It feels like 2008 all over again. After having perhaps the most productive quarantine creative process with the albums folklore (2020) and evermore (2020), Taylor Swift started 2021 not by diving into a new era but by revisiting the past. Swift is re-recording her first six studio albums to own her music moving forward in her career. Because the master recordings of her first six albums are currently owned by the label Big Machine Records, Swift has decided to re-release her former projects, now as “Taylor’s Version.” While discussion of this endeavor has been underway for months, fans finally got a taste of the re-recording project on April 9 with the release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) (2021).
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) will undoubtedly send many into a nostalgic trip of embarrassingly dancing around their rooms while using a hairbrush as a microphone. The re-recorded album doesn’t have that many lyrical or instrumental changes compared to its 2008 counterpart. Nonetheless, as many Swifties know, Swift doesn’t make an announcement without at least some sort of curveball. The biggest surprise was the announcement of six previously unreleased songs, labeled as “From the Vault.” The Vault songs had been written during the Fearless era, but they ended up being scrapped from the original album. That doesn’t mean they aren’t iconic bops, though, and, honestly, it’s a wonder how Swift could withhold these incredible songs for over a decade.
So whether you’re a longtime Swiftie or a brand-new fan, this one’s for you: here is every single “From the Vault” song from Fearless (Taylor’s Version) ranked.
#6: “Bye Bye Baby”
It feels almost unfair to put this track at the bottom of the ranking because it is objectively a great song. “Bye Bye Baby” captures the energy that a lot of songs from the Fearless era had: being young and having your heart broken (set to incredible country instrumentals, of course). It also has some pretty memorable lyrics, especially the chorus line: “‘Cause you took me home, but you just couldn’t keep me.” That being said, one of them had to be at the bottom, and “Bye Bye Baby” is it: it’s not worth skipping, but it’s just not as iconic as the rest of the Vault songs.
This is probably one of my favorite Taylor Swift duets of all time. Swift collaborates with Keith Urban on a song dealing with the aftermath of a failed relationship. This is a classic case of Swift’s perfectly constructed musical dichotomies, where the instrumentals are really upbeat while the lyrics are actually sad, perhaps an attempt at mimicking the lyrics: “Sunny or stormy / Laughing, when I’m crying.”
At first, I admit that I was a bit dubious of the incomplete clause in the title. I looked at this, asking, “That’s when WHAT?” But let me tell you: it’s catchy. I haven’t been able to get the chorus out of my head for the past 48 hours, but that feels like the opposite of a problem.
#4: “Don’t You”
This is another great example of a song that deserves better, but I, unfortunately, cannot rank it higher. In retrospect, perhaps a Mean Girls splitting-Homecoming-queen-crown finale approach would have been better, but I digress. “Don’t You” describes running into an old lover, having flashbacks of your former relationship and the pain that it caused. It also perfectly captures the feeling of not wanting to be stuck in polite conversations with someone who caused you pain: “Don’t you say you’ve / Missed me if you don’t want me again.”
However, “Don’t You” sits at the bottom half of the Vault songs because, instrumentally, it lacks a bit of that heavier country so striking of the Fearless era. As much as I applaud its songwriting, part of me feels that it may have fit better in other albums like Speak Now (2010) or even Red (2012). It just doesn’t invoke the same nostalgia levels so prominently found in the Top 3 tracks.
Where do I even start? The small-town feel, the ultra-specific yet relatable storytelling, the soft country background instrumentals—everything about this song is perfect. “You All Over Me” easily evokes nostalgia by harking back to Swift’s sound from early on in her career, the country vibes that many still associate her with. The harmonies with Maren Morris make the chorus shine, but the real star is the songwriting in the verses, where Swift develops the story of a relationship that fell apart—or, more gut-wrenchingly yet, was “Never really meant to be.”
If that wasn’t enough to win you over, it has references to “Clean,” a track from her 1989 (2014) album: “No amount of freedom gets you clean.” Honestly, what’s not to love?
This track admittedly gets some bonus points for the hilarious drama behind it: similar to other Fearless tracks, “Mr. Perfectly Fine” is believed to be inspired by Swift’s relationship with Joe Jonas, her recent ex-boyfriend at the time. However, over a decade after writing the song, Swift released it, and fans now get the joy of watching Sophie Turner—who is married to Jonas—absolutely applauding a song that disses her husband (the entire exchange was quite wholesome).
Drama aside, “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” as Turner wrote on her Instagram, is “not NOT a bop.” It features even more stellar lyrics, and there are plenty of nods to songs spanning multiple Swift eras, such as “Tell Me Why,” “King of My Heart,” and “All Too Well.” However, it wins a spot so high up the list because it captures a very specific kind of nostalgia. Akin to “Forever and Always,” this is a track that my middle school self would have absolutely sung like a madwoman despite never having dated anyone, much less broken up with someone. It’s simply that powerful.
#1: “We Were Happy”
Similar to evermore’s “happiness,” this song makes me question if Swift knows what the word “happy” means. Reminiscent of Fearless track “White Horse,” “We Were Happy” is a slow country track detailing a relationship’s fallout. With some classic setting references to farms and porch lights, this track once again transports listeners to the iconic small-town feel of Swift’s 2008 era.
“We Were Happy” wins first place for more than just that though: it conveys an incredibly intricate, mature feeling. It honestly doesn’t get the hype it deserves. Unlike other Fearless breakup tracks, “We Were Happy” isn’t about someone who broke up with the narrator despite her protests or who just left her there. Instead, it’s about a relationship where the two were happy together, but the narrator just doesn’t love her significant other anymore. She mourns not only for their past together but also for the future they’ll never have: “And you were gonna marry me.” Honestly, it makes me tear up every time, and I know that my middle school self would have done the same.