In high school, I enjoyed being different.
I dressed up my private school uniform with my dad’s ties and heels, read obsessively, and eschewed the Jonas Brothers.
I most certainly did not loooove Taylor Swift when she burst onto the scene. I did secretly relate to “Fifteen” when it came out, even though I was actually 14 (shhh).
But now, years later in our shared transplant city of Nashville/Franklin, I have finally reached the higher echelons of T-Swift fandom. I find myself listening to albums or Taylor Swift radio at random, getting in touch with my inner romantic. So here are my picks, starting with songs that *almost made the cut.
Honorable Mentions: “Tim McGraw”/ “Hey Stephen”/ “State of Grace”
When you listen to as much Taylor as I did while writing this, it all sort of starts to sounds the same. While I like all of these songs, they are sort of unremarkable in that they fall into the same anthology as a couple of my other favorites, without the catchiness.
10. “Delicate,” Reputation
I watched the music video for this song for the first time while writing this. It made me uncomfortable. This song is about the anxious inner dialogue we have when a relationship is in the first stages: “Sometimes I wonder when you sleep/ Are you ever dreaming of me?/ Sometimes when I look into your eyes/ I pretend you’re mine all the damn time.” This song is also a reaction to being in the public eye for so long, and her reputation as a date ’em and write about ’em kinda gal.
Let me just get this out of the way: “Reputation” was an album I listened to a lot in 2017 and 2018, because it couples supremely catchy beats with Swift’s traditionally great writing. Simply put, it’s a great workout album. I don’t think any of the songs from this album have the staying power of some of her earliest hits, though. Ask me to redo this list in a decade, maybe.
9. “End Game,” Reputation
Here we’ve got Future, T-Swift, and even Ed Sheeran, the king of sad songs, rapping. I dig it though, because it has a lot of swagger. Given Swift’s reputation as a nice girl, her pivot to badass girl power anthems provides an stark contrast from earlier works. But hey, us nice girls can be badasses, too! The sports metaphors are also perfect for my workout playlist. Not her most creative songwriting, though.
“Big reputation, big reputation
Ooh, you and me would be a big conversation
Ah, and I heard about you (yeah)
Ooh, you like the bad ones, too”
8. “Breathe,” Fearless
A song that could apply to your first breakup as easily as your tenth, heartbreak filters through Taylor’s youthful voice. Even as she realizes that, “people are people and sometimes we change our mind,” she acknowledges the pain. Swift is steadied by Colbie Caillat here on backup vocals.
“And we know it’s never simple, never easy/Never a clean break, no one here to save me /You’re the only thing I know like the back of my hand.”
7. “Everything Has Changed,” Red
This song is about wanting to know a new love better. The infatuation comes through (“I just wanna know you better, know you better, know you better now”), but there’s a grateful longing to this song as well (“All I know is you said hello/So dust off your highest hopes”). Swift is joined in this song by Ed Sheeran, who keeps trying trying to follow her footsteps into pop princess territory.
6. “All Too Well,” Red
This song was ranked as her best by Rolling Stone‘s Rob Sheffield in his overwhelming ranking of all her songs. While it doesn’t make it into my top three, it is, as he described it, anthemic. It’s the breakup song that hits you with memories of all the good times. Plus, who among us doesn’t think about that item of clothing their ex still has? (RIP to my grey sweat pants).
5. “Clean,” 1989
Tay Tay knows the stages of a breakup, and this song is about the moment you realize you’ve moved past someone you used to care about.
“In the morning/Gone was any trace of you/ I think I am finally clean.”
The opening here reminds me of plinking raindrops; the cool effects and backup vocals are thanks to multi-talented Brit Imogen Heap, who also co-wrote the song with Swift.
4. “Begin Again,” Red
“He didn’t like it when I wore high heels/But I do,” Swift croons in the opening line. Same, sister. She has said this song is about opening up on a first date after the demise of a bad relationship, and there’s a beautiful vulnerability that comes through in lyrics like this:
“I’ve been spending the last eight months thinking all love ever does is break, and burn, and end/ But on a Wednesday, in a cafe, I watched it begin again.”
The simplicity of the sentiment is relatable, and why T-Swift has garnered a legion of Swifties.
3. “Shake It Off,” 1989
Behold, the dawning of a new era of Taylor! Addictive beats and self-satirization with an underlying message: do your own thing, and forget about the haters. I’ll admit, when this song hit the soundswaves in late summer of 2014, it brought me back around to Taylor Swift and became my official anthem at the time. Not everyone was so happy with her departure from more of a country sound, but for this track, it was ok.
2. “You Belong with Me,” Fearless
It’s hysterical to me that Taylor would ever even THINK about a boy who couldn’t see he belonged with her (I mean, have you seen her?). Nonetheless, she describes what all us normies have experienced: you like someone, you belong together (!) but they just can’t see it! No, I’m not talking about the plot of a horror movie; it’s the song!
Jokes aside, I love this song because I have always related to it. It’s the pining for someone who is just out of your reach.
Though this is hands-down the best Swift music video of all time, it was a close runner-up in my rankings.
1. “Our Song,” Taylor Swift
If you’re considering it an indictment that I’m choosing a song off her first album as my favorite, don’t. This is quintessential, first-era T-Swift: twangy guitar, brilliant lyrics, fantastic hook. In the music video, Tay Tay plays dress up in a funny montage of scenes. It reminds me of the sweet innocence of a first high school boyfriend (y’know, if I’d had a boyfriend in high school). More than a decade after I first heard it, it makes me smile and turn up the radio to sing (read: screech) along.
Dishonorable mention: “Love Story,” Fearless
I have always disliked this song. If you can imagine yourself in that front seat of his car in “Our Song,” no one can actually relate to being the girl in “Love Story.” Saccharine lyrics are compounded by a ridiculous music video, in which a Swift clad in Victorian era garb sneaks around with her Victorian beau. Her daddy tells him to stay away from her, but then we jump to him talking to her dad and telling her to go pick out a white dress. They sure resolved that quickly! And what’s with the mixed metaphors? (“You were Romeo/I was the Scarlet Letter.”) It didn’t help that I heard this song around the time we were reading “Romeo and Juliet” in English class. We all know how that Love Story ended!
What do you think? What are your favorite T-Swift songs? Do you prefer the old Taylor or the new Taylor better?
Click here for a link to the Spotify playlist with my top songs.