And That’s The Way I Loved You

Continuing the series of reviews of Taylor Swift’s albums I’m writing (by anon request), here are my thoughts about her second studio album, Fearless. As before, I avoided listening to the album for months before playing it in full in one go in order to write this review.

Fearless is my favorite Taylor Swift album. That has to be said first and foremost. It’s got such a special place in my heart. Not just because of how it sounds—although, yes, this is my favorite Taylor ‘sound’, that starting-to-sound-sorta-kinda-pop-but-primarily-still-country genre of hers I adore the most (truth: this is the only TS album I would willingly listen to in full sans vocals; even the karaoke versions of the songs are eargasmic to me)—more than that, it’s because it came to me at exactly the right time I needed it. This got released in 2008. I was fifteen. A teenager with all the big dreams and awful insecurities and unrequited feelings. This album absolutely mirrored my heart at the time. I was never really a music person (and I’m still not), but I think this was the album that first made me understand that music isn’t just something you listen to, it’s something you experience—it can affect you, be part of you, save you, change you—that was Fearless for me. Naturally, this was the album that launched me into full-on Taylor Swift obsession. The first two physical Taylor Swift CDs I bought locally were the Fearless standard and Fearless platinum editions. On a high school student allowance, those were major purchases! I also have the sharpest memories of moments that had this album for background music—too many of them. (Here’s one: Senior Prom. I brought my red Philips GoGear mp3 player with me because I didn’t want to dance, and true enough, I remained at my seat listening to Taylor Swift for most of the dances. I felt very smugly anti-establishment while doing it, too. LOL. I was so deluded!) And how could I ever forget—this was the album/era when I first interacted with the TSPH squad! *happy tears*

I mean, objectively, Fearless wasn’t Taylor at her lyrical best, as she’s grown to become a more skilled and more nuanced lyricist over time, but I’m not interested in being objective here. HAHA. This review is as subjective as I could get, yo.

Anyway, yeah, I assumed I’d have a hard time re-listening to this because of how much this album means to me, but it didn’t actually turn out that way. The nostalgia it brought was the good kind of high, not at all painful. However I’ve given up on thinking I could cobble together a formal review of this. Nope. These are still just #feelz stitched together. 😀

Notes on the album artwork: The album photoshoot is breathtaking, and that cover is probably my second-favorite next to 1989. But I do think someone got a little too excited making the design of the album liner notes. It’s like the artist just discovered dafont.com and went overboard choosing fonts and colors for the song titles. The whole thing ended up looking the opposite of cohesive. I do like how each photo tells a story of a track in the album, though. And the album afterword? I have such a fondness for that! Kinda cheesy but still pretty special. I may or may not know the whole thing by heart. Lol. To me, “fearless” is not the absence of fear…

  1. Fearless — When I first found out that Tay’s second album would be entitled Fearless, I presumed it would be centered on empowerment and bravery. You know, fearlessness—the loud, proud kind. But this titular track turned out to be a simple, low-key love song, in typical Taylor Swift fashion—but I think I loved it more because of that. It’s the small, quiet, magic moments kind of fearless, ya know? And that’s always been more beautiful to me. Plus this is one of those TS songs I keep describing as possessing the ability to take you there, in the moment itself. In that drive. With that boy. With that giddy courage in your heart that comes with being in a new relationship. You pull me in and I’m a little more brave… She captures that kilig so genuinely.
    • Favorite Lyrics: And I don’t know why but with you I’d dance / In a storm in my best dress / Fearless
    • Side note: I can’t forget that of all the songs I’ve heard her sing live, this is the one that I’ve heard acoustic, twice. With only a ukulele first, and then an acoustic guitar the second time. Acoustic performances are my favorite Taylor live performances, so there’s really that undercurrent of something special about this song now. :’)
  2. Fifteen — CRYING. EMOJI. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think this is Taylor’s most timeless song. There are no words to express how much I love this one. It’s up there in my all-time top five. I mean, like I said, this album was released in 2008, and I was fifteen. You betcha I was all, THIS SONG WAS WRITTEN FOR ME. I CLAIM IT. Back then, it was still considered cool to add a music player on your blog, and this was the track that had the honor of being my blog’s soundtrack. Hahaha. But the greatest thing about it is that this song ages like fine wine. The older I get, the truer it becomes. I love it so much more now than I ever did back then, and I’ll probably even love it more in the future. Because, I mean, the lyrics. (The choruses that don’t repeat! My favorite kind of choruses.) Like, this is the BEST because it’s simultaneously she’s-peeked-inside-my-diary Tay, big-sister-giving-life-and-love-advice Tay, and introspective-self-reflecting Tay. So much that it so keenly speaks to girls everywhere, all the time. When you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them … Count to ten, take it in, this is life before you know who you’re gonna be … Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now … Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday but I realized some bigger dreams of mine … I found time can heal most anything and you just might find who you’re supposed to be … You know what, I might just write the whole song here while I’m at it. Haha. I’m too in love with all the lyrics! HOW the hell did Taylor write this at 18-ish, like, holy cow the wisdom??????
    • Favorite Lyric: Don’t forget to look before you fall (<3)
    • Side note: Favorite lyric booklet hidden message alert: “I cried while recording this” :(((((
  3. Love Story — Okay, I’ll be the first to admit this song isn’t really All That. In my opinion, if Taylor Swift was made into a machine that you feed paper into and a song pops out, this would be it—The Generic Taylor Swift Love Song. Which is not to say that it’s bad. It’s just, you know, all in a day’s work for her. What makes this song interesting for me isn’t the song itself, but its infamous backstory. Apparently she wrote it on her bedroom floor in just a span of twenty minutes, because her family didn’t approve of the boy she was dating at the time. (How dramatic is that, though? Your parents don’t approve of your relationship, so you automatically think, Romeo and Juliet? LOL. And then you don’t stop there—you write a song about it, with a chorus that legit has the line “You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess,” and give the happiest of endings to what was originally a tragedy, because of course you do. I mean??? Honestly. WTF is this cheesy shit. Only a teenage Taylor Swift could pull this off! Haha.) And apparently when she played it for her fam, they were like, the voices of reason “You’re not seriously going to put this in your album, are you?” But she did, and made it the first single. And it went on to become her biggest hit. Like. TYPICAL. *rolls eyes* In all seriousness though, this song’s so sing-able, listen-able, know-by-heart-able … and the music video was a beaut. Recipe of a humongous hit.
    • Favorite Lyrics: I love you and that’s all I really know (It took me at least ten minutes just to choose one line I like lol. Totally almost left this blank!)
  4. Hey Stephen — Ah, the Perfunctory Boy Name Drop. (Hey, that’s a good reason why the album’s named Fearless. Taylor Swift fearlessly names the boys in her songs. Watch out, boyz.) Um so yeah, this is a cute one, but it’s always given me album filler vibes. Though I don’t really skip it when it comes on shuffle since I dig all the humming and finger snapping. MMM, I CAN’T HELP MYSELF. *bops head* There’s also something funny about how forward the lyrics are, yet the song itself sounds so subdued and innocent.
    • Favorite Lyrics: All those other girls, well they’re beautiful but would they write a song for you? (Cheeky Taylor is adorbz.)
  5. White Horse — Oh, man. When the first note played I legit had to go, “Nooooooo.” THIS IS SO SAD, FAM. (Really. Taylor sounds so, so sad on it I can’t take it!) It’s such a precious fragile snowflake of a song I want to keep in a jewelry box and protect at all costs. 🙁 But it’s one of the tracks that I knew had to become a radio single when I first heard it. And it’s the only song, aside from TOMYG, that I am sure I kept playing over and over just so I could painstakingly copy the lyrics on a piece of paper. (How I still did not think of Googling lyrics in 2008 is beyond me).
    • Favorite Lyrics: This is a big world, that was a small town / There in my rearview mirror disappearing now (I WON’T EVER GET OVER MY LOVE FOR THIS METAPHOR I WILL FIGHT YOU FOR IT)
    • Side note: Can you believe this was almost cut from the album? And was supposed to be on Speak Now instead? Because I can’t!
  6. You Belong With Me — I know this is a song that had the misfortune of being overplayed for years, making it lose its luster, but dude, I will maintain forever that this was MY JAM. My psychic powers were at work; I remember being absolutely sure: This is going to be a single, this is going to be a hit, this is going to have an amazing music video story. I just know it!!! It was the song I lobbied for, telling all my friends, “Stop fussing over Love Story you guys; listen to THIS SONG.” I definitely recall being on the landline making telebabad with my best friend and giving her an impassioned speech along the lines of—“Yesh, THE LYRICS. She has said everything that needs to be said in the lyrics—you know when EVERY line is perfect and nothing is left unsaid because the song says it all so perfectly??? WHY IS SHE SO GOOD?!” Haha! I don’t really think of this song that highly anymore, but I don’t discount my younger self’s enthusiasm. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I related so much to the song because I was 100% a t-shirt-and-sneaker-wearing bleachers-person myself. Never the pretty cheer captain in short skirts and heels that all the boys only had eyes for. So this was my anthem, you guys.
    • Favorite Lyrics: Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find / that what you’re looking for has been here the whole time // I know your favorite songs and you tell me about your dreams / I think I know where you belong, I think I know it’s with me (Taylor’s pining game is just super strong in this one lol, I love it)
    • Side note: There’s been some buzz about how this song kind of shames the cheerleaders. While I could see why people could think that, I disagree. I don’t think it implied that there’s something shameful about being in short skirts and heels, or that it’s better to be the person on the bleachers. The song’s basically just saying “I think you belong with me better than her, cus I know you better. Too bad you only see her because I’m all invisible to you over here in the bleachers.” Which was what us teenage wallflowers all felt at some point, really. The desire to be seen.
  7. Breathe — (Why, hello there, first 2 AM reference…) My thoughts on this, before, were mostly, “A Taylor/Colbie collaboration could’ve been more than this, surely? And there could have been more of Colbie than just backup vocals, surely?” But I think this slightly grew on me over time. It’s not a bad song; it just doesn’t get to the level of FEELINGZ that I have for the other songs in the album. Or maybe it’s because I never really got to the point of feeling like I can’t breathe without a person. (Maybe in the future? There’s hope yet! LOLJK.) I’m also not too down with the repetitive lyrics. Still, the harmonies are lovely, and when I listen to this I just allow the song to wash over me, and I feel a chill, if that makes sense.
    • Favorite Lyric: Hope you know it’s not easy, easy for me
  8. Tell Me Why — You know what? Turns out I really, really enjoy angry country songs. This one’s saying WHY U SUCH AN ASSHOLE DUDE I’M HAVING NONE OF IT with exquisite aplomb. Fabulous.
    • Favorite Lyrics: Why…do you have to make me feel small / so you can feel whole inside? // I take a step back, let you go / I told you I’m not bulletproof / Now you know
  9. You’re Not Sorry — I wonder about the placement of this song after Tell Me Why. Cus to me it comes off also as an angry song (but sorta less powerful), so after listening to one just like it, it doesn’t leave much of an impression. But I love the heavy piano and violin sounds in the background! (Like I said, I can happily listen to this whole album without the vocals.) I do think I found more love for this song after she mashed it up with Back To December/Apologize in the Speak Now Tour.
    • Favorite Lyrics: You had me crawling for you honey / And it never would’ve gone away no / You used to shine so bright but I watched all of it fade
    • Side note: My fave album photo was for this song—Tay looking distraught, sitting on the bathroom floor, all the Sorry‘s madly scrawled on the walls? LOVE IT.
  10. The Way I Loved You — Second 2 AM reference! I always treasured this song in the sense that it definitely made me think, “I wanna experience love like THAT.” The crazy, intense, kind. She writes about it in a way that makes you believe it’s so worth it. The contrast of the quiet stanzas describing the (boring) new guy with the loud chorus singing of the irreplaceable chaos of You… SO GREAT. (Though I would have to say, poor boring new guy. Doesn’t know he’s being compared to the ex, and despite being sensible and incredible and charming and endearing and great with the ‘rents, he’s still found wanting.)
    • Favorite Lyrics: I never knew I could feel that much / And that’s the way I loved you
  11. Forever & Always — Oh, the irony that a song entitled Forever & Always could be this furious and salty! But then again, the song pivots exactly on that irony. “I was there when you said forever and always … [But] You didn’t mean it, baby.” Sung so scathingly. Daaaamn. I live for this pettiness and anger, lol. I am absolutely here for it! The song and the lyrics build up to make it sound so deserved. And seriously, the venom in Taylor’s voice, man. “You looked me in the eye and told me you loved me—Were you just kidding? … Did I say something way too honest, made you run and hide like a scared little boy? … Back up, baby, did you forget everything?” YAASS. DRAG HIM, SISTER. This is really one of the TS songs that deserve to be sung aloud, even screamed, possibly while throwing darts at a picture of Joe Jonas. Haha!
    • Favorite Lyrics: So here’s to everything coming down to nothing / Here’s to silence that cuts me to the core
  12. The Best Day — If you asked me right now what I think is Taylor Swift’s best song ever written, I would not hesitate to say this one. The music, the lyrics, that magic of storytelling and the depth of emotion she just absolutely knows how to convey… It’s all here. The way all the words in the entire song were carefully and perfectly chosen to come together to mean so much more than the sum of their parts… (If this description is familiar to you, it’s because I used it for Mary’s Song. One of Tay’s best, too, for me.) This is her best love song. And she never even says “Mom” in it. Because she doesn’t have to. You already know. CREYS. (This song can make me uglycry by itself, but when I also think of how much of a stark contrast it is to her music now… Ugh I get sad all over again.)
    • Favorite Lyrics: I love you for giving me your eyes / Staying back and watching me shine and I didn’t know if you knew / so I’m taking this chance to say that I had the best day with you today (my heart!!!!!)
  13. Change — Boom. Immediate confidence boost. Whenever I feel bullied or belittled or underestimated, this just gets me going. It’s so motivational and emotional and triumphant, and that instrumental bit at the end is the absolute perfect way to cap off such a winning album!
    • Favorite Lyrics: It was the night things changed / Do you see it now? / These walls that they put up to hold us back fell down
    • Unnecessary Storytelling: I was never aware of how universal this song is until I have listened to it now and couldn’t help but think of Game 7 of the recently concluded NBA Finals. The Cavaliers’ narrative fit so perfectly in the lyrics, it’s so creepy. (SO OKAY I’m sure at least one of you is thinking, why do I know this stuff? Basically my older brother was home for vacation this past month and hanging out with him involved sitting in our living room watching the games. I tried to pay attention. And he was super helpful in answering my questions. So that’s how I “understood” basketball for a couple of weeks! Haha) And then I found out that Change was one of the official theme songs for the 2008 Summer Olympics! I really didn’t know that before. LOL. But no, really, Change was SO made to be sung in stadiums after a well-fought battle. I mean that.
    • More Unnecessary Storytelling: I could never forget this—back in high school, a friend told me that the way Taylor moved in the Change music video reminded her of the way I move. Then, and still to this day, my reaction was/is: WHUUUT. I know I’m awkward but do I really look that awkward?

*** PLATINUM EDITION SONGS ***

(I’m still amazed there were a total of six bonus songs for the platinum edition. And the new album photos that came with it looked like gorgeous paintings! We were #blessed.)

  1. Jump Then FallWeeeell … Another Generic TS Love Song. How it goes into the specific details (phone, laughter, hair, freckles) is adorable, though. You can SO hear the smile in her voice while singing, and next thing you know, you’re smiling as you’re listening, too.
    • Favorite Lyrics: We’re on the phone and without a warning / I realize your laugh is the best sound I have ever heard (<3)
  2. UntouchableI refuse to consider this a Taylor Swift song. This is a cover. Why’d Luna Halo agree to give Tay songwriting credits, when literally just a couple of negligible words in the lyrics were changed, I would never stop being puzzled about. It’s so dubious. Was $$$ involved? Hmm. But I concur: Tay at least managed to make it sound totally one of hers.
    • Favorite Lyrics: But you’re untouchable burning brighter than the sun / Now that you’re close I feel like coming undone
  3. Forever & Always (Piano Version)This is AMAZING. Exact same lyrics as the original, but conveys a completely different set of emotions. If the original was in Stage 2: Anger, this one’s moved on to Stages 3 and 4: Bargaining and Depression. Using the same lyrics. HOW BRILLIANT IS THAT. The fury in the first is perfectly translated to sorrow and heartbreak here. I mean, the contrast of the bridges??? Seriously—amazing. I got goosebumps because of this one’s bridge when I first heard it. Sooo painful. But yeah: I love both versions equally!
  4. Come In With the RainUm … Kebs lang. Haha, no, really. This is an album filler to me. A love song that’s the same old, same old. Which is disappointing because this is a co-write with Liz Rose! (I have high expectations for co-writes with Liz Rose. Um, hello, All Too Well.) For some reason though, Tay sounds very debut-album-era-Tay here. I strongly suspect this was a much older song/recording. (Don’t even make me explain why I could detect a difference. Lol.)
    • Favorite Lyrics: I could go back to every laugh / But I don’t wanna go there anymore
  5. SuperstarOh, the theme song of the fangirl. This song isn’t what I would call amazing, but it’s cute and has some memorable lines that would resonate with anyone who’s ever dreamed of dating a famous musician. (Cough, cough.)
    • Favorite Lyrics: And I knew from the first note played, I’d be breaking all my rules to see you // I’m no one special, just another wide eyed girl / who’s desperately in love with you
  6. The Other Side of the DoorUGH my feelings are so intense about this one. I’m a firm believer that this totally deserved a spot in the standard edition. It’s another takes-you-there-to-that-moment song, but the moment being sung about here is just so charged, I am never not in awe of Taylor’s ability to write this one so accurately. Good grief. I’ve always said this is the ultimate song of the pakipot (lol), and I mean that in the best way. Because, I mean, there exist people in this world with the inability to express what they really feel deep inside (*points to self* HI, GUYS) and at the end of each day they would be regretting all that they left unsaid, and they’d wish that people just understood them better, but they could never say any of these out loud—so they just write about it in their secret journals. This song, my friends, is that journal entry. Just. !!! UGH. And you know that feeling you get after a big fight with someone and you obsess over what you said and what you didn’t say, and what the other party did and didn’t do? This is the perfect song for that. This gets right into all those icky feelings. Also THAT LAST STANZA. MY FEELZ. GRABE KA, TAYLOR.
    • Favorite Lyrics: So babe, if you know everything, tell me why you couldn’t see / When I left I wanted you to chase after me? (I mean???? GRABE PO.) // And I’ll scream out the window…I can’t even look at you / I don’t need you, but I do, I do, I do (UGH???? I hate how true this is???)

Man, listening to Fearless is always a treat. How young I was! How naive! It’s ridiculous to think of everything that’s happened since then, and part of me wants to go back in time just to give a hint to my fifteen-year-old self: “Nen, wait ’til you see what’s in store for you. What if I tell you you’re going to hug her in two years?” I’m all weepy just thinking about it. She had NO IDEA, that girl. She merely loved this album and its singer with all her heart, no expectations. But real talk: even if I hadn’t met Taylor, it would still have been worth it. This album got me through tough times and it taught me a lot. Choosing Taylor as an artist to follow as zealously as I have—I couldn’t have known that was a decision that would actually pay off back then; heck, I was just being a fangirl!—but, whoa. Just having someone like her to look up to, someone who’s so young, but so hardworking and creative, so unapologetic about writing about her feelings, someone who won an Album of the Year Grammy at twenty (for this album!), someone whose star would go on to shine brighter and brighter for years to come—I cannot deny that that has made a significant impact to me growing up. I’m lucky to have gotten a share of her stardust.

And yes, Fearless was already her album #2, but I do think my journey with Taylor truly started with this album. And what an insane ride it turned out to be. I never knew I could feel that much, and that’s the way I loved you.

* * * * *

P.S. Dear gawd, Speak Now‘s up next. How do I survive reviewing that?!?!

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