“You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift

This was one of the biggest hits from Swift’s Grammy-winning sophomore album Fearless, which ranks as her first real masterpiece and had a major role in revitalizing the Pop album as an art form. This is also the song that initially led this author into his current devotion to Ms. Swift’s music: I’m not ashamed to admit that the thing that first drew my interest to her was when this song was being played over a restaurant’s sound system and I caught a particular succinct and skillful bit of character-establishing shorthand in the space of two lines: “She wears short skirts/I wear T-shirts”.

The original recording was admittedly less than perfect, though. The Pop-Country production was very ‘of its time’, shall we say: it sounds seriously dated today, and even at the time it gave this fresh-faced, innocent love song more of a homogenized ‘bubblegum’ feel than it needed, resulting in a lot of critics both professional and amateur underestimating its deceptively sophisticated songwriting for many years.

The song’s other problem was that Swift hadn’t really come into her own as a vocalist at the time it was originally recorded, and her performance can admittedly be a little shrill in places.

Fortunately, both problems have been neatly solved on the recent re-recording of the Fearless album. They gave this song a new, more sophisticated production that flatters its songwriting style much more and seems likely to age better as well, and Swift’s vocals have immensely improved during the intervening years, leading to a much smoother and more subtle vocal performances with none of the shriller notes heard on the original recording.

In short, any plausible complaint that could be made about the original song has been corrected by the new recording. Along with the autobiographical retrospective “Fifteen”, this is probably the song that has gained the most from the re-recording process, and it seems likely to command far more respect from the critical community in the future.

Verdict: Extremely good even in the original version, but damned near perfect on the re-recording.

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