Fearless Platinum Edition: Audio

Why Fearless Again? Why Not.

You probably pre-ordered your copy of Fearless Platinum Edition from Amazon.com like I did.

Amazon probably e-mailed you a coupon for this album because the industrious goods-search-engine instinctively knows how much you love Taylor Swift.

So, when you received the new Fearless album with six previously unreleased recordings at work last week, you probably threw up your hands and yelled Hallelujah at a volume for your entire office suite to hear. Alarmed by your exclamation, they asked, “What’s the good news? Are you getting married or are you pregnant or did you get a new job or all of the above?” You waved the silver, black, and blonde CD in their direction and slowly retreated to the corner of your cubicle, your headphones tangled in white knots.

Am I right?

… It doesn’t matter if I’m right. Keep reading.

Fearless Platinum features five new tracks and one re-vision of an original Fearless song, “Forever and Always.” This is a big deal. Can you think of any artist who’s so graciously re-packaged his/her/their album with new music only one year after the original release? And a DVD with all kinds of visual goodies on it? I can’t.

On the inside cover of the CD booklet, there’s a handwritten note from Taylor. It begins:

First and foremost, thank you for buying the Fearless Platinum Edition. When I put out Fearless, I had high hopes and no expectations. A short time later, I sit here, trying to think of words that might fully express to you how thankful I am.

Is she nuts? Fearless is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard in my life. Believe it or not – other people agree with me. The note continues to describe the songs she’s included in the platinum edition, but I’ll tell you about that.

The Quintessential Taylor Swift

Two songs strike me as through-and-through Taylor Swift-ies: “Jump Then Fall” and “The Other Side of the Door.”

The album opens with “Jump Then Fall,” solely written by Taylor, (which, were I to re-organize this album, would not come first). It has the positive energy that seeps through jaunty guitar playing and Taylor’s pretty voice singing

I like the way you sound in the morning

We’re on the phone and without a warning

I realize your laugh is the best sound I have ever heard

Love it. Live it. This is Taylor Swift. Don’t mistake her gushing as some romantic teenager’s vision of love. She sees what’s beautiful in the world and infuses her music with her view.

I might argue that “The Other Side of the Door,” the other totally-Taylor (and totally written by her) newbie to Fearless, is actually the best song on the CD. It reminds me of everything that’s great about Taylor’s music: a laidback banjo-beat, earnest delivery of lyrics, brazenly honest self-portrait as someone who’s difficult in love:

I said leave, but all I really want is you

To stand outside my window throwing pebbles

Screaming I’m in love with you

What do I love best about this song? It has so much Taylor imagery: “throwing pebbles” (from “Love Story”), “that little black dress” (from “Tim McGraw), ” slamming door” (from “Our Song”), “pouring rain” and even “faded picture of a beautiful night” (from “Fearless”), “beautiful eyes” (from “Teardrops on My Guitar”) and possibly more.

Tried a Little Tenderness

At the center of her additions to Fearless is a mass of tenderness so stark your heart all but melts as you listen to her sweet voice move across bars supported by banjo and guitar strumming.

Take “Forever and Always,” for instance. A song that once felt angst-driven is now stripped down to delicate vocals and piano, with harmonizing voices weaving through the chorus.

It isn’t a song about a girl on the brink of revenge. It’s raw, in the midst of heartbreak and betrayal. We’re with her at the center of an emotional mess much deeper than the quicker, louder parent version of the song might betray.

Second on the CD, the less memorable “Untouchable,” co-written with a handful of others, similarly penetrates this mushy tender place behind the strong exterior often associated with Taylor’s persona. Slower and accented with steel guitar shimmers, this song lacks the tightly wound narrative and line-by-line perfection characteristic of the bulk of Fearless. Yet there’s a lulling, dream-like quality to it that has definitely made the wait between tracks one and three manageable.

A Lot More Country (Than I Expected)

Although her roots are in Nashville’s scene, Taylor is perceived as not-quite-country by many.

She doesn’t write songs about NASCAR. Give her a break.

“Come in With the Rain” and “Superstar” have distinctively country vibes. Steel guitar, strings, banjo, and the staccato rhythms of the verses followed by a long sway of choruses create the right kind of tension to at least give the impression she isn’t the pop star US Weekly wants her to be.

In “Come in With the Rain,” co-written by Liz Rose of “White Horse” fame, she sings:

Talk to the wind, talk to the sky

Talk to the man with the reasons why

And let me know what you find

Read these lines in your head or aloud. Take in their simple poetry that reminds you of so many “real” country songs you’ve heard.

“Superstar,” which is also co-written by Liz Rose, totally blows my mind. It’s a beautiful song, yes, but the lyrics truly define what sets Taylor Swift apart from her contemporaries. She’s singing about a superstar–not herself:

So dim that spotlight, tell me things like I can’t take my eyes off of you

I’m no one special, just another wide eyed girl who’s desperately in love with you

Give me a photograph to hang on my wall


Who does this? Taylor Swift is the definition of Superstar, yet she’s willing to show us that she’s like us–I mean, like me–the unflappable fan who can only admire the larger-than-life performer from afar; the person who sees herself as so much smaller and as “no one special” in comparison to the singer on stage.

On every album, in every song, Taylor Swift is showing her listener that she’s the same as anyone at the other end of the headphones. She’d never see it any differently.

If you haven’t used your Amazon coupon to buy Fearless Platinum, I suggest you use it today, at this very moment.



She is and it is.

After the villain stole her crown, the fairy godmother returned it to her, unfettered and pristine. The fairy godmother stepped back to watch the princess take her bow. No better ending than that, right?

Kanye West and his alcohol swagger stepped onstage to burst the bubble of my favorite Queen of Universal Appeal. But Taylor Swift’s got class. Though crestfallen she was, as Goody Bathtub said, and tears did fall on her guitar backstage, she changed her dress and got down what she does best: enthralling her fans.

And I’ll admit. Kanye was right. Beyonce had a better video (but she won the big prize, didn’t she?). “Single Ladies” bears iconic status. It features the dance everyone wants to learn, here (Joe Jonas), here (vomitous), and here (adorable).

Have you watched “You Belong With Me” (below)? Taylor plays both the wallflower/blonde and the cheer captain/brunette. What’s she telling us? You can be anyone. You have choices and potential greater than high school (and beyond) categories. To the ‘tween, no matter who you are, you can feel confident in belting out “you belong with me” and declare it through sharpie-drawn copy paper.  Full disclosure: I believe Taylor Swift is behind the brains of all of her brilliance–the shows, the incredible songs, the music videos, everything.

This video transcends brilliant. Kanye should watch it some time. Even if he doesn’t, he should realize that for Taylor, the VMAs doesn’t have to be a big deal. She’s nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Awards. That is a big deal. Much bigger than my moon man and MTV. And yet, it’s clear, this acknowledgment is dear to her.

Yet, the fact that Taylor, whose roots are still deep in Nashville, won this category speaks to her universal appeal. I was impressed with MTV. More, I am impressed with the artists seated at the VMAs last night who booed Kanye; with Pink who talked shit about him on Twitter; with the ladies of The View who will have Taylor as a guest Tuesday morning; with the newscasters who said, “Isn’t this a shame? How could he do this to that young, talented Taylor Swift?” when there are 100 other worldly topics they might discuss; and, of course, it is the response from average people (you, reader) who have risen up in comment spots to claim that no one should steal Taylor’s, anyone’s thunder–this impresses and delights me.

I am overwhelmed by the class displayed by Taylor and Beyonce. The one and only Beyonce’s staggering professionalism totally caught me off guard. Her invitation to Taylor was unprecedented (maybe it wasn’t, sure argue with me). She accepted her award then allowed a newer, younger artist to have the moment she deserves, a moment that Beyonce, perhaps, recalled. Bravo!

And Taylor. Bigger than moon man and New York City and MTV. Yet she is utterly gracious. So eager to be accepted by all of us–a theme of her music–no matter what the award or venue; backwoods West Virginia crowd or Madison Square Garden’s; innocent, admiring blogger or magazine reporter who tirelessly bangs upon the brick wall subject of her personal life. It doesn’t matter who we are. She wants us with her–singing her songs, screaming her name, squealing and screeching until certain deafness.

That’s what separates her from the other people on the stage last night. She isn’t expecting it or us at all. She is surprised every time. And even those of us who aren’t familiar with her music or don’t care for it, we instinctively sense this about her.

Watch this video of her performance at the VMAs. At the end, she stands on a taxi cab for the final chorus of the song. Anyone can tell she’s having the time of her life and so are the fans around her. But any time she sings, the fans will always behave this way. The thing is, so will Taylor. That’s what makes her special. She’s real, y’all.

Show Me yr Love Tattoo. I’ll Show you Mine.


Love Tattoo

Imelda May embraces the rhythm.

Imelda May embraces the rhythm.

At first glance, it’s her hair that strikes you. Then, her wardrobe. Intrigued by a sexy blast from the past.

But it’s her voice you want to hear.

She hails from Ireland, yet betrays no accent in her raspy, finite delivery of lyrics. If only Imelda May would cross the Atlantic, she could be the next Taylor Swift of blues-rockabilly-jazz.

OK. Not Taylor Swift. Consider this: a little bit of Michael Buble’s take on “Save the Last Dance for Me,” a tinge of Ella Fitzgerald’s lazy jazz voice, and the full-blown intensity of Christina Aguilera at the height of her anthems. Don’t be misled by my comparison–Imelda May is a much greater sum of these parts (and others). As her MySpace profile describes, her music is unique.

It’s a Love Story

Love Story, indeed–if it comes in the shape of a tattoo. Her album Love Tattoo is a mixture of upbeat hip-shakers crossed with slower blues-y songs. She’s at her best at quicker rhythms where her vocal ferocity blows you away. “Smotherin’ Me,” “Wild About My Lovin'” and “Love Tattoo” are favorites!

In this video, Imelda May and her band perform two tracks from Love Tattoo: a faster-than-recorded version of “Johnny Got a Boom Boom” (hotness) and “Falling in Love With You Again,” a slower, simple romantic song (heart-melting, for sure).

May also has a great musical arrangement across the board. In particular, “Big Bad Handsome Man,” a sultry number, features a trumpet solo and a piano line that acts as a rhythmic skeleton–I’m surprised I’m not dancing across the room with my laptop as I type this. I’m definitely impressed by the quality of instrumental performances on this album.

Another Album to Burn

“Knock 123” and other slower songs drag down the record. Though delicate piano solos delight the ears, the somnolent bass line is too slow, too boring.

You could say the lyrics are predictable. If you know how to rhyme, most songs contain predictable lyrics, right?

Tied Together With (or Without) a Smile

Imelda May is awesome. Check her out on MySpace, Facebook, and in the UK (apparently).

Imelda May
Love Tattoo
Buy it here!

Taylor’s “Fearless” Ukulele


Fine. Go ahead. Joke about how this 25 year-old “adult” adores a tweeny country-pop singer. Ha ha.

Sure, like I said, I was a foot taller than all the other Taylor Swift fans in West Virginia. I’m hoping the demographic is slightly more vertically developed this time around. But even if they’re troll-sized again, I’ll stand proud among them. Taylor Swift’s talent has captured my heart.

This week, I’ll write about Taylor as songwriter and consider her/her work in relation to her contemporary peers and our old time faves, like Loretta Lynn.

Today, Taylor’s talented because she plays the ukulele. (And because she’s sweet.)

Check out title track “Fearless” on ukulele below.

Don’t you love her little accent? Her storytelling? Her ability to circumvent legal contracts by playing a uke instead of a guitar*?

Me too. Bring on the trolls.

*Aren’t the other folks up there playing guitar? On the same song? Wily one, that Taylor Swift.

Countdown to Taylor at Penn State


On August 29, Small Hands and I are going to see Taylor Swift at the Bryce Johnson Theater at Penn State University.

“Isn’t that far from New York, Nicole?” you might ask. “Why not see her locally?”

If you knew anything at all, you’d realize that her Madison Square Garden Show sold out in one minute. Plus, I like states that aren’t New York or New Jersey.

Last month, Small Hands and I saw Taylor at the Civic Center at Charleston, West Virginia. And the show was the best I’ve ever seen.

It’s a Love StoryIMG00173

First of all, the opening acts–Gloriana (a bestseller on iTunes somehow) and Kellie Pickler (of … Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader fame)–exceeded my wildest imaginations. Gloriana’s harmonic styles reminded me of Fleetwood Mac’s flawless tightness. Kellie Pickler, who played for about 40 minutes–man, she has one hell of a voice. If you ever get the chance to see her live, do. If she can’t add or read a map, she can definitely sing.

(Kellie and Taylor are BFFs. In the linked video above, Kellie sings “Best Days of Your Life,” a song Taylor co-wrote with Kellie. Taylor’s in the video, too. Also, Kellie is totes adorable. Watch it!)

Now for Taylor.IMG00181 Two hour set. Everything off Fearless, her latest album, except for “The Best Day,” a song dedicated to her mom. She played the favorites from her debut self-titled smash hit album and saved “Should’ve Said No” for last–an extended performance ending with a rainstorm on stage, leaving Taylor’s long, blond, wavy hair matted to her narrow frame.

I couldn’t count all the costume changes.

Because Small Hands is so generous and wonderful, she bought us tickets on the floor of the venue, granting us easy access to Taylor as she played several songs, “Fifteen” among them, from a rotating elevated platform at the rear of the floor seating area. (Linked video features Miley Cyrus.)  She came down into the audience and hugged the twitching, tweeting (I’m sure) tweens who gathered in the aisle as she made her rounds. I even touched her hair. An electrifying moment.IMG00187

She totally bashed Joe Jonas without saying his name. We knew she meant to say, “He’s incredibly fug and I’m totally not.” She didn’t have to. We were all on the same page.

I can’t tell you what the best part of the show was because every moment was incredible. On second thought, it may have been that blinding glisten from her sparkling guitar.

Another Overpriced Tour T-Shirt to Burn

With Taylor, there were no problems. Only the fans. And it mostly had to do with my inferiority complex about standing at least one foot taller than 90% of the audience (including Small Hands; sorry, dear).

Tied Together With (or Without) a Smile

Way, way smile.

Can’t wait to share with you the next show.

*Note: I don’t really know how to “count” days for countdowns. Does the day of the event count as 0 or 1? Neither seems completely logical to me. I need an informative Mary Roach footnote–or subject matter–instead of my rambling lack of counting accountability.