The Definitive Ranking of Taylor Swift’s Albums
Whether or not you consider yourself a “Swiftie,” it’s safe to say that you’ve at least heard of Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album, Lover, that was recently released last week. The album itself was highly anticipated because it was her first since her split with Big Machine Records and she has since signed with Republic Records. Swift has had her fair share of success on the charts and Lover is proving to be no different. According to Billboard, Lover, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Chart with the biggest opening of any album since her last album, Reputation. Swift has consistently made waves with her prolific songwriting, dedicated fanbase, and her ever changing sound. No one album of hers sounds like the last and this makes each album that much more influential and anticipated. That being said, how does Lover compare to her six other albums? Keep reading for my definitive ranking of Swift’s albums.
#7: Fearless (2008)
Ranking this album as last may hurt all of the “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” fans out there and, believe me, those songs made this decision extremely hard. However, I can’t say that if one were to remove those two songs that the album would be anywhere near as good. Swift co-wrote every song on the album which is extremely impressive. From the heartwarming and relatable coming of age “Fifteen” as well as the break-up track “Forever & Always,” the album delivers exactly the variety that listeners could hope for. Sonically it is not as cohesive as some of her other albums and does not blend her country roots with her pop evolution as smoothly as her later albums. While I do think Fearless paved the way for a good portion of her career because of its major hits, I also think that her other albums deserve a higher ranking for their style and songwriting, respectively.
#6: Taylor Swift (2006)
Swift’s first album, Taylor Swift, lands at number six for both its identity and its charm. Released when Swift was sixteen, the album has a strong emphasis on love and relationships. Her songwriting ability even at sixteen was undeniably good with five singles from the album such as “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops on My Guitar” going platinum. The album as a whole has a strong essence of country with her vocals being supported by banjos, guitars, and lyrics with references to things like Georgia, trucks, and screen doors. Most of the album is actually quite intimate and songs such as “The Outside” and “Tied Together With A Smile” expressing feelings of inadequacy of not fitting in that many young adults can relate to at different points in their lives. Even the more fiery “Should’ve Said No” adds to the identity of the album as a whole and allows listeners to get to know Swift in a triumphant way.
#5: Speak Now (2010)
Speak Now was the follow up album to the Grammy winning album, Fearless, and was written entirely by Swift. If that fails to impress, the songs themselves will. The tracklist of Speak Now covers a lot of ground and she sings about everything from a bad relationship coming to a close in “Dear John” to not letting haters and bullies get the best of you in “Mean.” The album contains fourteen songs and they are all solid options for listening. Those newly infatuated may opt for “Enchanted” over the heartbreaking “Last Kiss” but all in all the album can be enjoyed start to finish. Not only does that say a lot about her talent but also her artistry. Speak Now tells the story of a young woman living a very full life full of love, heartbreak, vulnerability, and the strength to, well, speak.
#4: Reputation (2017)
Before I say anything about Reputation, let it be known that this album has major street cred in my book. Her sixth album went on to have the highest-grossing U.S. tour of all time, making over $266 million. Not only that but it also came after a slew of unfortunate events for both her and her image–hence the title of the album. Following her break-up with Calvin Harris she also found herself in an all out media war with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West–a quick Google search will tell you all you need to know about that drama if you want to put yourself through it. What was impressive about Repuation was that the entirety of the album was a complete 360 in terms of sound and she did the same with her look in a power move that seemingly was trying to prove that Swift can be whoever and whatever she wants regardless of her reputation. The opening track, “…Ready for it?,” gave off major rebel vibes with a more intense, industrial sound that would characterize the rest of the album. The album as a whole was darker than any of her others both aesthetically and metaphorically. She touches on being the master of her image in “Look What You Made Me Do” as well as the vulnerability of a new relationship in “Delicate.” Reputation was exactly the album she needed to not only leave Big Machine Records on a career high but also to shake some respect into her name where it was lacking. Still, some of the bad girl image came off a bit ingenuine (because it probably is) and lyrically not every song was it for me. Her usual style tried to peek out in a few songs on the album that seemed more misplaced than intentional like the ending track, “New Year’s Day.” Because of that I think that the album was great but not her best.
#3: 1989 (2014)
1989, a reference to Swift’s birth year, is both catchy and smooth. From start to finish the album has a string of hits such as “Blank Space” and “Wildest Dreams” but not a single song on the album disappoints. The album itself is laid out perfectly and could be listened to like a long story about being in a new city with opportunity (“Welcome to New York”), falling in and out of love, being betrayed by a friend (“Bad Blood”), and learning to move on (“Clean”). Swift delivers plenty of fun and 80’s inspired spunk in the album as well as honest looks into love and relationships of all kinds. On top of this she yet again manages to make each song able to stand alone thanks to both incredible lyrics and strong instrumentals.
#2: Lover (2019)
1989 was a hard album to top for me because of its flow, story telling, and overall vibe- but Lover managed to do just that. The theme of the album basically boils down to love in its many forms and Swift does a beautiful job of incorporating everything from love for a parent in “Soon You’ll Get Better ft. The Dixie Chicks” to romantic love in the title track “Lover.” There is not a single song that can be skipped on this album without making me want to listen to it later. I must not be the only one because her entire album made it onto the Hot 100 Chart. Lyrically the album is impressive as well which, tbh, is unsurprising considering Swift’s previous works. My top songs from the album include “Cornelia Street” (warning: feels ahead), “London Boy,” “Afterglow,” and “The Archer.”
#1: Red (2012)
If anyone questions Swift’s songwriting or music ability: point them towards Red. This album followed Speak Now and was, at the time, a look into a more adult Swift’s mind and life. Where Speak Now still had a little bit of a whimsical youthfulness, Red came in with Swift navigating her adult world. She touches on the bittersweetness of stardom in “The Lucky One” as well as loving someone through a “Treacherous” love. The album seems now as if it were a subtle precursor to Lover but instead of true love and happiness it was more of an ode to heartbreak, tumultuous relationships, and a hope for the future. “All Too Well” was the piano break up ballad to beat and continues to shake listeners to their core, honestly. This album was by most measurements a longer album–16 songs–and each one could be a single in its own right. Remember “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “Holy Ground” from this album? Yeah, so do I. Because of the album’s emotional tone, lyrics, and ability to tell a story, Red goes down in history as her best album. Or at least in my book.