For the project of rerecording her first six albums to regain ownership of her masters, Taylor Swift started with a monster: Fearless. The album refined the country-pop style Swift was known for in her early years and includes multiple of her signature songs, including “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me”; it went on to win the triple crown of country music (Album of the Year at the CMAs and ACMs and Best Country Album at the Grammys) along with nabbing Swift her first of now three Album of the Year Grammys. Swift had released bonus tracks and other one-off songs written at the same time, but when she announced the rerecording, she shared that there were even more songs from the era fans had never heard. So Swift cracked open the vault for Fearless (Taylor’s Version), adding six of the never-released tracks, newly recorded with favorite producers Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. The songs are full of references and lyrical callbacks to Swift’s loves and losses from the Fearless era, along with some of her favorite songwriting tropes — and they come on top of a few changes and new takes on her original Fearless songs. So take our hand as we drag you headfirst, fearless, into all the Easter eggs on Fearless (Taylor’s Version).
“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”
When Swift moved on from country on 1989, she left her rural Pennsylvania twang in her previous eras. So fans wondered if she’d tap back into her roots on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) — and sure enough, she did. The opening and title track is country Taylor in her prime, and over 12 years later, she’s fully stepping back into those boots.
“Breathe (Taylor’s Version)” (featuring Colbie Caillat)
Taylor Swift didn’t just rerecord one of her earliest collaborations — she brought singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat back to redo her part as well. Swift teased the rerecording on Tumblr a day before Fearless (Taylor’s Version) came out, and fans noticed (and joked about) how Caillat’s backing vocals seemed a bit more prominent than in the original 2008 version. Funnily enough, while Swift moved away from country in the years after Fearless, pop singer-songwriter Caillat moved toward it, recently spending a few years in the country group Gone West.
“Change (Taylor’s Version)”
Swift made very few changes to her rerecorded songs. But she didn’t need to for “Change” to take on a new meaning for her fans. The original Fearless closer was inspired by her working relationship with Scott Borchetta, specifically after Swift won the Horizon Award from the Country Music Association. “You made things change for me,” she wrote as a hidden message in the liner notes for the album. But Borchetta since opposed Swift’s decision to rerecord her music, given that he was the one who sold label Big Machine — and ownership of Swift’s masters — to Scooter Braun. So fans have latched on to the lyrics to “Change” as newly empowering in light of that history. “Here the song’s meaning is darkly flipped, reflecting Big Machine’s journey from scrappy upstart to part of the fraught system a much younger Swift thought she and Borchetta might conquer,” noted Rolling Stone’s review of the album, highlighting the track. Swift herself also reclaimed the lyrics when Fearless (Taylor’s Version) finally dropped. “It was the night things changed,” she tweeted, giving the line a whole new meaning.
“You All Over Me (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” (featuring Maren Morris)
Swift’s first vault offering, “You All Over Me,” came two weeks ago on March 26 — and featured a longtime friend in Maren Morris. The collaboration makes sense for the most country-tinged Fearless outtake (co-written with Scooter Carusoe, a country hitmaker for Kenny Chesney and others). Morris’s harmonies, though, were likely a later addition to the track, as she didn’t begin to catch attention as a country singer until 2015, years after Fearless first came out in 2008. “My favorite thing that I don’t get to do very often is to slip into someone’s world and just harmonize,” Morris wrote of her part on Instagram.
The first line of the song is a fitting callback to the first line of Fearless’s title track, which opens the album. “Once the last drop of rain has dried off the pavement,” Swift sings, returning to the scene. (“There’s somethin’ ’bout the way / The street looks when it’s just rained,” the “Fearless” line goes.) But the more prominent crossover here is with another heartbreak anthem, “Clean,” the closer to Swift’s 2014 album 1989. “But no amount of freedom gets you clean / I’ve still got you all over me,” Swift and Morris sing on the vault song, calling back to the lines, “You’re still all over me / like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore.”
On “You All Over Me,” Swift also sings about meeting someone “with hands in your pockets.” Intrepid Swifties noted the echoes in Speak Now song “Last Kiss,” when Swift also mentions an ex-lover keeping his hands in his pockets — allegedly Joe Jonas, whom she dated for a few months in 2008. Which brings us to the next song …
“Mr. Perfectly Fine (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)”
The second vault offering from Fearless (Taylor’s Version), released days ahead of the full album, returned us to one of our favorite pastimes: getting to the bottom of which ex-boyfriend Swift’s songs are about. It didn’t take fans too long to realize “Mr. Perfectly Fine” seems to be about Jonas as well — whom Swift broke up with in October 2008, the month before she released Fearless. Swift’s opening description of “Mr. ‘looked me in the eyes and told me you would never go away’” calls back to lines from “Forever & Always,” another burner of a breakup song from Fearless. “You looked me in the eye and told me you loved me / Were you just kidding?” Swift sings there, on another song thought to be about Jonas. After Swift dropped the track, Jonas’s now-wife, Sophie Turner, called the song “not NOT a bop” on Instagram — assuring us there’s no, uh, bad blood about this one.
“Mr. Perfectly Fine” also includes a distinctly Swiftian turn of phrase. She calls the song’s subject “Mr. Casually Cruel” in the chorus, echoing a line she’d later use four years later on Red standout “All Too Well”: “So casually cruel in the name of being honest.” With a lyric that nice, why not use it twice?
“We Were Happy (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)”
A precursor to Keith Urban’s feature on following track “That’s When,” “We Were Happy” also features backing vocals from the country superstar, who took Swift on tour in 2009 after Fearless. The song features yet another similarity with “Last Kiss” when Swift sings, “No one could touch the way we laughed in the dark” in the chorus — reminding some fans of the opening lines of the Speak Now song, “I still remember the look on your face / Lit through the darkness at 1:58.” The final chorus of “We Were Happy” also returns to a favorite motif of Swift’s: marriage. “And you were gonna marry me,” Swift adds in a final twist, possibly bringing us back to the proposal that takes place early into the album on “Love Story.”
“That’s When” (featuring Keith Urban)
When she confirmed the new album’s track list, Swift also revealed Urban’s role on some of the new tracks. “His music has inspired me endlessly,” she tweeted of her Fearless tour-mate. It’s not the first time the two have joined forces, after Swift contributed vocals and Urban played guitar on Tim McGraw’s 2013 country hit “Highway Don’t Care.” Tweeting about the collaboration, Urban referenced his guest appearance at a 1989 tour stop in 2015, calling their new duet work “magic.” “You’ve got some gems in that vault!!! Thanks for having me join you on a couple of them,” he added.
The lyrical allusions on “That’s When” are fewer, but the opening lines could sound a little familiar. “You said, ‘I know’ / when I said, ‘I need some time, need some space,’” Swift sings. It could be a twist of a lyric from Swift’s Red hit, “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” when an ex tells her that he needed space (what?).
“Don’t You (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)”
“Don’t You” is another favorite scenario of Swift’s: running into an ex after they’ve moved on. (See also: “The Story of Us,” “Back to December,” “Style.”) Many fans noted that the song stands out from the country-pop fare on the rest of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), including the other vault tracks. That’s thanks to touches like synthesizers from longtime producer Jack Antonoff, who helped Swift as she transitioned to full-blown pop on 1989. Interestingly, Swift’s rerecorded version of 1989 track “Wildest Dreams” recently appeared in the trailer for Spirit Untamed, leading us to wonder if Swift would take on her second Album of the Year winner after Fearless.
“Bye Bye Baby (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)”
Swift loves a bit of cinematic flair, even naming a whole song “If This Was a Movie” on Fearless follow-up Speak Now. But she opens her final vault track, “Bye Bye Baby,” by declaring, “It wasn’t just like a movie.” “The rain didn’t soak through my clothes, down to my skin,” she goes on — not just an iconic movie trope, but also a Swiftian lyrical trope appearing in songs like Fearless’s “The Way I Loved You.” Some fans also noted a similarity between these lyrics and lyrics to an unreleased song called “One Thing,” which Swift appears to have intended for an early version of Fearless.