November 11, 2008
Table of Contents
Background and Recording
Prior to stardom, Taylor received a publishing contract with Sony/ATV Music. Over the course of that period, she composed over 250 songs solely or collaborating with other songwriters, mostly with Liz Rose or Robert Ellis Orrall, and refused to hand them away to already established acts with intentions of someday singing them herself. When later signed to Big Machine Records, Taylor compiled her eponymous debut album of material written during her publishing contract, and expected to do the same for her second album. She said, “I’ve been very selfish about my songs. I had this dream of this project [Taylor Swift] coming out for so many years now that I just stockpiled. I’m so happy that I did because now we have a second album full of songs and a third album full of songs, and I don’t have to lift a finger.”
However, when embarking on her first and second tour as opening act for Rascal Flatts and George Strait, respectively, Taylor continued to compose numerous songs. “I’ve written a lot of songs by myself lately, especially since I’ve been alone so much on the road,” she said. “I do love writing on the road — I usually write at the concert venue. I’ll find a quiet place in some room at the venue, like the locker room.” As a result of writing subsequent to touring, Taylor self-penned most of the material. “I’ve written like eight songs for the second album by myself. If you’re in Arkansas, who’s there to write with?” During vacation days from touring, she collaborated with Rose, musician John Rich, and singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat.
Having grouped over 75 songs, recording with Nathan Chapman, who produced all but one song on Taylor Swift, commenced soon after having completed touring with Strait; in the process, Taylor made her record producing debut. Thereon, her and Chapman recorded and cut an abundance of songs to keep the best material on the album. Thirteen tracks were intended out of Taylor’s fondness for the number; she attributes it to be her lucky number. To aid in choosing the songs, she performed various new tracks — “Permanent Marker”, “Missing You”, “I’d Lie”, “Sparks Fly“, and “Fearless” — at the Gold Country Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 29 and May 30, 2007; only the latter song was chosen for the album (“Sparks Fly” appeared on 2010’s Speak Now). By January 2008, Taylor had recorded approximately half of the songs that would remain on the final cut of Fearless. The remainder of the songs came in the last two recording sessions: one held in March 2008, the other held sometime in the summer of 2008. When asked to describe to album, she commented, “It’s the same kind of album I made (in 2006) — just two years older. Sound-wise, it’s the kind of songs I like to write, which are country songs, but I guess because of the subject matter and because of some of the melodies I love to use, I guess they have crossover appeal.”
Lyrics and Themes
In the writing process, Taylor was heavily influenced by Sheryl Crow’s candidness and truthful, yet vulnerable storytelling, and Brad Paisley’s, who she opened for, touching, yet humorous nature. She sought to prolong with centering romantic love the theme of the album. Primarily, she did not want to alienate her fans with songs about life on the road, for she could never relate to songs of the sort when younger. She said, “I really try to write more about what I feel and guys and love because that’s what fascinates me more than anything else — love and what it does to us and how we treat people and how they treat us. So pretty much every song on the album has a face that I associate with it.”
Despite her revelation of not having kissed a male in two years, Taylor said the album was not wrung dry of such inspiration because she still underwent breakups and felt its core emotions. Adding it did not “take much [for her] to get that sort of emotion out in a song”, she explained physical intimacy did not have to resort to kissing to feel disappointment, frustration, or heartbreak. Despite having written numerous new songs, she decided to also include previously written tracks, believing there were stories she did not have the opportunity to put out with Taylor Swift, and still desired to.
Fearless is the most awarded album in the history of country music, winning four Grammys including “Album of the Year” at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, American Music Awards of 2009, Country Music Association Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards.
In 2019, Rolling Stone wrote: “In retrospect, it’s pretty incredible that an institution as stodgy as the then-Recording Academy were able to see 20-year-old Taylor for who she already was: one of the most important singer-songwriters of her generation. Following her pop crossover, Fearless tends to get overlooked a little in terms of the great leap forward it represented at the time. But it brought country into the bedrooms of teen girls who might’ve rocked out to Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch earlier in the decade, and showcased not only the pop chops that would get bigger but the storytelling instincts that would get better — in the same smash hit songs, no less.”
Fearless was a huge commercial success for Taylor. It debuted at No. 1 in the United States, and later became the best-selling album of 2009, selling over 3.2 million copies. It gave Taylor, 18 at the time, the distinction of being the youngest artist in history to have the year’s best-selling album. Fearless also topped the charts in Canada and New Zealand and achieved multi-platinum status in six countries. On December 11, 2017, Fearless became only the 121st album in music history to achieve a diamond certificationin the United States, having sold over 10,000,000 copies in America. Worldwide, the album has sold 16,6 million copies as of December 2018.
Five singles were released from Fearless. The lead single, “Love Story” was a crossover hit that became one of the best-selling singles of all time internationally and was once the best-selling country song of all time. The succeeding single, “White Horse“, also performed well in the US and earned Taylor her first two Grammys. “You Belong With Me” was an international success, becoming Taylor’s second best-selling single and her highest position on the US Billboard Hot 100 at the time. “Fifteen” and “Fearless” followed with both achieving a platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Taylor had already commenced to compose songs for her next album, what would become Speak Now (2010), but had also written songs she believed did not correspond with her scope of that record. Instead, she included them in a re-release for Fearless. Some tracks were written much prior to recording, while others were done subsequently. “Jump Then Fall” was self-penned by Taylor using a banjo and a “feel-good vibe”, which, along with its bouncy character, caused for it to be Taylor’s favorite song on the re-release. She also reworked the tempo and replaced the guitar-driven instrumentation to piano of “Forever & Always”. The re-release also included Taylor’s only cover on a studio album, a rendition of American rock band Luna Halo’s “Untouchable” (2007). Taylor altered the song both musically and lyrically, reworking the arrangement and switching the verses while maintaining the refrains similar, which ultimatively earned her a co-writing credit.
Titled Fearless [Platinum Edition], the re-release was announced on September 10, 2009 with a release date of October 27, 2009. It was then pushed forward one day, to a release to October 26, 2009. Fearless [Platinum Edition] bore a new collector’s cover that altered the background color to black and included a CD and a DVD. The CD had an additional six songs placed prior to the original tracks from the album. The DVD comprised music videos (“Change“, “The Best Day“, “Love Story”, “White Horse“, and “You Belong With Me“), behind-the-scenes videos (for the latter three), over fifty images (photographed by Austin Swift, Taylor’s younger brother) and backstage footage from the first concert of the “Fearless Tour“, and “Thug Story” (a video with rapper T-Pain filmed exclusively for the 2009 CMT Music Awards).