I’ve been listening to Taylor Swift’s music since at least 2010, when I pre-ordered her third album Speak Now and saw her in concert for the first time. With the recent release of her seventh album Lover, I felt like it was time to reassess my favorite songs of hers in the best way possible: a blog created a Taylor Swift Song Sorter that uses your choices between sets of 2 songs to create a list of her entire discography (including her 7 full studio albums and a handful of songs from movie soundtracks). The process took me around an hour to sort through all 126 songs listed, and these are my top 10:
10. I Knew You Were Trouble. (RED, 2012)
I Knew You Were Trouble was one of the singles that Taylor released from her album Red, and it was one of her first ventures into the pop sound that she has used for her most recent albums. It was also the soundtrack to several especially theatrical performances from award shows (including the 2012 AMAS and the RED tour).
9. You Belong With Me (Fearless, 2008)
You Belong With Me was one of the first songs that made Taylor into a household name, detailing the start of a high school relationship in a way that’s easy to dance to. Its music video recently reached 1 billion views on YouTube, becoming Taylor’s fifth music video to achieve that.
8. Dancing With Our Hands Tied (reputation, 2017)
Dancing With Our Hands Tied features a synth pop sound similar to I Knew You Were Trouble, but the lyrics are my personal favorite part of this song. Taylor described reputation as an album as “finding love through all the noise,” and this song’s lyrics (including “I loved you in spite of deep fears that the world would divide us”) demonstrate this well.
7. Blank Space (1989, 2014)
Blank Space is one of Taylor’s most successful singles to date, mastering a balance between a catchy melody and well-crafted lyrics. She describes how the song reflected a character based on herself in an acoustic performance at the Grammy Museum from 2016.
6. State of Grace (RED, 2012)
State of Grace is my personal favorite opening song that Taylor has released so far in her career – it has a stronger rock feel than most of her music, which makes for an energizing introduction to an album that covers a lot of emotional ground. It also has lyrics including “love is a ruthless game unless you play it good and right,” which encapsulate the different layers of love expressed in the album.
5. Treacherous (RED, 2012)
Treacherous has a more relaxed acoustic sound which eventually builds up to a louder and more dramatic bridge, letting the lyrics take center-stage. Some of my favorite lyrics mainly come from the bridge (“two headlights shine through the sleepless night” and “nothing safe is worth the drive”), particularly for how they easily paint a picture and put you directly into Taylor’s position of what she is feeling and seeing in that situation.
4. Enchanted (Speak Now, 2010)
Enchanted (along with the rest of my top 4) are written solely by Taylor, and this song creates a magical atmosphere with both the orchestral instrumentation and lyrics she uses. She wrote this song after meeting someone for the first time, and the song details both the “wonderstruck” feeling she had during that encounter and the curiosity that kept her up in the middle of the night wondering if what they started had already ended.
3. Holy Ground (RED, 2012)
Holy Ground as a song has so much energy that it both musically stands out from the rest of her discography and matches the story of looking back fondly on the adventures that Taylor had in a past relationship. It moves through the stages of looking back at something that has already ended (“this story’s got dust on every page / and sometimes I wonder how you think about it now”) while still reminiscing on the time that they had that filled her with joy (“we block the noise with the sound of ‘I need you’ and for the first time I had something to lose”).
2. Haunted (Speak Now, 2010)
Haunted is one of Taylor’s darkest songs to date, making it a memorable piece of her discography – the lyrics describe the fearful and desperate feelings that come with losing a close connection with somebody to the point that you feel like that connection was haunted. Its lyrics are some of my favorite in all of her music (including the opening lines “you and I walk a fragile line / I had known it all this time, but I never thought I’d live to see it break”), and the string orchestra and electric guitar amplify the emotion that Taylor expresses in those lyrics.
1. This Love (1989, 2014)
Especially compared to the other songs I’ve found for this list, This Love is incredibly calming – it uses a light synth pop sound that recreates the feeling of sitting on a quiet beach during a light pink sunset and watching the water float up to the shore. Taylor originally wrote this song as a poem, which explains how she was able to describe both visual and emotional aspects of the song in a vivid and succinct way (some of my favorite lyrics include “lantern burning / flickered in my mind for only you” and “these hands had to let it go free and / this love came back to me”). This song shows a perfect combination of lyrics and music that compliment each other, making it my current favorite Taylor Swift song.
I have also created a Spotify playlist with all of the songs in this list, which you can listen to here.