3 1/2 STARS
Ah, young love. Country sensation Taylor Swift, 18, chronicles her formative years' romantic highs and lows on this stellar follow-up to her triple-platinum self-titled debut. Writing and coproducing all 13 cuts, the recent high school grad from Hendersonville, Tennessee - who just split from teen hunk Joe Jonas, 19 - tells the story of her freshman year on the sweet, midtempo "Fifteen" and ruminates on a deteriorating relationship (hello, Joe!) on the mature "Forever & Always." -- Us Weekly, October 31, 2008
Berks County native Taylor Swift's new CD highlights new music releases by John A. Zukowski
Taylor Swift's new CD "Fearless" comes out today. Other new releases include Enya, T-Pain, Tracy Chapman and David Archuleta. Taylor Swift is just 18 years old. But for me she's done something really important for mainstream country music: she's put some feeling and soul back into country.
Swift writes her own songs (unusual for a country singer). And a lot of her songs are about her hopes and her experiences. So it doesn't matter that she's just 18. It sounds real. And that honesty is what makes the best country music. And she makes other country singers older than her seem phony in comparison -- even someone not so old like Carrie Underwood.
Swift's second album "Fearless" comes out today. She played the title song from it on "The Late Show" with David Letterman last night and it sounded great. The lyrics were really heartfelt and direct. She really could have been a punk rocker if she wasn't a country singer. I really like how she's shaken things up in the mainstream country music genre. -- Lehigh Valley Express Times, November 11, 2008
By Kevin Amorim
Those who thought Taylor Swift was a big deal after the release of her first record should be prepared: She's about to get way bigger.
Although they're written by a teenager, Swift's songs have broad appeal, and therein lies the genius and accessibility of her second effort, "Fearless" (Big Machine).
The insightful "Fifteen" ("In your life you'll do greater things than dating a boy on the football team") will connect with teens looking for hope and with adult women looking back, while the sparse "White Horse" will appeal to anyone who's experienced love lost, which is to say, everyone. "Hey Stephen" ("All those other girls, they're beautiful but would they write a song for you") displays Swift's confident sense of humor, and "Breathe" (written with Colbie Caillat, who sings on the track) is a love-gone-wrong song suitable for women of all ages. - Billboard.
THE GRADE: A
BOTTOM LINE Wise beyond her years. -- Newsday.com, November 11, 2008
By Rashod D. Ollison Seemingly out of nowhere in 2006, Taylor Swift did what is becoming almost impossible to do in today's crumbling music industry: She sold more than 3 million copies of her first album. And the country-pop star did it all rather quietly, garnering a Grammy nomination for best new artist along the way.
Svelte and blond with a sculptured face the camera adores, the 16- year-old singer wasn't a teen dream manufactured by the Disney machine. She also wasn't packaged as a vampish pop tart, wailing suggestive songs that belied her years.
Her earnest but girlish vocals were ensconced in sympathetic arrangements that were more pop than country. But it was Swift's gift as a songwriter that pushed her ahead of the pack. She wrote about her bad luck with boys in detailed, sometimes touching lyrics that never felt too precious. In fact, Swift's songs are sturdy and universal enough to work in any musical context.
On Fearless, her hotly anticipated sophomore album, she basically sticks with what worked on the debut. She's 18 now. And although her maturation on the album is deliberately pitched to the country-pop crossover crowd, Swift's songs remain tightly crafted. The melodies may not always be immediate, but the tunes still worm their way into your head.
Lyrically, Swift is still boy-crazy. She achingly pines for the dreamy ones ("Love Story," "You Belong With Me," and the breezy title track) and dismisses the empty-headed ones ("Tell Me Why" and "White Horse"). She refreshingly eschews the role of diva wannabe and remains the down-to-earth girlfriend next door.
"The Best Day," an affecting ballad, is a lovely valentine to her family. Simple and understated, it's sure to be a hit with fans. -- Baltimore Sun, November 11, 2008
Swift Fearless, taking the spotlight away from Rose BY WERNER TRIESCHMANN
This is so old-school pop star.
Three days before Christmas and a stop at west Little Rock's Best Buy to snag Taylor Swift's Fearless turns up empty - that's right, not a single copy to be had in the whole store. Boxes of Guitar Hero and gleaming iNanos were still waiting to be bought. Then there were the well-stocked displays for a certain new album by Guns 'N Roses.
Taylor Alison Swift, who turned 19 on Dec. 19, was only 4 years old when Axl Rose started working on Chinese Democracy. Today, however, Swift, the cat-eyed, curly-haired singersongwriter, is the most popular music act in the country. Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers have the power of the 'tween marketplace and the mighty Disney behind them, but only two full-length albums into her career, Swift is challenging the rule that nobody makes rock stars anymore.
Swift is, of course, slotted as a country act and her first big hit, "Tim McGraw," reinforced that label. Among the many things that Fearless confirms, the foremost might be that the Pennsylvania-native Swift is navigating the broad waters of pop music. There's a banjo and fiddle here and there on Fearless, but the symphonic strings and general guitar uplift dominate.
You already know what Fearless is about - or maybe your favorite/closest teenager informed you in a breathless text message filled with exclamation points and all caps. Romance! Doomed romance! Being 15 and being crazy in love with Romeo even though of course it can't work out because he's a vampire - oh wait, that's something else.
Maybe you also already know that Swift's name is on all of these songs and that there are only five or so where the teenager shares credit with John Rich (of Big & Rich fame) and others. Maybe you've already decided that you love or hate this young, beautiful and now-rich singer-songwriter because of what you already know.
It's not likely that even Swift's biggest fans could tell from her low-key, mostly-acoustic, happy-to-be-here debut that the girl has a gift that translates to a bigger stage. That is to say, Fearless is about as tightly constructed and as hook-heavy as any pop record could be. The hits are certainly going to keep on coming after "Love Story" has its run on the charts.
While most of the early praise for the record has focused on Swift's sharp eye for detail (the nervous anticipation that comes with the first day of high school and the insanity that comes with young love), few have spoken about her voice. Although you can take it to the bank that Nashville's most expensive machines were applied to smooth out the edges, Swift is still able to convey the passion - the fragile feelings - that drives so many of these songs.
Taken as a whole, the great sweep of the production elevates Fearless, makes it more than a heartsick diary typed on perfumed resume paper. That's not to say that Swift's obsession over the fickle ways of young men doesn't start to wear.
The last song - the abstract, gospel-ish "Change" - isn't enough of a curve to break up the feel that too many of the tunes here are about the same thing with the same kind of tempo.
But even at 19 years old, Swift is smart enough to play to her strengths and her strengths are enough to make Fearless rich and satisfying in ways that few albums can match. Eat your heart out, Axl Rose. -- Arkansas Democrat Gazette, December 28, 2008
Taylor Swift hits all the right words on 'Fearless' * * * (out of four)
For the past decade, the term singer/songwriter has been liberally applied to hot young artists who rely on more experienced collaborators to hone their tunes, and to provide the savvy production that usually upstages the melody and lyrics anyway. But Swift cut her creative teeth in Nashville, where storytelling still matters; and for her sophomore album, Fearless, she wrote more than half the songs independently, and clearly had a big hand in the rest.
You just can't fake the kind of innocence and wonder that ring through the glowing title track and the moonstruck single Love Story, or the guileless urgency and unmannered precociousness marking more bittersweet songs such as Fifteen and White Horse.
Swift's grainy-sweet vocals have a similar freshness, even on the less memorable cuts. It's a pleasure to hear a gifted teenager who sounds like a gifted teenager, rather than a mouthpiece for a bunch of older pros' collective notion of adolescent yearning. -- Elysa Gardner -- USA Today, November 11, 2008
Taylor Swift, 'Fearless'
Nashville's hottest young star lives up the hype
By Andy Hermann Critic's Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5
The buzz: All Taylor Swift did with her self-titled debut album was sell three million copies, produce a pair of chart-topping singles ("Our Song" and "Should've Said No"), get nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy and win virtually every country music award a newcomer can get. Two years later, Nashville's teen phenom is now all of 18 and ready to show that her debut was no fluke.
The verdict: Swift is already a superstar in country music circles, but "Fearless" should catapult her to the top of the pop heap, as well. It's very nearly a flawless record, full of big-hearted anthems with catchy melodies, chiming, pop-radio guitars (and the occasional fiddle and banjo, as if to say, "Don't worry, I'm still a Nashville girl at heart") and disarmingly frank lyrics about being an average American kid with real-life hopes, dreams and dramas. On "Fifteen," she captures the wide-eyed excitement of dating older boys in high school, singing "he's got a car!" like it's the most exciting thing imaginable. "Hey Stephen" is an irresistibly sunny come-on of a love song; "The Best Day" miraculously manages to portray a happy childhood without getting cloying or sentimental; even lead single "Love Story," with its corny "Romeo and Juliet" references, is infused with so much sweetness and precocious wit that it's impossible not to get swept up in the song's surging chorus. Right from the get-go, it appeared that Swift's talent ran deep; on this record, she proves it, and then some.
Did you know? On the CMT show "Crossroads," Swift teamed up British pop-metal veterans Def Leppard to perform songs like "Photograph" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me." (The pairing is less odd than it sounds; the producer behind those classic `80s Def Leppard albums, John "Mutt" Lange, also produced hits for one of Swift's biggest influences, Shania Twain.) -- Metromix, November 10, 2008
Those who thought Taylor Swift was a big deal after the release of her first record should 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 of her second effort. The insightful "Fifteen" ("In your life you'll do greater things than dating a boy on the football team") will connect with teens looking for hope and with adult women looking back, while the sparse "White Horse" will appeal to anyone who's experienced love lost, which is to say, everyone. "Hey Stephen" ("All those other girls, they're beautiful but would they write a song for you") displays Swift's confident sense of humor, and "Breathe" (written with Colbie Caillat, who sings on the track) is a love-gone-wrong song suitable for women of all ages. -- Billboard Magazine, November 7, 2008
Twang Banger: Nashville blonde belts 13 more hits about driving around small towns with boys by Rob sheffield
Boys, boys! Won't you leave Taylor Swift alone? Can't you see the poor girl already has too many teardrops on her guitar? Too late--all over her fantastic second album, the country phenom gets bedeviled by the boyfolk, making the thrills and spills of a two-week teen romance sound as torchy as one of Patsy Cline's marriages. She is put together to fall apart, the kind of gal who applies her mascara with great care because she plans to cry it all off in the parking lot. In "Fearless," she wails about getting caught in the rain "in my best dress"--like she'd wear anything else to go ride around in a storm. This girl likes to make a scene.
Since she's only 18 and has been a hard-working full-time country megastar for the past two years, it's a marvel she has so much romantic roadkill under her wheels. But Swift has the personality and poise to make these songs hit as hard as gems like "Tim McGraw" and "Our Song" from her smash debut, and, once again, she wrote or cowrote them all. The music drives hard enough to keep up with her tingling pheromones--when she slows down for the drippy piano ballad "You're Not Sorry," she reminds you what a smart job she normally does of keeping the tempo jumping.
As for her boys--oh, the carnage. She makes mincemeat out of these hapless critters. She wipes her boots with boys who treat her kind and, uch, "talk business with my father" but don't get her hot ("That's the Way I Loved You"), and with boys who get her hot but don't treat her kind ("White Horse"). She even meets a boy who falls in love with a different girl ("She wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts/She's cheer captain, and I'm on the bleachers"), but rest assured, that doesn't happen often. "15" takes a big-sisterly tone to advise younger girls not to get hung up on marrying their freshman-year boyfriends, but that's as much adult restraint as Swift allows. In "Hey Stephen," she coos, "All those other girls, well they're beautiful/But would they write a song for you?" Not as good as these songs, that's for sure. -- Blender Magazine, December 2008
Why we care: There's never been a more cynical time in pop music, at least from a critic's point of view. Not only do we assume most Top 40 tartlets aren't doing their own singing -- we've accepted it, grading on cultural impact, art and integrity be damned. The 18-year-old Swift's pop-country pirouettes have all the weight of a dandelion crown, but she can sing and write a bit and flash a genuine smile. Ultimately, though, the Pennsylvania gal is one of the hottest things in music more for what she's not. Why we like it: With feet-on-dashboard beats and innocent guitar strums, Swift's sophomore helping of country fluff (see first single Love Story) details the kind of drama and heartbreak crescendo that can devastate a kid...at least until after recess. Her voice is strong when it has to be, wispy and lilty in those quiet times. She knows catchy, that's for sure.
Reminds us of: The star pupil at Faith Hill's Camp for Exceptional Blonds
Grade: B -- St. Petersburg Times, November 2008
by Chelsea Rae
Rarely today do you find such care taken in creating a full fledged album but Taylor has done just that. From album cover to final note every entity is Taylor. Fearless is an ambiance of sounds, symbols and colors all metonymic of Swift from her carefully chosen cover shot, heart shaped hand print on the CD itself and most of all the tantalizing lyrics everyone begs for more of. The digital diary begins with the album track "Fearless," a song about the best first date Taylor says she's never had. Swift has out done herself on the melodies backing this track as well as through out, you could play each song without the lyrics and still receive her message. Swift shows maturing in her writing and vocals but the subject line still remains the same, relationships. Not just with boys but those who are close to h er. On the second track Taylor sings about what it's like to be a freshman in high school in "Fifteen," the writing is so descriptive it takes you back to your own first day of high school. You feel yourself go through the rollercoaster of emotions you had once before all inside the 4:55 story. Best friend Abigail makes a lyrical cameo appearance in the line "...Sat down next to a red head named Abigail and soon enough we were best friends." The third track belongs to current #1 single "Love Story," this song is followed by a slew of ear candy and potential singles with, "Hey Stephen," "White Horse," and "You Belong With Me." "Hey Stephen," is as addicting as former smash hit "Our Song." If you aren't listening to it in the car you'll find yourself singing it to yourself constantly. "White Horse," has already received recognition on the season opening of Grey's Anatomy and has ideal soundtrack appeal. "You Belong With Me," is incredibly catchy a song that pokes fun at that "other gir l." Kansas fan Nickie Yardley 23, references the lyrics in saying "Her writing is so relatable cause I'm that t-shirt and sneaker wearing girl." The album makes a transition midway when the songs shift into lyrics of hurt and let down. Swift's seventh track "Breathe," was a collaborative effort with Grammy nominated Colbie Caillat whose vocals are also featured throughout. ITunes overnight success, "You're Not Sorry," suffices as Swift's darkest track to date as she calls out a former relationship. You can hear the hurt in her voice while she slides through the hook. The angst continues with songs "The Way I Loved You," and "Forever and Always," a dig at ex Joe Jonas. The album shifts gears once again on track twelve "The Best Day," This song is the most tender lyric and vocal on the entire record, a morsel of Taylor's childhood. Kentucky fan Allison Scott 18, could not have put it any better in saying "'The Best Day" is a heartfelt and touching ballad, that really pulls on my hear t as a daughter who adores her mother, when I listen to Swift's dulcet voice and the sound and tempo of the music." The song ties the album together, as it takes you through each fragment of Swift's life. The album comes full circle when it ends on "Change." This record is filled with lyrical genius Taylor created 8 of the 13 tracks all on her own a rarity by industry standard. "Fearless" has complete universal appeal, pigeon holing her into just Country does not do her craft justice, there is no genre just-Taylor. -- Today's Country Magazine