By Anjali Dhanekula
Hello! I recently sent out a poll to the entire upper school asking which album you all wanted me to review next, and the most voted on albums were Reputation, Lover, and Folklore by Taylor Swift. Since she is personally a really big songwriting inspiration, I decided to change it up and give you my top three songs from every Taylor Swift album and why they are my favorite. She is an amazing storyteller and songwriter and has currently put out eight studio albums, so here are my opinions on her best songs. This ranking is a little bit long, so grab a snack and pull open Spotify or Apple music; let me know what your favorite songs are in the comments, and go give her stuff a listen while you check out my thoughts on each song!
Taylor Swift (Debut, Country):
- Our Song: This is one of the first Taylor Swift songs I’ve ever listened to and I grew up with it. It takes me back to when I was nine, screaming the lyrics in the backseat of the car. Now, I scream it while I’m driving. It’s some of her oldest work, and she actually wrote it for a talent show her freshman year of high school. It’s so catchy and I love the leadup to the chorus! I always have to sing it in her old country accent too.
- Picture to Burn: This song is one of my favorites! It has a really nice chorus and the melodies are really strong. It’s a classic angsty breakup song, and it’s so catchy! To me it sort of sounds like a bit of early Reputation era Taylor. There are classic country instruments and her iconic early southern accent really shines here.
- Cold As You: This track is one of the more emotional ones on the album, starting off the emotional “track 5” series. My favorite lyric is “You have a way of coming easily to me/ and when you take, you take the very best of me” and of course the title line, “I’ve never been anywhere as cold as you.” There’s piano, guitars, and drums: pretty much a classic country Taylor sound.
Fearless (Album Two, Country):
- You Belong With Me: How could I not put this one on the list?! This song was a cultural reset and the music video has over a billion views, rightfully so. This is the screaming into your hairbrush microphone at 3am in the morning kind of song and if you haven’t heard it, you need to go listen to it. Now.
- White Horse: Fun fact: Taylor wasn’t going to put this song on the album originally. But, after recording it, the producers of Taylor’s favorite show, Grey’s Anatomy, listened to it. It appeared on the show, and Taylor decided to put it on the album. This song talks about the fairytale of falling in love, but realizing that it’s not going to happen, The production is pretty sparse: drums, guitar, cello, and that’s one of the reasons I like it so much.
- Love Story: This song is also one of Taylor’s most popular songs and details a modern Romeo and Juliet love story. It’s a timeless scenario and Taylor tells the story effortlessly, her lyrics and melodies combining to make something magical. The production includes drums and guitars, the chorus can only be described as iconic.
Speak Now (Album Three, Country):
- Dear John: I love this song! The guitar starts off slow but the song soon builds with the emotion with added drums and layered guitars. This song is clearly about Taylor’s relationship with John Mayer and she so cleverly uses a guitar slurring, John-Mayer type riff throughout the song as a nod to that. The buildup to the chorus is seamless and once you take a closer look, the lyrics are packed with emotion: “I lived in your chess game, but you changed the rules everyday… You’re an expert at sorry, and keeping lines blurry. Never impressed by me acing your tests.”
- Sparks Fly: I like this song just because it’s fun and it’s a pretty universal feeling that most people can relate to: falling for someone you probably shouldn’t be falling for. She sings, “My mind forgets to remind me you’re a bad idea.” The chorus is really catchy, and I love the drums and guitar melodies in this song.
- Last Kiss: This song is a ballad that shows a really emotional side to Taylor. It’s a sort of nostalgic sadness as she reflects on a relationship that she never thought would end. It’s rumored to be about Joe Jonas and the intro is 27 seconds long which could symbolize the 27-second long breakup phone call with Joe Jonas. My favorite lyric is “All that I know is I don’t know how to be something you miss.”
Red (Album Four, Pop/Country):
- All Too Well: This song is known for being one of Taylor Swift’s best songs and it’s for good reason. It details picking up the pieces after a heartbreak, and all I can say is you need to go listen to it!
- Red: This track is about the different sides and colors to a relationship and how it can be both the best thing in the world and the worst thing in the world. Taylor uses a lot of similes and metaphors in this song. It’s the title track to her album and compares colors to different feelings of being in love. She does a great job of centering the song around a color and telling a story of the versatility of red.
- 22: This song is one of the first pop sides we see of Taylor and it is such a bop! This song is just really catchy and fun, and I love singing it in the car. It starts with a catchy guitar riff and quick beat and builds into the chorus with a melody that always gets stuck in my head.
1989 (Album 5, Pop):
- Out Of The Woods: This song is a snapshot of the anxiety and excitement in a new relationship. Taylor repeats “Are we out of the woods yet” and “Are we in the clear yet” throughout the chorus to symbolize the overthinking and anxiety of not knowing if a relationship is going to make it. It is rumored to be about Taylor’s short relationship with Harry Styles. Taylor told a fan once that it was her favorite song on 1989, and it’s mine too.
- Blank Space: For most of her life, Taylor Swift has been portrayed as a “serial dater” by the media. In this song, she takes a hold of that persona and brings a character to life. The lyrics really embody the character she is playing and tells a story and one of the most iconic lines is “darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” The synths in the background are typical to her 1989 sound. The music video has over 2 billion views and it is one of her most popular songs, certified platinum.
- I Know Places: This track is about the hiding from the paparazzi, something Taylor is well versed in. In it, Taylor tells her lover, “I know places we won’t be found and they’ll be chasing their tails trying to track us down.” The song starts off with a camera click and Taylor singing I-I-I-I, which can be interpreted as stuttering after being caught by the paparazzi. The transition from the pre-chorus to the chorus is really nice and I love the background synths.
Reputation (Album 6, Pop):
- Call It What You Want: The lyrics in this song are some of my favorite, and it’s so clearly a love song based on Taylor’s life. She talks about how when the rest of the world turned their backs on her, she had this person to make it ok. I love when she sings, “My castle crumbled overnight. I brought a knife to a gunfight. They took the crown but it’s alright.” There are many lyric parallels between this song and Love Story, showing that Taylor finally got her happy ending.
- I Did Something Bad: Inspired by Game of Thrones, this song explores Taylor’s newer, trapish sound on Reputation. Complete with plucky synths and bass drops it’s very different from country Taylor, but it’s just as good if not better! The leadup to the chorus is amazing and the post-chorus is one of my favorite parts. The live performance is absolutely incredible, and I wish I could have experienced it.
- Don’t Blame Me: In this song, Taylor compares love to a drug. It’s a mid-tempo track with echos and dark synths in the background production. It seems to be very inspired by Take me to Church by Hoizer. The chorus is my favorite part: “Don’t blame me, love made me crazy. If it doesn’t you ain’t doing it right. Lord save me, my drug is my baby. I’ll be using for the rest of my life.”
Lover (Album 7, Pop):
- Death By A Thousand Cuts: This is, in my opinion, Taylor’s best written breakup song. In it, she plays off of the phrase “death by a thousand cuts” comparing a bad breakup to a slow death. It was inspired by the movie, Someone Great. The imagery in the chorus is just incredible: “I look through the windows of this love, even though we boarded them up” and I love love love the bridge! I think that this bridge is one of the best bridges Taylor has ever written.
- Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince: Here, Taylor goes back to her roots, grounding this song in an American high school. However this time, she uses high school as a metaphor for politics. She references how high school can be a place where people can feel alienated and compares that to the political landscape. The synths she uses create an atmosphere of uncertainty about what’s to come and the bridge is very clever in that she uses a high school cheerleading chant, “Go! Fight! Win!” to show hopefulness and optimism for the future.
- Lover: This is one of Taylor’s favorite songs on the Lover album, and I really like it too. It takes on a wedding-like perspective of her and Joe Alwyn’s relationship with heavy piano and slow drums. This bridge is my favorite part and I love the lyric, “With every guitar-string scar on my hand, I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover.” It reached #1 on the US iTunes charts and is Taylor’s 35th song to do so.
Folklore (Album 8, Alternative):
- Cardigan: This song is so well-written! Some of the best lyrics include, “you drew stars around my scars, but now I’m bleeding” and “I knew you, leaving like a father, running like water.” The simple production with piano supports Taylor’s voice and her amazing storytelling in this song about a long lost love and young romance. In my opinion, it’s her best lead single.
- Seven: For some reason, this song just clicks with me. I don’t know whether it’s the melody, the production, or the lyrics, but everything just comes together in this song for me. It seems to be about looking back on childhood and old memories. It’s a beautiful folk-song, and my favorite lyric is, “and just like a folk song, our love will be passed on.” It’s so serene and calm and is one of my favorite songs by Taylor.
- The 1: In this song, Taylor uses her amazing storytelling to detail a remembrance of lost loves, It’s clearly very folk inspired, and the production is very simple, just including a piano, soft drum track, and a couple other soft synths. Taylor reminisces over what could have been, and what would have happened if this person was “the 1.” My favorite lyric is “But we were something, don’t you think so?/ Roaring twenties, tossing pennies in the pool,” and I love the opening melody.
- Teardrops On My Guitar
- Better Than Revenge
- State of Grace
- New Romantics
- This Love
- Cornelia Street
- Paper Rings
- The Last Great American Dynasty