The year was 2009. I was celebrating my eighth birthday at Rocky Rococo Pizza and Pasta. After hours of doughy pepperoni pizza and tokens shoved into coin slots with greasy fingers to play shitty arcade games, it was time for presents.
I hastily unwrapped a flat, square gift from my best friend, revealing Taylor Swift’s iconic gravity-defying curls. I couldn’t wait to get home and pop that sucker in my pink, bedazzled portable CD player. I had never owned my own album before. I was ecstatic — almost as ecstatic as I was when Swift announced she was re-releasing Fearless on my 20th birthday, exactly 12 years after it was first gifted to me.
My love story (pun intended) with Fearless is a long one. I spent many a night dancing around my room to that album, and eventually to her self-titled album and Speak Now. I would prop up the CDs’ lyric booklets on my music stand like they were actual sheet music, stand behind them, and sing every song, giving a private concert to nobody long after my mom thought I was asleep.
Fearless narrates tales of romance and heartbreak that I had not yet experienced at the ripe age of 8. My elementary school self hoped to one day be part of a love triangle like the one in “You Belong With Me” and experience the toxic relationship described in “The Way I Loved You.” I wanted to yearn for someone the way Swift does in “Hey Stephen” and dance in the rain in my best dress, fearless. Now, after the album’s re-release, I still haven’t gone through almost any of what Swift sings about in those 26 songs. Still, they mean the world to me.
The release of 1989 marked the end of my childhood and time as a Swiftie. I attribute this to both my “I’m not like other girls” phase and dislike for her new pop-heavy sound. But Fearless (Taylor’s Version) reignited my love for Swift’s music. To be fair, folklore and evermore were the kindling for this fire – they reminded me of the sound and songwriting that made me fall in love with her music.
I would be lying if I said I never revisited my favorite Swift songs before folklore came out in the summer of 2020. Throughout middle school (the peak of my obsessions with Marina and the Diamonds and Panic! At The Disco) and high school (when I almost exclusively listened to rap), Fearless still found its way into my playlists every once in a while.
Some of the new Fearless vault songs released along with the re-recorded originals will definitely join my Swift staples playlist, namely “You All Over Me” and “Mr. Perfectly Fine.” Others, like “That’s When” will not. (Sorry Keith Urban, your voice just doesn’t do it for me.) Similarly, many of the songs' original versions will be replaced in my playlist. Hearing 31-year-old Swift sing to her 15-year-old self on the re-recorded version of “Fifteen” just hits different. Maybe it’s because she's now done things in life WAY greater than dating the boy on the football team.
But I’m not ready to let go of some of the original recordings just yet. Swift’s current vocals, much richer than they were a decade ago, enhance Fearless in many ways. But some of the original versions have the perfect amount of twangy angst (*cough* “Forever & Always” and “You Belong With Me” *cough*) and simply cannot be bested.
I’ve revisited many of my childhood obsessions during quarantine, and I’m glad that Fearless was one of them. (Thank you Taylor for enabling me.) Maybe I’m searching for the way I felt unwrapping the first CD I’d ever own in that pizzeria 12 years ago. Or maybe the songs are just that freaking good. “White Horse” has now been one of my favorite songs for over a decade now — that has to mean something, right? Either way, Fearless and Fearless (Taylor’s Version) are the best birthday presents I've ever received, and I will undoubtedly be blasting my favorites from them for decades to come.