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Thursday, August 18, 2022

‘Forever & Always’ Swifties: UF students reflect on Taylor Swift’s new release

“Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” the first of six rerecords, dropped Friday at midnight

<p>“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” includes rerecordings of all 19 original tracks, as well as six unreleased “From the Vault” songs. </p>

“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” includes rerecordings of all 19 original tracks, as well as six unreleased “From the Vault” songs.

Few artists can boast a range of genres diverse enough to represent each distinct stage of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Taylor Swift is an exception. 

“Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” dropped Friday at midnight, beginning Swift’s venture to rerecord her first six albums. 

The country-turned-pop-turned-electropop-turned-folk artist has been topping the charts since her self-titled debut album, “Taylor Swift,” premiered in 2006. Since then, Swift has accumulated 11 Grammy wins, written seven No. 1 hits and released nine studio albums — all while solidifying her place as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of all time. 

On Feb. 11, Swift announced her plan to rerecord the six studio albums she released between 2008 and 2017. The decision followed an ongoing conflict between Swift and artist manager Scooter Braun, who recently sold the master recordings for all of Swift’s music prior to “Lover,” her 2019 studio album. Swift kicked off the rerecording process with the new deluxe version of “Fearless.” The album includes all 19 of the original songs and six previously unreleased tracks. 

“Fearless,” Swift’s second studio album, was originally released in November 2008 and has since been credited as her mainstream breakthrough beyond country music. For fans new and old, Swift rerecording those songs nearly 13 years later has evoked nostalgia and reminiscence. 

Kendall Brockelman, a 19-year-old UF natural resource conservation sophomore, has been listening to Swift’s music since the artist’s debut album. She said her older sister first introduced her to Swift, and almost 15 years and nine albums later, she’s still a fan. 

“She’s been there for each stage of my life,” Brockelman said. “Anything I’m going through, there can be a Taylor Swift song I can put on.”

Brockelman was only seven years old when “Fearless” first dropped, but she said she vividly remembers watching the “You Belong With Me” music video on a loop when it was released. Now, she said she’s excited to revisit these old favorites and feel like a little kid again. 

Even those who weren’t yet mega-fans of Swift, or Swifties, hold a special place in their heart for the album. 

Sydney Pappas, an 18-year-old UF business management freshman didn’t get into Swift’s music until around 2010, but she said she still considers “Fearless” a defining album in her life. Pappas said she always resonated with Swift’s songs, especially those that address themes of struggling with belonging and navigating high school. 

“Everyone has this idea that Taylor Swift sings about breakups and relationships,” she said. “But she really sings about so much than that — she tells stories in her songs.” 

One memory Pappas recollected was her 15th birthday, an occasion she described as far from celebratory. The day took a drastic turn for the better, she said, when her mom picked her up from school — and the song “Fifteen” by Swift was playing. 

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Over the past decade, Pappas has attended eight Taylor Swift concerts, even traveling to Nashville, where Swift kicked off her music career, several times with her family to see Swift perform. While at her Reputation Stadium Tour in Miami, Pappas said Swift performed “Breathe” as a surprise song. The night added another level of nostalgia to the track, and Pappas said she’s excited to hear it rerecorded. 

Pappas also said she’s astonished by the fact that she’s currently the same age Swift was when “Fearless” was first released. 

“It’s like a full circle moment,” she said. “She recorded it when she was 18, and now she’s rerecording it when I’m 18.” 

For fans of all ages, Swift’s music has become a core memory in their lives.

Tanya Charan, a 19-year-old UF biomedical engineering freshman, said she didn’t listen to a Taylor Swift album all the way through until middle school, when Swift’s fifth studio album, “1989,” was released. Still, she said she remembers many iconic images of pop-era Swift, such the artist writing 13, her lucky number, on her hand during concerts and quotes on her arms during the Speak Now tour. Charan said the “You Belong With Me” music video was one of the only videos her and her friends would watch on Youtube when on playdates. 

Ryan Felton, a 22-year-old UF criminology major, has a similar relationship with Swift’s music videos, which marked his first introduction to the artist in the seventh grade. He said he considers “Love Story,” a track from the album “Fearless,” one of Swift’s best. Toward the climax of the song, the music rises to a crescendo — an element Felton said is his favorite crescendo out of any other song. 

Despite not being a fan when “Love Story” first dropped, Felton said the song still sparks happy memories for him, including a road trip where he had control of the music. He recalled singing along to “Love Story” with his friends as they pulled into the airport parking lot — building up to the well-loved crescendo — when the driver shut off the van seconds before the song’s climax. 

“Everyone in the van just kind of moans in desperation,” Felton said. 

Basel Hussein, a 21-year-old UF architecture junior, is also a more recent fan of Swift. They said they first got into her music after “Reputation,” Swift’s sixth studio album, was released in 2017. Six months later, Hussein said their Spotify Wrapped listed Taylor Swift as their top artist that year — and it’s stayed that way ever since. 

Now a self-proclaimed “student of Taylor Swift,” Hussein said they consider “Fearless” their favorite album of hers, as it captures the energy of reading from diary entries and sets the stage for the rest of Swift’s music. 

“As someone who didn't get to experience being an 18-year-old girl — the honesty and the complete melodrama and unabashedness of it — it’s very endearing,” Hussein said. “It’s really an album only somebody could write in that era, in that very hyper-emotional time in your life.” 

As someone who once fell victim to stereotyping Swift’s discography as “teenage girl music,” Hussein said embracing Swift as an artist was monumental in their “journey of accepting pop music as a valid music form.” 

“Growing up, it’s very much like ‘pop music is bad,’” they said. “To dispel that kind of came hand in hand with becoming a Swiftie.” 

As the clock struck midnight Friday, fans across campus — and across the globe — were united as they prepared to stream “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” for the first time. 

Brockelman was blasting the album in her living room, annoying her roommates in the process. Pappas was vibing with her AirPods in while texting her friends from home. Felton listened in his room with his headphones, having a nice drink. Hussein live-tweeted and treated the album like a celebration, like they do every Swift song. And Charan streamed the album on Spotify, awaiting the arrival of the CD she preordered. 

“I bought a CD player because my laptop doesn’t have one,” Charan said. “I didn’t think I’d have to do that in 2021 — but here we are.” 

Whether someone is a decade-long Swiftie or a more casual listener, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is offering fans the opportunity to revisit the soundtracks of their past — and maybe add a few new songs to the playlist, as well.

Contact Veronica Nocera at Follow her on Twitter @vernocera.

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Veronica Nocera

Veronica Nocera is a first-year Journalism major with a History minor. This is her first semester on staff for The Alligator, where she works as Avenue News Assistant. She also writes for Rowdy Magazine. 

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