember when I was a small child and it came out, that was the point in time where I was like, “Oh, I’m a boy, I can only like boy things.” And so I would hear Fearless because my sister would play it, and I was like, “Nah, this shit kind of bangs, but I can’t like it.” So it’s very interesting to come back to it now that I can say,  “Yes, this shit bangs.” I think the re-records are fantastic, as everyone’s saying. This was very interesting for me to go back and listen to because I do associate these songs a lot with my relationship with masculinity, and I’m at a very different point with that then when I was, I don’t know, 10 or, whatever. But yeah, this was a very cool experience, very much enjoyed it.

Jack:

Yeah, I have a really similar relationship with the original Fearless. My sister was a huge Taylor Swift fan when Fearless, and like, Speak Now and Red, when that stuff came out, so I would have heard all of these songs originally through her. I remember distinctly being like, “Ugh, not more Taylor Swift”, because to me it felt like that was all she listened to. So, coming back and hearing the songs again, it really made me think of my sister and our relationship. Also, after going back and listening to the original Fearless and then comparing it to this, I just think she just sounds so much better on this album. I feel like maybe there was some weight that got lifted in the last 12 years or something. I don’t know. But I really enjoyed it, for sure.

Betsy:

I am not a typical Swiftie in that my relationship with her music has very much ebbed and flowed over the years. The first time I heard Fearless was when my cousin showed it to me when I was like eight or nine years old. And for me, like, sort of, it almost feels like a tandem revisiting of these songs because–no parasocial relationship, but I’m sure Taylor Swift’s feelings about a lot of these songs and these relationships that she’s writing about have also kind of ebbed and flowed over the years. So I feel like coming back to this with new ears and a new perspective was very refreshing for me, and very rewarding. Like everyone said, I think she sounds amazing. I think the re-records are great. I loved it very much.

Brewster:

To me it sounded like a pretty faithful reproduction of the original. Sometimes, she really taps into the emotion of the song more, or the new production helps out the song in a way. I especially thought that the production in “Hey Stephen” has a really good groove to it that works better than the original. Not that it wasn’t there in the original, it’s just improved and it really hits now.

Liv:

When I was listening to “Fifteen” again today. I felt like it’s so much softer than it used to be. Since she was 17 when she wrote it and she’s 31 now, it feels like she’s like telling somebody else about it and not just talking about it. I thought that that was like a really subtle change that is expressed fully through the vocals and I really liked that.

Will:

I totally felt the same thing on “Fifteen”. In the original track, I feels a little like, “Oh, look how dumb I was when I was 15,” which is exactly what you’re like when you were 17. This version feels a little kinder to her past self.

Dana:

I think that when “Fifteen” first came out like we were like, I don’t know, like, this is like 2008, right? I mean I was seven. At that time, listening to “Fifteen”  was kind of vicarious in a way. I didn’t have any older siblings or anything. I was thinking like, wow, at 17 I’ll be looking back at 15 with all these life lessons. Now, we’re all older and “Fifteen” takes on that naive quality as you guys were talking about. It’s like Taylor’s always 10 years ahead of where we are right now, so with this re-recording it’s like we can again relate to what she’s saying about her 15 year old self, if that makes sense. I think that’s really exciting and fun.

Megan:

I did tear up when I heard this. I want to reiterate, I did not go into this thinking it was gonna be like an emotional thing for me. It’s really nice to look back on these songs instead of looking forward on them.

Betsy:

And I remember when she first announced that the first album she would be recording was Fearless, “Fifteen” and “White Horse” were like the two songs that I was like, “Oh wow, I’m going to be hearing new versions of these!” Like Dana said, I was not 15 When “Fifteen” came out, and so for me there was this weird like anticipatory quality to it. I think it’s nice to go back now with more experience and knowledge. Not only for Taylor as the person who wrote these songs, but also as the people who listened to the original songs and are now listening to these new ones. I think it just makes an already very rich album like that much richer.

Jack:

I remember when I was listening to “Fifteen” I was like, holy cow, she really wrote this when she was 17? It’s wisdom beyond her years. And so to hear her sing this like 10 years after, especially in light of, “But in your life/You’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team/But I didn’t know it at 15”. Like, that hits so much harder coming from her now versus coming from her at 17. 

Liv:

Her first album had come out, maybe that would have been the greater thing at that point. But it’s still so nice to see that kind of sentiment, it’s so nice to see that all of this time later, when you assume that hopefully she is who she is supposed to be now. It’s so nice to think about.

On “Fearless”…

Will:

I think the guitar on “Fearless” sounds weird. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? It has a weird quality to it. I don’t know what it is.

Brewster:

I just listened, it’s think it’s a mandolin, it’s not a guitar, yeah.

Will:

That might be what it is.

Liv:

This is just like the time that I got really high and listened to Groundhog Day (the musical) and thought I was hearing harmonies that I’ve never heard before and then I listened the next day and they were always there.

Will:

Yeah, no, that’s about it.

Megan:

I mean I liked it. It was nice.

Will:

I think it’s great. I love that song.

Liv:

I don’t feel like there’s a lot of improvement or difference to it, but it’s still a very good song, and it always has been. I’m totally fine with there not being a lot of improvement on it. I still really liked it.

Megan:

She has a lot of slight inflection changes that she uses. I might look into this after because I do think it’s interesting how she’s changed her inflections or pronunciation. Just to change it a little bit or tighten up the rhythm. It’s interesting, I didn’t really notice it when I just listened to the album all the way through, but I can see how if I analyzed it that’d be the only real change on a bunch of these tracks. 

Dana:

I know that Taylor used to put on more of a country accent. I don’t know if that made her sound younger or more girlish in a way but in some of the tracks her maturity really came through with her more authentic voice.

Liv:

I think she leaned into that accent a little bit in some of the songs. I can’t pinpoint which ones, but there were definitely points where I thought, “She’s doing the accent again”. I think it’s really fun just because she doesn’t do the accent all the time anymore. 

Megan:

I think Taylor Swift is one of those artists that’s had really defined eras to her music. You can always pinpoint which songs are from which era. I think when she’s doing these records what we’ll notice and – I’m speaking in advance – I think you’ll be able to tell that there are differences in the way she sings, depending on the album. I think the accent, even though that’s, you know, more of an “authentic” thing I do think she uses it as a tool.

Will:

I think we’ll also probably see a lot of melding of the eras. I felt like I heard a lot of Lover in the Fearless re-record. The two have a pretty similar sound at times. And I think I think we’ll hear more of that, which I’m excited for.

Jack:

I think the fact that we got folklore and evermore directly before this is also maybe why she started with Fearless. Like, she had the inspiration for folklore and evermore and was like, “You know what, it’s time.” I think it helped her get back into blending these folksy or more country roots with pop.

On “Forever and Always”…

Will:

I’ve only ever listened to the regular version. This was the first time that I’d heard the piano version in many many years and as Betsy can attest, “Forever and Always” is one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs of all time.

Dana:

I always think of the piano version.

Will:

I literally have never thought of it. But I thought this new version was fantastic. I thought it was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard possibly.

Liv:

“Forever and Always” is one of my favorite Fearless songs and I loved getting to hear it again just because I think it’s a great song about being angry. It’s a good kind of breakup song because it doesn’t feel too situational, which a lot of the songs do. This one is just like, “I’m angry.” And I like that about it.

Jack:

That’s actually a good point. It’s a really good kind of general purpose breakup song. it’s about being angry, not about being sad. I think using a piano with very, very little other instrumentation kind of highlights the sadder parts of that song that maybe you’re not as drawn to.

On “White Horse”…

Betsy:

I remember listening to “White Horse” when I was younger and being like, “You know what? Yeah, I was a dreamer before you went and let me down!” Everyone feels small sometimes, and they need that perspective of “Whatever is happening to me right now is not the only thing that’s ever going to happen to me in my life”. I think coming back to this song, having experienced way more things in the last 13 years since the album came out was very emotional but also made me appreciate the song that much more. 

Liv:

I’ve also been thinking about how in the last chorus, it’s like, “This ain’t our fairy tale”. The emphasis changes from “a fairy tale” to “our fairy tale” and I feel like that now that she’s in a long-term relationship with someone, it probably means something different to her now. It’s not just that the relationship didn’t work out, now she’s found something else. I think that’s a more grown up way to act about the song. Maybe that I’m reading into it because I want to be more grown up than I was at like 10. 

On “You Belong With Me”…

Liv:

As Will texted me at 5:19 in the morning, it’s perfect. It sounds as good as it did when I was nine, which is not often a feeling that I get. To have that moment and be like, “Yeah, yeah, this one, this one!” is like, so, so good.

Will:

And I think that’s totally the right way to look at it. I feel it would be super easy to be cynical about this. If I had to look at something I wrote when I was 17, I would die. I’d be dead. It just sounds like she’s saying, “Yeah this is what it feels like, this is such a 17 year old feeling, and I love it, I’m gonna fully embrace that”, rather than being cynical and jaded about it. And it feels really good to hear that inner voice.

Dana:

I think it was really touching. She could have had that cynicism and gated quality from feeling like she herself had moved far past that emotion but her still having that responsibility to her work that she made is really special. It’s a very high school song, and that’s something that can easily be embarrassing for someone. Her willingness to kind of keep the integrity of that song, knowing that it resonated with so many and continues to resonate for so many is really admirable.

Megan:

I was gonna say, I would have expected “You Belong With Me” to be one of the singles she released beforehand. But I am glad that she led with some of the “From The Vault” tracks, because I think those are great. It’s really cool to be able to hear new music from your favorite artist from back when she was much younger. My dad is a huge Swiftie, and I know he’s excited about the fact that there’s new songs from this era, because he loved her country sound on those early albums. So we’re lucky to get these new tracks.

On the “From The Vault” songs…

Liv:

So Jack, you wanted to talk about the vault songs.

Jack:

Yeah. I’m not a huge Keith Urban fan. Sorry, Keith Urban. But his song was fun. I thought he sounded good.

Will:

I think men need to stay out of women’s business.

Megan:

I think for one track it’s allowed. I think it’s awesome.

Liv:

I like that it was a duet. I think that like, obviously, it was a very interesting choice, especially because not a lot of her songs are duets, but I liked it.

Betsy:

I think my favorite “From The Vault” track is “Don’t You”. It definitely reminds me of other Jack Antonoff-produced work that I’m a big fan of. It sounds like some songs off of EMOTION by Carly Rae Jepsen which was also produced by Jack Antonoff and like, you know, a little bit of the 1989 kind of vibe. I think it was a fun way to like take a song that has existed for a while and give it an instrumentation that doesn’t feel like typical of this era of Taylor. And “Mr. Perfectly Fine” is definitely tied for my favorite with, “Don’t You”. It sounds fun, Even though it’s not like a “fun” song, it has a very uniquely adolescent kind of wit to it. Mr. Perfectly Fine totally sounds like something a teenage girl would call this dude that likes to break up with her and she’s in shambles about it but he’s doing great. It totally sounds like that.

Megan:

I’m really glad that Joe Jonas has heard it. I feel joy and happiness to know that he did listen to it several times with his wife, because I live for drama. And I think it’s fun.

Will:

Do you guys remember when I was like, “that guitar sounds weird” and then everyone was like, “it’s a mandolin”?

Everyone:

Yeah.

Will:

I was just checking. 

On the future re-recordings…

Liv:

I’m looking forward to Speak Now because it’s my favorite of her albums, and I’m really really excited to hear “The Story Of Us” and “Enchanted” again just because I love both of those songs and I’m really excited to hear what she does with them. I also want her to release “22” before August 28, 2021, so that I can listen to it on my birthday

Megan:

I’m really excited for the 1989 re-record. Also Red. I did really like Red, which is apparently a slightly controversial take for those to be your two favorites. I’m especially pumped for “Out of the Woods” because I’m evil and I hate myself.

Brewster:

I’m excited for Speak Now, just because it’s my favorite. But I’m also excited to hear Red, because I don’t really like the production on Red, so I want to hear it with new production. That’s my least favorite thing about it, so I think if that gets revamped, then I might really like it.

Betsy:

I’m specifically very excited for “Dear John”, just because I’m excited for her to come back to this song with a new perspective. It’s been 11 years since the album came out so I’m sure that she has processed that whole thing even more. Again, no parasocial relationship, but I’m excited to see how changes in her life manifest in the re-recording of the song, or even my listening of the re-recording of the song. I’m also excited for 1989 because I love 1989. I’m excited for the vault tracks from 1989. I’m excited for Harry Styles to sleep with one eye open. Harry Styles, you better watch your back because those tracks are going to tear you in two pieces.

Megan:

I want him to be on the vault tracks. They just saw each other at the Grammys! They’re buddies!

Will:

I actually was texting with my friend Harry Styles and he said they were thinking about it but they weren’t sure yet. But they’ve had the conversation.

Brewster

Y’all have a group chat without me?

(everyone is silent)

Brewster:

Nevermind.

Will:

I’m excited for Red, just because I can only name one song off it. Somehow, it’s just a complete blind spot for me. I’ve never explored it, so the “Taylor’s Version” will be an easy excuse for me to do that. But I’m also very excited for Speak Now because there’s a lot of songs that I very much enjoy on there, such as “Back to December,” and I would love to hear her sing that again.

Dana:

I actually thought that Red wasn’t going to be as popular of a choice, but I will also jump on the Red train but for a very different reason. My reason is because I think the vibes of Red are very much in tune with aesthetics with the time. It’s very “Tumblr”. That era is just so incompatible to me with her now, so I just feel like her reimagining of it is gonna be insane. All the vibes are very different so I think that the way she’s going to reimagine it is going to be very intriguing and very different from the original. Whereas, like, 1989, kind of corresponds with Lover vibes.

Jack:

I’m really most excited to hear Red for both the reasons that Brewster and Dana said. I think that Red is one of her weaker albums production-wise, but you’re totally right, Dana, that the vibes of Red are grounded in 2012. But there are some bops on Red, and I think vocally she’s improved so much since then. I think Red is probably her weakest vocal album, so i’m excited to hear what she does with that. And I’m super interested to see what she does with self titled, because that album is so country. Like, how is she gonna sing that? Really excited.

Megan:

You heard it here first, Metaverse Media is a Swiftie publication. Just want to put that out there. Our official PR statement is telling you to put out Red.

Liv:

Put “22” in an advertisement for baby food, I don’t care. I just want it.

Brewster:

Th-the baby’s 22 years old?

Will:

He’s 22 months.

Jack:

Yeah, that’s like just under two years. Advertisers, take notice. Metaverse Media.

Megan:

Okay guys, I think it’s about time we pivot this roundtable to Ed Sheeran.

Conversation has been edited for clarity.

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