As Taylor Swift prepares to re-record her albums, Kelsey Barnes unpacks a song per week
Kelsey Barnes
21:00 29th July 2021

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When listening to the re-recordings of Fearless, Taylor’s Version of 'Forever & Always (Piano Version)' demonstrates the growth of Swift’s vocals in between the 13 years since its release.

In my column about the original version, I mention that 'Forever & Always' was penned quickly after the ending of a relationship that was, to Swift, “really, really dramatic and crazy”—so much so that she needed to write it quickly as a way to get over it. If the original country-pop version was the knee-jerk reaction to having one’s heart broken then its piano-driven, stripped-down counterpart is when the dust settles and you slowly come to grips with the loss of someone you loved.

Even with the 13 years between the original and Taylor’s re-recording, 'Forever & Always (Piano Version)' is one of the most poignant, mature songs on the album, serving as a reminder that love is not always knights in shining armour. Fearless charts the journey of a naive teenage Swift — someone who was dramatic (as every teen is) and understanding what love really is. The two versions are two sides of the same coin; the original showcases her snarky, tongue-in-cheek instantaneous reaction to a breakup, whereas the piano serves as a reminder that sometimes we must sit with our pain rather than brush it off. Musically, the piano person highlights Swift’s ability to strip down any song to its bare bones and rework it in a way that is dependent on whatever mood she’s feeling, much like how she begins writing every song. 

Naysayers have deemed Swift dramatic and vengeful for songs like 'Forever & Always' because they claim she shrugs off the blame, but the piano version gives better insight into Swift as both a human and a songwriter. The secret message — “Still miss who I thought he was” — highlights that Swift doesn’t just quickly move on from things that caused a deep mark. Instead, she uses her songwriting as a way to better understand herself and her reactions to wonderful and painful experiences, while also using it as a way to call back to those previous experiences and reflect on them in her songs (see: 'invisible string', "Cold was the steel of my axe to grind/For the boys who broke my heart/Now I send their babies presents”).

Being able to easily reference experiences and moments in her songwriting is something that obviously comes easily to Swift because it’s exactly why she’s so well-loved; her songwriting and perspective (and her ability to hide easter eggs in her music for fans to tie back to her older tracks) are what sets her apart from practically every other artist.

Fearless (Taylor's Version) is out now.

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Photo: Press