Imagine writing one of the greatest albums of all time in isolation, instead of well, sitting in bed everyday scrolling through Instagram… A fantasy of which few can relate to except for Miss Taylor Swift. Thank god she took one for the team!
The release of folklore on July 24th was both a step forward and backwards in Taylor’s journey as an artist. The production was far more stripped back and indie than her previous two albums, Lover and Reputation. But on folklore, we see the return of micro-detailed lyrics reminiscent of her older albums such as Red. It is an awe-inspiring album, one so incredible that a simple TikTok of one walking dramatically through the rain to ‘August’ will garner 49.1k likes. That’s the beauty of Miss Swift. Her storytelling has always made our lives feel like a movie. And during the major abundance of time we’ve had in isolation, we took a journey back through her entire discography. And they’ve been a real survival tactic for the unprecedented times (side note: how sick are we all of this hearing this phrase?) that we’re in. Music will be the greatest comfort in the world.
Levels are going to come and go but thankfully for us Swifties, her entire discography will always be here. Here’s 13 of the most vintage and renewed Taylor Swift tracks which helped us survive isolation:
1. Tim McGraw
It would be criminal to not begin with Taylor’s 2006 debut single, ‘Tim McGraw’, of which became an instant pop-country radio hit. From lyrics referencing a Chevy truck to faded blue jeans…What more could you want from a country song about unrequited love? As the opening track on her oh-so-mysteriously titled first album, Taylor Swift, this is where it all began.
This song honestly made us all wish our lovers drove old Chevy trucks, despite the fact that they would most definitely not survive on New Zealand roads. But that’s the beauty of Taylor’s song writing, her ability in allowing you to dream. Something which is particularly important during isolation. Especially when the only road many of us took was from our bedroom towards the kitchen.
Btw, Maggie Rogers’ cover of ‘Tim McGraw’ is B R I L L I A N T. And most definitely, pops off too. Her Spotify Sessions cover is an indie take, with a faster tempo and hypnotizing synths. And if you don’t trust us, Taylor even gave it her seal of approval calling it “heavenly”, which it definitely is.
2. Our Song
Before ‘Old Town Road’, there was ‘Our Song’. Oh yes, we did just say that. Taylor’s country accent is unmissable in this catchy track. It’s absolutely infectious. There’s no way you can sing along without putting on a Southern accent. Just listen and try say “I was riding shotgun”, instead of “I wus riding shotgurrrrn” …
The song was originally written for a high school talent show during Taylor’s freshman year, of which she unsurprisingly won. But ‘Our Song’ was simply too good and was later released as a single. As Taylor points out, “I like the banjo and you really can’t go wrong with a banjo.” It landed #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts in 2007. This led to Miss Swift becoming the youngest performer at the time to write a chart-topping Country single. The power of the banjo, we tell you!
And may we just add, the music video is pure cinematic genius. From Taylor’s straight hair to the pink vintage telephone to the pool of roses – all absolute necessities for providing joy during quarantine.
3. You Belong With Me
Will there ever be a more iconic lyric than, “She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts”? Taylor’s third single from her sophomore album Fearless, ‘You Belong With Me’ was one of her first big radio hits following the massive success of ‘Love Story’. Ask anyone what songs they were listening to in 2009 and there’s no way this won’t be one of them.
‘You Belong With Me’ was the ultimate 3am dance party song during lockdown, its energy is undeniable to this day and made ruining our sleeping patterns SO worth it. The lyrics and music video are also pure rom-com perfection. The only problem with this song is that my bedroom window does not face Lucas Till, aka the dreamy cowboy from the Hannah Montana movie… My neighbour is instead a 76-year-old grandma.
Grandmas and dreamy cowboys aside, this will never NOT be the perfect song to jump around singing off-key to.
Time, time, time, what do we do with all this newfound time on our hands? Well, put ‘Fifteen’ on and you’ll have no choice but to reflect on every single moment from your life. It is yet another goodie from Fearless. One which will definitely trigger your 100th existential crisis of the day. But hey, only in the best way possible.
The sweetness of the melodies creates this bittersweet pain, right in your gut of your teenage years. Whether you’re past them, entering them or currently in them… No matter your age, ‘Fifteen’ will always hit you with the feels.
Trust us and approach with deep caution.
5. Superstar – Taylor Swift
Superstar is like a rare Depop find, you have to really set the filters and search profusely to find this treasure. Featured on the platinum edition of Fearless, it is an anthem for daydreaming. The opening chords immediately place you as the main character staring out the window in a coming of age film. Here, Taylor plays into the classic trope of yearning for someone you can’t have. Or well, in isolation terms, wanting fresh air you can’t have. Heartbreak really does come in many forms.
With lyrics like, “You smile that beautiful smile and all the girls in the front row scream your name,” the allure of ‘Superstar’ is in its universal subject. This someone could be a famous celebrity or simply, an unattainable crush you’ve idolized. The vulnerability in Taylor’s voice alongside the soft instrumentals place us right into a flashback. And that’s what makes a great song.
Speak Now, an album where every single song of the 14-track album was written by Taylor alone. It is also home to the magic of ‘Enchanted’.
Let’s be real, lockdown really, really, really sucked at times. But what it did teach us was appreciation of the small things we once took for granted. ‘Enchanted’ was the ultimate reminder during isolation that we will have those little things back once more. Things such as standing in a crowded room of strangers and connecting with that one person… Pandemic who?
The bridge is also absolute perfection, the way Taylor sings “Please don’t be in love with someone else, please don’t have somebody waiting on you…” sounds like a lost voicemail left on a lover’s phone.
And honestly, Taylor probably didn’t plan this, but the song is so hopelessly romantic than it seems to make falling in love with the idea of someone better than with actually with them. Oops, who said that?
The banjo hits again! Dare we say it, the banjo in ‘Mean’ hits like a beat drop from a TikTok hit. Honestly, someone needs to start a trend in tribute of Taylor’s banjo skills.
With sassy lyrics such as, “I can see you years from now in a bar – Talking over a football game – With that same big loud opinion – But nobody’s listening, washed up and ranting – About the same old bitter things”, the energy in this track from Speak Now is unparalleled.
‘Mean’ basically built the throne for the entire Reputation album to sit on. This banger was hugely successful, winning the 2012 Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance. Completely iconic yet also unsurprising from Taylor. The energy of this song gives off major Taylor dropping her Grammy in 2010 from winning too many awards vibes…
Put this one on LOUD when you’re feeling sick of your fellow quarantinees. Believe us, it’s like free therapy.
Before elevator encounters became associated with super-spreader Covid-19 cases, they were instead romanticized by Miss Swift as moments of yearning for a lover in ‘Ours’.
The song was released as the final bonus single for Speak Now in 2010. It is impossibly cheerful and overflowing with hope. And in typical Taylor nature, the lyrics read like a journal entry. ‘Ours’ was crucial for surviving the dark days of isolation. And god, there were many… Those treacherous days where it felt like we would never be at our favourite cafes again.
But when you hear the warm and catchy chorus in ‘Ours’ of, “Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine. And life makes love look hard.” The ease of how these words fall out of Taylor’s lips made us feel that one step closer to a barista made iced latte.
9. All Too Well
Unless you want to receive a hoard of messages asking if you’re okay… Go on a Spotify private session when listening to ‘All Too Well’.
Although Red is more widely known as Taylor’s first official entrance/storming into pop territory with ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, many forget about the many beautiful, yet heart-breaking ballads on the album. From ‘Begin Again’ to ‘The Moment I Knew’, these are both painful manifestations of Taylor’s developing maturity in experiencing love. ‘All Too Well’ is however the greatest of them all.
The power of ‘All Too Well’ as a ballad is grand. It is one which will send you down a deep, deep, deep Google hole… Searching questions such as, “Is love real?”, “Have I experienced love?”, “What happened to the scarf Taylor left at Maggie Gyllenhaal’s house?” and many more… Questions of which we can’t even remember now because well, the search history has been deleted… Listen with caution. The power of 19-year-old Taylor’s heartbreak is too much. You’ll understand that there’s probably a good reason the 10-minute version was never released.
Because well, you’d probably end up deleting your search history too.
Back in the (basically pre-historic) days before Spotify and Apple Music, the release of a new Taylor Swift album would result in a certain ritual. We would run home with our brand-new CDs, pull out a pen and paper and then decode the hidden messages in the lyrics. It was a very serious task.
‘Starlight’ holds a particularly special message. It reads, “FOR ETHEL.” So, who is Ethel exactly and what the hell did she do to deserve such special treatment? Let us spill the tea. Upon seeing a photo of her ex-boyfriend’s grandparents, Ethel and Bobby F. Kennedy (Yep, that Kennedy, as in U.S President JFK) as teenagers dancing, Taylor became inspired through imagining the fun they would’ve had that night. This brings us to the effortless pop of ‘Starlight’. The catchiness of the chorus is unmissable and once more, Miss Swift brings her storytelling to its best place, continuously playing and living rent free in our heads.
There’s no need to even contextualize the 2014 pop masterpiece of Taylor’s fifth album, 1989. An unforgettable era of hit-after-hit. Swift set the pop genre on fire and left this album forever emblazed in our hearts and souls.
‘Style’ is amongst our personal favourites amongst the 1989 track list, the influence of 1980s pop is clearly felt and matching with other tracks on the album. Yet, it is almost cinematic in its tempo. Playing upon the theme of love under the public eye, ‘Style’ feels as though you’re in a car chase against Swift and no one other, than Mr. Harry Styles. The beat of the song foreshadows that a crash was always coming.
The crash that is also our painfully, embarrassing re-enactment of Taylor’s performance of ‘Style’ at the 2014 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. The runway of our kitchen tiles has never felt more empowering.
The confidence that Taylor shrieks “just take me home” in the bridge is enough to convince us all to let her take us home, despite the fact that we’ve been inside them all year…
There are way too many iconic hits from 1989 to discuss but in our opinion, ‘Clean’ is deeply underappreciated. Deeply. How can a lyric such as “like a wine stained dress I can’t wear anymore” not hold a million fan accounts in its honour? It’s beyond us. The song touches on being in the same city as your ex, then coming to the realization that you haven’t thought about them. And the manner in how the chorus hits captures this exactly. It feels as though you’ve been pulled underwater, then as the chorus ends, you’re back up at the surface once more gasping for air. It’s such a bittersweet realization. But beneath the heartbreak, there’s a unique sense of hope which is undeniable.
Taylor Swift tried to drown all of us and yet, we still found beauty in it. And that is why ‘Clean’ is underappreciated.
13. Thug Story
Last but absolutely not least… ‘Thug Story’. If you know, you know… And if you don’t, well you can thank us later for introducing you to perhaps, the greatest rap duo of all time. Thug Story was performed by T-Swizzle, who is also loosely known as Taylor Swift alongside T-Pain (yep!) for the 2009 CMT Music Awards as a parody of ‘Love Story’.
The original romantic Romeo & Juliet-esque country-pop ballad replaced with lines such as, “I’m like eight foot four, blond hair to the floor- You shawties never thought I dreamed about rapping hardcore…”
Okay we won’t lie- this one was added purely to boost morale and for the nostalgia of a simpler time. One where award shows could go ahead in real life rather than livestreamed. Also, how could we leave out the pure joy one feels from seeing Taylor rap? I mean, Mama Swift also features so what more needs to be said?
Bring T-Swizzle back!
There we go folks, the pandora box of Taylor’s oldies have been opened and left to truly run wild. And in case of another lockdown (hopefully NOT soon), at least we’ll have a swift guide for survival. Time to dash and go learn the banjo now!