Shout! Factory // 2011 // 131 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 20th, 2011
The ultimate live Taylor Swift experience.
The swiftness (pun intended) of Taylor Swift's rise to superstardom is nothing short of amazing. Swift was a virtual unknown a few years ago. Three albums, multiple Grammy awards, nearly a dozen hit singles and many sold out concerts later and Swift is now one of the hottest musical artists walking the planet. She has also done the near impossible by crossing over from country (the genre she rode in on) to popular music. It's hard to turn on the radio without hearing her songs pumping through the airwaves.
Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless is a half concert/half documentary about the young ingénue's rise to stardom from her humble beginnings. From a young age Swift knew that she wanted to be in front of an audience. Her tenacity and determination to make it big eventually took her and her supportive family to Nashville where she found a record deal on a popular label but walked away so she could make music on "her terms," which is all the more shocking considering it was when she was in her teens. Swift eventually produced her first album, whose sales slowly climbed the chart, and she hasn't looked back since. The rest, as they say, is history...or considering her age, history in the making.
Fans of Swift will surely find a lot to like in Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless. The program's set list is filled with Swift's most popular hits including her breakthrough single "Tim McGraw" and other smash hits that have garnered the young singer a fervent following. The concert portion of this disc -- intercut with interviews and home video footage -- features a lavish stage with Taylor donning multiple outfits and performing the following songs:
"You Belong to Me"
"Teardrops on my Guitar"
"Today was a Fairy Tale"
"Tell Me Why"
"Forever & Always"
"Picture to Burn"
"Should've Said No"
The concert performances on this disc are far, far more entertaining than the documentary and interviews. Swift has a very magnetic stage presence and her voice sounds very good, which is somewhat surprising considering all the flack she got about her live gigs on national television. Sometimes the action complimenting the songs gets a little too corny and ham-fisted (during one song of longing she sings to an actual boy sitting at a school desk), but hey -- it's popular teen music so what do you expect?
While Swift's story is mildly interesting, it's not enough to round out a really fascinating picture of the singer. Due to her age and limited years on the earth it stands to reason that Swift hasn't lived long enough to have much of a back story. While I certainly hope she never has to go through multiple divorces or drug rehab stints, she could use a few more years (i.e., give her a decade) under her belt before a truly fascinating biographical picture can be made. As it stands, Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless features interviews with Swift, her parents, producers, friends and even her BFF (whom she wrote the song "Fifteen" about).
At times I felt this documentary came precariously close to being a bit too self-congratulatory of Swift's accomplishments. While I take nothing away from her success, a lot of time is spent talking about how she was the opening act for superstars, how many awards she has, how pensive and thoughtful her music is, etc. While I'm sure Swift is a very nice young lady, "humbleness" isn't a trait that shines brightly during this film. Heck, just the title of the movie -- "journey to fearless" -- makes it sound like Swift has overcome all human fear and crossed over to some multi dimensional plane of elated existence none of us knew even existed.
But I digress...
Even though I'm not the demographic for this disc, I can still appreciate Swift's bubblegum, angsty pop music and the role it plays in fans (especially girl's) lives. The music is catchy but innocuous, well produced but without large amounts of substance (or at least substance that will allow it to become anything other than disposable music). She makes for a perfect teen idol and this documentary and concert gives her fans a good idea of what it's like to walk in her shoes (or at least gives a bit of background as to where those shoes came from). It's not to everyone's tastes but is recommended to anyone who's ever sang along to "Teardrops on my Guitar" in their car.
Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless is presented in 1.78:1/1080i high definition. The video transfer here is generally very good, save for moments that are culled together from older stock footage or home videos. The concert portions of the disc are where the visuals really stand out -- Swift's lighting and set designs look stunning in high definition. The colors are faithfully represented and the interview segments look good (if not overly impressive). Overall Shout! Factory has done a great job on this disc which should persuade Swift fans to add this to their music Blu-ray collections.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. This sound mix is going to blow the roof off of your teenager's room, so make sure you have the remote control safely in hand. The 5.1 mix is bombastic and room shaking when needed, making this one of the better concert experiences out there. Swift's tunes come in loud and clear; surround sounds are aggressive and utilized often (the cheer of the crowd sounded awesome on my system). All in all this is a fantastic presentation of Swift's music. Also included are English subtitles.
Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless is a worthwhile trip for fans of the
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Taylor Swift