I was nine years old when Taylor Swift’s sophomore album, “Fearless,” was released. I quickly memorized every single word from that album and even sang a rendition of “Love Story” for my fourth grade talent show. While the rerecording of this album, released as “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”has filled me with nostalgia for that little girl, it has also allowed me to ponder the way things change—and the way they stay the same.
“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is the result of a dispute between Taylor Swift and her former label, Big Machine Records, over the ownership of her masters. The backstory is long and complicated and frankly, I don’t want to talk about it because I’d rather talk about the album itself. Measuring a whopping 26 songs, the album features the original 13 tracks, the six bonus songs from the deluxe edition, the single “Today Was a Fairytale,” and six more that are identified as songs “from the vault.” One of these from the vault songs is “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” which is such a certified bop™ that even Sophie Turner (the wife of Joe Jonas, aka Mr. Perfectly Fine himself) couldn’t help but post an Instagram story praising it. Honestly, it’s just that good.
Somehow, the album manages to be everything that made the original so good in 2008 but with the added benefit of hindsight. “The Way I Loved You” is every bit as scream-in-the-car-as-you-drive-with-the-windows-down worthy even as you recognize that this is probably not the healthiest representation of a relationship. These songs are still the distilled emotions of a heartbroken teenage girl; they are not worth any less now that that girl is 31 years old and in a stable relationship. Every feeling this album inspires in its listeners is still just as valid as it was 13 years ago.
For some, this rerecording might be their first experience with the album. My sister is one such listener, and I’m jealous that she gets the fortune of listening to “Fifteen” for the first time while she is actually 15 years old. My nine-year-old self could only dream of being able to drive along as I listened to my CD. And I suppose that brings us back to the beginning, to the fact that “Fearless” was such a huge part of my formative years in elementary school while “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” gets to be the closing score to my college graduation. The same friends with whom I once rewrote the words to “Hey Stephen” are still listening along with me. We just share the experience from different states. Everything has changed, and yet it’s still the same.
I recognize that my experiences are not universal. Not everyone likes Taylor Swift or her music and that’s okay. Music is music. Sometimes you love it and sometimes you hate it. But for me, as I prepare for what lies ahead with the soundtrack of my childhood playing in the background, I recognize a closing of the loop. I’ve been here before and undoubtedly, I’ll be here again. The time will come, and we’ll sing hallelujah.