Taylor Swift shot to stardom by mining her real-life heartbreaks for poppy country hits, and she's not messing with the formula on her second album. "I just wrote songs about what I like to write about, which is boys," she says. Working again with producer Nathan Chapman, Swift spent nearly eight months in Nashville studios recording 50-plus new songs, from which she picked Fearless' 13 tracks. The banjo-plucked first single, "Love Story," is a modern Romeo and Juliet tale, and the uptempo "You Belong With Me" is about watching her best friend date a snobby popular girl ("It's a terrible movie that I lived a lot in high school," she says). Colbie Caillat sings on "Breathe," and Martina McBride's kids lend finger snaps to "Hey Steven," an upright-bass-propelled groove inspired by a quickie crush. The one track that isn't about the 18-year-old's love life is "Change," a spunky pop song inspired by her career: It begins with a frustrated star-to-be struggling to get her music out on a small label and ends with gorgeous, triumphant "hallelujah" choruses. "I finished the song after I won the CMA Horizon Award," Swift says. "I'm happy the song got to end the way it ended."
This is a story from the October 2, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone.