Taylor Swift’s reputation may be at the centre of all the celebrity tabloids, but don’t let that distract you from Taylor Swift: the artist. Her level of fame seems to dramatically increase year after year, but her focus has always been on the music. It’s time for the world to view her as the songwriter she was born to be. As an eleven-year-old country girl from Pennsylvania, she just wanted to write love songs and share them with the world. Now over a decade later, she continues to break records and mend broken hearts by consistently reinventing her catalogue.
October and November for Taylor Swift fans are the gifts that keep on giving – all six album anniversaries just happen to coincide during these months, almost like clockwork. There’s likely a variety of reasons Taylor sticks to this pattern of a fall album release – because she’s obsessed with fall (duh), or because it works in great with the Grammys eligibility cutoff date, or maybe because of a summer tour schedule? Likely a combo of all three. Her first album, self-titled Taylor Swift was released on October 24, 2006. Since then every two consecutive years Taylor has released an album (except for the three years she took between 1989 and reputation). We were blessed with Fearless on November 11, 2008, Speak Now on October 25, 2010, Red on October 22, 2012, and 1989 on October 27, 2014. Taylor broke her cycle and took an extra year before the release of reputation on November 10, 2017, to focus on her personal life. She thanks the crowd during her reputation Stadium Tour for “being here when I got back from that break.” If she returns to the two-year tradition, we may have a new album in October of 2019… But in the meantime, let’s celebrate these anniversaries by looking back at her road to reputation.
Listening to only Taylor’s singles is a disservice to yourself – she is one of only a few true “album artists” where every song from start to finish needs to be devoured in its entirety. Here are some quick numbers… 6 studio albums, 115 tracks, 49 singles, 44 music videos, 19 American Music Awards, 10 Grammys and 2 cats. With that said, there is absolutely no way I can order her songs in any kind of list (it’s so excruciating evening thinking about trying to narrow down a top ten that I’m breaking into a cold sweat). However, let’s take a look back at the highlights of her extensive body of work – a combo of absolute bangers, fan faves, best commercial success and a stroke of lyrical genius.
Let’s start with the song that everybody and their dog knows. This song is so iconic that I guarantee if aliens are real, they are streaming it right now from Mars. ‘Love Story’, the lead single from her second studio album Fearless and the song that propelled her into superstardom.
‘Love Story’ was one of the first songs I ever heard from Taylor, which is only fitting because it was a love story at first listen. The breakthrough crossover single turned ten years old this year… feel old yet? The song puts a spotlight on a modern-day Romeo and Juliet – but instead of ending in tragedy, she “gave them the ending that they deserve.” With a melody that continuously builds to the beat of your heart and polished lyrics detailing a tale of true romance, ‘Love Story’ certainly lives up to its title. There’s a reason Taylor continues to add this song to all of her tour setlists, and it’s because every single person knows ALL of the words – including the chaperone dads! The banjo intro (OMG) and the sudden key change are so powerful that even her fake country accent is quaking.
‘All Too Well’ is the song that fans have been requesting Taylor to play since the first time they heard THAT bridge. From “dancing in the refrigerator light” to a stolen scarf, this ballad is full of deep cuts – showcasing her storytelling ability at a level we have never quite seen it. Taylor’s impeccable detail from “plaid-shirt days” to feeling like “a crumpled up piece of paper” describes a heartbreaking narrative, one which had to be cut down from eight verses to just three. Sometimes I put on her 2014 Grammys performance just to cry to the lyric “you tell me about your past, thinking your future was me” and the fact that she played it purely at her fans request. In just 5 minutes and 29 seconds, Taylor takes you on a journey through a tumultuous relationship that leaves her trying to find her old self again, as well as trying to find… her scarf. (Can she also find the ten-minute version while she’s at it?!)
I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t mention the best thing Taylor has ever done – the ethereal ‘Wildest Dreams/Enchanted’ mashup from the 1989 World Tour. Sometimes it pops up as a soundtrack in my dreams. The subtle piano pauses as she switches between songs until the momentum builds so much you find yourself on the floor with the Ticketmaster app open having just bought tickets to another show. If anyone knows how to do a mashup well, it’s Taylor. For all of you who haven’t yet seen her reputation Stadium Tour, you’re in for a treat, or two…
Taylor wrote ‘Our Song’ for her ninth-grade talent show and I feel incredibly bad for all of the other contestants who thought they even stood a chance. It was only last minute that she decided to put it on her debut album and this was one of the best decisions she ever made. Just twenty minutes was all it took for sixteen-year-old Taylor to write her first ever song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as cementing her as the youngest sole writer and singer of a #1 country song. ‘Our Song’ ends with the lyrics “play it again” and I will be doing exactly that.
This isn’t the only record Taylor has broken… Seriously, we would be here all day if I were to list them all. However, these are the ones that define just how massive her level of success is. Taylor is the youngest act in history to ever win the Grammy for “Album Of The Year” as well as being the first female artist to win this prestigious award twice. Having won over 300+ awards in her career, her album Fearless is the most awarded country album of all time and 1989 is the most awarded pop album – proving that she can dominate any genre. She is the only artist in history to have four albums sell over a million copies in their debut week – thanks to Taylor, CD buying is not quite yet obsolete. For all of those self-proclaimed Taylor haters out there behind a keyboard, y’all still seem to be listening to her music. Her reputation Stadium Tour has just become the highest grossing North American tour of all time for a female artist as well as shattering multiple attendance records. So if I were you, I would make sure I’m in one of those crowds.
Drop everything now and start giving the Speak Now album more recognition, even if Taylor herself continues to pay it dust! Twitter upped the character limit specifically so people could praise the genius that is this album. Taylor wrote the entirety of this record by herself at just the tender age of nineteen, proving to her harshest critics that her songwriting ability is in a league of its own. Don’t pretend that every July 9th you don’t stay up until 1:58 am just to get that screenshot. Whenever it rains it’s because someone is playing ‘Sparks Fly’, ‘Last Kiss’ or ‘Dear John’. ‘Enchanted’ and ‘Long Live’ were born to become piano anthems leaving tears running down cheeks and screams echoing throughout a stadium. ‘Mean’ ended all bullying. ‘Haunted’ is so emotionally wounding that she needed to smash a giant bell on stage before even beginning the song. ‘Mine’ is a story of a relationship that is so perfect that looking forward is so easy whereas ‘Back To December’ reflects on a past relationship that was self-sabotaged because it was too perfect. ‘The Story Of Us’ is literally written like it’s a book. Next chapter!
‘Shake It Off’ is a genius lead single which truly defined Taylor’s final transition from country sweetheart to pop queen. The catchy chorus, exquisite verses and spoken bridge make a grand entrance introducing her gutsy 80’s synth-pop album 1989 – proving yet again that she can defy genres through reinvention. She’s acknowledging the criticism from haters who are gonna hate and choosing to turn a blind eye to the point where her enthusiastic dancing becomes contagious. ‘Shake It Off’ is that song where you can get all of your daily cardio in… once you realize you’ve had it on repeat for the last 53 minutes.
Taylor is known for writing songs from personal experiences but ‘You Belong With Me’ showcases high school heartache at its most quintessential – the underdog t-shirt wearing band geek vs the short-skirt wearing cheerleader, both vying for the affection of a boy whose smile could light up a whole town. The bold storytelling distracts from the subtle songcraft – each chorus length is different with momentum building towards the end for a grand gesture finale. There’s also a double handclap moment during the bridge (the old school version of “1, 2, 3 let’s go b*tch”). ‘You Belong With Me’ is the song that everybody waits in anticipation for on the setlist. It’s the type of song that if Taylor asks you to put your hands in the air and jump, then 60,000 people in a sold-out stadium are going to do just that.
But I don’t wanna dance if it’s not to Holy Ground for six straight business days. This underrated album track from her third record Red is a hidden gem which more people wish they knew about. An up-tempo track that solidifies its place on the album between slower moments. Reminiscing on a relationship full of romance where for the first time Taylor “had something to lose.” And don’t forget Taylor’s iconic drum solo to this song on The Red Tour, where you almost wish that she was hitting you in the face instead. Let’s be real, the next article I write will likely be entirely about this song.
I was watching the 1989 World Tour LIVE movie again the other night and Taylor said that ‘Blank Space’ “ended up being the biggest song she’d ever had” and she’s not wrong. Playful storytelling combined with classic Max Martin and Shellback production made ‘Blank Space’ hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, replacing ‘Shake It Off’ at the top spot and making Taylor the first woman in the chart’s history to ever achieve this milestone. The song screams satire at the man-eating character that the media painted her as, who only dates for songwriting material. A persona she initially felt hurt by, but in true Taylor fashion she flipped the narrative and made it into one of her biggest hits to date – it was nominated for 3 Grammys, won 2 VMAs, 2 BMI Awards, an AMA Award, an iHeartradio Award and it also went on to win an Emmy for it’s “Taylor Swift Experience” 360 music video app. Thinking of all the lonely Starbucks lovers out there and if they’ve gone on to live to their full potential as a nightmare dressed like a daydream.
In amongst her six studio albums spanning over a decade sit multiple deluxe tracks. These songs didn’t quite make the initial tracklist but were too good to stay hidden in an iCloud folder next to the ten-minute version of ‘All Too Well’. If you’ve got ears, treat them to these songs (some of which should have made the first album cut, in my opinion) – ‘Wonderland’, ‘Come Back…Be Here’, ‘Ours’, ‘New Romantics’, ‘You Are In Love’ and ‘The Moment I Knew’. And don’t forget about these epic soundtrack singles – ‘Safe and Sound’ (The Hunger Games), ‘Eyes Open’ (The Hunger Games), ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’ (50 Shades of Grey), and the songs she’s written and given away – ‘This Is What You Came For’ (by Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna), ‘Better Man’ (by Little Big Town), ‘Babe’ (by Sugarland Feat. Taylor Swift). Just listing these extra songs gets me fizzing about all of the unreleased material that the world will never get to hear, because even a Taylor Swift b-side track would no doubt hit #1.
Taylor’s single ‘Getaway Car’ is another track penned with her frequent collab partner Jack Antonoff. This dream duo dust off the vocoder and inject enthusiasm into a song about a love triangle destined for doom ever since downing that first Old Fashioned. I can’t stop thinking about how genius the lyric “the ties were black, the lies were white” is, but tbh if she released a song with eight seconds of static I’d think it was the best thing I’d ever heard (oh, wait.. that actually happened). It ends with one of Taylor’s best outros to date and a plot twist realization that she’s better off without them both.
Taylor’s discography is one that will go down in history and not just for all the records that she’s broken. These songs are the ones that define memories, whether that be walking through the doors at your first day of school, healing your heart after a lousy breakup, the dance at your wedding, or requesting it to the DJ at Freeman & Grey on a Saturday night. Taylor Swift has gone from country teen sensation to a pop superstar. The old Taylor didn’t deserve to die, but I’m sure she can find comfort in the fact that her music will live on forever.