In her long and storied career, Taylor Swift has made a lot of good songs, but even her most loyal fans cannot deny that she’s also produced some real clunkers. For every “Blank Space,” there is a “Christmas Must Be Something More.” But how does Midnights, her latest album, stack up to the rest of her oeuvre? That is a question that does not explicitly require spending the past week exhaustively cataloging and listening to every song that Taylor Swift has ever written, ranking them from worst to best, and writing thousands of words’ worth of justification to support my decisions — but that’s what I’ve done anyway.
Here are the parameters I’ve set for myself: Remixes are not in play (sorry, Elvira); neither are songs on which she only features; and no covers (with one exception). Songs she has written for movies, on the other hand, are on the table, because most of them are funny. Also, if she has re-recorded the song as part of her Taylor’s Version project, that is being considered, but not ranked on its own.
I am going to tell you right now that “All Too Well” is not No. 1, and, from Swiftie to Swiftie, I’m asking that you do not dox me for that opinion.
Now let’s get into it:
202. “Welcome to New York”
There are too many ways to roast this song, and every one of them would be completely correct. It is, as one of my friends put it, “what Emily in Paris listens to on her way to see Mean Girls: The Musical.” It is the Freeform-ified version of “Star to Be” from Annie. It is the song we don’t hear Ally sing on SNL in A Star Is Born. It is an NYU freshman posting an Instagram caption declaring the three-block radius around Washington Square Park “my city.” But most importantly, it is a bad song made in a lab and probably funded by the New York City tourism board. Remember when Taylor explained what a bodega is? I can never forgive her.
201. “September” (cover)
This cover is a crime against music, and the only reason that it is not dead last is because it’s the funniest thing Taylor has ever done. There will be no more covers on this list, I just needed to make sure you all knew about this one.
200. “Beautiful Ghosts”
199. “Shake It Off”
I promise I am not a 1989 hater. It’s actually the opposite: I think the rest of the album is so good that songs like this one and “Welcome to New York” ruin the integrity of the whole thing. “Shake It Off” was crafted by the drugstore lobby to be played in CVS for the rest of our lifetimes, and Taylor can do better.
198. “You Need to Calm Down”
Aside from being one of the more sonically grating songs in her discography, the lyrics indicate that Taylor thinks that people tweeting rude things at her is the same thing as, like, actual hate crimes.
You will quickly notice a theme in this list, which is that I find all of Taylor’s songs about the never-ending Kanye West/Kim Kardashian drama to be endlessly embarrassing. This one is the most egregious and features several of Taylor’s worst habits: a silly literary reference (“Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year”), a title that reminds us that she is chronically online, and a dumb little spoken portion that we are expected to believe was recorded off the cuff. Take the high road, girl.
This is basically the first draft of “You Belong With Me,” a much better song on every level.
Taylor’s first foray into writing songs for movies — in this case, Hannah Montana: The Movie — is a blip on her discography. There is nothing particularly Taylor about it; it’s just a regular country ballad. You probably didn’t even know it existed until right now, and that doesn’t really have to change.
194. “I Forgot That You Existed”
She was too old (29) to be acting like this.
In this song Taylor refers to Jesus Christ as “the birthday boy who saved our lives.”
As this and the previous entry suggest, Taylor had not yet figured out how to do a Christmas song in 2007. She would figure it out eventually, though (more on that later).
191. “Stay Beautiful”
Boring! Moving on.
190. “Beautiful Eyes”
A long-forgotten track from Taylor’s Beautiful Eyes EP — a little piece of filler in between Taylor Swift and Fearless. There is no real reason to remember it.
189. “Safe & Sound”
This song is very pretty, but Taylor is in “bananas and avocados” mode on it. A different vocalist would have been better suited to this track from the Hunger Games soundtrack, probably someone whose voice could be accurately described as “haunting” rather than “breathy.”
188. “Girl At Home”
The rare dud on Red, this song is operating on the thesis that only stupid sluts are okay with being “the other woman,” something that Taylor is above because she’s been cheated on. Okay. Additionally, it is the only song that’s been re-recorded to sound completely different; on Red (Taylor’s Version) it is confusingly turned into an attempt at a club banger. I don’t think Taylor has ever known what to do with this song, and neither do I.
I can hear the haters now: “Not her putting ‘ME!’ below the bottom 10.” Yes, me putting “ME!” below the bottom 10. What is most despicable about this song is a production style more befitting of a “Mommy & Me” class. Also, an ugly music video. The melody and lyrics are actually not as bad as you might remember — if Taylor sang a stripped-down version of this, we’d all go gaga for it.
186. “Message In a Bottle”
What a shame that Taylor wasn’t writing songs at the peak of Hilary Duff’s pop stardom. Ms. Lizzie McGuire would have eaten this one up.
A cute song about being in love with a famous singer. That’s that on that.
184. “A Perfectly Good Heart”
If you clock something about this portion of the list, it’s that there will be a fair amount of songs from Taylor’s debut album. That’s because there is a lot of filler on that album. This one, like several other songs from that era, could have been written for and sung by any other up-and-coming country girlie: It’s nondescript, inoffensive, and completely unremarkable.
183. “A Place in This World”
Oop, another debut filler track. This one, no matter how many times I listen to it, cannot stick in my head. Taylor’s voice sounds especially young here, as she strains it to hit notes that don’t yet sound natural to her.
182. “Sweeter Than Fiction”
What is it about Taylor’s soundtrack songs that is so humiliating? This is another one of those; it played in the end credits of a James Corden movie in which he played a real-life guy who won Britain's Got Talent. “Sweeter Than Fiction” is notable for being the first song we ever heard from Taylor and Jack Antonoff as a team, and not much else.
There is a reason this is a bonus track. It sounds like other songs on Speak Now, but never manages to pack as much of a punch as its legitimate brothers and sisters.
180. “I Heart?”
Pronounced “I Heart Question Mark,” this song is most noteworthy for having the most egregious display of Taylor’s fake Southern accent. It could be a Kellie Pickler song (‘memba her?) and none of us would ever know the difference.
179. “I Did Something Bad”
The tweet was taken down for copyright, so you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that I once synced this song with footage from a Samsung Galaxy commercial, and it fit perfectly.
178. “Only The Young”
You might have missed this one because it’s another of Taylor’s end credits songs. It is an upbeat number that features a verse about school shootings. I’m good, love.
177. “Jump Then Fall”
In the booklet for Fearless (Platinum Edition), Taylor wrote that this song is about “jumping then falling into the most magical summer love imaginable.” And it certainly is that!
176. “Eyes Open”
The better of Taylor’s two Hunger Games tracks, this one isn't bogged down by being a collaboration with the musical duo known as The Civil Wars. It has a harder sound, one that made more sense with the Red era she was about to enter. As far as her movie songs go, this one feels the most connected to the actual work it was being produced for.
175. “Tied Together With a Smile”
I am aware that people love this song, but it only stands out in comparison to the other filler on Taylor Swift. And compared to the songs on that album that are actually stellar, this is a non-entity.
174. “The Outside”
You could already see the inklings of a pop star when Taylor Swift came out, and this is one of those tracks that hints that Taylor was headed in more of a Shania direction than a Reba one.
173. “Never Grow Up”
A simple, guitar-focused track about mothers and daughters, you say? Taylor had already done a better version of this song on Fearless.
The song where she pretends to be Ethel Kennedy… She certainly made a choice.
The melody of this song sounds like something that plays in the background of the information channel at a Holiday Inn Express. It’s so easy and smiley, and it is not helped by the fact that this is some of Taylor’s more elementary songwriting.
The first of Taylor’s Kanye songs, before their beef would become a major recurring theme in her oeuvre, this is the only one where she appears to have any sympathy for the man who bumrushed her at the VMAs in 2009. “Who you are is not who you’ve been,” she sings. It’s funny looking back at this now.
169. “Look What You Made Me Do”
Seven years after “Innocent,” Taylor released another song about Kanye, only this time it was an aggressively upbeat revenge anthem that interpolates “I’m Too Sexy.” Aye yi yi. I maintain that if this hadn’t been the first single from Reputation, the album would have gotten a fairer shake upon release.
168. “If This Was a Movie”
More teenage pining from Taylor; this is one of her more forgettable entries in the genre.
167. “The Lucky One”
Why this song was included on Red while “Nothing New” was left on the cutting-room floor is beyond me. Both songs grapple with the experience of being a shiny young star, but while “Nothing New” cuts you like a knife, “The Lucky One” is more like being lightly tapped by a pillow.
As we have already addressed, Taylor is desperate for an Oscar. This year, she’s thrown her hat in the ring with “Carolina,” a song from the massively popular film Where the Crawdads Sing. She’s going for a haunting thing here, and it’s mostly successful because she’s doing a really good impression of Lana Del Ray.
165. “Vigilante Shit”
Our first Midnights song on this list, how exciting! Unfortunately, this song is not very good. I don’t know why Taylor thinks reporting white-collar crime to the FBI qualifies as being a vigilante — more like “Narc Shit.”
164. “Come In With The Rain”
This song is mostly chorus, and that chorus is… fine.
Snow Patrol, remember them?
Taylor is in Evanescence-lite mode on this song, and it rocks. It sounds like nothing else on Speak Now, in a way that solidifies the fact that she was never going to remain just a country star.
It’s good! Not great, but totally good. It would be higher on this list if I could remember what it sounded like after it ends.
Some things could have been left in the vault.
“Change” is about Taylor winning a CMA award, but to me it’s always sounded like the inner monologue of a loser theater kid finally graduating and getting out of their small town. It’s so dramatic, which makes it a great album closer, but on its own it’s a little pat.
Jack Antonoff produced several of the vault tracks on Fearless (Taylor’s Version), and for the most part he really managed to reel in his very recognizable production style and stay true to the original sound of Fearless. Not here, though. That signature Antonoff pairing of a low hum and a steady drumbeat is present throughout, clashing with what I imagine was young Taylor’s vision.
157. “The Best Day”
Taylor loves her mom. I also love my mom. However, this song is a little too sweet to totally work. “I have an excellent father… God smiles on my little brother.” Come on. I'm glad Taylor has aged out of her pseudo-Christian leanings.
156. “…Ready For It?”
The Reputation opener is kind of an inside joke. Are you ready for a third of this album to sound like a dream in which you’re in a SoulCycle class that’s all non-stop climbs? Collectively, we were not, and that’s part of the reason why this album wasn’t fully appreciated when it first came out. It’s not bad — and, by this point in my list, I think all of the songs are good — but the line “He can be my jailor / Burton to this Taylor” is too silly to take seriously.
155. “It’s Nice to Have a Friend”
Simple, sweet, and to the point. It is, in fact, nice to have a friend.
This song goes in one ear and out the other, but it sounds nice as it’s passing through.
153. “Paper Rings”
This is about as average as the “Joe Alwyn is broke and that’s FINE” songs go (there are several), but it’s still a cute little bop. It does sound like the kind of song that wraps up an animated movie about two dolls falling in love, but that’s pretty much Taylor and Joe’s vibe anyway.
152. “Bad Blood”
Petty Taylor is always sort of boring, but this is one of the better versions of it. Her lower register is on display to great effect here, and she really does belt her face off in the bridge. But all this because Katy Perry allegedly “stole” some backup dancers? All right.
151. “So It Goes”
“So It Goes” comes right before the best run of songs on Reputation, so it’s not really this song’s fault that I always skip it or zone out when it’s playing. Let’s be real, it’s no “Getaway Car.”
Taylor sounds so good when she’s working from her chest voice. This would be a great audition song for altos who need to bring in a pop song.
149. “Today Was a Fairytale”
God she was really obsessed with the fairytale thing for a minute there. “Today was a fairytale / I wore a dress / You wore a dark gray t-shirt.” Dream bigger, Tay!
This one suffers mainly because, despite being written by Taylor, it was originally sung by Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, who absolutely killed it. The song really soars when an older woman with a real Southern accent is singing it.
It’s very clear that Taylor and Jack Antonoff spent a lot of time together making this album, because she’s taken on a very Bleachers-esque cadence on this Candy Crush-core track.
I know what you’re thinking: The Taylor song with rap verses from Future and Ed Sheeran should be lower on this list. But have you considered that this song is incredibly fun and the sentiment is sweet? This was made for having some kind of emotional breakthrough at the end of one of those high-energy pilates classes and crying (perhaps joyfully) in the dark.
145. “The Man”
The real star of the show here is Joel Little’s percussion-heavy production. The beat is going absolutely crazy; meanwhile, Taylor (one of the most rich and famous people in the world) is singing about how she’d be even more successful if she were a man. Forgive me for not wanting Lean In lessons from someone who found out about feminism in 2017.
I am suspicious of some of the vault tracks — I don’t entirely believe that she’s recording them exactly as they were written all those years ago. But this one fits right in with the middle tier of Fearless songs. It is, and I apologize in advance for this, perfectly fine.
143. “Begin Again”
“I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ‘cause he never did” is a sentiment that anyone who has ever dated an asshole can relate to. Taylor is not one to let things go, but this song is a sweet nod to the idea that things can, in fact, get better.
142. “Stay Stay Stay”
This is the older sibling of “Ours” when it comes to Holiday Inn Express production, but it’s instantly elevated by more elaborate, playful lyrics. “Stay Stay Stay” is emblematic of the whole Red era in that it’s half-country, half-pop, but in a way that totally works.
141. “Don’t Blame Me”
Taylor heard Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” and thought she could do it, too. She couldn’t, really, but that’s not her fault.
140. “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)”
People were so shocked when folklore came out and Taylor was writing songs from other people’s perspectives. Mr. Policeman, she gave us all the clues.
139. “Christmas Tree Farm”
Finally, a good Christmas song from Ms. Swift!
138. “London Boy”
If Joe Alwyn’s mates have any sense of fun, they are only referring to him as London Boy from here on out. This song, while mostly Taylor listing different places in London, is good, clean fun. An intro that takes Idris Elba talking about his scooter with James Corden is an odd choice, but maybe she had Cats fever.
137. “Call It What You Want”
This is, you could argue, the thesis of Reputation: Taylor’s professional life was a mess amid all the Kanye drama, but that actually didn’t matter because she was busy falling in love. It is weird that she says “I’m laughing with my lover… Trust him like a brother,” but I’m willing to let that slide.
It is really fucked up that Taylor only gives full verses to men (and Phoebe Bridgers). She and Keith Urban sound so good singing together, it makes you wonder what kind of magic we could have if HAIM or The Chicks or Maren Morris or Lana Del Rey had gotten a chance.
135. “Speak Now”
Do you think Taylor watched The Graduate and turned it off right before it ended? That’s the vibe given off by this song about ruining someone’s wedding.
This song about being the one who got away is notable for two reasons. The first is that it is the most explicitly country song on Red (Taylor’s Version), and the second is that it features her funniest diss: “I bet you think about me in your house / With your organic shoes and your million-dollar couch.” Not his organic shoes…
133. “Sad Beautiful Tragic”
I hate the idea that Jake Gyllenhaal can (allegedly) inspire this much ache in someone, but as far as Jake songs go, we haven’t even skimmed the surface yet.
132. “This Love”
Sometimes a line as simple as “This love is good / This love is bad” is enough to sum up the whole situation. I hear it, I get it, and I feel it.
Please welcome to the stage: evermore! This song would probably rip my heart out if it didn’t sound like the Blue Man Group was rehearsing in the background.
This is a passive-aggressive ranking because Lana deserved better.
129. “Better Than Revenge”
The most memorable lyrics from this song are the infamous “She’s an actress, whoa / But she’s better known for the things that she does / On the mattress, whoa.” Slut shaming is bad, we all know this. Taylor knows this now, too; she said as much in 2014, four years after “Better Than Revenge” was released, when she told The Guardian, “I was 18 when I wrote that… That’s the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend. Then you grow up and realize no one takes someone from you if they don’t want to leave.” That being said, this song exists in the same vein as Paramore’s “Misery Business”: Even enlightened feminists can enjoy a little misogyny when it goes kinda hard.
This would have been so awesome as a One Direction song.
127. “Should’ve Said No”
“Should’ve Said No” is an early taste of vengeful Taylor, and despite her youth she completely nails the “fuck you, asshole” energy that this song requires. The rock guitars — a nice touch — make this a Taylor Swift song that manages to stand out from the pack.
126. “Forever & Always”
The album version of this song, while great, pales in comparison to the more plaintive piano version that features as a Speak Now bonus track. “It rains when you’re here and it rains when you’re gone” is more cutting when sung over a simple piano melody.
A solemn little song about her mother’s battle with cancer, this is one of Taylor’s best works about family. That being said, you have The Chicks and you relegate them to backing vocals? This is, as we know, a theme with Taylor and the women she features, but it’s especially offensive here. Either let Natalie Maines sing or don’t.
123. “no body, no crime”
What if The Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” had a darker, slower cousin? Finally, someone has answered that question.
This song is a hummingbird that is always kind of flitting right above the ground, but never really landing.
121. “You’re Not Sorry”
The fiddle is putting in such hard work on this song. It really amps up the drama on what would otherwise be a pretty standard breakup song.
120. “Lavender Haze”
Taylor is not getting married, so stop asking about it. There are nods to Taylor’s previous work throughout Midnights, but never more so than on this song when she takes the exact drum fill from “I Think He Knows” and puts it in front of the chorus. It’s a bit of a jarring choice, but one that mostly pays off.
This song is so sad. There are a couple songs of Taylor’s that shouldn’t even be ranked because they are about real people dying and it feels almost disrespectful (we’ll talk about “Ronan” later), and this is one of them.
118. “Cold As You”
This is one of those songs where you just have to marvel at the fact that Taylor was 15 when her debut album came out. This track, co-written with Liz Rose of “All Too Well” fame, is the most mature on the album. Taylor’s voice is still a little squeaky — again, 15 — but when Taylor Swift (Taylor’s Version) comes out, this will inevitably be a standout.
Everyone loves to talk about how the “sexy baby” line on “Anti-Hero” is cringe when “Sit quiet by my side in the shade / And not the kind that’s thrown / I mean, the kind under where a tree has grown” is right there. Luckily, this song has an undeniably catchy chorus that redeems it.
We’re back to fairytale mode with “Enchanted.” But how good this song is isn’t even worth talking about when I can tell you that it is about the guy from Owl City, and on Valentine’s Day in 2011 he covered the song and publicly wrote Taylor a note about how hard he had fallen for her. She did not respond.
This extended Alice in Wonderland homage is, frankly, insane — sometimes in a good way. This song is more Max Martin and Shellback than it is Taylor, but those dudes did much better work elsewhere on 1989. However, I’d be lying if I said the last minute of this song doesn’t go absolutely hard when you’re on the treadmill.
While I am appreciative of the fact that this did end up being a Taylor song, I kind of wish she had sold it to Rascal Flatts.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that there are filler songs on Fearless, but this pretty little diddy comes close.
This song’s biggest sin is inspiring a wave of horrible Instagram captions for people turning 22.
Taylor’s best songs are about love being a complicated minefield where people are always accidentally (or purposefully) blowing themselves up. This is the exact opposite, and while beautiful, it’s kind of like, enough, we get it.
This is like if “Daylight” had a little more oomph to it. Falling in love is great, but it’s also incredibly scary, or as Taylor puts it, “Never trust it if it rises fast / It can’t last.” Thank you for being honest, queen.
109. “cowboy like me”
108. “Tell Me Why”
This is the kind of barn burner Taylor used to write that is just begging to be covered by Kelly Clarkson. How do I make that happen?
Unlike “Babe,” this song is actually better as a Taylor cover than as its original version (a Little Big Town song). I don’t know if that would be true if she had recorded it for the original version of Red, but on the re-recording her voice sounds powerful and pleading and perfectly suited to the song.
106. “Come Back… Be Here”
Psychologists are saying that it’s possible to become clinically obsessed with the way she says, “But you’re in… Lun-dan.”
105. “Sparks Fly”
Speak Now was a major turning point for Taylor, and songs like this are why. Written solely by her, you can see how much she’s grown as an artist with lines like “My mind forgets to remind me you’re a bad idea” and “The way you move is like a full-on rainstorm and I’m a house of cards.” She’s always been a good writer, but this is the moment you realize that she might become a great one.
104. “Question… ?”
I fed an AI learning program hundreds of hours of Taylor Swift and The 1975 music and this is what it produced.
A guitar hasn’t sounded this good on a Taylor song in years.
102. “the 1”
A bold way to start an album that sounds like none of your other music is to open with “I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit.” While that does sound like a line from Reputation, the song unfolds into a delicate conversation with an old lover about how they were the right person at the wrong time. “It would have been fun, if you would’ve been the one.”
101. “The Story of Us”
Taylor’s writing ability is on full display here, with some twisty rhymes (“Oh, a simple complication / Miscommunications lead to fallout”), cutting one-liners (“I’m dying to know / Is it killing you like it’s killing me?”), and a storybook metaphor that is actually earned.
This song is going straight for the gut, and then Taylor goes and says, “We were like the mall before the internet.” Sometimes she gets in her own way.
99. “I Almost Do”
It will never not be funny that this song about wanting desperately to get back with someone you know you shouldn’t comes right before “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” on the tracklist. Taylor is funny like that sometimes.
When this song starts, I’m thinking, “This woman has never let anything go in her life.” And then the chorus hits, and I think, “And she never should.”
97. “King of My Heart”
When Reputation is at its very best, the EDM influence is actually additive to the work. Such is the case here, where Max Martin and Shellback let the drum machine go absolutely crazy to great effect. (Side note: This is another Joe Alwyn Is Broke and That's FINE song, if you're keeping track.)
96. “I Know Places”
This is, in retrospect, a very proto-Reputation song. A highly produced track about being in love when the whole world is trying to catch you, “I Know Places” finds Taylor exploring themes she would later devote an entire album to. It would fit in nicely on Rep, but I’m glad we got a taste of it on 1989.
Do you see what I’m saying about how she always lets the men sing? Infuriating. I do have to admit that Sheeran’s voice sounds very good paired with Taylor’s. She doesn’t actually have that many songs about having a crush, and it’s nice to hear her sing about the very beginning of something new. (I’m pretending “Begin Again” doesn’t exist.)
We haven’t gotten to “Hey Stephen” yet, but if you thought Taylor could find a lot of things that rhyme with “Stephen,” just wait until you hear her rhyme “Dorothea” with “bleachers.” This is the folksiest song of the folkmore era, and Taylor’s voice sounds almost husky as she sings to a girl who has fled their shared hometown to become a big star.
Is there a better way to publicly announce that you’re going to be a pop star now? “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was the first single off of Red, and it served as a bit of a fake out. Opening with some recognizably country chords, Taylor then swings into the chorus in full pop mode. You can hear how much fun she’s having, even (especially?) in the cheesy spoken moments.
92. “The Moment I Knew”
The little cousin of “All Too Well,” this one tells a story of the same relationship, zoomed in to a particular moment when the guy missed Taylor’s birthday. While sad, we all know she can get even sadder.
Taylor often catastrophizes breakups, so it’s nice to see her take a deep breath and say, “I will get over it eventually.”
90. “I Think He Knows”
Another great crush song, this one perfectly encapsulates the thrill of being newly obsessed with someone. The song bursts open after the bridge; it sounds exactly like how it feels when a first date goes extraordinarily well.
89. “Dear Reader”
This is some of Antonoff’s most restrained work on Midnights, and it works wonderfully. Taylor sings directly to her fans, declaring, “You wouldn’t take my word for it if you knew who was talking" — reminding us that she’s just fucked up as the next person. It’s a shame that it’s just a bonus track, because it feels like the perfect summation of Midnights.
Thank god she wrote a song that atones for the sins of Cats.
87. “The Way I Loved You”
One of the many hallmarks that pops up time and time again in Taylor’s music is her love of a messy relationship. She is — or perhaps was — a fiend for a big, dramatic fight in the middle of the night. This song perfectly encapsulates that penchant, as she sings about pining for an ex who put her through the wringer even though she’s dating a perfectly nice guy now. “I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain… So in love that I acted insane.” We’ve all been there.
Taylor’s voice usually sounds best on the slower, less pop-y songs, but this is an exception. She pushes to the upper limit of her vocal range here, and while I don’t want her to do it all the time, it sounds pretty sick in this instance.
85. “Last Kiss”
I’m making myself giggle imagining that if this were actually a cover of the Pearl Jam song. It’s not, but that’d be pretty funny, right?
84. “mad woman”
I love this song, but ever since one of my colleagues told me they thought the line “Does she mouth, ‘Fuck you forever’?” was “Does she mouth-fuck you forever?” I have been unable to hear it.
Plain old red is out; burgundy, scarlet, and maroon are in.
It’s always going to be great when Taylor admits that she’s the one to blame. It produces some of her best songs, as evidenced by this one where she sings, “Why'd I have to break what I love so much? / It's on your face, and I'm to blame, I need to say / Hey, it's all me in my head.”
81. “my tears ricochet”
All there is to say about this song has already been said by Charlie Puth:
80. “Long Live”
I originally placed “Long Live” at No. 101, and then I listened to it again and remembered that the last 90 seconds of this song makes me lose my mind. Sure, “I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you” is beyond ridiculous, and Taylor has done the fairytale thing to greater effect in other releases, but sometimes ranking over 200 tracks by one of the most prolific songwriters of your generation is about a gut feeling, and this song deserved better than my initial score.
79. “tolerate it”
One of Taylor’s most devastating couplets is “I know my love should be celebrated / But you tolerate it.” Whether you interpret “tolerate it” as a song for a romantic partner or a song about disappointing your parents, everyone can agree that it fucks them up.
78. “Tim McGraw”
You cannot convince me that this is not a song about having a summer camp boyfriend.
77. “Back to December”
“Turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you.” Now that is a bar.
I just know Taylor was obsessed with historical fiction about young women who lived through notable eras of American history. This one’s for the girls who devoured every book in the Dear America series.
75. “Midnight Rain”
Remember when everyone was always saying, “Don’t date Taylor Swift, she’ll write a song about you”? It seems more like you shouldn’t date Taylor Swift because she is addicted to self-sabotage. “He wanted it comfortable / I wanted that pain” — good grief.
74. “How You Get The Girl”
A perfect song.
73. “it’s time to go”
Before everyone was talking about “quiet quitting,” Taylor was talking about just up and leaving a situation that no longer suits you. And she’s right, sometimes giving up is the strong thing.
You start out thinking that the high school framing of this song is a little trite, and then that clever “Go! Fight! Win!” cheer pops up in the chorus. Suddenly this is a song about deciding to be a public Democrat, and it’s really working.
71. “High Infidelity”
Of all the Taylor speculation I have done in my life, never have I wanted answers more than when Taylor opens this track with “Lock broken / Slur spoken.” Fans have speculated that this song is about Calvin Harris, and I am just dying to know what kind of slurs a Scottish DJ is throwing around behind closed doors.
70. “‘tis the damn season”
Taylor goes full Phoebe Bridgers (hometown malaise, relationships that don’t work, wondering what might have been), and it’s a good look on her.
It’s a shame that “sexy baby” discourse kind of overshadowed the rest of this song, because even though that line is bad, the rest of “Anti-Hero” is a plucky return to one of Taylor’s best themes: getting in her own way.
68. “Teardrops on My Guitar”
Pour one out for Drew, who has to live with this being his legacy.
Sometimes when people go off about Taylor being one of the great poets, I’m kind of like, let’s all get a grip. But this song makes you understand people’s inclination for calling her our new bard. “Stood on the cliffside screaming, ’Give me a reason’ / Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in,” she whisper-sings, and suddenly I see the vision.
If you had come to me five years ago and said, “Taylor Swift is going to write a folk song sort of about COVID-19 but also about war,” I would have replied, “That sentence does not make any sense, but I bet the song is good.” And I would have been right.
65. “State of Grace”
Drums are the star of the show here, announcing at the top of Red that Speak Now Taylor was still in the room with us, if only briefly.
64. “I Knew You Were Trouble”
I once did karaoke with a bunch of people I didn’t know very well, and some guy put this song on “for the room.” Let me tell you, there’s no better way to know if a song is a hit than if it’s the perfect karaoke selection. Everyone belted it at the top of their lungs, no one was too cool for it, and we all had a great time. Undeniable banger.
63. “The Great War”
One of the best songs on Midnights, “The Great War” is served well by being an Aaron Dessner joint instead of a Jack Antonoff one. This recounting of a nearly relationship-ending fight is among Taylor’s most vulnerable output: “And maybe it’s the past that’s talking / Screaming from the crypt / Telling me to punish you for things you never did / So I justified it.”
62. “invisible string”
It will never not be funny that Taylor made a big show of proclaiming her belief in fate and the universe bringing two people together on this song, and then two albums later there was “Mastermind” which is basically just her saying, “Sike!” This song is still lovely, though, and I hope lots of couples have had a very nice first dance to it at their weddings.
This would rank higher if I weren’t constantly skipping it because it’s too sad and I don’t want to think about my loved ones dying.
That little *ding* that comes right before the chorus? That is the good stuff.
I talked a lot of shit about some of the songs on Taylor Swift, but that stops here. This is the anthem that codependent girls deserve. Taylor even laid the Tennessee (?) accent on thick, just for them.
58. “this is me trying”
Introspective Taylor rises up here, and it’s a version of herself that works very well as she sings about trying her best and falling short.
We’ll circle back to the line “All I know is that you drove us off the road” and what that has to do with vehicular manslaughter later. But, for now, we must acknowledge one of the least appreciated songs on 1989. This is one of Taylor’s poppiest pop songs on her poppiest album, which I understand may be cloying to some people, but I find it sublime.
It’s a wonder that Taylor had this much perspective about being 15 when she was 18. Then again, she does air out all of Abigail’s business on this song, so maybe she wasn’t that grown up yet.
Too sad, next!
A ruthless earworm, but not quite the peak of Taylor’s lyricism yet. Calling your haters “mean” is straight from the second-grade playground; thankfully, her insults would grow more cutting with age.
53. “champagne problems”
Rare is the Taylor song where you feel bad for the person she screwed over, but on “champagne problems” she implores you to do so. We get the full picture of this relationship in which the narrator was a little nuts, her partner tried his best, and his family couldn’t deal.
52. “Death By A Thousand Cuts”
For one minute and 51 seconds, this song is mid-tier Swift. Then Taylor does what she does best and drops a bridge that elevates the rest of the song to the highest of tiers. “Our songs, our films, united we stand / Our country, guess it was a lawless land / Quiet my fears with the touch of your hand / Paper cut stings from our paper thin plans.” Your honor, she’s spittin’.
Sometimes the beginning of a relationship really is just: “Is it cool that I said all that? / Is it chill that you’re in my head?”
This is the rare song that needed to stay vaulted for good reason. It was made to be a duet — a true duet! — with Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor just didn’t know it yet. With one famous wunderkind singing to another about how exhausting it is to be the bright new thing on the scene, it’s a perfect pairing of artists and song.
A far cry from singing about kissing and holding hands, Taylor dips her toes into slightly more PG-13 waters, referencing the more physical aspects of a relationship: “I’ll do anything you say / If you say it with your hands.”
48. “the lakes”
I would have never guessed that someone as normal-seeming as Joe Alwyn would be such a good muse, but here we are. To me, he is just some guy. To Taylor, he somehow inspires the line “Is it romantic how all my elegies eulogize me?”
“Lover” walks right up to the border of being too saccharine, but never crosses it. The line about leaving the Christmas lights up until January is admittedly goofy, but if you think Taylor keeps her holiday decorations up past the respectable window of time, you’re out of your mind.
46. “Sweet Nothing”
Mr. "William Bowery" did what he had to do on this little number.
45. “Our Song”
There’s a reason this song went quadruple platinum when barely anyone knew who Taylor Swift was. It’s exactly what you want from a teenager singing country music: a banjo-heavy love song about two sweethearts sharing a moment. Taylor was out here managing to rhyme “notice” with “roses” before she was even eligible for a driver’s license — the talent was obvious to anyone paying attention.
44. “I Wish You Would”
This is the dumbed-down version of “Out of the Woods,” which means that it’s still pretty clever.
Those bluesy “Dear John” guitars are back, only this time the song isn’t a shot at a guy who screwed her up. “peace” finds Taylor in a mature relationship, wondering if she is the liability this time around.
The first song in the love triangle of folklore is also its least interesting, but it is redeemed by Dessner’s clean production and Taylor’s breathy low notes.
41. “False God”
Intellectually, I know that Taylor has sex. But I do not think I was ever expecting a horn-centric song about doing the deed.
40. “gold rush”
Deceptively twinkly, “gold rush” sounds like one of the only positive songs on evermore until you listen closely and realize that it’s about being wracked with jealousy. There’s the Taylor we know and love.
39. “exile (feat. Bon Iver)”
The best of Taylor’s actual duets, and also the most out of left field. She and Justin Vernon sing to each other as two different people with opposite views of their relationship’s demise. In an album dedicated to performing a character, this song stands out as the only one in all of Taylor’s discography where we get to hear both people’s perspectives at the same time.
38. “Cornelia Street”
Never has an ode to a rental home sounded so fun and yearning at the same time.
37. “long story short”
Despite her best efforts, Taylor couldn’t help but sneak a pop song into her folk era.
36. “Hey Stephen”
Here’s a list of everything that Taylor rhymes with “Stephen”: deceiving, believing, feeling, leaving, fifty reasons. That’s nuts. Taylor’s really in her bag on this song, and even ventures into a territory we’ll see pop up more in the future: self-reference. “All those other girls, well they’re beautiful / But would they write a song for you?” she sings, followed by a cheeky laugh. Later on, Taylor’s ad-libbed laughs would become played out, but in this moment, it worked.
This later stage of Taylor’s career suggests that she’s done a lot of reflecting on herself and the image she puts out into the world, and no line sums it up quite as succinctly as: “I’ve never been a natural / All I do is try, try, try.”
34. “You’re On Your Own, Kid”
“I hosted parties / And starved my body / Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss” is a little too resonant, as evidenced by how many people on TikTok I saw crying about it. This Midnights track is full of lines meant to pierce the soul of anyone who has ever tried and failed to be everything for everyone.
33. “Dear John”
Specifically the one from the Speak Now World Tour Live album. The only way to get the full effect of the song is to hear the version where, when Taylor sings, “Shining like fireworks over your sad, empty town,” she shoots off actual fireworks. The screams from the crowd are deafening. “Dear John” is, according to Taylor lore, her song about John Mayer. It was also her most vulnerable song to date at the time of its release, and it marked a new level of songwriting capability for the young star.
32. “I’d Lie”
Only available on the Best Buy version of her debut album, this song is basically unreleased. However, like Charli XCX’s “Taxi,” it is canon.
31. “Getaway Car”
If you have not seen the video of Taylor and Antonoff writing the bridge for this song, run, don’t walk. It’s just as, if not more, exciting than the track itself, which is a slick tune about leaving your boyfriend for another guy.
Imagine “Dear John,” but with even more perspective. It’s even angrier, and more aching.
29. “illicit affairs”
She’s less gleeful about cheating here than she was on “Getaway Car”, as her partner in crime did end up breaking her heart “a million little times.”
Ranking this song at all feels wrong, for the same reasons as “Forever Winter.” A real person died, and a child at that. But at least the song is a good one. Composed of lines from Maya Thompson, a woman who lost her son Ronan to childhood cancer, this is the single song in Taylor’s catalogue most likely to make anyone spontaneously burst into tears.
This song is great. I love this song. But, most importantly, it gave us the iconic catwalk at the 1989 tour, when seemingly anyone who had ever met Taylor got to strut out alongside her (oddly, a lot of those videos have been removed from YouTube). That gave birth to what I believe is the best Taylor-related piece of content I have ever seen:
26. “Holy Ground”
If there’s one thing about Taylor’s Red period, it’s that she really got the most out of her drummer. Maybe that’s why she loves Antonoff so much.
Someone help that little kid, oh my god!
24. “You Are In Love”
This is the most beautiful song ever written about Jack Antonoff and Lena Dunham's relationship. “You Are in Love” is one of the few times (up until folklore and evermore) that Taylor was singing about someone else's love life instead of her own, and it works to a stunning degree. “You understand now why they lost their minds and fought the wars / And why I’ve spent my whole life trying to put it into words,” she sings on the bridge. She is, after all, a romantic.
The first song on Fearless immediately alerts you that the girl from Taylor Swift has done some growing up. She’s still singing about all-consuming love, but it’s deeper this time around. A common knock against Taylor is that she’s corny, but I think the more accurate description is that she is almost annoyingly earnest. I wholeheartedly believe that she wanted to ask this man to dance in the middle of a parking lot like some kind of young-adult fiction character with a terminal illness.
“All Too Well” for the girlies who are not in the mood to sob.
Imagine a world in which Taylor latched onto Imogen Heap as her go-to producer instead of Antonoff. This song sounds like nothing else in her discography, and that can be credited to co-writer Heap (who also sings — you guessed it —backing vocals).
Some of Taylor’s best songs are for girls with a flair for sociopathy, and this one delivers wholeheartedly on that front.
Side chicks need their break-up anthems, too. An appropriately dizzy song about hoping you might be able to claim someone, “august” evokes the feeling of a memory, as Taylor breathily recounts clandestine meetings behind the mall and being “twisted in bedsheets.”
18. “Love Story”
What’s that? Another perfect bridge from Taylor? One that poses a major risk to yourself and others should you find yourself spontaneously belting it while veering out of control on a major roadway? This is one of the best songs of Taylor’s fairytale era — it doesn’t get much better than “You were Romeo / I was a scarlet letter.”
17. “right where you left me”
This woman is obsessed with leaving the best songs on the cutting-room floor. Another bonus track — this time from evermore — “right where you left me” is some of Dessner’s best work with Taylor. Folksy guitars plink as she sings about being stuck in the moment a relationship fell apart.
16. “New Romantics”
“New Romantics” song successfully does what “Welcome to New York” wishes it could — and also, for that matter, “22.” Taylor is young, she’s fun, she’s heartbroken, but she’s gonna go out in the city and have the time of her life. This song is pushed to the upper echelons by a relentless Antonoff beat and a bit of “Blank Space”-esque cheekiness: “The rumors are terrible and cruel / But honey, most of them are true.”
This is the most natural-sounding use of "fuck" in her entire catalogue. Plus, something rare for Taylor: a well-executed key change.
She has tried a couple times, but “Dress” is the only time Taylor has successfully pulled off a truly sexy song. “All of this silence and patience, pining in anticipation / My hands are shaking from holding back from you.” Taylor! I’m blushing.
13. “Picture to Burn”
Misandrists, stand up and say it with me: “I hate that stupid ol’ pickup truck you never let me drive!” This song brought early controversy for Ms. Swift, who had to change a lyric from “So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy / That’s fine, I’ll tell mine you’re gay” to “That’s fine, you won’t mind if I say / By the way.” 2006 was a different time.
12. “Cruel Summer”
On a scale of 1-10, this song is an 11 when it comes to how good it feels to scream the bridge.
Another one where Taylor saves all the heat for the last possible moment and it’s totally worth it. The magic of this song is all in the outro, where Taylor word vomits everything she could ever want to say to the guy she fucked it up with. This is one of those “if you know, you know” Taylor songs, much beloved by fans but never sung live or, frankly, acknowledged by the woman herself.
10. “New Year’s Day”
At the end of Reputation, Taylor winds down with a simple piano number. The album is purposefully chaotic, but ending on this note is her way of saying that none of that drama really mattered. All she truly wants is someone to clean up with after a party, and she found that. “Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere,” she implores. It’s one of her best lines, cleanly summing up that feeling of finding your person and never wanting them to leave.
Cheating wins again. This time playing someone who’s in a relationship, Taylor is wading into Bob Dylan territory on this track about being lit anew after falling for a new person.
8. “Blank Space”
Sometimes when Taylor is having fun, the rest of us are suffering (see: “ME!”). But on “Blank Space,” she’s having the time of her life, and so are we. She recognizes that “Taylor Swift” is a character, and she takes great joy in playing her up as a crazy, man-eating vixen. She is, and frankly has always been, in on the joke. There’s a reason this is the song most loved by non-Swifties, and it probably has to do with some combination of its quality and its complete inescapability for the duration of 2014-2015. Whatever the case may be, Taylor got the last laugh.
7. “You Belong With Me”
Pitting women against each other is wrong, blah blah blah. If it’s so wrong, then why is this song so good? Maybe he really just belongs with her.
I love this song as much as the next Swiftie, but if we are being honest, the expanded version — while it provides a few more morsels of gossip — is a little bloated. And if we’re being really honest, it’s actually a nine-minute version with one minute of a decrescendoing chorus. But it’s still perfect. Some of Taylor’s best lines are tucked into the back half: “And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punch line goes / ‘I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age’” and “Just between us, did the love affair maim you, too?”
It’s is the apex of what Taylor does best, namely songwriting and fan service. While I doubt that this is the exact version that poured out of her a decade ago, it is still a minor miracle that it exists at all, and that it’s as good as it is. Ten (nine) whole minutes of rage, sadness, and regret that never falters in its goal of making you despise the guy who broke Taylor’s heart. It’s a dazzling display of bravura from Taylor, but also one that reminds us why editors are so important.
5. “White Horse”
Smartly slotted just two songs away from “Love Story” on the Fearless tracklist, “White Horse” tears down the ever-present fairytale motif of Taylor’s early career. “I’m not a princess / This ain’t a fairytale," she croons in the chorus. The tone of Fearless volleys back and forth between total infatuation and upbeat anger, but nestled in between is a somber reflection on disappointment that is somehow both wise beyond her years and appropriately adolescent. It also caught the eye of the industry — Taylor ended up winning two Grammys for the song.
4. “Out of the Woods”
When we talk about Taylor, we’re talking about bridges. This one takes the cake as her most ferocious. It elevates an already great song about never feeling comfortable in a relationship to god-tier status. Antonoff’s big, booming production pairs perfectly with Taylor anxiously pleading, “Are we out of the woods yet?” It also wins for best fan theory, as Swifties jokingly refer to “Out of the Woods” as the song about Taylor Swift and Harry Styles committing vehicular manslaughter.
“Mine” is the ultimate reason why it is so remarkable that Taylor wrote Speak Now all by herself. Like “White Horse,” it’s a mature, but youthful, track about love that puts her songwriting bona fides on display. Her voice bounces deftly over lines like “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter” and “Brace myself for the goodbye / ‘Cause that’s all I’ve ever known.” As the album opener, this was her way of declaring that she was not playing around anymore.
2. “All Too Well”
Sorry to be controversial, but this is both the better version of the song and the correct ranking on this list. “All Too Well (Original Version)” is something of a marvel. Track No. 5 of Red, it was never released as a single, but found its way to become the ultimate fan-favorite Taylor song. Simple lines like “You call me up again just to break me like a promise” cut right to the core, and it’s part of the reason Swifties would jump in front of a bus for Taylor. Despite being a private jet-owning multimillionaire who has been extremely famous for over a decade, she still has the ability to put into words that universal feeling of what it’s like to go through an unexpected break-up: “It was rare / I was there.”
If you haven’t seen her perform this song at the Grammys, it’s a must-watch, probably her best live performance to date. Taylor looks like a raw nerve as she pounds away at the piano, mustering up the exact amount of emotion that anyone who has ever belted this alone in their car will recognize.
1. “The Archer”
In a 2019 interview with Rolling Stone before the release of Lover, Taylor claimed she had never been to therapy. Songs like this make me doubt that claim, as it plumbs the depths of self-sabotage in a way that most people pay a lot of money to do. It’s her most introspective song to date, and although she frequently cites herself as being the problem, she’s never done it like this. “Who could ever leave me, darling? / But who could stay” is a perfect line, summing up the tendency toward narcissism and self-hatred that so often go hand in hand. The beat never drops, keeping us suspended in Taylor’s anxiety for the entire song.
Her catalogue is filled with songs about loving the mess of a relationship, picking yourself up afterward, and being wounded by it. But on “The Archer,” she's grown out of that (or is at least trying to) and is coming to the realization that there might be comfort in stability. “I never grew up, it’s getting so old / Help me hold onto you,” she begs. Finally, after Taylor wonders aloud “who could stay,” a reprieve arrives: “You could stay.”