When I decided to do my first “album flashback” piece, I knew immediately that I wanted to start with Fearless. It is unfathomable to believe that this album came out ten years ago; Taylor Swift feels like she has just always been around. I remember when this album came out, but I don’t remember her having a “breakout moment.” It almost seemed as if she came out of nowhere and took the world by storm. (I am also currently having a mental breakdown as this album came out when I was eight, and now I am 18, which means I am older than “Fifteen.”)
Before I got into the album, I wanted to try and refamiliarize myself with 2008 Taylor Swift. I went onto YouTube and simply searched “Taylor Swift 2008” and boy, did I find some good stuff. I stumbled upon Swift’s first appearance on Ellen and she looked so…young. She was only 18-YEARS-OLD when this album came out—that’s insane. She and Ellen delved into the album and Taylor’s obsession with driving past her ex-boyfriends’ houses, but the morsel of 2008 goodness came out halfway through the interview where they started talking about JOE JONAS. I fell out of my chair at that moment; I totally forgot that he was her first high-profile boyfriend. She even revealed that “Forever & Always” was about Jonas, and it made me love that song even more.
My next great finding in my time machine was a CMT Insider Thanksgiving Special (I’m literally crying at 2008) promoting Fearless. It had Swift walking a reporter around her “hometown” of Hendersonville, Tennessee (she actually is from Reading, Pennsylvania) and they discussed her rise to stardom. Apparently, Taylor Swift was Myspace-famous. I have no memory of this fact ever being presented to me. They showed snapshots of her page and how she would post vlogs on the road, which I instantly proceeded to stalk. One of the vlogs depicted Swift being excited to vote for the first time, which I found ironic because of the recent media scrutiny she received for her political silence and her recent Instagram posts endorsing Democratic candidates in Tennessee. Swift also talked about how she pretty much had to make it on her own because all the major country labels told her there was “no demographic” for her music, as the typical audience for country radio was “35-year-old moms.” She ended up signing with an independent label and her debut album didn’t even gain traction until A YEAR after it was released. All of this information amplified my anticipation to listen to the album.
Swift hits the ground running with the title track, “Fearless,” leaving you wanting to go run and kiss someone in the rain. “Fifteen” reminded me of all of the life lessons you learn at that age, and how much I’ve changed since then. Singles like “Love Story” and “You Belong with Me” are songs that catapulted Swift to stardom—I remember every time that “Love Story” came on the radio, my mom would start crying at the climax when Romeo proposed to Juliet. It’s an extraordinary example of Swift’s writing abilities (did I mention she wrote every song on this album by herself? At 18?!) as she creates an atmosphere and sets up the two characters so well that you do shed a tear by the end. I remember “You Belong with Me” being played EVERYWHERE at any given moment in 2008. It makes you want to grab the nearest hairbrush and start belting. (The song was also the spark that caused Kanye to storm the stage at the 2009 VMAs in protest of Beyoncé not winning.)
Swift really shines on the more emotional tracks “White Horse” and “You’re Not Sorry.” “White Horse” could possibly be one of the greatest songs she’s ever written, as it’s a breakup song that shows the pain but also the redemption of heartbreak. “You’re Not Sorry” is a great song to sing and cry to, and it’s the highlight of the back half of the album. She sounds bitter and angry but also overwrought with sorrow over a failed relationship. She carries her bitterness into “Tell Me Why” as well. I love when she sings with an angry tone because her voice doesn’t necessarily have that quality on its own, but it’s really effective. I also rediscovered two songs on the album that I had no recollection of: “The Way I Loved You” and “The Best Day” and they both blew me away, the former in particular.
She closes the album with “Change” and it’s the perfect way to end the album; it really shows off her range as a vocalist. Fearless brought country music to the mainstream in the biggest way since Shania Twain, I would say. All in all, I have come to the conclusion that I love Taylor Swift, which is a scary thing to say in 2018. But back in 2008, she had the world at her fingertips, and she has continued to blossom since then. Even if the “old Taylor” is dead.
Top 3 Songs: “Change,” “Love Story,” “The Way I Loved You”