Fearless (Taylor's Version)
April 9, 2021
Table of Contents
Background and Release
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was the first release in Taylor’s battle to regain control of her master recordings that would eventually see her re-record each of her first six albums (that’s everything from her 2006 self-titled debut up to 2017’s reputation). This bold step was a first for the music industry and came following several sales of Taylor’s back catalogue.
The first came in 2019, when talent manager Scooter Braun (who reps artists like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber), made a $300 million acquisition of Taylor’s former label Big Machine Label Group, a sale that included the recorded masters of Taylor’s early albums. At the time Taylor shared a piece on Tumblr that read: “For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in.”
This was followed in late 2020 by another sale by private equity company Shamrock Holdings. When the news broke Taylor said that the company had bought “100% of my music, videos and album art”, making it “the second time my music had been sold without my knowledge”. After years of attempting to regain back these masters, Taylor decided enough was enough and went about regaining control in in her own inimitable way. She began re-recording her back catalog as soon as she was allowed, in November 2020. Basically, you don’t cross Taylor Swift.
“It’s going to be fun, because it’ll feel like regaining a freedom and taking back what’s mine,” Taylor told Billboard in 2019 of rerecording her catalog. “When I created [these songs], I didn’t know what they would grow up to be. Going back in and knowing that it meant something to people is actually a really beautiful way to celebrate what the fans have done for my music.”
The First Re-Recording
Taylor’s decision to start the rerecording process not with her debut, but its 2008 successor seemed telling. Her debut went seven-times platinum in the US, but her songwriting came into sharp focus on Fearless, revealing an 18-year-old who could not only knock out indelible melodies and choruses with the efficiency of a Nordic pop factory but who also wrote lyrics that spoke directly to a teenage audience. “Deciding on what album to rerecord first was pretty easy for me,” Taylor shared in an audio clip from her record label. “I always gravitated towards Fearless because I think that, as an album, it was a real coming of age, and I look back on that album and I just — it fills me with such pride. It was an album about hope and lessons learned and the effervescence of teenage youth and all that, so what more fun than to go back and explore that.”
Fearless — be it the 2008 or 2021 version — deals in wistful reminiscence about female adolescence. Its best writing offers a brilliant fixing of the understandable teenage impulse to mythologize the recent past, to carry on as if it’s ancient history, because teenage lives are in constant flux and forward motion, packed with events that invite nostalgia because they can only happen once. As a result, Fearless is the kind of album in which fans have always had a genuine emotional investment:
Differences Between the Original and Taylor's Version
From the Vault
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) garnered the biggest opening day for an album on Spotify in 2021 at the time, tallying more than 50 million global streams in its first day on the platform. Its tracks claimed the top ten spots of Apple Music‘s global country songs chart. Fourteen tracks from the album charted on the Billboard Global 200 chart, with 8 inside the top 100. In the US, the album reached No. 1 on the US Apple Music chart, making Taylor the first female country artist to top it. It became her ninth consecutive album to open atop the Billboard 200, earning 291,000 album-equivalent units, recording the biggest opening week since Taylor’s own evermore (2020). In that week, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) sold 179,000 pure copies in the country, marking the biggest sales week and biggest first-week sum of 2021; the album accumulated 143 million on-demand streams, marking the biggest weekly streams for a country album by a female artist in the US, surpassing the former record of 24 million streams by Maren Morris’ Girl (2019). Topping Billboard Top Country Albums as well, the album scored Taylor her sixth No. 1 on the chart, her first since RED (2012). Nine tracks charted simultaneously on the all-genre Hot 100 chart dated April 24, 2021, alongside “willow” (2020). It extended Taylor’s record for the most total Hot 100 entries among women, with 136. Aided by Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Taylor returned to the No. 1 spot of the Billboard Artist 100 chart for a record-extending 47th week at the surmount.
Like she did with folklore and evermore, Taylor released a compilation chapters for some songs on the album, entitled “The Halfway Out the Door Chapter”, “The Kissing In The Rain Chapter”, “The I Remember What You Said Last Night Chapter”, and “The From The Vault Chapter”. The reason why she put out these chapters is simple: There are multiple versions of the old masters of Taylor’s songs on streaming platforms, so she wanted to flood the algorithm by releasing as many versions of the re-records as possible. That way, the chances someone plays a song she fully owns are increased.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is the first ever re-recorded album to reach No. 1 in the US. With folklore, evermore and Fearless (Taylor’s Version) all topping the Billboard 200 in less than nine months, Taylor became the first female artist to have three different albums top the chart in less than a year, surpassing Donna Summer’s record of 14 months in 1980. The four-month gap between evermore and Fearless (Taylor’s Version) also broke Taylor’s own record for the shortest gap between number-one albums by a woman on the chart.
Taylor decided to not submit Fearless (Taylor’s Version) for Grammy and CMA Awards consideration. In a statement published by Billboard, a representative for Republic Records wrote: “After careful consideration, Taylor Swift will not be submitting Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in any category at this year’s upcoming Grammy and CMA Awards. Fearless has already won four Grammys including ‘Album of the Year,’ as well as the CMA Award for ‘Album of the Year’ in 2009/2010 and remains the most awarded country album of all time.”
In May 2021, Taylor was awarded the “Global Icon Award” by the Brit Awards, and the “Songwriter Icon Award” by the National Music Publishers’ Association.
Celebrating and Reclaiming the Past
|Released||April 9, 2021|
|Recorded||November 2020 – January 2021|
|Studio||Kitty Committee (London)|