Fearless is the second studio album by Taylor Swift, released on November 11, 2008 through Big Machine Records.
- Fearless (Liz Rose, Lindsey Chapman, Swift) - 4:01
- Fifteen (Swift, Chapman, Swift) - 4:54
- Love Story (Swift, Chapman, Swift) - 3:57
- Hey Stephen (Swift, Chapman, Swift) - 4:12
- White Horse (Swift, Chapman, Swift) - 3:55
- You Belong with Me (Swift, Chapman, Swift) - 3:51
- Breathe (Swift, Caillat, Chapman) - 4:23
- Tell Me Why (Swift, Chapman) - 3:20
- You're Not Sorry (Swift, Chapman, Swift) - 4:22
- The Way I Loved You (Rich, Chapman, Swift) - 4:07
- Forever & Always (Swift) - 3:46
- The Best Day (Swift) - 4:07
- Change (Swift) - 4:39
- Our Song (Swift) - 3:21
- Teardrops on My Guitar (Swift, Rose) - 3:15
- Should've Said No (Swift) - 4:08
Prior to stardom, Taylor Swift received a publishing contract with Sony/ATV Music. Over the course of that period, she composed over 250 songs, either alone or collaborating with other songwriters, mostly with Liz Rose or Robert Ellis Orrall and refused to give them away to already established acts with intentions of someday singing them herself.
When she later signed to Big Machine Records, Swift compiled her debut album of material written during her publishing contract, and expected to do the same for her second album.
Swift said, "I've been very selfish about my songs. I had this dream of this project [Taylor Swift] coming out for so many years now that I just stockpiled. I'm so happy that I did because now we have a second album full of songs and a third album full of songs, and I don't have to lift a finger."
However, when embarking on her first and second tour as opening act for Rascal Flatts and George Strait, respectively, Swift continued to compose numerous songs.
According to her, "I've written a lot of songs by myself lately, especially since I've been alone so much on the road. I do love writing on the road – I usually write at the concert venue. I'll find a quiet place in some room at the venue, like the locker room."
As a result of writing subsequent to touring, Swift self-penned most of the material. She said, "I've written like eight songs for the second album by myself. If you're in Arkansas, who's there to write with?"
During vacation days from touring, Swift collaborated with Rose, musician John Rich, and singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat.
In the writing process, she was heavily influenced by Sheryl Crow's candidness and truthful, yet vulnerable storytelling, and Brad Paisley's touching, yet humorous nature; she opened for Paisley.
Swift sought to prolong with centering romantic love the theme of the album. Primarily, she did not want to alienate her fans with songs about life on the road, for she could never relate to songs of the sort when younger.
She continued, "I really try to write more about what I feel and guys and love because that's what fascinates me more than anything else – love and what it does to us and how we treat people and how they treat us. So pretty much every song on the album has a face that I associate with it."
Despite her revelation of not having kissed a male in two years, Swift said the album was not wrung dry of such inspiration because she still underwent breakups and felt its core emotions.
Adding it did not "take much [for her] to get that sort of emotion out in a song", she explained physical intimacy did not have to resort to kissing to feel disappointment, frustration, or heartbreak.
Although she had written numerous new songs, Swift decided to also include previously written tracks, believing there were stories she did not have the opportunity to put out with Taylor Swift, and still desired to.
Having grouped over 75 songs, recording with Nathan Chapman (who produced all but one song on Swift's debut album) commenced soon after having completed touring with Strait; in the process, she made her record producing debut. Thereon, she and Chapman recorded and cut an abundance of songs to keep the best material on the album.
Thirteen tracks were planned due to Swift's fondness for the number; she considers it to be her lucky number.
To aid her in choosing the songs, Swift performed various new tracks – "Permanent Marker", "Missing You", "I'd Lie", "Sparks Fly", and "Fearless" – at the Gold Country Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 29 and 30, 2007; only the latter song was chosen for the album.
By January of 2008, Swift had recorded approximately half of the songs that would remain on the final cut of the album. The remainder of the songs resulted from the last two recording sessions: one held in March 2008, the other held sometime in the summer of 2008.
When asked to describe the album, Swift commented, "It's the same kind of album I made (in 2006) – just two years older. Sound-wise, it's the kind of songs I like to write, which are country songs, but I guess because of the subject matter and because of some of the melodies I love to use, I guess they have crossover appeal."
Swift conceived the title track with Rose and songwriter Hillary Lindsey while touring. It is based on an instrumentation with acoustic guitar, fiddle & banjo, and lyrically speaks of taking courage during a date.
The song "Fifteen" was about Swift's freshman year at Hendersonville High School where she met her best friend Abigail Anderson.
"Love Story" came late into the production of "Fearless." It was inspired by a love interest of Swift's who her family and friends were not fond of. Feeling inspired by William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" (one of her favorite narratives), she self-penned the entire track on her bedroom floor in approximately twenty minutes.
Swift began with the line, "This love is difficult but it's real", which was ultimately placed in the song's second refrain, and altered its conclusion from that of Romeo and Juliet, giving them a happy ending, a feat she believed her favorite characters deserved.
Swift wrote "Hey Stephen" about her hidden feelings for Stephen Barker Liles of Love and Theft, a country band that opened several shows for Swift. It is characterized by a playful teen pop melody and accompanied by a subdued Hammond B-3 organ.
"White Horse" was written almost a year prior to the release of the album. It is a ballad whose sparse production, based on acoustic guitar and muted piano with accents of cello, emphasized on Swift's soft and breathy vocals. She first solely wrote the first verse.
Swift then made a phone call to Rose asking for her aid in continuing the song, which was completed in approximately forty-five minutes.
Its conception was triggered by a boyfriend of Swift's who she perceived to be Prince Charming, but, in the downfall of the relationship, realized was not.
Swift became inspired to compose "You Belong with Me" after she overheard a male friend of hers speaking to his girlfriend through a phone call. Out of the sympathy she felt towards him, she developed a concept for a song, and later developed the story line in which she was in love with him.
The song is based upon different twangy, up-and-down vocal hooks and has banjos clucking alongside new wave electric guitars.
In the ballad "Breathe", the accompaniment consists entirely of string instruments and Swift singing in regards to love-gone-wrong scenario. The song was a collaboration between Swift and Caillat that surged out of her interest in Caillat's 2007 debut album, "Coco."
The two arranged a writing session to coincide with Caillat's upcoming concert in Nashville, Tennessee where they composed "Breathe" about Swift losing a friend very dear to her.
"Tell Me Why" was triggered by a love interest she was never in a formal romantic relationship with. Raged by his disparaging and inconsistent behavior towards her, she stormed into Rose's house, and vented about the scenario.
Swift described how she grew tired of his attitude and the discrepancies between his sayings and actions, among other concerns. They consequently put all her ramblings into "Tell Me Why".
She composed "You're Not Sorry" at the moment where a relationship came tumbling down because of her lying and secretive partner.
It is a power ballad with rock music influences; the song commences with piano and progresses to electric guitars mid-song.
Swift had developed the fictional plot for "The Way I Loved You" (preferring complicated men for relationships), the title, and sought to write the song with Rich. He was able to relate to the plot, being that he is usually the complicated person in relationships. The two approached the song from two different angles while writing it, which she described to be incredible.
"Forever & Always" was a last-minute addition to the album, being written shortly before audio mastering was held and CD booklets were printed. Swift self-penned the track about the fallout of her relationship with Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers.
"Forever & Always" was written in a state where she noticed Jonas' slow shift from her and wondered why. Jonas later ended the relationship with Swift for actress Camilla Belle, whom he met on set his "Lovebug" music video.
"The Best Day" was a song that Swift dedicated to her mother, Andrea Swift. It is an understated ballad, and the only song on the album to be written in simple verse form.
The song was inspired by an incident during middle school, when Swift called several of her peers on the phone and asked if they wanted to go shopping with her. However, every girl had a different excuse for why they couldn't go. Eventually, Swift's mother agreed to take her to the local mall. When they arrived, Swift saw all of the girls she had called on the phone, goofing around in Victoria's Secret.
"Change" was solely composed by Swift about her hopes and aspirations to succeed, although signed to the smallest record label in Nashville, Tennessee.
After reassuring to herself that it would be different in the future, she wrote the beginning of "Change." She left the song unfinished, waiting for a remarkable event to trigger its completion.
Swift then completed the track the day after she won the Horizon Award at the 2007 Country Music Association Awards and saw Scott Borchetta, the president of Big Machine Records, crying.
Album Title & Artwork
After completing the album's first track, Swift reconsidered her personal definition of the word "fearless".
To her, "fearless doesn't mean you're completely unafraid and it doesn't mean that you're bulletproof. It means that you have a lot of fears, but you jump anyway."
She then started contemplating the word to title the album, and to assure she was making the correct decision, applied to every song on the album.
Finding a fearless element to the themes and messages behind the songs, Swift decided to title the album, "Fearless."
On the liner notes, she further explained the album title:
"This album is called Fearless, and I guess I'd like to clarify why we chose that as the title. To me, Fearless is not the absence of fear. It's not being completely unafraid. To me, Fearless is having fears, Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. Fearless is falling madly in love again, even though you've been hurt before. Fearless is walking into your freshman year of high school at fifteen. Fearless is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again... even though every time you've tried before, you've lost. It's Fearless to have faith that someday things will change. Fearless is having the courage to say goodbye to someone who only hurts you, even though you can't breathe without them. I think it's Fearless to fall for your best friend, even though he's in love with someone else. And when someone apologizes to you enough times for things they'll never stop doing, I think it's Fearless to stop believing them. It's Fearless to say "you're NOT sorry". I think loving someone despite what people think is Fearless. I think allowing yourself to cry on the bathroom floor is Fearless. Letting go is Fearless. Then, moving on and being alright... That's Fearless too. But no matter what love throws at you, you have to believe in it. You have to believe in love stories and prince charmings and happily ever after. That's why I write these songs. Because I think love is Fearless."
As with her debut album, Swift was very involved with the album packaging. The album's images were photographed by Joseph Anthony Barker, Ash Newell and Sheryl Nields while the cover and graphic designs were executed by Leen Ann Ramey for Ramey Design.
On the week ending November 29, 2008, "Fearless" debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200 with over 592,000 copies sold in its first week (making it the largest sum for a country album since the Eagles' album, "Long Road out of Eden" sold over 711,000 copies in a single week in November of 2007).
In the proceeding week, the album descended to number four with over 217,000 copies sold (a 63 percent decline from the previous week).
Three weeks later, "Fearless" reclaimed the number one position with over 249,000 copies sold, and was able to top the Billboard 200 for a total of 11 non-consecutive weeks.
The album became the longest chart-topper since Santana's "Supernatural" album spent 12 non-consecutive weeks at number one between 1999 and 2000; and the longest reign on the Billboard 200 of the 2000s decade.
Furthermore, "Fearless" became the longest chart-topper by a female country artist, third by a country artist overall and sixth by a female artist, along with Mariah Carey's 1990 eponymous debut album.
After completing its Billboard 200 reign in March 2009, the album continued to sell strongly throughout the remainder of 2009.
The album went on to sell over 3,217,000 copies in the year, becoming 2009's best-selling album in the US. Thus, Swift (at the age of 20) became the youngest artist to have the year's best-selling album and the only female country artist to have one as well.
The album's success extended years beyond its release. The week ending January 30, 2010, was its 52nd week on the top ten of the Billboard 200, making "Fearless" one of 18 albums to remain on the top ten for a year or more, and the only one from the 2000s.
The album logged a total of 58 weeks on the top ten, becoming the longest-running top ten album by a country artist. On Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, it remained number one for 35 non-consecutive weeks.
"Fearless" was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments exceeding ten million copies.
As of July 2019, the album has sold 7.18 million copies in the US; it is ranked as the second-biggest-selling album in the last six years and the sixth-best-selling digital album in history.
As of December 2017, the album had been on the Billboard 200 chart 255 non-consecutive weeks.
In Canada," Fearless" entered at number one on the albums chart with sales of over 27,000 copies on the week ending November 29, 2008. Although only spending one week at number one, the album charted in Canada for a total of 66 weeks and was certified quadruple platinum by the Music Canada for shipments exceeding 320,000 copies.
The album also managed success overseas. In Australia, it debuted at number 50 on the week ending November 30, 2008 and dropped from the chart in the succeeding week.
On the week ending January 25, 2009, it re-entered the Australian Albums Chart at #42, and, nine weeks later, on the week ending April 26, 2009, peaked at #2.
"Fearless" was certified 7× platinum by Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments exceeding 490,000 copies.
In New Zealand, "Fearless" debuted at number two on the week ending March 16, 2009 and ascended to the top spot in the following week. The album was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) for the shipment of 45,000 copies.
The album sold over 400,000 copies throughout Asia as of February 2011. In Japan, it debuted at #22 with 4,945 copies sold in the first week of July 2009 and peaked at number eight.
It was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for the shipment of over 100,000 copies.
In Europe, "Fearless" also performed well, charting at number eighteen on European Top 100 Albums. Achieving its highest peak in Europe, the album debuted at number five on the UK Albums Chart on the week ending March 21, 2009.
Despite descending in the continuing weeks, "Fearless" remained on the UK Albums Chart for 63 weeks and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for the shipment of 300,000 copies.
In Ireland, the album peaked at number seven and was certified double platinum by the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) for shipments exceeding 30,000 copies.
The album saw less success in mainland Europe, charting within the top twenty in Austria, Germany, Greece, Norway, Russia, and Sweden.
"Fearless" received positive reviews from critics, earning a collective score of 73 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 14 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic believed Swift abandoned teen pretenses, styling herself after Shania Twain and Faith Hill prior to becoming divas. He added that Swift presented herself as a "big sister instead of a big star", pointing "Fifteen" as a prime example of it.
Despite noting the album's pop music elements outweighed its country music elements and calling it "one of the best mainstream pop albums of 2008", Erlewine said the album "never [felt] garish, a crass attempt at a crossover success".
Ken Tucker of Billboard wrote, "Those who thought Taylor Swift was a big deal after the release of her first record be prepared: She's about to get way bigger. Though they're written by a teenager, Swift's songs have broad appeal, and therein lies the genius and accessibility in her second effort."
James Reed of The Boston Globe believed Swift's charm was in her songwriting and that honesty is what separated her from other teenage starlets at the time who relied on "big-name producers, songwriters, and Disney shows for a music career."
Drawing similarities between her ability to "blur the line between commercial country and Top 40 radio", Reed compared the singer to a younger version of the Dixie Chicks.
Writing for MSN Music, Robert Christgau found Swift's message about "believing in love stories and prince charmings and happily ever after" distastefully sentimental, but was nonetheless very impressed with the catchiness and "diaristic realism" of Swift's songs.
He believed the record "can pass for a concept album about the romantic life of an uncommonly-to-impossibly strong and gifted teenage girl, starting on the first day of high school and gradually shedding naiveté without approaching misery or neurosis".
Leah Greenblatt from Entertainment Weekly stated: "A button-cute blond teen with a pocket full of hits – sounds like the early aughts all over again, no? But aside from sharing, possibly, a box of Clairol, there is nothing remotely Britney- or Christina-esque about Swift."
Greenblatt presumed that at the time, Swift's fan base would remain young females due to her way of communicating with them, but it would grow over time.
Alexis Petridis of the British newspaper The Guardian had mixed opinions about the album; he thought it was certainly "bland and uninventive", yet executed incredibly well. Over the course of listening to it, he queried if more music of the sort was needed, and concluded that "the feeling that the world is going to answer your query in the affirmative swiftly overwhelms you."
Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone called Swift "a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture that [...] calls to mind Swedish pop gods Dr. Luke and Max Martin."
Rosen attributed Swift's particular charm to in how intertwined almost impersonal professionalism with intimate and real confessions.
Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine believed Fearless pointed out that Swift was capable of having a long musical career. However, Keefe was disappointed in the album, for it did not showcase significant refinements as she did on Taylor Swift; but, with an immature voice and young age, to him, Swift still had enough time to perfect her craft and make a great album.
Josh Love of The Village Voice wrote, "This remarkably self-aware adolescent's words don't falter, masterfully avoiding the typical diarist's pitfalls of trite banality and pseudo-profound bullshit."
Chris Richards of The Washington Post said, "In Swift's world, every song is a radio-ready charmer, confirming the 18-year-old's ability to pen a gaggle of consistently pleasing tunes."
Walsh noted Swift's voice was only minimally twangy and her vocal delivery was sugary enough to receive heavy rotation on Radio Disney, yet poised enough to do the same on CMT. He also felt Swift was a talented songwriter, but her consistency sometimes fell into uniformity.
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