Breaking Down Why Taylor Swift Re-released Fearless
Taylor Swift released her second album Fearless on Nov. 11, 2008, and she re-released it on April 9, 2021.
It may seem odd that Taylor would re-release an album 13 years after the first release. Fearless (Taylor's Version) is almost identical to the original version, besides a few musical adjustments and the addition of six previously unreleased songs from that era. However, this re-release is not just a nostalgic trip for fans. It's an act of independence and defiance. Here is why this re-release shows that Taylor is truly Fearless.
At 15 years old, Taylor Swift signed to Big Machine Records, a small Nashville label, in 2005. The label owner, Scott Borchettta, signed the hopeful star with a country tang, billows of golden curls and a genuine love of music. Taylor was young when she signed away her first six record masters for a cash advance that would allow her to kick-start her promising career. As explained by AWAL, "an artist signs away their master rights—that is, the rights to their recordings—to a record label either for a set period of time or the length of the copyright." However, this issue would not come up until much later in Taylor's career. At the time, she was just beginning.
Taylor sky-rocketed to fame when she released her second album in 2008 titled Fearless. It included iconic songs like "Fearless," "Love Story," "Forever and Always" and "You Belong With Me." The album broke expectations and records globally. It was the best-selling album of 2008 and a Grammy-winning album in 2010, making Taylor the youngest artist ever to win the award. Fearless is still one of the best-selling albums of the 21st century.
Taylor released all her records with Big Machine Records until she signed with Universal Music Group in 2018. The new contract allowed her to own all her master recordings and guaranteed Universal's artists money if they were to sell their Spotify sales, as reported by Vox. This introduced a new era of Taylor's music that allowed her more creativity over her music style and ownership. As much as Taylor was forging ahead, she never let go of her roots and continued to ask for the rights to her first albums. On June 30, 2019, Taylor shared on Tumblr, "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 drama turned into a nightmare for Taylor in June 2019. Scott Borchetta sold Big Machine Records and the rights to Taylor's albums to Itchaca Records run by Scooter Braun. Scooter Braun is known for managing Demi Lovato, Justin Beiber, Ariana Grande and Kanye West. Taylor does not have a good relationship with Scooter, who allegedly subjected her to "incessant, manipulative bullying" during the notorious Kayne West feud in 2016. Taylor clearly expressed her devastation in the same post; "Scooter has stripped me of my life's work, that I wasn't given an opportunity to buy," she wrote. "Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it." In November 2020, Taylor tried to repurchase the masters from Scott, but he demanded her silence. "Scooter's team wanted me to sign an ironclad NDA stating I would never say another word about Scooter Braun unless it was positive," Taylor tweeted. When Scooter Braun sold Taylor's masters to Shamrock Holdings, an investment fund, she decided to re-release her first six albums, starting with Fearless.
Taylor wanted the album to be similar to the original so that the fans could enjoy their favorite songs in their original form. She also added six new tracks that had never been heard, like "Mr. Perfectly Fine." She reshot the cover album, showing a more mature and ethereal Taylor Swift, to add the nostalgic yet modern vibe to the 27-track-long album. "The older music, my voice was so teenaged and I sometimes, when I hear my older music and my older young teenage voice, it makes me feel like I'm a different singer now," Taylor said on Good Morning America. "And so, it's been the most fun to re-record ones that I feel like I could actually possibly improve upon the song. That's been a really amazing and fun adventure."
So, what's next for Taylor? Taylor plans to re-release the rest of the albums she recorded while at Big Machine Records. She hopes to give her fans an ethical way to listen to their favorite songs and take a stand against big record labels and their unethical practices. This issue is bigger than Scott and Scooter; it is an issue of artists and how they own music. Hopefully, this journey will create changes throughout the industry to help all musicians, even if they don't have Taylor's platform and fan base. "The way I've chosen to do this will hopefully help illuminate where I'm coming from," Taylor tweeted. "Artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really *knows* that body of work." While this may be a step into the past for her fans, it will hopefully be a step into the future for Taylor so she can finally move on.
Want to support and celebrate Fearless (Taylor's Version)? HERE are gorgeous lyrics from the album to use as Instagram captions.