Ranking Taylor Swift’s 9 Studio Albums (And excitement for #TaylorsVersion)

Yes, it’s another Taylor Swift post! And yes, I’m listening to Taylor Swift while I write this. If you follow Taylor, you’ll probably be aware that she’s rerecording her first 6 albums. If you don’t, you’re probably wondering why an artist would choose to rerecord their old albums. For those who don’t know, a brief history (and I swear I’ll keep it brief). A few years back, Taylor left the record label she signed to as a teenager, and signed a deal with a new label. Anything from her Lover album onwards was released with her new label. Her old albums (the first five) were released under her old label and, as part of her contract, the label owned the master versions (the recordings themselves) of the songs. Taylor wanted to buy the rights to these masters, but was denied the opportunity, and the masters were sold to a third party, who happens to have a history with Taylor we won’t go into, but suffice to say, she was not happy. Why would someone want to own masters? Well, the owner of the masters earns royalties any time the music is sold, streamed, or licensed for use in movies etc. And, naturally, Taylor Swift masters earn a lot. Not wanting money from her art to go into the hands of the new owner of the masters, Taylor has decided to rerecord her old music now the terms of her contract allow her to do so. Even better, under her contract with her new label, she owns all of her masters. Her 6th album, reputation, cannot be rerecorded until November 2022 (5 years since its release), but her first four albums are now free to be rerecorded. And now, we reach the present day, when the rerecording is well underway, and Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is due for release April 9th.

Fearless was Taylor’s second studio album, released in 2008 when she was just 18. It was a huge success, and the lead single Love Story is the reason that many people were introduced to her music. I know that for me, Love Story’s commercial success was the reason I discovered her when I was 11. Of course, I was so excited a while back when a teaser for the new version of Love Story was debuted in an advertisement, and even more excited when the rumours started to abound that Love Story (Taylor’s Version) would be dropping on February 12th. When I heard that Taylor had confirmed that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was to be released April 9th, I knew I had to do something on my blog to mark it. I’ll be honest, I will more than likely be doing a post when the album is released, but I wanted to celebrate Taylor’s whole catalogue. And thus, here I am, ranking Taylor’s 9 studio albums. This is very difficult for me, so please be understanding. These albums are like my babies! There’s practically nothing separating some of them, and I’ve tried to put nostalgia and personal memories aside to rank them.

  1. Taylor Swift (2006)

The debut! Released when Taylor was only 16 years old, Taylor Swift is like reading a high school diary. Crushes, first loves, fallings-out, and teen angst. And all with a country twang. Even at a young age, Taylor showed an incredible amount of artistic control: she wrote most of the album herself, and pushed for producer Nathan Chapman to work on the album. In the lyrics booklet, she had certain letters capitalised that, when read, spelt out a secret message for each song, a trend that is still found across much of her work to date. Some of my favourites from this album include Tim McGraw, a song looking back on a relationship that ended amicably, wishing the person remembers you when seeing your favourite things, Tied Together With A Smile, written for a friend with bulimia, and Mary’s Song (Oh My My My), a song for her neighbours, celebrating their long marriage.

  1. Lover (2019)

I feel bad putting this so low down on the list, because I love Lover. Truly. Released towards the end of 2019, Lover didn’t get all that much time to shine before the pandemic hit, and the tour was cancelled. It seemed, even before that, that Lover wasn’t getting the usual amount of promotion post-release. The lead single, bubblegum pop ME! ft. Brendon Urie from Panic! At the Disco was… a choice. I’ll be honest: I usually dislike track 6. And track 6 is also usually the lead single. So I wasn’t a fan of ME! from the get-go. The rest of the album is far far better, with highlights including Cruel Summer, Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince, Cornelia Street and False God.

  1. Fearless (2008)

Fearless is, as I mentioned earlier, the first album to be getting the rerelease treatment! While Fearless was her second album, I think it’s the perfect choice for the first to be rereleased, as it’s the one that really put Taylor on the global stage. Released when she was just 18, Fearless is a phenomenal achievement. If you’ve seen that photo of curly-haired Taylor wearing dark blue with her arms full of Grammy Awards, that’s the #FearlessEffect. She actually dropped and broke one of her awards because she couldn’t carry them all, and won her first Album Of The Year. Fearless is definitely more mature than her debut, but still features the classic teen love stories, and retains a lot of the innocence that was loved about the first album. Some of my favourite tracks include Fearless, a song about a first date, Fifteen, a song about a first heartbreak (the heart belonging to Taylor’s childhood friend Abigail, who is still a close friend), and Love Story, a song about Romeo and Juliet (and teen angst).

  1. 1989 (2014)

Taylor finally took on the pop world in 2014, eschewing country music in favour of electropop beats. 1989 also came off the back of 2012, a year when she was heavily criticised for dating too many men. In response, after her break up with Harry Styles, Taylor stopped dating for around 2 years. 1989 does include songs written about her relationship with Harry Styles, but is also noticeable for its celebration of female friendships (something else she would later be criticised for), and commentary on celebrity and her own public image. The lead single, Shake It Off, is another example of Taylor choosing lead singles that are extremely catchy, but lyrically pretty bland (sorry T, still love you). Some of my favourites from this album are Wildest Dreams, I Know Places, and New Romantics.

  1. reputation (2017)

I find it very hard not to rank reputation first in everything based on the fact that I MET TAYLOR SWIFT IN THE REPUTATION ERA! In 2016, an old feud with Kanye West was reignited after he released a song name-checking her, and the public turned against her. It had only been a couple of years since she’d got the public back on her side after the boy-crazy fiasco, and this time, Taylor’s response was to hide away with her new boyfriend, and return a year and a half later with an album that is generally considered angry and full of cynicism, but has a much softer side. And yes, I heard the album 4 weeks before release at the reputation Secret Sessions and couldn’t talk about it. But now I can talk about it as much as I want! My favourites from this album include Delicate, Getaway Car, …So It Goes, and New Year’s Day.

  1. Speak Now (2010)

After Fearless was released, some sceptics suggested that perhaps such a young artist hadn’t hadn’t pulled her weight in the writing room as the song credits might suggest. In response, Taylor wrote the lyrics to every song on Speak Now, her third album, by herself. Speak Now is an absolute lyrical masterpiece, and was my favourite album of hers for a long time. Speak Now definitely comes across as a response to a lot of things: a response to the accusation that she didn’t write her own material, a response to bullies, a response to her experience of being in a toxic relationship with an older man, and the most dramatic, a response to being at the person you love’s wedding… and standing up when the priest says ‘speak now’. I love that this album is such a smack down to anyone who tried to pull Taylor down in her early years, and I can’t wait for the rerecording. My Speak Now favourites list is lengthy, but to keep it brief: Long Live, Haunted, Enchanted, and Dear John.

  1. evermore (2020)

Her most recent album, evermore, was a big surprise! After the surprise release of folklore just a few months earlier, I think I can speak for all Swifties when I say we were SHOOK. Initially, I did feel like evermore was a collection of folklore B-sides, but now I’ve had more time with it, I love it. It continues the cottagecore, fairytale, lost-in-the-woods, vintage feel of folklore, and seems to add a more wintery feel. I saw folklore as very much an autumnal album, with evermore continuing the vision into the winter. Taylor, you’re more than welcome to release woodvale (someone spotted writing that appears to say ‘woodvale’ on the folklore cover) as the spring continuation at any time if you’re reading this (you’re not). I’m listening to evermore as I write this, actually! My top songs from evermore right now are: champagne problems, no body, no crime (ft. HAIM), coney island (ft. The National), and right where you left me.

  1. RED (2012)

RED is the first Taylor album cycle I remember in its full glory. I was only 14, and I woke up at midnight to watch the livestream, and the debut of We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (the first in the ‘my least favourite track is track 6’ saga, a trend ended only in 2020 by the blessed no body, no crime). RED is the most emotionally wrenching album Taylor has released, which is kinda why I love it. It’s incredibly raw and passionate, and is the first album of hers that really has the ability to look back on and reflect upon adult relationships, and the pain they bring, which is very different to the pain of teen relationships. RED also marks a moment where Taylor took a tentative step away from country into pop. This crossover album was criticised somewhat for not being “sonically cohesive” (a phrase that haunts all Swifties), but it’s this chaos and disorganisation that gives the album such a strong impact for me. Where else can you find ballads like All Too Well alongside pop hits like I Knew You Were Trouble and country bangers like Stay, Stay Stay? And to anyone who thinks any song on RED is about Harry Styles… I know Taylor is a genius, but I don’t think she can read the future. RED was released firmly prior to her relationship with Harry Styles. My favourite songs on RED? State of Grace, Treacherous, Sad, Beautiful, Tragic, All Too Well, The Last Time (ft. Gary Lightbody).

  1. folklore (2020)

evermore’s older sister, and the first ever surprise album from Taylor Swift, folklore is the artistic result of Taylor’s quarantine. Many of the songs were cowritten by a mysterious ‘William Bowery’ who fans quickly realised was Taylor’s long term boyfriend Joe Alwyn (confirmed by Taylor in folklore: the long pond studio sessions). In a year of such isolation and interiority, folklore explores the natural world, and history, and young love, and nostalgia. Primarily an artistic endeavour as opposed to a commercial one, folklore lacks the radio-friendly, pop-heavy, catchy lyrics that pepper most of Taylor’s albums, and I would argue that it’s all the stronger for it. There are several threads running throughout the album of stories that get told across several songs, which really pulls it together. It also birthed the famous cardigan which I should own by the time this post finally gets released. The ethereal quality and escapism of folklore was honestly just what I needed after almost 6 months of isolation, and is still what I need after 12 months of isolation. The stand out tracks for me are cardigan, exile (ft. Bon Iver), august, betty, and the lakes.

And there we have it! Don’t forget to stream TS 7-9, and don’t forget to stream Fearless (Taylor’s Version) on April 9th and hear 6 ‘from the vaults’ songs that didn’t make the original album!

5 thoughts on “Ranking Taylor Swift’s 9 Studio Albums (And excitement for #TaylorsVersion)

  1. Hi! This is the first post I have ever seen from you and seeing that you met Taylor makes me incredibly jealous! I often feel like people put reputation too low but after evermore and folklore it’s hard for rep to even be a contender for the top three! I did an animation to Champagne Problems from evermore which you might like if its in your top song list for evermore (gotta say mine is champagne problems, dorathea and no body no crime!)

    Like

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