It’s a gloomy morning in quarantined Los Angeles. My phone coos back and forth on my night stand as I rise to consciousness. CNN articles, Instagram messages, and texts flood my lock screen. The time for another Taylor Swift album has come once more. This time a surprise.
Coming at midnight tonight is folklore, the eighth studio album from the chameleonic artist. In preparation, let’s take a look back at the repertoire that made this news such a week-capping headline.
A Definitive Ranking of Every Taylor Swift Album:
7. Taylor Swift (2006)
Taylor Swift was just a taste of what would become of Taylor Swift. The pop phenomenon’s first record was her only true country album. It spawned the timeless hits “Tim McGraw” and “Our Song,” but simply does not compare to her subsequent, sweepingly epic saga of albums. There is a lot to love, and it provides enough intrigue to give the next few albums a listen, but Taylor Swift does not match up to the quality of Swift’s later records.
Best Track(s): “Our Song,” “Cold As You”
6. Speak Now (2010)
Speak Now is a perfect example of growing pains. After the immense success of her second album Fearless, Swift was forced back to the drawing board. How could she top a multiple-Grammy-winning smash hit of an album? Switching gears, perhaps. Swift made one of the boldest moves in her ongoing career, penning the lyrics and composition of Speak Now completely alone. What came out of Speak Now were raw, unfiltered glimpses into Swift’s diary. The record is too long, but it possesses some of the singer’s most impressive, haunting songwriting. Though some songs are skippable, Speak Now would be considered many other artists’ magnum opus.
Best Track(s): “Dear John,” “Enchanted,” “Long Live,” “Last Kiss”
5. reputation (2017)
reputation is the Speak Now of pop-Taylor. After Swift established world domination with the instant classic 1989 and its subsequent world tour, she faced immense backlash in the media. The singer was branded a snake and a fraud. Many saw this media storm as the abrupt end to the once prolific career of the country-pop goddess. In true Swift fashion, the singer-songwriter took back her narrative. She owned the snake, her past mistakes, and dropped one of the best videos of her career. Its accompanying single remains one of her worst tracks, but the album has a lot to offer. reputation shows Swift further experimenting with perspective and narrative writing. The sonically adventurous reputation is a violent, brash, cathartic reflection of Swift’s most turbulent year of fame.
Best Track(s): “Call It What You Want,” “End Game”
4. Lover (2019)
Lover is as imperfect as its unapologetic creator. In embracing the facets of her personality and the genre experimentation that has defined her career, Taylor Swift continues to prove her longevity. With the exception of the swift closing of the narrative to reputation in the album opener “I Forgot You Existed,” Lover is very much a direct sequel to Swift’s most culturally influential album 1989. Adopting a similar, 80s inspired pop sound, Lover exists as most sequels do– it’s bigger, more ambitious, and often less polished than its predecessor.
Best Track(s): “Lover,” “Death By A Thousand Cuts,” “Daylight”
3. Red (2012)
Red is a complicated record in that it showcases the best and worst of Swift. The album showed the singer at a crossroads. Released in her early 20s, Red represents the uncertainty of young adult life within its lyrics and sonics. Red is a lot of things, but boring is not one of them. The album contains elements of dance pop, country, alternative, folk, and rock. It is the most Taylor Swift of Taylor Swift’s albums. It features her best song to date, “All Too Well,” but drags on with overly melancholy cuts that could’ve been left off the final LP. With Red, Swift bid farewell to the country girl and laid the groundwork for what would become a pop phenomenon. Red marks the turning point of the singer’s career in a thrillingly chaotic way.
Best Track(s): “All Too Well,” “State of Grace,” “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
2. Fearless (2008)
Fearless was just that. The 13-track LP was a cohesive, lyrically driven, country-pop smash. Each song said something compelling and found its place on the album. It is incomprehensible how, at 18 years old, Swift was able to articulate such a vast array of emotions through these traditionally arranged country songs. Its raw authenticity, emotionally resonant vocals, and strong production made Fearless Swift’s shining moment. It launched her from being an artist to watch to standing among the biggest pop stars in the world.
Best Track(s): “Change,” “You Belong With Me,” “Forever & Always”
1. 1989 (2014)
1989 marks the best concept, promotion, production, and delivery from the artist. Swift managed to retain her good girl persona while growing up and adopting a bold new sound. It was the riskiest move in her career, and it very well may be her best decision. The album marked a rebirth in sound and mind. Swift named it after her birth year, drew influence from the music of that time, and astounded even the biggest of skeptics. 1989 was a true gift and will go on to be remembered as one of the best albums in 21st century pop music.
Best Track(s): “Blank Space,” “I Wish You Would,” “Wildest Dreams,” “New Romantics,” “Out of the Woods”