The year’s 2008. The first Twilight film is dominating the box office, Obama’s been elected president and teenage country crossover star Taylor Swift has just released her soon-to-be smash hit second album, ‘Fearless’.
Dropped at the end of that year following the massive success of singles such as Shakespearean banger ‘Love Story’ and country-pop bop ‘You Belong with Me’, ‘Fearless’ was the album that catapulted Swift to becoming the mainstream staple she is today. It won her a mantlepiece of awards (including Album of the Year at the Grammys) and topped album charts worldwide. The colossal global tour that followed its release saw Taylor play London’s Wembley Arena.
Now, over a decade on from its release, we’re re-visiting that time with the release of ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’ next month. As part of Swift’s unprecedented battle to regain ownership of her own music, she’s re-recording her first six albums, with ‘Fearless’ being the first to see the light of day.
Alongside re-working the album, though, are a few surprises – including today’s unearthing of unreleased track ‘You All Over Me (From The Vault)’.
On ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’, Swift will be sharing six never heard before songs “from the vault,” written when she was between the ages of 16 and 18 in the run-up to the release of album two. Back when she initially released ‘Fearless’ in 2008, these tunes were held back for various reasons (including the fact that you couldn’t cram that many songs onto a physical CD – how very 2008). But now, with the re-recording of her second album, Taylor wants to let fans “into the entire dreamscape that is my fearless album” – restrictions of a compact disc be damned!
Listening to ‘You All Over Me’ is a bit like musical déjà vu. It’s filled with ‘Fearless” snug, country instrumentals: soaring fiddles and lilting guitars, crisp drum lines reminiscent of the album’s ‘Come In With the Rain’ and backing vocals (provided by country singer Maren Morris) that evoke its ‘Forever & Always’. All of this is topped off with Swift’s vocals – more powerful than they were when ‘Fearless’ was released over 12 years ago but still looking backwards to embrace the country twang splashed across her early record. It’s a previously unheard song – but one that feels strangely familiar, and like a time capsule of the ‘Fearless’ era.
The lyrics are typically Swiftian, too. Depicting a relationship that you can’t quite shake yourself from, it demonstrates Swift’s knack for storytelling, managing to convey a whole relationship in just a handful of short sentences (“I lived / And I learned / Had you / Got burned / Held out / And held on / God knows / Too long”) while also including the characteristically Swift putdown: “The best and worst day of June / Was the one that I met you”.
There is evidence, though, that ‘You All Over Me’ hasn’t just been plucked from an old demo tape, but instead got the full re-record treatment after 13 years of learning and growing in between. Produced by The National‘s Aaron Dessner, the production whizz behind large chunks of last year’s ‘Evermore’ and ‘Folklore‘, it runs the ‘Fearless’ soundscape through a delicate ‘Folklore’-era filter. The subtle opening synth line evokes Dessner’s glitchy production on ‘The Last Great American Dynasty’, and the track’s understated, warm electric guitar riffs would feel at home on one of Swift’s lockdown records.
Largely, though, it does its job as dive back into the world of ‘Fearless’. A country-pop song that adds a new chapter to the story of her second album, it begins Swift’s journey of allowing us to join her on a fascinating walk down memory lane.