Taylor Swift’s decade of success can’t be a fluke. Some folks allow their enemies to live rent-free in their minds, but Taylor Swift uses hers to pay the rent. While Swift’s own sensitivity may come at the expense of her well-being at times, her keen understanding of emotions help people understand feelings they can’t narrate themselves. She’s been accused in the past of only writing breakup songs, but combing through her entire body of work proves that she can write at least 50 different types of love and other types of songs, easily. She’s written about a bereaved mother and her son, a septuagenarian husband and wife and an eccentric multi-hyphenate musician, to name a few.
Following the release of Swift’s new Netflix documentary Miss Americana, directed by Lana Wilson, we took on the nearly impossible task of ranking Swift’s every song. Our residential Swiftie, Jane Song, compiled and ranked every song in her discography—including cuts from her seven LPs, her takes on holiday classics, covers, duets and features on other artists’ songs, like John Mayer. Assistant music editor Ellen Johnson also contributed blurbs. Without further ado, here is every single Taylor Swift song, ranked.
This is one of the most vague songs in Swift’s catalogue with an arbitrarily expensive music video budget that should have been used to make a bunch of remixes of “Clean” or something. There’s something just incredibly grating about the drawn-out vowels of “baaAAd blood,” and the extra stab of “really deep cuuUUt” that makes me wish the song hadn’t been released as a single, even with Kendrick’s verse. —J.S.
“Silent Night” was arranged in the weirdest key. I cannot in good faith recommend this one for your holiday playlist. —J.S.
I listened to this once because I like her, but I’m not going to ever listen to it again if I can help it. It’s definitely dramatic, but also a pleasure to see Taylor’s theatre kid energy popping out. —J.S.
The Estate of Taylor Swift will collect royalties from cruise ships and children’s birthday parties for the rest of the millennium with this one. Imagine writing a song that fits an aesthetic so well that people literally thought this was written for The Secret Life of Pets 2. Taylor Swift has talked about the constant pressure to evolve and grow as an artist and with each album (most recently in the Miss Americana documentary). There is a conscientious and visible effort to build and grow upon previously established themes. She’s put out some remarkable tracks, and because she has been so consistently good and from such a young age, we as a society don’t allow her the simple privilege of mediocrity. She’s entitled to a dud like “ME!” every now and then. —J.S.
You know what? Teens should only be allowed to sing Michael Buble’s “Santa Buddy” because the alternative interpretation that Santa is some teen girl’s sugar daddy is just repulsive. Taylor Swift does not belong in the Euphoria multiverse. She lives on a Christmas tree farm, okay? —J.S.
This one is worth listening to almost solely for the purpose of proving your Swiftie street cred. But if you’re really looking for the deep cuts, trawling around the darker corners of YouTube, Tumblr, and Reddit will yield much better unreleased tracks from a young Swift. —J.S.
“LWYMMD” is redeemable only when you recognize that this is likely the same narrator as the one on “Blank Space,” and it’s Taylor channelling her best Amy Dunne from Gone Girl again. —J.S.
The children’s choir leaves something to be desired, but the theme of political disillusionment and the reference to school shootings were really resonant. —J.S.
“Perfectly Good Heart” is a perfectly serviceable and perfectly forgettable track from Swift’s debut. —J.S.
It was after she released this song as a single that it became apparent that Swift has a pattern of choosing the worst song from each album as the lead single, and that was only confirmed by her choice to kick off the Lover era with “ME!” —J.S.
“Maybe I’m just a girl on a mission but I’m ready to fly” would get an A in a middle school English class personal essay assignment, which makes sense because she was literally 13 when she wrote this.” —J.S.
Swift’s line delivery is great on this country ditty. —J.S.
We need to make sure Matt Rogers’ Taylor Swift’s Lover is never erased from history. This is not the best choice to compare homophobia to online hate directed at very wealthy celebrities, but given that the music video was released while urging people to support the Equality Act, it was a sincere and well-meaning effort—even though these Conner4Real vibes were somehow written in a post-Glee universe. —J.S.
This is the ultimate “men are trash” homily. —J.S.
Swift uses a vaguely Bahamian accent on this song that’s quite unsettling. Remember when we thought Reputation was going to be Taylor’s dark gritty album but instead we got a bunch of sweet love songs about her wonderful new boyfriend who is Actually Good At The Sex? —J.S.
Composed with Andrew Lloyd Webber, this seems to strain Swift’s voice a little. The song, while prettily orchestrated, doesn’t compliment her voice or sound effortless at all . —J.S.
“I’m so chill but you make me jealous,” Swift sings. This girl has never been chill in her entire life, I swear. The greatest sin this one commits is its lack of catchiness. —J.S.
What I would have given in 2010 to hear Taylor Swift refer to her relationship as “end game.” A consistent theme seen throughout her work is the fear of being cast aside and being the one left to carry the memory of a love that has passed. Even in comparatively worse tracks like “ME!” she includes lines like “I don’t wanna be just another ex-love you don’t wanna see” or “There’s a lot of cool chicks out there.” Self-comparison is a universal and relatable theme, but the undercurrent of precarity it adds to her music is interesting. —J.S.
Starting with the Lover press tour, Swift’s been speaking more about body image and criticizing diet culture. In her recent documentary Miss Americana, she admitted to struggling with an eating disorder in the past. In the diary excerpts from her early teen years she includes in her Lover book, she writes about being so excited to eat low-calorie frozen yogurt, and in her 2016 Vogue 73 Questions, she answered that her favorite food was chicken tenders “if calories didn’t count.” She wrote this song about “one of [her] friends, who is this beauty queen, pageant princess — a gorgeous, popular girl in high school. Every guy wanted to be with her, every girl wanted to be her. I wrote that song the day I found out she had an eating disorder.” —J.S.
Why doesn’t this song have any horny energy? —J.S.
This one is pretty funny, if inherently mean-spirited. Taylor can’t help it if she is an immense success in her chosen career while this chick is “better known for the things that she does on the mattress.” It would be understandable to retire this one (as well as “Picture To Burn”) from performances. While it is a little unhinged to rhyme her name with things, Taylor does it so well that honestly we’ll allow some brutal punching down, as a treat. Here she basically out-Chads a Chad. —J.S.
“I could’ve spent forever with your hands in my pockets” is a cute line, but the light use of dubstep and the drop is largely unsatisfying. —J.S.
This is very sweet but lacks detail. —J.S.
This was Swift’s first Antonoff collaboration and it was fine, more or less. It didn’t win the Best Original Song Golden Globe, but I have confidence that she will EGOT when she writes The Social Network jukebox musical. —J.S.
As cute as this song is, the undercurrent of precariousness and desperation makes itself evident with “no one else is gonna love me when I get mad (mad, mad).” —J.S.
It’s nice when Taylor flexes her wealth in her music. But while the chorus is catchy, the stressed syllables don’t make the titular line as sassy as it’s meant to be. —J.S.
Her youth really shows in this one. —J.S.
This is one of the few songs in which Taylor Swift has been a featured artist but not a songwriter. —J.S.
We hope Tom Petty liked this, too. —J.S.
Her voice sounds quite good here. —J.S.
The YouTube comments would disagree that Infinity Wars was Marvel’s most ambitious crossover. —J.S.
It’s surprising how well she was able to conjure the Jackson Five tone. —J.S.
This 2008 cover has the feel of a good karaoke rendition. —J.S.
The Taylor feature makes this song worthwhile. —J.S.
While this track is easily skipped on the album, it does effectively portray this quietly and desperately ending relationship. —J.S.
Take a shot for each rain reference that comes up on Taylor Swift shuffle. This song is a resigned sigh in a crumbling relationship. —J.S.
This felt genuinely empowered! —J.S.
Something Taylor does well as an interpreter is bring out a sincere sweetness in a song that maybe wasn’t noticeable before. —J.S.
The only reason I still haven’t unsaved this from my Spotify shuffle is out of loyalty to TS. —J.S.
Regardless of who’s singing it, “Sweet Escape” is a solid bop. —J.S.
This is the Christmas song she was always meant to sing. —J.S.
More malls should play this in the winter. —J.S.
This is Taylor railing against the commodification of what is supposed to be a sacred holiday. It is this mindset that will lead her to cancel private equity. Where are the principles? Where is the morality? —J.S.
I can’t be the only Zoomer who keeps mistaking “If This Was a Movie” for Hannah Montana’s “If We Were a Movie.” The only real problem with this one is that “Come back to me like” sounds like “Come back to me, daylight.” We’ll call it the “Starbucks Lovers Phenomenon.”—J.S.
This song works well as lyrics posted over Tumblr fandom edits about doomed couples. —J.S.
Rumor has it that Michael Bloomberg himself commissioned this song, but it might as well have been sung by Disneyland animatronics. However, as someone who moved to New Jersey as a teen, I have a soft spot for this song. In the year following my move, I was forcefully optimistic and tried very hard to paper over my fears about making new friends with empty reassurances. One thing I could consistently look forward to was sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car with my fifth generation iPod Nano, earbuds in, and timing this song on my queue so I could listen to it as we crossed the George Washington Bridge. —J.S.
This is a fun breakup song, but the disappointment fans felt at her departure from the more “authentic” country-pop was so palpable online. We assumed that Taylor would one day unstraighten her hair, grow out her bangs, and eventually return to country. But, instead, she leaned hard into the pop angle, became its master for a solid couple of years, and continues to be an immense success. We can’t anticipate her trying to become her “old self again” the way we wished after Red was released, and we realized that this marked an evolution period as an artist. “You would hide away and find your peace of mind with some indie record that’s so much cooler than mine” is approximately the same level of devastating character assassination as “My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone” in Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” and we love to see it. —J.S.
It has that wistful early 2000s hair salon, adult contemporary radio sound. —J.S.
High school teachers could use this one to demonstrate the rhetorical device, anaphora. —J.S.
Taylor Swift watched the entirety of Big Little Lies season one during a summer night and absorbed the theme into her bloodstream. —J.S.
This song shows that Taylor always has one foot in the country world. And even if Taylor lives out the scenario she writes in “The Lucky One,” she’ll maintain a long career as a songwriter. —J.S.
Remember Taylor Squared? —J.S.
It’s a pretty straightforward title and a straightforward song. —J.S.
No matter how cringe-y (dare I say inappropriate?) their relationship was, you have to admit how groovy John Mayer and Taylor Swift’s one musical collaboration was. It was their first, and it’s certainly their last. —E.J.
The covers Taylor includes in the Speak Now live album, like this one, make me wish that she did them more. —J.S.
People laughed, but Swift makes “September” sound like it was meant to be sung by a straight white girl from Pennsylvania. —J.S.
It’s SUPPOSED to be cringy! “You out clubbing? Well I just made caramel deLite!” is corny but also so on-brand. —J.S.
Despite the controversy, I’d always assumed the original “So you can tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy / That’s fine, I’ll tell mine that you’re gay” line meant that she was going to tell everyone they broke up because he wasn’t straight. That would prevent her friends from being interested in him. It didn’t come across as a homophobic insult, but it’s undeniably petty high school behavior, which shouldn’t be endorsed, either. Anger just rolls off the tongue so easily on this one. —J.S.
Did you know this one was inspired by the Netflix movie Someone Great? And Someone Great was inspired by Taylor’s “Clean?” That’s called intertextuality. —J.S.
Do you think Taylor is one of those “it’s my birthday week!” sagittariuses?—J.S.
Caroline Calloway wishes she’d written this while at Cambridge. It is your friend who studied abroad her sophomore spring, took on a lover for the semester, and returned with a tin of Twinings and an affected accent. And you know what? It’s good, okay? —J.S.
This is one of the best examples of Swift’s steady crossover from country to full-on pop. The banjo and fiddle kick up just before the AutoTune backup vocals do, and Swift is rocking out on an electric guitar all along. It’s genreless. Maybe it’s not the best Red cut, but it’s worth remembering. After all, forgetting it is like “trying to know somebody you never met.” —E.J.
This is a perfect relic from the Fearless era. —J.S.
“How You Get the Girl” is like the instruction manual given in “The Other Side of the Door” after everyone’s cooled down. —J.S.
Songs like “You’re Not Sorry” seem to be written so effortlessly. —J.S.
It’s still surprising she didn’t write a song for The Giver. —J.S.
It looks like not even Taylor Swift is immune to writing Kennedy fanfiction. —J.S.
This is inarguably one of the purest songs Taylor Swift has ever written, a sort of Sweet Home Alabama tale about two kid best friends who grow up and fall in love. If only it were this simple! —E.J.
“Breathe” is far catchier than a song this sad has any right to be. —J.S.
A YouTube comment on the since-deleted BBC upload essentially said that while Mumford & Sons conjures the rage, Taylor cuts to the underlying devastation on this Sigh No More cut. —J.S.
This is Taylor at her most yeehaw, singing her woes over banjo and with a Dixie Chicks-esque country-punk edge. This is one of those songs that made us realize how special she was—at 16, Taylor Swift already had the emotional maturity of a 25-year-old, not to mention the lyrical chops. —E.J.
The music video made us all want Wayfarer glasses and a cat headband. —J.S.
Judging by the craft in “Cold As You,” we should have always known she was capable of writing “Dear John.” She tends to repeat tropes, which makes her songwriting (gray, walls, rain) kind of repetitive, but it’s easy to empathize with the impulse to keep writing elements in until you find a place you feel is worthy of them. —J.S.
This one has echoes of “Dear John.” If someone told me, “And here’s to you and your temper. Yes, I remember what you said last night. And I know that you see what you’re doing to me. Tell me why” I’d be very scared. —J.S.
Swift has been criticized before for not having the most powerful voice, but it can be fully communicative and emotive when it needs to be. —J.S.
“I Almost Do” is like “Back to December” Part II. —J.S.
Artists should be allowed a maximum of ONE “Please don’t be mean to me!” song and for Taylor, it should have been limited to this. —J.S.
Our girl loves a meta-narrative. —J.S.
The Antonoff is strong in this one. —J.S.
Ignore the heteronormativity of “just a small town boy and girl” and remember the TRUTH that this is actually about a very close friendship. —J.S.
“Crazier” could have been on Fearless, no problem. It’s so lovely, floaty and reminiscent of lemonade. —J.S.
This cover is quite genuinely touching. —J.S.
It was only after I heard Taylor’s cover and saw her little smile at the Michelle Pfeiffer line that I then headed to a Youtube-to-MP3 conversion site to download both versions. —J.S.
When Taylor hosted Saturday Night Live, many people realized she’s actually funny. She did an unexpectedly good job. “I like writing songs about douchebags who cheat on me,” a line from her opening monologue medley, will stick with you forever. —J.S.
Sentences like “They all warned us about times like this. They say the road gets hard and you get lost when you’re led by blind faith” feel a tad clunky. The allusions to New York don’t quite land, but the saxophone makes it all better. —J.S.
Taylor could take some of the 20-year-old’s compassion she had for 32-year-old Kanye and apply that to her 30-year-old self. —J.S.
This newest Christmas original is twinkly, fresh and happy. —J.S.
Taylor Swift’s net worth is more than a quarter billion, so it’s safe to say she’s outearning basically anyone she ever could or did date. That being said, it’s enjoyable to hear the references to not caring about the fact that her lover does not make as much money as she does. Because “All the boys with their expensive cars / with their Range Rovers and Jaguars / Never took me quite where you do.” Again, the taste of their lips is her “idea of luxury.” When they’re both up for it, they can probably afford a ring, but she’d do with paper ones. —J.S.
The best way to get over a breakup is to forget it ever happened and live your best life. This dainty little album opener is sly but never sweet, removed but never vengeful. It’s a pretty great way to open the first album post-Reputation. Kanye? Never heard of him. —E.J.
Here’s your proof that a Taylor Swift breakup track can take place anywhere and at any time. —J.S.
This one is actually a little too heteronormative. It gets much cuter once you imagine superman as a woman. —J.S.
“Trust him like a brother” is a tad skeevy , but Sufjan Stevens ends “Futile Devices” with “I think of you as my brother although that sounds dumb” and maybe one day I’ll get used to the sweetness of them both. —J.S.
This song is sweet, but knowing it’s about Jack Antonoff and Lena Dunham and having read this powerpoint kind of sours it. Listen, I’m not saying that this theory is true, but how can anyone not be fascinated by ”dumb hetero normative gossip”? —J.S.
Imagine this one from the point-of-view of a new parent. I’m thinking about Liz Lemon with her adopted twins Terry and Janet and might start crying at any minute. —J.S.
Which is better: The original, or the goat remix? You decide. Either way it’s the best (and probably only?) beat drop in the history of Swift. —E.J.
In case you thought the patriotic vibe was imaginary, the proceeds for “Change” were donated to the US Olympic team, and it was chosen as one of the themes for the summer 2008 Olympics. —J.S.
This song is needy and scared and necessary. The narrator tries to convince the person she’s hurt that they’re on the same side. Unlike many songs in Swift’s discography, this fight allows for the possibility of repair. —J.S.
This one is up there with Carly Rae Jepsen love songs. Swift’s’s asking her crush to take this leap with her, and she’s prepared to be patient and cover for their fears and reservation. “Without a warning I realize your laugh is the best sound I have ever heard” is a pretty darn good confession of love. —J.S.
It’s actually really nice dating someone who reads books. —J.S.
Add this one to your cardio playlist. —J.S.
This is a story about a girl named Lucky. I mean Joni. I mean TAYLOR? —J.S.
“White Horse” is a distillation of disillusionment. —J.S.
Be very careful while listening to this one because it will make you cry. —J.S.
BRB, I have to travel back to 2008 so I can make a fanvid for The Notebook with this song playing over scenes of Allie and Noah and Lon Hammond. —J.S.
Taylor should use more string instruments in her music! —J.S.
It’s so unfair that people accuse Taylor of only writing songs about boys when one of her most affecting love songs is about her mom. —J.S.
If you listen to this one, you’ll understand why Taylor was in talks to play Éponine in the 2012 Les Miserables film. This song is “On My Own” set in high school. —J.S.
There’s something deeply satisfying and likely mathematically perfect about the rhythm of the bell chimes on this Reputation cut. (Similar sounds include “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid, Swift’s own “Clean,” and Maggie Rogers’ “Alaska.”) —J.S.
Between kissing in the rain and green eyes, “Sparks Fly” epitomizes basically every Taylor Swift Trope. The only thing missing is a 2 a.m. timestamp. —J.S.
This should have been the first single off Reputation. It would have marked a convincing feint into villainy as opposed to what was perceived as chronic victimhood. —J.S.
Someone could be writing this song about Taylor Swift right now. —J.S.
A little-known gem but one of the absolute best tracks from Red (and Swift’s discography at large), “Holy Ground” is Taylor Swift in rare form: hurried, yet precise, and rocking the hell out. It’s Swift-acoustic-pop on a scale we’d never heard before and haven’t heard since. If Red is Taylor Swift’s Born To Run this is her “Thunder Road.” —E.J.
In a weird way, this can also be a companion to “Jump Then Fall.” She’s making good on a promise she made when things were easier. This is what it means when someone stays. —J.S.
In the early hours following the release of Reputation, someone on Genius speculated that this song was about DRAKE. Aubrey Graham. Are you KIDDING me? —J.S.
Earnestness carries this track, along with a bit of hope, and, ultimately, grace. It’s what you wish every crush could be like—just a wholehearted admiration for a person without truly asking for anything back. —J.S.
Yeah, Taylor supports men’s rights. Men’s rights to SHUT UP! —J.S.
The moment Taylor Swift released this track as the lead single from 1989 was one that will live forever in the memories of Swifties. It was pivotal—from the first few bars, you knew she had never released anything like this before. It was the beginning of what will be remembered as perhaps her most dynamic and fiercely incomparable album. —E.J.
The snarky spirit of “Better than Revenge” lingers here, but I’m still rooting for that girl to stop the wedding. —J.S.
This track is unskippable. —J.S.
It’s a perfect pencil-drumming song. —J.S.
Swift did such a good job covering a song that Luna Halo actually gave her a songwriting credit. Follow your late-night Taylor wind-down with the acoustic version of “State of Grace.” —J.S.
Even if Stephen doesn’t like her back, she still gets a song out of it. “All those other girls, well they’re beautiful—but would they write a song for you?” She’s not entitled to Stephen’s affection, but in the words of Simone Weil, it is true that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Attention is also the currency of art. —J.S.
This couple cheerfully stomps on obstacles from corporate culture to intrusive exes. They’ve conquered their inner demons enough to believe that “life makes love look hard.” —J.S.
Eerie and ethereal? Taylor Swift does both very well. —J.S.
This is the song I would use to refute the idea that tAyLor sWiFt oNLy bLamEs tHe eX. No, she can be an archer as well as the prey. —J.S.
Love and paying attention are the same thing. —J.S.
Everyone needs to be aware that this song sounds like the season two Crazy Ex-Girlfriend theme meets Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” —J.S.
Swift has a tendency to repeat motifs, and to some it can come across as hackneyed. However, the purposeful way she invokes the melody from “Red” in “I once believed love would be burning red” on “Daylight” demonstrates how her notions of love have and will continue to evolve. —J.S.
Taylor took the bones of an already-good “22” and perfected them. This one’s for getting ready with the girls. Thank goodness she didn’t leave it off the 1989 tour setlist. —J.S.
Weren’t we all kind of surprised by how darn good Taylor Swift’s take on the dark Lana Del Rey-esque pop was? For a song about the aestheticization of memory, it has more staying power than you’d expect . —J.S.
“Long Live” is the sound of glory, triumph, and me scrolling through Harry Potter gifsets. —J.S.
Major Sad Boi Hours here. “Last Kiss” sounds so defeated, which is the point. It makes you pay attention to the lyrics, which made me cry when I was 14 and mourning the loss of potential lifelong friendships that were cut short after moving. Even as I scroll through Instagram, I think “So I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep/And I feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe.” The worst part about feeling stuck in the past is how obsolete it makes one feel, hanging onto the vestiges of a phantom limb no one else seems to care about or remember. (You see, that’s the kind of melodramatic sentiment listening to “Last Kiss” engenders.) —J.S.
It’s actually rather upsetting to know that Taylor Swift was only in her early 20s and could already empathize so deeply with someone who had their self esteem crushed by a guy who doesn’t even think she’s funny. Normal polite behavior, like opening the door or showing up early to a first date, feels extra special to the narrator. This is the energy of a girl who will fall in love with the first guy who pours water for her.—J.S.
American jadedness is something we can all get behind right now. As seen in Taylor Swift’s new Netflix documentary, which gets its namesake from this Lover cut, the pop star spent a long time struggling with how she wanted to contribute and respond to the 2018 midterm elections. The stakes were even higher since she kept quiet during the 2016 election. “My team is losing / battered and bruising,” she sings in “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince,” likening our national political crisis to “stupid” high school dramas. It’s a fantastically executed metaphor, even if it’s one many folks may not pick up on. —E.J.
“New Year’s Day” proves that the butterflies in “Enchanted” can’t compare to the magic of real life’s messiness. This song is only possible because of the precedent set by Speak Now. Consider the similarity between “please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere” and “please don’t be in love with someone else.” In “Enchanted” Swift prays that “this is the very first page / not where the storyline ends.” Seven years later, she doesn’t want an ending to be written. Even some of the fear reflected in the idealized romance of “Mine” finds its way back into “New Year’s Day” when she wants her partner to “Hold onto the memories / they will hold onto you.” It echoes the refrain of “Hold on / Make it last” in “Mine.” —J.S.
This is Janelle Monae’s “Pynk” for the straights, with a dash of Carly Rae Jepsen. Remember in “Sad Beautiful Tragic” when Swift says “Good girls, hopeful they’ll be and long they will wait?” Not anymore, honey. It’s like she’s saying, “I think he knows he better lock it down or I won’t stick around, ‘cause good ones never wait!”—J.S.
This song was very affecting upon release (and it remains as such), specifically because it was written by someone so young and with a surprising amount of perspective. But that’s only impressive because people don’t listen to the opinions of young people enough. So when one has a big enough platform and actually says something smart, people go absolutely coocoo looloo. I listened to this one when I was 11 and I was like “Duh, high school relationships are supposed to end.” Where’s my cookie? —J.S.
My 14-year-old brain really stretched the limits of this song to make it somehow sexless. —J.S.
It’s the most beautiful feeling condensed into four minutes. —J.S.
The pause between “What if the miracle was even getting one moment with you?” and the chorus is when the listener can fill in the space with crying. At that moment it’s hard to recognize the validity of the concept of “better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” Every time I hear this song, I think about the candid shot of Taylor walking next to her mom outside the auditorium, wiping away tears after delivering a composed performance. —J.S.
It’s rare to think of other hit songs about high school longing that have been rendered with such specificity. —J.S.
“Mine” is a classic tale between a woman with an insecure-avoidant attachment style and the partner with whom she has finally found secure attachment. The only thing really in the way of her happiness is her own fear of repeating her parents’ mistakes. “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter” is a full-ass biography in 10 words. It’s remarkable how “Mine” mirrors “Ours,” the other possessive pronoun song on Speak Now. In “Ours,” the biggest challenge is fighting external obstacles, while personal doubt and insecurity in “Mine” actually pose a much bigger threat. —J.S.
“Cornelia Street” was rumored to somehow be the child of “All too Well” and “Delicate,” which are huge comparisons to live up to. “Barefoot in the kitchen” is indeed very “dancing ‘round the kitchen in the refrigerator light.” When Swift says “that’s the kind of heartbreak time could never mend” I believe it and can almost preemptively feel my own heart break. In this relationship, she’s risking not just her feelings but also the world she’s continually creating with her lover. Their presence sanctifies these spaces, making the stakes so much higher. —J.S.
“Style” is fundamentally a song about being young and hot and the entitlement it grants you to be reckless in love and lust. —J.S.
It’s surprising how many people believe it’s appropriate to tell folks with low self-worth, “How can you expect anybody to love you when you don’t love yourself?” Living for others tides people over during times they can’t live for themselves, and everyone needs tenderness. The narrator of “The Archer” asks for someone to love her even when she’s being difficult, knows it and hates herself for it. What she needs is for someone else to offer absolution from self-punishment. What she needs, in the words of Rivers Cuomo, is someone she can be weak with. It’s the first song Taylor has released that feels truly vulnerable. Pair “The Archer” with Lorde’s “Liability” to ruin your whole night. —J.S.
“Love Story” has an inherently ambitious premise but proved itself to be instantly remarkable. The rearrangement Taylor Swift performed for the 1989 tour testifies to the fact that this song will continue to be one of her calling cards. —J.S.
Young Taylor is firing on all cylinders here, in terms of what could be considered technically perfect songwriting. There’s a power to being immortalized in nostalgia that she evokes again in “Wildest Dreams.” Her debut single is at heart a song about wanting to control the narrative. —J.S.
Don’t talk to me right now. I just listened to “Ronan,” “Never Grow Up,” “Soon You’ll Get Better,” and “The Best Day” in that order. I know I did this to myself. And I don’t know when I’ll regain the strength to do it again. The devastating self-awareness of “And I hate to make this all about me, but who am I supposed to talk to?” is the line that brings on the weeping. This could be Taylor Swift’s “Casimir Pulaski Day.” —J.S.
“Wine-stained dress” foreshadowed all the “Did you guys know I drink?” references she’s been making in her music these past couple years. Please give us another Imogen Heap collaboration, Taylor. —J.S.
To be so openly pained and feel so brazenly entitled to the moral high ground as the narrator does in “Dear John” is transgressive. The narrator freely blames John for messing with her head and screwing her over, and she regrets the experience. She realizes that it wasn’t her fault that she allowed herself to be treated poorly. And that ability to see herself as a victim is what allows her to convict him, what she needed to transform the “I should’ve known” to “you should’ve known.” Because he really should have. —J.S.
While its music video may overshadow the actual song, “You Belong With Me” will always be remembered as peak Taylor Swift teen-stardom and, for some, peak Taylor Swift from any era. It strikes just the right balance of country and high-profile pop (as well as the balance of longing and humility), before blasting into a rock ‘n’ roll bridge. For those of us on the bleachers, it became an anthem. For the “cheer captains,” it was just as beloved. —E.J.
The intricacy of “Enchanted” deserves your complete attention every listen. The only reason I bought a two-ounce bottle of Bath & Body Works “Be Enchanted” lotion when I was 13 was that I couldn’t justify purchasing Taylor Swift Wonderstruck perfume but I wanted to immerse myself in just a bit more of the magic. “Enchanted” is a genuinely masterful story and the best example of Taylor writing herself into a narrative. —J.S.
Love can turn anyone into the most foolish, fragile optimist. Swift’s personal favorite line is “With every guitar string scar on my hand / I take this magnetic force of a man to be my lover.” What brings this into the top 10 is the lyrics in the context of the pattern of “please stay” or “I’ll stay” throughout her songs from the past decade. She fixates on stability and security, but the narrator finally feels safe enough to ask “Can I go where you go? Can we always be this close?” knowing that the answer is going to be a “Yes, please. More, thank you.” Within the narrative of Taylor Swift’s discography, this is the continuation of the story told in “New Year’s Day.” They’re cleaning up bottles as they laugh at their friends passed out in the living room. The Christmas lights are still up.—J.S.
Quite literally, the narrator of “Delicate” asks permission to feel something (but not really). Being vulnerable was something that once felt easy and natural, but after being burned so many times it has legitimately become a hard choice. Swift has to make these calculations: Do they like me? It must be real, because I’m at my lowest and they’re still being nice to me. How could someone like me, even as they know me? Maybe Max Martin and Shellback used to represent Taylor Swift’s potential descent into pop mediocrity, but considering their involvement on “Delicate” is enough to make one reappraise that hypothesis. —J.S.
Does Taylor do U2 better than U2 does themselves? The choice to never return to a sound after perfecting it once is understandable, but this arena rock vibe is something Taylor should consider revisiting. —J.S.
It would be a dream to hear co-writer St. Vincent perform “Cruel Summer” with Taylor Swift. Annie Clark’s taste truly jumps out of this song, but what makes this so characteristically Taylor is that push and pull of vulnerability. This is essentially a song about catching feels in a friends-with-benefits-situation.For maximum enjoyment, listen to “Getaway Car” first and appreciate the fade out and into “Cruel Summer.” —J.S.
In “Blank Space,” Taylor confidently seizes the narrative and satirizes the way she’s been portrayed in the media as this “girl who’s crazy but seductive but glamorous but nuts but manipulative.” She dates to chew up men and spit them out into top-charting songs. The result is remarkably well-made, infectiously catchy, and legitimately funny, accompanied by one of the best music videos she’s ever made. —J.S.
“All Too Well” begins with a remarkably evocative personal anecdote and ends with an admission of brokenness. While Swift writes about experiences specific to her own life and that of people she knows, she had my high school ass crying about a perfumed scarf left at some guy’s sister’s apartment. Swift crafts these perfect turns of phrase and devastating images of a past relationship, details that seem to matter so much more after the fact because they’re all she has left. “All Too Well” is a transcendent, God-tier song and indisputably her magnum opus. The song’s greatest accomplishment is in universalizing the particular, which is also her unique strength as a songwriter. Whether she’s a suburban teen with a crush on a guy who has a crush on someone else or the world’s biggest pop star who’s scared she’s too much for her new romantic interest, somehow Taylor Swift has always been able to score the background to my comparatively hermetic life. No one knows how to trigger frisson like Ms. Taylor Alison Swift. Alchemizing heartbreak into art isn’t some newfangled concept—the big bucks in personal narratives are only part of it. More than anything,”All Too Well” is about validating your own existence and lived experience: “It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well.” And when you have to build yourself up again, it helps to know you aren’t alone, and that the hurting was real. The “excess” of feeling in Taylor Swift’s music is like an antidote to our post-wounded irony-poisoned times. —J.S.