Reclaimed from the Vault
Written by Haven Capone
Listening to Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was like growing up with her. My kindergarten self revived, the 26-track album of rerecords and unreleased vault songs played a game with me, memories unlocked from my own vault by little lyrics I’d forgotten. Some of the classics I could never forget, “You Belong With Me” by my side since watching the music video on repeat with my big sister. But hearing the lyric “I hug your legs and fall asleep on the way home,” from “The Best Day,” a tribute to Swift’s mom, reminded me how I’d cry to it even at a young age because it made me so scared of losing mine. It resurfaced a memory I had forgotten, but gave me an emotion I’m glad to have back.
I sang lightly to “Today Was A Fairytale” on the way back from getting my first dose of the COVID vaccine this past Saturday when my mom pointed out, “I wish I was in the room when [Swift] said ‘you know what, I’m going to re record every song on that album and do it my way.’” She entered the music industry as a young woman, and she was quickly taught that it would not be easy. Countless times over her career she was taken advantage of, tormented and broken down by men of higher power around her. She was ridiculed for her relationships when the partner was dealt no shame. She faced a white hot hate that only a woman called a hysterical liar can face at the hands of Kanye West. Swift was told it was best not to acknowledge it, told the way it looked for her career was more important than the way it impacted her health. It sent her into a year off the grid, coming back with a vengeful album most notably characterized by the line declaring her old self as dead. It was powerful and confident but as she later released Lover, Folklore, and Evermore, her pattern of creating albums so different from the one’s she’d done in the past solidified a realization. The ‘Old Taylor’ isn’t dead, because there isn’t just one. The work she puts out reflects all these different versions of herself, the same Taylor, but true to a specific age and stage in her life. And the way she has this tangible marker of each one is beautiful.
Once the documentary Miss Americana came out, we were able to watch first hand how she’s grown from a girl trampled to a woman in charge in the music industry. How she went from keeping quiet about politics to standing her ground because she was no longer trapped by the fear of reputation, a tool used strategically against her in her younger stages as a musician. In her release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), we see it again. We see her reclaim her career. And as a woman who too has seen the past versions of myself be bulldozed by power dynamics, it’s empowering to watch the way she honors that time in her life, but repaints it in true colors. It allows me to look at ways I’ve acted and step back from ridiculing them, and instead thanking that time for what it did for me, thanking that time for how it helped me find the versions of myself after it. Swift sang to herself from versions ago in this album, and she gave me the tools to do so myself. I want to tell a different me that I just got the vaccine for a disease that has changed everything, could she believe it? I want to tell a different me that I’m going to an all girls school next year, would that catch her off guard? I want to remind her that the old versions of ourselves aren’t dead, they’re just allowing space for the new ones. Sit with this version for a while, it may be your only chance to be with them.