Fearless Era 2008-2010 Most people didn’t have an opinion about Taylor in early 2008 because even though she was popular — having sold millions of copies of her debut self-titled record — she wasn’t mainstream. She was a country star, big on country radio and winner of country awards, but if you didn’t listen to country music, you could be safely ignorant about her whole deal.
November 11, 2008
Table of Contents
Background and Recording
Taylor continued working on Fearless throughout 2007 and 2008 in short spurts during time off between touring. By January 2008, she had recorded approximately half of the songs that would appear 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. Apart from newly penned songs, Taylor recorded a few that she had written for her debut album, believing there were stories that deserved to be put out:
Lyrics and Themes
But the new level of attention also led to the decimation of Taylor’s privacy. “Every single one of the guys that I’ve written songs about has been tracked down on MySpace by my fans,” she said, a little giddy. “I had the opportunity to be more general on this record, but I chose not to. I like to have the last word.” That would become less tenable in the future, though, as her personal life made its way into the tabloids, as it had in late 2008 in regard to her never-confirmed relationship with Joe Jonas.
All in all, Taylor Swift had suggested that its namesake had a unique talent for narrative structure and a true gift for building living characters – characters who seem real and who remind us of ourselves. Fearless not only confirmed that suggestion, but showed real growth and maturity in Taylor as a songwriter – where Taylor Swift sometimes struggles to get past the surface of its character’s emotions and conflicts, Fearless is piercingly honest and surprisingly bittersweet.
There may be a hint of youthfulness to her singing but that is the only hint of girlishness here; Taylor’s writing is sharply, subtly crafted and the music is softly assured, never pushing its hooks too hard and settling into a warm bed of guitars and keyboards. Like many country-pop albums of the 2000s, the pop heavily outweighs the country – there aren’t fiddles here, there are violins – yet Fearless never feels garish, a crass attempt at a crossover success. It’s small-scale and sweetly tuneful, always seeming humble even when the power ballads build to a big close. Taylor’s gentle touch is as enduring as her songcraft. However, the album’s pop crossover appeal was much discussed by critics. Taylor, in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, responded to the critical debate:
Release and Promotion
The thirteen-track standard edition of Fearless was finally released on November 11, 2008, by Big Machine Records. An international edition, featuring three additional tracks — “Our Song“, “Teardrops On My Guitar“, and “Should’ve Said No” from Taylor’s debut record —was released on March 9, 2009, by Big Machine in partnership with Universal Music Group.
Taylor made many television appearances to promote Fearless throughout late 2008, performing on shows including The Ellen DeGeneres Show (where an entire episode was dedicated to her album release party), Good Morning America, and Late Night with David Letterman. A special CMT Crossroads episode featuring Taylor and rock band Def Leppard singing each other’s songs was recorded on October 6 at the Roy Acuff Theater in Nashville, and aired on CMT on November 7, 2008. Her performances at awards shows that year included the Country Music Association Awards and the American Music Awards. One critic wrote: “I don’t say this lightly: Swift’s ability to market both her products and herself as a brand doesn’t recall the media blitzkriegs of past teen idols like Britney Spears or New Kids on the Block so much as Madonna at her peak.”
Besides live appearances, Taylor used her MySpace account to promote to a young audience, sharing snippets of songs for streaming before they were released to radio, as she had done with her debut album. “I owe it to people from letting them in from Day 1.” Eventually, walls would have to be erected. After all, Jakks Pacific had just released a line of Taylor Swift dolls, making her even more of an abstract idol and less of a real person. She was also the face of the l.e.i. clothing brand, carried exclusively at Walmart, one of many endorsements to come. That she was becoming less accessible was a problem that Taylor was, naturally, very attuned to:
That year, Taylor also spent a considerable amount of time in England, Japan and Australia in hopes of facilitating Taylor Swift, the global brand, a move that few country acts had been able to pull off before her.
When speaking of her plan to manage her crossover fame, Taylor sounded like a well-seasoned executive. “I’m not about to snub the people who brought me to the party,” she told The New York Times in 2009. “We went back and studied other cases where it had failed every way that it can fail, and we tried to avoid those things.”
Some critics praised Fearless‘s crossover appeal. AllMusic‘s Stephen Thomas Erlewine and The Boston Globe‘s James Reed remarked that the album straddles the perceived boundary between country and pop; the former called it “one of the best mainstream pop albums of 2008”. In Rolling Stone, Jody Rosen hailed Taylor as a “songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for the verse-chorus-bridge architecture”. Christgau commented that the songs are effective partly because of “the musical restraint of a strain of Nashville bigpop that avoids muscle-flexing rockism”.
Fearless Tour 2009-2010 The “Fearless Tour” was Taylor’s debut headlining tour, in support of her sophomore album, Fearless (2008). Also referred to as the “Fearless Tour 2009” and the “Fearless Tour 2010”, it was launched on April 23, 2009, with a sold-out show in Evansville, Indiana and concluded on July 10, 2010, in Cavendish, Canada.
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).
At the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards in February 2010, Fearless won “Album of the Year” and “Best Country Album.” The “Album of the Year” award made Taylor, then twenty years old, the youngest artist to win the award, a record she held for ten years. Taylor is only the second country-music artist to win the three highest awards for a country-music album by the ACM, the CMA, and the Grammys — after The Chicks with their 1999 album, Fly — and the first to further win the Grammy for “Album of the Year” for the same album. “White Horse” further won two Grammy Awards that year: “Best Female Country Vocal Performance” and “Best Country Song.”
Fearless featured on 2008 year-end lists by the Associated Press (7th), Blender (32nd), Rolling Stone (39th), and The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop (58th); and 2009 year-end list by The Guardian (40th). Jon Caramanica in The New York Times placed the album at No. 4 on his list of 2008’s best albums and called Taylor “one of pop’s finest songwriters”.
Fearless (Taylor's Version)
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) April 9, 2021 This article is about the 2021 re-recording. For the original album, see Fearless (2008).Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is the reissue of Taylor’s second album, Fearless (2008). It was released on April 9, 2021, and features all tracks of Fearless re-recorded with fresh vocals from Taylor, including six bonus tracks that were scrapped from the 2008 version.
Impact and Legacy
Taylor’s songwriting on Fearless cemented her trademark confessional narratives. In a 2019 retrospective review of the album, Pitchfork commented that the album was a testament to her abilities of writing timeless songs, noting the album’s simplicity and earnestness. Other retrospective reviews attributed the album’s enduring popularity to songs about universal feelings—heartbreak, frustration, first love, and aspirations. Fearless placed No. 99 on NPR‘s 2017 list of the “150 Greatest Albums Made by Women” and No. 10 on Rolling Stone‘s 2022 list of the “100 Greatest Country Albums of All Time.”
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.”
“From the moment ‘Tim McGraw’ hit the channel, she began to amass an audience that traditional Nashville didn’t know or didn’t believe existed, and that is young women, specifically teens,” Brian Philips, executive vice president and general manager of CMT (Country Music Television), told The New York Times in 2009. “It’s as if Taylor has kind of willed herself into being.”
|Released||November 11, 2008|
Fool On The Hill (Nashville)
Love Shack (Nashville)
Sound Cottage (Nashville)
Sound Emporium (Nashville)
The Sound Kitchen (Franklin)
|Label||Big Machine Records|
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY