Olivia’s take on Taylor Swift albums, ranked
Without a doubt, Taylor Swift can be easily identified as one of the most influential and successful music makers in the industry. From successes from her early career in country music, her rise to pop super stardom, or her more current role as an alternative music maker, it is hard to deny that she is talented at her craft. As of January 2021, Swift has won 10 Grammys, released nine albums (all spanning across multiple genres), gone on five world tours, and collaborated with multiple esteemed artists. This is my ranking of all of her albums, based off of songwriting, lyrics, feelings, and production.
#1 Best Album: RED
Swift’s best album to date is her fourth released studio album, Red, released on October 22, 2012. This album has been called her “one true heartbreak album,” Red focuses on breakups, relationships with the wrong person, and the heartbreak that ensues.
Songs such as “All Too Well,” “Treacherous,” and “I Almost Do” reflect on a relationship that ended on non amicable terms.
The album’s aesthetic and setting is fall foliage and warm cafes in a big city, which perfectly accentuates the somber lyrics and songs of the album.
Red marked the beginning of Swift’s switch to pop music, with pop-country songs such as “22,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and “We Are Never Getting Back Together” making their way to mainstream radio stations.
This album makes me feel cozy, even reminiscent of fall days and the beginning of school years. The songs all feel like a big hug and tell me that everything is going to be alright, even if it doesn’t quite seem like it right now.
#2 Best Album: evermore
Swift’s second surprise album of 2020 and folklore sister album, evermore is her second best album to date. With songs written with Aaron Dessner of The National and Swift’s own long time beau, Joe Alwyn (under the pseudonym William Bowery), Swift concocted an album of songs that once again tug at the listener’s heartstrings. “marjorie,” written about her late grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, shows Swift reminiscing on memories with former opera singer Marjorie, complemented with her grandmother’s background vocals. “no body, no crime,” a song featured with Swift’s long time pals and female rock band Haim, sings about infidelity and murder, likely a nod to Swift’s love of true crime. Furthermore, many fans compare this to The Chicks’ 1999 hit, “Goodbye Earl.”
The aesthetic of this album is much like folklore, but with more fall colors and retro vibes. evermore is already one of my favorite Taylor Swift albums of all time, and it has only been out for a little over a month. The songs make me feel like Taylor reached into my brain and wrote a song about what I’m feeling right now. She outdid herself with this album; with it being her second album released in less than six months, one might think it would seem rushed, but in fact it is the opposite. It feels like an album I have been listening to my whole life.
#3 Best Album: folklore
folklore, Swift’s surprise release eighth studio album that came out on July 23, 2020 is her third best album. folklore really showed off Swift’s songwriting chops by releasing an alternative album after three consecutive pop albums. Swift surprised fans with the release of the album, which sold over two million copies in its first week, becoming the first album of 2020 to sell one million copies. folklore is about fondly looking back onto a relationship, with songs such as “the 1,” “hoax,” and “peace” being endearingly reminiscent of love. Tracks “cardigan,” “august,” and “betty” are all different points of views of a love triangle Swift created.
folklore’s aesthetic revolves around spring, trees, cottagecore, and small towns. This album makes me feel so free and much like how Red makes me feel. It is soft and honest, which makes my deepest troubles seem heard. I think it is a great transition from her days in pop and really shows how even though she can make music for mainstream audiences, she still is an extraordinarily talented songstress and lyricist.
#4 Best Album: Speak Now
Swift’s third studio album, Speak Now, penned completely by herself at ages 19 and 20 is her fourth best album. Maybe it’s the fact that Swift, not even old enough to legally consume alcohol, wrote the complete album herself, or maybe it’s the lyrics that she wrote, but there is something special about this album. Songs such as “Dear John,” “Last Kiss,” and “Back to December” are beautifully written breakup songs that tug on any listener’s heartstrings. Swift describes breakups and lost relationships delicately, honestly, and utterly truthfully. She did not hold back on lyrics, with “But now I’ll go sit on the floor wearing your clothes, all that I know is I don’t know how to be something you miss,” being one lyric on “Last Kiss” and showing such a simplistic yet openly honest part of heartbreak. “Long Live” is widely thought to be a sort of love song to Swift’s fans, while “Never Grow Up” reflects on the adolescent wanting to grow up but soon realizing that it is not all it is cut out to be.
Speak Now won two Grammys, Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song, for “Mean,” a song that denounced bullying and mean people in general. The aesthetic of this album is summer time, fireworks, purple, flowers, and vintage clothes. Speak Now makes me feel like I can do and feel anything, maybe because Taylor wrote this entire album herself when she was only three years older than I am today. This album is bright and enchanting, yet open and poignant, which is what makes it so worth listening to.
#5 Best Album: 1989
Swift’s fifth best album and breakout pop album, 1989 marked her place in the music industry and secured her a permanent spot in pop music. 1989 features tracks akin to ‘80s synth pop, as Swift wanted to romanticize the decade in which she was born.
“Welcome to New York” commemorates Swift’s move to New York City. “Clean” is about looking back at a relationship and freeing oneself from it after it all.
1989 won three total Grammys: Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Music Video for “Bad Blood.” In Swift’s acceptance speech for Album of the Year, she famously gave a speech aimed to empower young women and take a dig at Kanye West, after he claimed he made Swift famous after the 2009 Video Music Awards incident (he didn’t).
I adore 1989 because the New York City references and beautifully written lyrics about love and forgiveness paint a picture of youth, learning, and growth. I also really love and miss the aesthetics of this era, which is bright lights, big cities, and best friends.
#6 Best Album: reputation
Swift’s sixth best album, released in 2017 after a two year long hiatus, is none other than reputation. Swift wrote this album about finding love and light in a dark place. This album shows Swift in a new light (perhaps because as sung in “Look What You Made Me Do,” the old Taylor was dead), with her appearing more confident and mature.
In songs such as “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” and “I Did Something Bad,” Swift takes on a powerful, feminist persona; however, songs such as “Delicate,” “Dancing With Our Hands Tied,” and “New Year’s Day” show a more sentimental, in love, side of Swift.
The aesthetics, complete with snakes, dark cityscape, and wilted flowers, all contribute to the tough image Swift made for herself during this era.
The 53 show world tour grossed about $346 million. reputation is one of my favorite Taylor Swift albums and albums in general of all time. The lyrics about Taylor overcoming things and emerging stronger than ever really resonate with me. I love how instead of giving into the hate she got prior to this album, she embraced it and made it part of her persona as an ultimate slap in the face to her critics.
#7 Best Album: Fearless
Fearless, Swift’s second released studio album, is her seventh best album. Fearless shows a picture of high school, young love, and teenage adolescence, especially when it comes to relationships. “Fifteen, ”“Fearless,” “You Belong With Me,” and “Hey Stephen” are all songs about first loves and crushes. Perhaps Swift’s best known song from Fearless or even her whole career, “Love Story” alludes to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a tale about forbidden love set in a youthful manner. This album is truly what launched Swift to stardom at age 18. Fearless was actually the album that made me a fan of Taylor Swift when I was just four years old. I have grown up on this album and have been listening to it my whole life. Now that I’m in high school, I really resonate with it even more than I did when I was a kid.
#8 Best Album: Lover
Lover, Swift’s seventh released studio album (August 23, 2019) and eighth best album is all about LOVE. The album also marked Swift’s decision to be outspoken about her political views, with songs such as “The Man,” “You Need to Calm Down,” and “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” denouncing sexism, homophobia, and speaking on politics in general. Tracks such as “London Boy,” “Cornelia Street,” “Cruel Summer,” and the title track “Lover” can be directly linked to her very own lover, Joe Alwyn, whom Swift has been partners with since 2016. After the dark aesthetic of reputation Swift emerges bright and happy with Lover. This album is so cute and playful. I adore the bright, summery, happy, and glittery aesthetics, the love songs, Taylor becoming more comfortable with herself, and the overall vibe of the album.
#9 Best Album: Taylor Swift
Finally, Swift’s ninth best album is her debut album, Taylor Swift. This album speaks on first loves, youth, and figuring out one’s place in the world. Songs such as “The Outside,” “Tied Together With a Smile,” and “A Place in This World” reflect Swift and her friends’ youthful problems, such as eating disorders, finding a place to fit in, and looking from the outside in. Swift’s country roots are in full swing with this album, with her southern twang easily recognized. I love this album because with Fearless, I grew up listening to it, and it definitely shaped who I am today. I ranked it so low simply because country music isn’t really my style anymore, but I like this because of the nostalgia and relatable lyrics!