Taylor Swift’s Fearless is packed with valuable lessons, whether you’re fifteen, or fifteen at heart!
Fearless, Taylor Swift’s second album, was released in 2008 when the singer was 18 years old. She was well on her way to becoming “Taylor Swift,” the icon, but for the most part she was still just Taylor Swift, the teenage girl. The album features flashes of the new world she was stepping into (Joe Jonas will never live down that 27-second break up phone call), but predominantly it could be composed of pages ripped from the diary of a particularly prolific high school student.
Although Taylor Swift was already growing up quickly right in front of the world’s eyes, Fearless was one step away from the coming of age album(s) that would follow. It’s pure bleeding, wild-hearted Taylor Swift, remarkably crafted with the same song-writing prowess that she continues to astonish us with.
Of course, Taylor Swift has always been wise beyond her years, so even her youthful material is bursting with nuggets of profound truth and insight. She’s always been able to articulate the feelings of her fans, sharpening them with just the right edge or tying them up with the perfect bow.
Many of Taylor’s fans, this writer included, were also teenagers when Fearless was released. Just like Taylor in “Fifteen,” we didn’t know who we were supposed to be. We learned how to live and love right alongside her, and her music has always been there to guide us along the way, helping us to interpret our past experiences and teaching us how to navigate new ones.
The re-release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) came 13 years after the album’s initial release, and it finds fans, and Swift herself, at a very different place in life. While we’re all hopefully at least a little closer to figuring out who we’re going to be, many of the growing pains and lessons from Fearless still serve as a beacon to remind us of how far we come, and in many cases they’re things that we’re still working on.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) finds a way to be both nostalgic and infinitely relevant, transporting us to our past while still lighting our paths to what’s coming next. Here are 8 lessons from Taylor Swift’s Fearless album. Some of which I’ve learned, and some that are a work in progress!
Sometimes life is like a fairytale, and sometimes it isn’t
…and most importantly, how to tell the difference.
Speak Now might have “Enchanted,” but never has Taylor Swift’s fairytale imagery been stronger than on Fearless. She weaves in and out of “forever and always,” “once upon a time,” ball gowns, princes and princesses in many of the album’s tracks, in one breath building up to “happily ever after” before inevitably shattering it in the next. You never know if you’re supposed to believe in true love’s kiss, or dismiss it as a complete fallacy.
Of course, the answer is both, and neither.
On (Taylor’s Version), Swift added “Today Was a Fairytale,” to the album, which was previously only released on the Valentine’s Day soundtrack in 2010. In this perfect addition to the album, Swift is at her most pure and innocent, going on about the “magic in the air.” The song is so simple and sweet, and is a great reminder to celebrate all of life’s moments that are exactly that way. Yes, things get messy and difficult, but there’s also so much beauty in everyday life, and sometimes life really does feel like a damn fairytale.
In an album packed with songs about pining and heartbreak, “Today Was a Fairytale” emits so much light, and it’s the piece of Taylor Swift that penned this song that has kept her open and vulnerable for her entire career, which is something fans can definitely learn from.
On the flip side, songs like “Forever and Always” and “White Horse” remind us that some princes really are just frogs, and that words said aren’t always words meant. Fearless flawlessly walks the line of remaining open to love while learning to be cautious of the red flags that abound, even if these lessons are some of the hardest to put into practice.
‘In your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team’
But we definitely didn’t know it at fifteen. This is one of the Taylor Swift lyrics that I’m consistently struck by the power of. In one line she’s pretty succinctly summing up the teenage experience while being a teenager herself, yet she’s somehow doing it with the clarity that can only be gained in hindsight. It’s one of the best lines of the album, and one that still packs a huge punch.
This lyric from “Fifteen” simultaneously serves as an “it gets better,” and a victory cry, especially when paired with the bridge’s “back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday but I realized some bigger dreams of mine.” It’s a reminder that no matter how deep into a crush or a break up you are, you are going to accomplish so many amazing things in your life that go so far beyond what you can see right now. That’s a mantra if I’ve ever heard one!
Fearless was the beginning of a long “chaos is love” thread that wove through many of Taylor Swift’s subsequent albums, sparking many hits. While this idea of romance is something she would eventually grow out of as it was replaced with the “golden” love she described on Lover, it was a perfectly fine foundation for the first loves she was experiencing as an adolescent.
“The Way I Loved You” tells a story of this kind of love, but through the lens of remembering it from a new, more tame relationship. A guy that “calls exactly when he says he will.” Even though he checks all of the boxes and all of her “single friends are jealous,” she’s “not feeling anything at all.” The song teaches that you deserve the respect and the romance, and that settling for less just isn’t going to work.
Sometimes all you need is a day with your mom
“The Best Day” is another Fearless track that is so simple, yet so painfully beautiful. Lyrics like “daddy’s smart and you’re the prettiest lady in the whole wide world,” pretty much sum up the song. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s absolutely fantastic. It details some specific days that the singer spent with her mother, including one after she’d been bullied by some friends at school, and I challenge you to not be full of warm fuzzy feelings after listening to it.
The track is another brief respite from the barrage of ballads and beats to pay tribute to one of the most simple, beautiful, enduring, and important things. The love of family. It has a way of taking all of the angst away and just making you want to pick up the phone and dial home.
One person who really understands you can be enough
From family to friendship, “Fifteen” tells the story of Taylor Swift’s best friend Abigail, and is a great reminder that even if your classmates (or colleagues) are mean to you and the guy on the football team doesn’t call you back, one true friend who really understands you can pretty much get you through anything.
Not only have core relationships like this been pivotal to Taylor Swift as she’s navigated fame and infamy, but this lesson also only grows more important as Swifties grow up. Friends only get more difficult to make and keep after high school, which makes holding on to the ones that we love and trust even more important.
When to fight for love
Even though Taylor Swift has become known for her break up anthems, she also always manages to sprinkle in a few tracks to remind you why it’s all worth it. Fearless is no exception, and both the title track and “Love Story” do an amazing job of capturing the magic and hope of young love.
“Love Story,” in particular, serves as an anthem to anyone who’s had to overcome adversity to be with the person they love, and it thankfully has a happier ending than the play on which it’s based. Heartbreak, distance, and the judgment of others can sometimes seem insurmountable, but this song will sweep you right through those feeling of doubt and remind you that love is often worth the work and the risk.
…and when not to
There’s a fine line between chaos and abuse, and the people Taylor Swift is describing in “Tell Me Why,” “White Horse,” and “You’re Not Sorry” fall on the wrong side of it. When you start talking about somebody’s mean streak making you “run for cover,” fighting to have the upper hand, lying, and manipulating, you’re talking about a relationship that you need to get out of.
And get out of it, she does. In all of the songs mentioned above, Taylor leaves. Even though many of her songs romanticize high-anxiety relationships, there are lines that should never be crossed. Demanding the respect you deserve is a life lesson that’s applicable to so many situations in life, beyond just relationships, and it’s one of the most important lessons you can learn.
The importance of owning your work
Fearless (Taylor’s Version), is the first album that she’s re-releasing in a move to regain the ownership of the songs she wrote and recorded for her first six albums. It’s a huge move for her to take back her work and her power in this situation and it’s tremendously inspiring for young artists coming up in the music industry and anyone who’s ever given up their time and ideas to line someone else’s pockets.
She could’ve given up after being denied the opportunity to buy her own material, but instead she decided to persevere and make her past works even better. It’s a lesson in knowing your worth and not letting anyone take it away from you.
It seems fitting that the first album she re-recorded was Fearless, since it features the song “Change.” The song is about underdogs tearing down the “walls that they put up to hold us back,” and it takes on an entirely new meaning in (Taylor’s Version). I’m sure I’m not the only one who got a little teary-eyed when she sang “throw your hands up, ’cause we never gave in,” and I’m sure that won’t be the last time that happens.
The lesson will continue to hit home as she continues to re-release her albums, but Fearless (Taylor’s Version) will always have a special place for being the first. The album has been teaching us since 2008, and there’s no signs of it stopping any time soon!