Should I get back on the horse? I’m undecided, but I do miss having this thing current and active. I’m currently going back to school and am unsure about how much time I’d have to devote to this (certainly not an album write-up per day), but the quest for new music never dies, and the screaming into the interconnected abyss that makes up the bulk of our internet must be upheld. While this isn’t exactly breaking new ground, it seems like a good way to break the ice and get back in the swing of things. And with that, I present some nonsense about ranking Taylor Swift’s albums.
Taylor Swift (2006) – Can the debut album rise above the singles? I haven’t listened to all that much of this album before this [un]objective pass through, so we’ll see where it lands.
Fearless (2008) – This album is what started it all for me, but again I worry that the singles carry the album. I’m not so sure this album holds up past “You Belong With Me”, “White Horse”, and “Love Story”, but I’m ready to be proven wrong.
Speak Now (2010) – I admittedly haven’t listened to this album in its entirety. My bad, y’all. But that means I get to listen to “new” Taylor, so it’s not entirely bad, right?
Red (2012) – I suspect this is her best based on pre-listen expectations. Definitely the album I’ve listened to the most, and features the best song she’s ever written, which can only count in its favor.
1989 (2014) – I liked Taylor up until this album, but I love Taylor after this album. I also went to this world tour, which will
definitely in no way color my opinion of the material.
Reputation (2017) – I was so unexcited by “Look What You Made Me Do” that I wrote this album off after like two listens, but I remember thinking most of the album was actually pretty good. Interested to see where this goes.
6 – Reputation (2017) – Unfortunately every list must have a bottom, and unfortunately for Taylor that bottom is her now. The back half of this album is actually really good and engaging; this is where I expected her to go after 1989 and if she would have stayed here I don’t doubt this album would be higher on the list. But the first parts are a bit too all-over-the-place and often land in a spot I just can’t get behind. Maybe it’s my relative unfamiliarity with the album, but unlike Taylor Swift and Speak Now, I sometimes found myself wondering when the current song would end, which just isn’t a phenomenon I’ve experienced with other Taylor albums. I will say that “Look What You Made Me Do” had me hip wiggling to the best of my seated-ability, which counts for something.
5 – Taylor Swift (2006) – Surprisingly cohesive for a first album by a pop-star; I expected the singles to stand out more than they did. This album is still rough around the edges as she’s growing into her own as a singer-songwriter and being all of 16 when this came out, but there’s a surprising number of gems on this thing that weren’t one of the five main singles (“Stay Beautiful”, “A Place in this World”). Also Taylor’s most country album, with all the truck imagery one could muster. Unfortunately for the debut album, it’s just a little to in-the-moment to climb out of the awkward high school years we all went through, and while it makes the 16-year-old in me very happy indeed, I’m just not 16 anymore.
4 – Speak Now (2010) – So far Taylor’s albums have evolved more or less how I expected them to having primarily listened to Red and Fearless—Speak Now cleanly fills the gap between the two as Taylor develops her approach to country/pop and hones her songwriting. There’s a lot more rock elements than I remembered her career indulging in, which definitely works in this album’s favor and helps it stand out as something more than just a Fearless followup. This album might be better than its predecessor, but my affinity towards and familiarity with the latter gives it the slight edge in this race.
3 – Fearless (2008) – I forgot how much I love this album. I kind of remembered it being more every-other-song-was-great, but the first six tracks are all superb, and the back-half doesn’t drop off as hard as I thought it did. “The Way I Loved You” still gets me in the misplaced feels, but like in a far-away “Oh man, remember when I dumb?” kind of way. Pretty much a 10% upgrade over her debut in every respect, which is more than most artists accomplish on their sophomore album.
2 – Red (2012) – Man this album is so good. The hits are hittin’, and there are no lows to speak of. Even the “filler” tracks stand out above much of what has come before it. And it still has the best song she’s ever written. If I have one bad thing to say about Red it’s that it doesn’t feel as cohesive as the rest of her albums–it’s a little stylistically all over the place as she moves from some steady evolution of her sound (“State of Grace”, “Holy Ground”) into pure-pop bombasticness (“22”, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”) before she winds down with a smattering of ballads (“I Almost Do”, “Sad Beautiful Tragic”). But the individual strengths of the songs more than make up for it.
1 – 1989 (2014) – The highs aren’t as high as they are on Red, but this is Taylor at her most cohesive and experimental. 1989 marks a sharp turn in her style and production, but still manages to be unquestionably herself throughout. I remember being initially skeptical of this after “Shake it Off” was released because I was still salty from the lack of banjo on Red (I’ve since forgiven her), but the album very quickly proved Taylor knows what’s up and what she was born to be. It gets points no other album has managed to get, which lets it barely squeak past in the race for best T-Sweez album.