Hold on to your scarves! Every Taylor Swift album ranked from worst to best
Help I can’t stop streaming Red (Taylor’s Version)
Every Taylor Swift album is someone’s favourite. There’s an endless depth to a Taylor record rarely found on an LP by any other artist working today. Songwriting off the scale, melodies that will be hummed endlessly and a vocal evolution that goes from Nashville drawl to indie-folk songstress. With the release of Red (Taylor’s Version), and the Jake Gyllenhaal annihilation that came with it, now’s the perfect time to revisit all Taylor Swift albums and get them definitively ranked from worst to best. Please don’t kill me Swifties, HERE WE GO!
9. Taylor Swift
Taylor’s self titled debut album from way back in 2006 is the baby of her catalogue, naturally. It’s a country record down to its cutesy, teen film core – and one full of saccharine lyrics about unrequited love and heartbreak. The whole record sounds like a Disney Channel Original Movie, but hey, that’s not all bad! Taylor Swift is still a fun album, with all of its strength and wallop coming from an excellent handful of singles. Tim McGraw, her first ever single, still bursts with country charm all these years later. Should’ve Said No and Picture To Burn are full-throttle, Swift vengeance banger overloads and Our Song is the best song on the record, a country pop triumph. The boring clump of middling album tracks in the centre let the album down, though. Taylor Swift is a precursor of greatness to come.
8. Speak Now
I’m cowering from Swifities as I write this, but I must stress that I think Speak Now is a spectacular album, and one that I think is highly likely to climb the album ranks when it gets its (Taylor’s Version) rerelease. As for now, I feel like Speak Now is just missing the benefit of evolution, and therefore feels somewhat juvenile against what’s still to come with Taylor Swift albums yet to be ranked. Speak Now is an absolute blast of a record, following up the internationally successful Fearless with an angrier, country pop rock LP built around the concept of the confessions Swift wanted to make to people but never got to. Mine – the scream-along lead single, is a career highlight. Songs like The Story Of Us, Mean, Sparks Fly and Better Than Revenge evolved Taylor’s songwriting immensely, and it’s full of quotable lyrics that foreshadowed how good her writing was going to get in the future.
7. Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
The first (Taylor’s Version) the world got to listen to, Fearless is truly spectacular. There’s something incredibly poignant and moving about hearing the mature, adult Taylor – an accomplished and acclaimed singer-songwriter and arguably the biggest star in the world – sing painstakingly faithfully the songs she wrote when she was breaking through to international attention. Fearless is the definitive early-Swift record – full of world changing singles and storytelling to epic proportions. The new (From the Vault) tracks are excellent in their own right and create a big, bumper version of an album so many of us grew up with. Big hits like Love Story and You Belong With Me have never sounded better, and it’s full of cutesy gems like Hey Stephen and angry stadium filling choruses like Forever and Always that sound like you’re hearing them for the first time. A nostalgic bible.
Flanked by two singles that are absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst songs Taylor Swift has ever penned – the odds were stacked against Lover for it to inevitably the bottom of the pile when getting her albums ranked. But the pure evil of Me and the pick-me-straight-girl-in-a-gay-bar energy of You Need To Calm Down were red herrings. Lover is an excellent pop album that finishes up Taylor’s pure pop trilogy of albums in good style. It’s front loaded and a bit bloated, but contains some of her best songs in the form of Cruel Summer, False God and the stunning title track. Lover richly rewards a repeat listen, with the songs you initially think are a pile of crap (cough, Paper Rings and London Boy) eventually growing on you exponentially. Except Me and You Need To Calm Down, which remain a permanent menace.
The old Taylor couldn’t come to the recording studio. Why? Because she’s dead! An album with an evil, snake, bad girl era sheen that hides within a multilayered and personal record detailing her tumultuous relationship with fame, her celebrity status and the media’s perception of her. Lead single Look What You Made Me Do served its purpose and got tongues wagging – an iconic pop culture moment for better or for worse. Reputation is hell when it tries too hard – the rapping in End Game, the brattiness of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, both unbearable. But when Taylor lets her guard down, on Reputation she crafted some of the best songs she’s ever penned. New Year’s Day does for January 1st what All I Want For Christmas Is You did for December 25th. Don’t Blame Me and I Did Something Bad are anthemic, vocal masterclasses. Dress is effortlessly gorgeous, built around the refrain of “only bought this dress so you could take it off”. Delicate? DELICATE? Literally one of the most beautiful songs in the world as far as I’m concerned.
Put all the headlines and conversations around Reputation aside, soak in the music and you’ll get a mostly consistent, often brave and always unforgettable listen. Pop excellence.
4. Red (Taylor’s Version)
The latest odyssey for fans to devour is Red (Taylor’s Version) – an album that’s only been put back in our clutches for less than a week but one that’s already smashed streaming records across the globe. Red was already a great album – the first transition from Taylor Swift the country starlet to Taylor Swift the pop superstar. Red (Taylor’s Version) is a stratospheric triumph. As soon as State Of Grace pounds its way into your soul on track one, you know you’re in for a RIDE. Red is a journey, and with (Taylor’s Version) running at two hours and 10 minutes in total, no journey that long is without hiccups. The bad songs on Red (Taylor’s Version) remain bad – Stay Stay Stay is still bottom of the barrel and The Last Time is still soulless, but the highs have never, ever been higher.
We can’t go any further without getting to All Too Well. The song had already oft been near universally lauded as the greatest Taylor Swift song of all time, a scarf theft magnum opus break up anthem that became one of her signature songs despite never being a single. When it was announced that for (Taylor’s Version) a never before heard 10 minute version would be included, Swifties everywhere imploded. A lot was riding on All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) to be great, and that was before Swift announced there’d be an accompanying short film starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. Thankfully and miraculously, the supersized All Too Well exceeded expectations and proved that you really can’t have too much of a good thing. It’s the best song she’s ever done. Jake Gyllenhaal is quivering at the mere mention.
The new production on Girl At Home solidifies it as a titslapper, and the new (From The Vault) tracks are as great as the ones we got for Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The Red rerelease is the Taylor Swift equivalent of the MCU.
If jaws were dropped when Folklore was surprise released in 2020, they had fallen from the skull entirely and were clattering on the floor when Swift announced that not five months after her last album she’d be releasing a follow up. Let alone the fact that it’s the third highest ranked of all Taylor Swift albums. How dare Evermore be this good, to be honest. How dare it! Folklore took us to the woods, but Evermore made sure we stayed deep in the trees forever. Willow is the witchiest Taylor Swift has ever written, a magical enchantment that starts the record off perfectly. Tolerate It, Champagne Problems and Tis The Damn Season are spectacular, emotional moments of storytelling. No Body No Crime is the best revenge thriller since Kill Bill.
Whilst it doesn’t completely manage to never get boring, Evermore definitely has no clunkers. Like Folklore, it’s beautifully consistent and an all consuming listen that makes you reach for your coffee and your blanket. The most underrated song on this record is the wonderful bonus track Right Where You Left Me, a song that builds its verses and vocals like a step ladder to a fever pitch. On 1989, Taylor Swift sang “Are we out of the woods?”, but on Evermore she makes us realise we never want to leave them.
1989 is more than a Taylor Swift album, it is actually a holy text. It’s a decade and era defining pop album, a career high within a career of nearly all highs and the completion of a reinvention that solidified Taylor Swift as a more versatile artist with frankly impeccable taste in synth pop. Jack Antonoff’s work with Taylor Swift has been consistently excellent, and 1989 is where that collaboration was birthed. Blank Space IS Taylor Swift – her most iconic single and one that defines exactly who she is publicly and as a writer. Style is breathtaking and makes you Google Image search Harry Styles and look respectfully. Clean, the Imogen Heap assisted midtempo, needs a 10 minute version when we get 1989 (Taylor’s Version) or there’ll be hell to pay from me.
1989 was the era of eras. Hit after hit, hook after hook, scream along chorus after scream along chorus. Utter pop perfection, and one that remains a fan favourite and critics choice all these years later. It changed the trajectory of Taylor’s career for nothing but the best. It manages to simultaneously be frivolous fun and a force of nature. For many, it will be the record of all Taylor Swift albums that should be ranked at the top. But in 2020, she did the unimaginable. She bettered it.
The way Folklore stands out against the rest of Taylor Swift’s albums is apparent with the album cover alone. She’s no longer front and centre, but a small figure swallowed up by the forest. Taylor Swift (the human being) is not baring all on this album – for the first time, the songs here are tales about characters and historical figures rather than her life. But Taylor Swift (the artist) has never been more present. I can sit here at my desk and think about the lyrical content of Folklore and feel like crying. It is outrageously, disgustingly perfect. Prose level songwriting that many couldn’t ever dream of achieving. Cardigan’s bridge is a crescendo like no other. Exile is the best duet she’s ever done. The Last Great American Dynasty should be turned into an Academy Award winning film that every family on earth sits down to watch on Christmas Day.
The storytelling in the love triangle trilogy that make up Cardigan, August and Betty prop up Folklore with a narrative that feels more special as you let the characters and heartache in. Never did I think I’d be interested in or in love with a Taylor Swift foray into the world of folk, indie and alternative music, but the magic of Folklore is that it’s everything we never realised we needed. A folk album at the top spot of Taylor Swift albums ranked! I don’t think even Taylor herself knew how much this world would enrich her career and artistry. It’s a gleaming fruit of the pandemic, some small light in a period of darkness. Folklore kept me going through lockdowns, and I do not know what I would do without this album in my life going forward. Every track feels like family to me – comforting, witty, caring. It’s an album that I expect my kids one day in years to come will be begging me to turn off because they’re sick to death of it.
But unlike my imaginary future children, I will never tire of Folklore’s endless trove of music riches. “Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die” Taylor sings on the closing track, and this album proved she’s exactly that. A poet, and the greatest superstar the music industry has.