This year marks thirteen years since Taylor Swift released her debut album and stepped into the world of music and pop culture. Since her debut in 2006, Swift has won 10 Grammys out of over 30 nominations; two of which were Album of the Year, making her the first-ever solo female act to win that award twice. She has the most profitable North American tour and is one of the biggest touring acts this decade. With seven albums and more than a handful of awards, what better way to celebrate thirteen years of Taylor Swift than to rank her albums. These rankings are all my opinion– I am not an expert, just a Taylor Swift fan with lots of opinions.
7. Taylor Swift, her debut album- It is full of songs that resonate with young teenagers trying to figure out life with songs like ‘A Place in this World’ and ‘The Outside.’ These songs give us some of the deepest insight and vulnerability to Swift’s life at the time the album came out. All songs were written before her name was known around the world and the pressure to entertain was on her shoulders; she had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Her lyrics pack a lot of punch and emotion from someone so young, which allowed her to cement herself as a great songwriter later on in her career. You can tell she has a passion and almost natural knack for lyrics with songs like ‘Cold as You’, ‘Tim McGraw’ and ‘Teardrops on my Guitar.’ She also has the intensity of feelings as a teenager where everything feels like its all or nothing, with hits like ‘Picture to Burn’, ‘Our Song’, and ‘Should’ve Said No.’ Swift fully embraces her teenage fierceness making the album overall fun, while still dealing with the complexities of teenage life in such a way that lets you dance the insecurities and heartbreak away. Overall Taylor Swift (the album) is phenomenal but ultimately lacks the cohesiveness, lyricism, and production as a whole that we find in her later albums.
6. Speak Now, Taylor’s third album- After facing criticism from her sophomore album, Fearless, claiming Swift was not holding her weight in writing sessions she decided to write every song without a co-writer. Swift went on to win two Grammys for the hit song ‘Mean’ and was finally starting to get the lyrical recognition she deserves. This album showcases the pain of a broken heart, disappointment when life doesn’t go your way and hope for a better future all in one. The album certainly lives up to its name as Swift doesn’t hold anything back, from calling out John Mayer in ‘Dear John,’ to addressing the infamous 2009 VMAs with ‘Innocent’; Swift has a song for it all. The album also deals with other things in life, such as moving out on her own for the first time and facing an extremely harsh critic. Speak Now also gives glimpses of what a true hopeless romantic Swift is even in her most heartbreaking moments, with songs like ‘Mine’, ‘Enchanted’ and ‘Sparks Fly.’ The album ends with a song dedicated to her fans, ‘Long Live.’ Speak Now as a whole is full of heartbreak, real-life hardships, and the beauty of romance but ultimately lacks the creative production and storyline that I love from her later albums.
5. Reputation- After being the world’s biggest superstar and America’s sweetheart with her record-breaking album 1989, Swift found herself at one of the lowest points of her life following the incident with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. After taking a break from everything, Swift came back full force with quite possibly the best comeback album of all time. Swift was 100% in control for this whole era, storming the media to take back her narrative. From the record-breaking ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ to ‘This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,’ Swift embraces her flaws and scars, learns who her real friends are and discovers true love amid her darkest moments. The album’s darker and heavier sound contrasts that whole narrative, making it intriguing and almost different each time you listen to it. The combination of production and well-structured lyrics in this album shows all sides of Swift; the “old Taylor” with songs like ‘I Did Something Bad’ and ‘Ready for it’ and the “new Taylor” with a lover by her side through the worst of it. This new Taylor gave us some amazing love songs with ‘Don’t Blame Me,’ ‘King of My Heart’ and more. Swift shows that you can take control of your own story and find happiness even when your world seems to be crashing down. After being surrounded by the media since she was sixteen years old, Swift wrote Reputation to take back her story and name from the media. Reputation is a cathartic album with such an interesting contrast each song holds a deeper meaning and when put together they tell Swift’s true narrative.
4. Fearless- Swift’s sophomore album and the most awarded country album. Fearless won album of the year at the Grammys when she was only 19. This album catapulted her career with hits like ‘Love Story,’ and ‘You Belong with Me.’ She also managed to stay true to herself despite sudden fame with songs like ‘Fifteen’ and ‘The Best Day.’ This album also has some hard-hitting songs like ‘White Horse’ and ‘Tell me Why,’ where Swift pours everything into her lyrics. Swift perfectly captures the chaotic feeling of trying to figure everything out on your own for the first time as an adult. Between real and serious relationships, looking back on life when it all seemed simpler, trying to find your place when the whole world seems to be against you she has a song for it all. I loved this album when it came out, it was on repeat for about 70% of my childhood, but I have an even greater appreciation for it now that I’m an adult on my own trying to find my way around college and relationships and letting go of the past.
3. 1989- This was Swift’s first full force pop album, and she killed it. 1989 is the most awarded pop album ever, won album of the year at the Grammys and much more. This album also produced two of her biggest hits; ‘Shake it Off’, and ‘Blank Space.’ This album also deals with breakup, heartache and being single in such a sophisticated way. Swift’s songwriting shines through this album with some her best bridges ever- ‘Out of the Woods’, ‘Clean’ and ‘You Are in love’. This pop sensation also deals with relationships fueled by anxiety and the pressure of the media with ‘Out of the Woods’ and ‘I Know Places.’ Swift deals with new things and drama that she has found herself in with ‘Welcome to New York’ and ‘Bad Blood.’ Every song on the album is bound to resonate with someone, and these songs have become the soundtrack to so many fan’s lives due to their innate ability to bring moments to life with lyrics and production. The album tells a story of someone who finds herself in all places she never thought she would go/be like New York City and embracing being single. The creativity of originality of the album is unlike any other- the pen click in ‘Blank Space’, her heartbeat in ‘Wildest Dreams’, using a tape recorder in ‘I Know Places’, the busyness, and intensity of ‘Welcome to New York’. All of those small things just add to the sonic cohesiveness of the album as a whole. 1989 has the potential to be the perfect soundtrack to any young adult’s life with songs for every occasion there is no stopping the intense feelings that come along with this complex album.
2. Lover- Lover is Swift’s latest album and many have compared it to Red if it had a happy ending. The parallels between Red and Lover are that of a woman who has found true and pure love looking back on what she once thought love was. The lyrical comparisons Swift draws between the two albums shows how much she has grown and learned about both love and herself. The complexity of the lyrics and production of every single song is top-notch, Swift self-wrote and self-produced a couple of songs on the album. Swift takes full creative force with this album, giving us the perfect wedding ballad with ‘Lover’, a jazz sensation with ‘False God’ and so much more. Lover also has a lot of political undertones, making it even more impactful in today’s society. From ‘The Man’, ‘Miss Americana’ and the ‘Heartbreak Prince’, to ‘You Need to Calm Down’, Swift is using her platform to speak out for equality for all. Lover also deals with the messy parts of love and relationships such as anxiety and self-destructive tendencies with ‘The Archer’, ‘Afterglow’, and ‘Daylight.’ In this album, Swift is no longer treading ice in a relationship but is 100% herself with a definitive knowingness that she can get through anything with her Lover. Swift delivers it all from love-filled hits like ‘London Boy’ and ‘Cruel Summer’ to the heavy-hitting heartbreak songs with ”Death by a Thousand Cuts and ‘Soon You’ll Get Better.’ Lover is an album that redefines love itself and makes it worth holding onto.
1. Red- This album gave Swift her first number one on the Billboard 100 with ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,’ along with other iconic hits such as ‘I Knew you were Trouble’ and ’22.’ This album sounds exactly how fall feels, showcasing beauty even in the ending of a relationship. This album also gave us ‘All Too Well,’ which The Rolling Stone has ranked as her best song. Swift delivers a much more mature sound than her previous albums, the intensity and constant back and forth of emotion on the album is conveyed in the production of her songs and the tracklist decision, giving us a true glimpse of the crazy range of emotions one goes through in a breakup. Red takes us full circle through a serious relationship gone wrong, Starting with ‘State of Grace’ and going all the way to ‘Begin Again,’ one tells a story so beautifully and well-written, it’s almost impossible to press the pause button. Swift starts to mess around with production more in this album producing lyrical masterpieces that feel the same way they sound; songs like ‘I Almost Do’, ‘Treacherous’, and ‘Sad Beautiful Tragic.’ Swift also finds herself realizing the limelight isn’t all everyone has chalked it up to be with ‘The Lucky One.’ Red takes you on a roller coaster of emotions as Swift manages to nail the words and sound to bring a memory back to life for just a small moment. This album has some of Swift’s best lyrical work while still managing to be true to her roots. The whole album from start to finish just makes sense and somehow manages to be incredibly relatable even in the face of intense personal details.