My first memory of Fearless is going to the store to buy it for my birthday, which just so happened to fall on the same day the album was released. It was 11/11/08, I was newly 16, and Taylor was just a month shy of her 19th birthday.
While I was listening to Fearless repeatedly on my iPod in class and naively thinking I understood the experiences or related to the feelings she was singing about, Taylor was touring the world to promote her new record. There were vlog updates of her in Europe, MySpace blogs with many exclamation points to emphasise her excitement at how the album was doing, and grainy YouTube videos of performances at the smallest of radio stations across America.
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One might be wondering why these details are relevant, but context is important; it gives a better understanding of everything that followed. Fearless received universal critical acclaim, debuted #1 on Billboard, won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and Best Country Album, and eventually, became the most-awarded country album of all time.
Despite all of that success - and Swift becoming a household name - Fearless still feels like a secret between Taylor and her fans; a suspended moment in time where so many forged a parasocial yet lifelong bond with the singer. Thirteen years later and those 13 songs (and the 6 Fearless bonus tracks) are still as impactful as they were in 2008. With all of its pining and rose-coloured fairy tales, Fearless as a body of work represents the sweet naiveté of an adolescent Swift, her captivating lyricism, and her ability to make her intimate moments and personal experiences feel universal and relatable.
It’s quite poetic that 13 years later, she is choosing to release the new recordings of her sophomore record first rather than the new recordings of her debut. Some cynics say it’s a choice that is revenue-motivated, but for me - someone who has been a fan of Taylor for almost half my life - I like to believe it’s because the Fearless era, in particular, was the catalyst for everything that was to come. In the album booklet, Taylor defined what ‘fearless’ means to her and, in a way only she could foresee, penned her philosophy that she would fall back on during her career highs and lows over the next decade:
“To me, “FEARLESS” is not the absence of fear. It’s not being completely unafraid. To me, FEARLESS is having fears. FEARLESS is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, FEARLESS is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. FEARLESS is falling madly in love again, even though you’ve been hurt before. FEARLESS is walking into your freshman year of high school at fifteen. FEARLESS is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again… even though every time you’ve tried before, you’ve lost. It’s FEARLESS to have faith that someday things will change. FEARLESS is having the courage to say goodbye to someone who only hurts you, even if you can’t breathe without them. I think it’s FEARLESS to fall for your best friend, even though he’s in love with someone else. And when someone apologizes to you enough times for things they’ll never stop doing, I think it’s FEARLESS to stop believing them. It’s FEARLESS to say “you’re NOT sorry”, and walk away. I think loving someone despite what people think is FEARLESS. I think allowing yourself to cry on the bathroom floor is FEARLESS. Letting go is FEARLESS. Then, moving on and being alright…That’s FEARLESS too. But no matter what love throws at you, you have to believe in it. You have to believe in love stories and prince charmings and happily ever after. That’s why I write these songs. Because I think love is FEARLESS.”
Every week from today, we’ll be looking back at songs from Fearless (before moving on to explore further albums as Taylor re-records them) and its deluxe edition. First, here’s some insight on title track and album opener ‘Fearless’...
(Taylor Swift, Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey)
Original 'Fearless' - Taylor's Version coming soon
Described by then-18-year-old Taylor Swift as a song about “the feelings present when a new relationship begins,” the title track of her second album is Swift’s idea of a call-to-arms. Taylor is known for her ability to tell entire stories with just a few lyrics and ‘Fearless’ is proof of that. When discussing the inspiration behind the song in a conversation with her then-record label Big Machine Records she stated, “I think sometimes when you’re writing love songs, you don’t write them about what you’re going through at the moment, you write about what you wish you had. This song is about the best first date I haven't had yet.” The country-pop title track of ‘Fearless’ is the heartbeat of the record; the concept of being fearless despite being terrified flickers throughout each song, weaving in and out of the stories Swift invites us to part of.
She’s known for her Easter eggs — whether it’s including an unreleased album title in a music video or giving a nod to a future album cover by wearing a braid in a promotional video. It first started with her debut record and its accompanying album booklet by capitalising specific letters in her lyrics to spell out a word or a sentence, her cheeky way of pulling fans just a little bit closer to give them that extra bit of insight into her world and what inspired that particular song. For the song ‘Fearless’, the hidden message is ‘I Loved You Before I Met You’. Although the song is coded as a romantic one, one could argue that her secret message could be applied to her strongest relationships to date: the one she has with her fans.
Fearless (Taylor's Version) arrives 9 April.