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Fifteen

Single | Fearless (2008) | Fearless (Taylor's Version) [2021]

“Fifteen” is a song first released on Taylor’s second studio album, Fearless (2008). It looks back at her freshman year at Hendersonville High School, Tennessee, where she met her best friend, Abigail Anderson. The re-recording of the song, “Fifteen (Taylor’s Version)”, was released on April 9, 2021 on the album Fearless (Taylor’s Version).
The lyrics of “Fifteen” have Taylor narrating about multiple events. In the first verse, she details first entering high school with intentions of merely staying out of her peers’ way. The second verse bears her meeting Abigail and gossiping about the school’s queen bees with her. Successively, Taylor describes first dates and falling in love for the first time. However, she and Abigail become heartbroken. The song’s refrains have Taylor acknowledging that she came to the realization of being able to accomplish more than dating a football team member.

Background and Recording

After the completion of composing “Fifteen”, Taylor became very nervous to show Abigail the song because she did not know how her best friend would respond. “It was a really personal song, especially from her angle of it.” However, when Taylor performed the song for Abigail and asked whether she was comfortable with the song, Abigail confirmed: “She said, ‘Does it bother you that your name is in a song that’s so personal?’ And it really doesn’t just because of the way Taylor and I feel about it. If one girl can kind of learn from it or connect to a song like that, it’s totally worth it.” With Abigail’s consent, Taylor recorded “Fifteen” with producer Nathan Chapman, who produced all but one track on Taylor’s 2006 eponymous debut album, Taylor Swift. Recording the highly personal track caused Taylor to cry in the studio. She attributed the event to the fact that she is most likely to cry over when her loved ones undergo pain, as she witnesses it, rather than her own experiences. She went to say “Fifteen” usually gets her every time.

Lyrical Theme

Taylor and Abigail first encountered heartbreak during their freshman year at Henderson High. Taylor wrote the song about their experiences during that year. After she finished writing it, Taylor asked Abigail for authorization to record it, due to personal references in the song; Abigail affirmed and it was ultimately included on Fearless. In an interview, Taylor said:

«I wrote this around the story line of my best friend from high school, Abigail. I started everything with the line, ‘Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind’ and wrote everything else from that point, almost backwards. I just decided I really wanted to tell that story about our first year of high school because I felt in my freshman year, I grew up more than any year in my life so far. The thing about high school is, you don’t know anything. You don’t know anything, but you think you know everything.»

Taylor Swift
Aside from reminiscing on the events she and Abigail experienced, Taylor wrote cautionary lyrics, intended to target teenage girls entering or already in their freshman year of high school. She described it as incorporating things she wished someone would have told her in a song when she was younger.

Music Video

The song’s music video was directed by “You Belong With Me” director Roman White. Abigail and Taylor both appear in the video, in which the two friends go through various situations of teen life. White told MTV News that for the clip he wanted to capture the essence of the song without getting too literal:

«Well, I think I really wanted this video to kind of be an evolution for Taylor. I mean, obviously it's a high school song, but the last thing I wanted to do was shoot it in a high school. So I wanted to try something different, and I actually said to her, 'I don't think we should shoot in a high school.' And I don't think she wanted to either. I kind of came up with this idea like, let's take the literal meaning of this song and watch it evolve in front of us...almost as a memory in your head. And create this world, so you walk in on this desolate desert and you start to sing about all these great memories you have, of everything you love [blooming] around you. So we literally grew this garden around her. But also we added these surreal elements that came from the memory. It's kind of this cross between this surreal garden and this memory, and she's at the heart of this memory.»

Roman White

Live Performances

Taylor first performed “Fifteen”, as a duet with singer Miley Cyrus, at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards. She also performed the song on all venues in 2009 and 2010 of her first headlining concert tour, the “Fearless Tour.” “Fifteen” later served as an encore performance on the setlist of Taylor’s second concert tour, the “Speak Now World Tour” (2011-2012). Ever since, Taylor has performed the song acoustically at least once on every tour that followed. She sang the song fairly frequently during “The RED Tour” (2013-2014), on her “The 1989 World Tour” (2015) in place of “You Are In Love” on selected dates, such as the shows in Indianapolis and Atlanta. “Fifteen” was most recently performed on her “reputation Stadium Tour” (2018) during the second show in London, in honor of the concert being the fifteenth show of the tour.

Critical Reception

“Fifteen” was met with widespread critical acclaim. Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone believed it was exemplary in that “Swift is a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture”. Rosen compared her songwriting in the track to that of producer Max Martin, who he referred to as “Swedish pop god”. An interesting comparison, considering Taylor started working with Martin in 2012. Together, they created some of the most successful pop songs of the 2010s decade. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic found “Fifteen”, in which Taylor portrayed the role of a big sister instead of a big star, to be one of the best and the most personal song on Fearless. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times said “Fifteen” was one of Taylor’s best-written songs. James Reed of The Boston Globe believed “Fifteen” was one of Fearless‘s most interesting songs and stated he could visualize the lyrics of the song scribbled in a diary that chronicled Taylor’s freshman year in high school. Alexis Petridis of The Guardian called the track a fantastically good song that broadened “her potential market from teenage girls to anyone who used to be a teenage girl”. Petridis continued, “You applaud her skill, while feeling slightly unsettled by the thought of a teenager pontificating away like Yoda.”

Commercial Performance

Following the release of Fearless, on the week ending November 29, 2008, “Fifteen” debuted at No. 79 on the Billboard Hot 100. Its appearance, along with six other songs, on the chart tied Taylor with Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) for the female act to have the most songs charting on the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week, a record later surpassed by Taylor herself when she charted sixteen songs at once in 2020. It re-entered at No. 94 on the week ending October 3, 2009, after its single release. On the week ending December 19, 2009, “Fifteen” reached its peak at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is one of thirteen songs from Fearless charted within the top forty of the Billboard Hot 100, breaking the record for the most top forty entries from a single album.

Taylor's Version

“Fifteen (Taylor’s Version)” is the re-recorded version of “Fifteen”. It was released on April 9, 2021, through Republic Records, as the second track on Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the re-recording of Fearless. It was well received by critics, who praised Taylor’s more mature vocals as adding depth to the song. Taylor herself told Amazon Music:

«The song 'Fifteen' is one I wrote on my own and I wrote it about the journey of my best friend Abigail and I (we're still tight). We met in freshman year of high school and we both had these trials and tribulations; lessons, and adventures, and mishaps, and heartbreaks, glorious excitements, and letdowns. So I wanted to tell the story of being fifteen through the lense of a friendship and you see what these two people go through, together as friends and on their own. Yeah, this song still get's me because those were all real insecurities of walking in your frshman year and thinking, 'Where am I gonna fit in this massive ocean of people? Where's my locker?' Like, who am I gonna be? That's a question we ask ourselves a lot through the course of life, but I think never more than when we're fifteen.»

Taylor Swift

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors
It’s the morning of your very first day
You say hi to your friends you ain’t seen in a while
Try and stay out of everybody’s way

It’s your freshman year and you’re going to be here
For the next four years in this town
Hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say
“You know, I haven’t seen you around before”

[Chorus]
Because when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You’re going to believe them
And when you’re fifteen feeling like there’s nothing to figure out
Well, count to ten, take it in
This is life before you know who you’re going to be
Fifteen

[Verse 2]
You sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail
And soon enough you’re best friends
Laughing at the other girls who think they’re so cool
We’ll be outta here as soon as we can

And then you’re on your very first date and he’s got a car
And you’re feeling like flying
And your momma’s waiting up and you’re thinking he’s the one
And you’re dancing ’round your room when the night ends
When the night ends

[Chorus]
Because when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You’re going to believe them
When you’re fifteen and your first kiss
Makes your head spin ’round
But in your life you’ll do things greater than
Dating the boy on the football team
But I didn’t know it at fifteen

[Bridge]
When all you wanted was to be wanted
Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now
Back then I swore I was going to marry him someday
But I realized some bigger dreams of mine
And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy
Who changed his mind and we both cried

Because when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You’re going to believe them
And when you’re fifteen, don’t forget to look before you fall
I’ve found time can heal most anything
And you just might find who you’re supposed to be
I didn’t know who I was supposed to be at fifteen

[Outro]
La la la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la

Your very first day
Take a deep breath girl
Take a deep breath as you walk through the doors

General Information
AlbumsFearless
Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
ReleasedNovember 11, 2008
Re-ReleasedApril 9, 2021
GenreCountry Pop
Length4:54
LabelsBig Machine Records
Republic Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducersNathan Chapman (original)
Christopher Rowe
Taylor Swift
FEARLESS CHRONOLOGY
FearlessFifteenLove Story
Single Certification
Hidden Message
I cried while recording this
Single Artwork
Music Video
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Taylor's Version
Original Audio