Taylor Swift writes what she knows – and she writes well. Her sophomore album, Fearless, captures the daydreams, excitement and longing of a teenage girl with the honest voice of . . . well, a teenage girl. Swift was only 16 years-old in Fall 2006 when her first single “Tim McGraw” hit country airwaves. She has since sold over 3 million copies of her self-titled debut album and received Grammy nominations and awards such as the Country Music Association Horizon Award in 2007. Now 18 years-old, Swift continues to write fun, crossover country-pop songs that are mostly about dating and boys. From the opening drumbeat and lightly distorted guitar melody of the first song and title-track “Fearless,” Swift hooks her listener before arriving at a rocking chorus about being swept up in the excitement of a first date, singing “I don’t know why but with you I’d dance/In a storm in my best dress/Fearless.” Impressively, Swift wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the album, including penning 8 of the 13 on her own.
One of the most striking elements of the set is how comfortable her voice sounds while opening up in a sometimes very personal way. “And now you’re asking me to listen cause it’s worked each time before,” Swift admits through palm-muted guitar chords that barely restrain her intensity on the piano-based ballad “You’re Not Sorry.” Swift’s ability to navigate these high and low, intense and loose, soft and loud sections shows real depth in her songwriting, as does her lyrical content. In the chorus of the standout track “The Way I Loved You” (co-written with John Rich), Swift sings “But I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain” with a passion that matches both the lyrical context and rock oriented musical elements of the section. Swift oftentimes sings about rain. In fact, she mentions rain in almost a third of the songs on Fearless. She’s also been seen showered in rain during performances at award shows, in music videos and on magazine covers. It seems rain serves as an important image for the young writer, but the constant use of it suggests her focus on rain is more a fixation. Probably contributable to her youth, hopefully Swift’s arsenal of poetic elements will expand and grow along with the rest of her songwriting. Swift continually shows the ability to write amazing and complex melodies. Tracks such as “Fifteen,” “White Horse,” and “Breathe” all showcase dynamic melodies that shift effortlessly from verse to chorus and from loud to soft. Swift’s songs are honest. She connects with her audience because she is quite literally part of that audience and sings with a recognizable truth. Fearless does an excellent job of capturing the thoughts of a teenage girl and chronicling the growth of a talented songwriter.