Like her or not, we all know that any Taylor Swift album release is nothing short of an event. The genre, tone, vibe, and style of Ms. Swift’s albums vary heavily, a trend that is more than visible with the release of Midnights. What’s more, many of her songs act as a collective spilling-of-the-tea by shining a light on the highs and lows of her famed relationships and romances (thank you, Jake Gyllenhaal). For these reasons, and many many more, it seems that each Swiftie has a definite rank of their favorite albums, a trend that I want to continue as I slowly but surely ingratiate myself in the lifestyle.
My recent love of Taylor Swift (or “T-Swizzle” as my cousins called her when I was six) started with the release of evermore in 2020. Coming off the success of folklore, I had FOMO for not being an actual fan so I decided to listen to the album fully through directly upon its release. As a fan of lyrical folk music and HAIM, it comes as no surprise that I did enjoy evermore… a lot. I loved evermore so much that my fandom grew exponentially in the two years since its release, eventually culminating in the release of her most recent album: Midnights. The release of Midnights in tandem with the constant yet ever-engaging pro-Swift energy that surrounded me this semester whilst abroad made me wonder: am I actually a Swiftie?
Sure, I knew a decent amount of her (hit) songs and followed the release of a few albums, but I knew there was room for growth. With a looming 24-hour trip home from Melbourne, Australia, I decided to adventure through her discography to garner personalized takes and, of course, to communicate said takes with whomever possible. With 151 Spotify Liked Songs later, this is what I found.
Before I delve deeper into the list, it should be said that the term ranking is used loosely here. While there are albums that I’d rather listen to compared to others, there is no “bad” Taylor Swift song. In actuality, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge more than I thought. Along that same vein, my criteria for the ranking was relatively simple: I would add up the number of liked songs per deluxe version of the album and divide by the total number of songs in the release. In other words, the rating is based on the percentage of songs that I actually enjoyed. Finally, I am by no means a music major. While I enjoy listening to good music and don’t particularly love listening to bad music, I regrettably can not begin to mention theory or specific terms. Just because I don’t love one song over another doesn’t mean that song is not an interesting and thought-provoking work whose value should be diminished. But enough of the jargon, here’s the list:
10. Taylor Swift
Liked Song Percentage: 40%
This is not astonishing to me. I surprisingly enjoyed the homey feel of “Picture to Burn” and “The Outside” which reminded me of childhood. What’s more, Swift’s eventual career trajectory only furthered the appreciation of Taylor Swift as the calm before the pop, high-production storm of her later albums. However, I am simply not the biggest fan of country music and I find Taylor Swift to most closely embody a classic country album. Also, I did find many of the songs in Taylor Swift to sound all too similar. I understand that this is a common critique of many of Swift’s early works, but I think it only really applies to this album. While Taylor Swift does a good job at introducing audiences to her brand of lyrical, upbeat and country style (at the time), I did not gravitate towards it as much as her other works.
Liked Song Percentage: 47%
Welcome to the first controversial pick of the list. We all know that folklore is a beautiful and formative addition to the discography with highlights including “this is me trying,” “cardigan,” and, my personal favorite, “exile.” Also, it goes without saying that the isolated folklore and evermore era was a necessary jump from the overly pop (which is definitely not a criticism in my eyes as you will soon find out) feel of her prior three releases. However, this did not stop me from falling asleep to every other song and feeling the need to restart the album several times over. When I eventually got through it, I did not think that it was as life-changing as it was hyped up to be. In sum, folklore is good as an isolated moment but not something I intend on re-listening straight through again for the foreseeable future.
Liked Song Percentage: 47%
This shocked me. Going into my Swift journey, I fully expected 1989 to make it to my top three albums. After all, I do love a vibrant pop moment, specifically coming off the all-too-real Red. Yes, there were the classic bops that I still enjoy—including “Blank Space,” “Shake it Off” (which is still underrated), and “Style”—and even some new jams that shot straight to my Liked Songs list—“How You Get The Girl” and “New Romantics.” But, sadly, I did not love the album as much as I thought I would. To me, I did not feel I could attach myself to many of the songs nor extract as much value from the holistic work compared to other albums. With that said, however, I do plan on re-listening to the album in time, so maybe, hopefully, my feelings will change.
7. Speak Now
Liked Song Percentage: 50%
Lowkey Speak Now gets robbed here, much to the disgruntlement of my “waiting for Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” friends. Let’s be clear, Speak Now hits so hard: “Mine” is a banger, “Haunted” is forever on my queue, “Back To December” is insane, and “Dear John” exceeded my high expectations (yes, I hadn’t heard it until just recently). Moreover, Speak Now represents the necessary transition between her earlier works and the fuller embrace of the pop genre as seen in Red and 1989. If anything, I genuinely think that Speak Now is here on the list for reasons out of its control: it does not have as much personal stake as evermore, it does not have the magnitude nor the number of songs as the re-released albums, and I did not find it as surprising as Lover and Reputation. I know this may be a hot take, but maybe it would be higher if Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) existed.
Liked Song Percentage: 59%
This may be yet another hot take, but hear me out. evermore was the first album that I listened to straight through when it was released. In a way, evermore is a key reason why I am a Swiftie now. In fact, I expected evermore to be higher on the list with highlights including “no body, no crime,” “gold rush,” “tolerate it,” and “‘tis the damn season.” Yes, it is slightly bizarre that evermore is here relative to folklore but the bias is real with this placement. I will also say that I tend to gravitate toward the slightly more emotional sound of evermore relative to her previous works. I am an unapologetic evermore fan and its placement at six is a testament to how great her other albums are, quite frankly.
Liked Song Percentage: 66%
To be honest, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Lover. Coming off Reputation, I never found Lover to be as poignant or interesting, especially because I was not as big a fan of the hit songs—“ME” and “You Need To Calm Down”—as much as I wanted to be. However, I enjoyed the lighthearted yet still catchy and cool sound. In fact, my favorite Swift song ever, “I Think He Knows,” belongs to this album. I also quite enjoyed the vibe and thought it was a well-produced, composed, and lively work as a whole. To this day, I have re-listened to Lover more than any other album, including my top album, largely because I was so shocked by how much I enjoyed it and needed to reaffirm its placement. For these reasons, I think Lover definitely deserves a spot in the top half of the list.
4. Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
Liked Song Percentage: 69%
I know I said I did not like country with Taylor Swift, but I really enjoyed Fearless, specifically its re-release. Not only was it beyond cool to hear Taylor sing many songs from my childhood, but I found her voice to be more developed and full-bodied compared to the original version of the album. Yes, it was weird coming off of the evermore and folklore era with “Love Story,” but it was well-welcomed and goes to show how universal, impactful, and powerful she is as an artist. Also, it goes without saying that the bonus tracks (or “From The Vault” songs) hit way too hard: “Mr. Perfectly Fine” is such a jam.
3. Red (Taylor’s Version)
Liked Song Percentage: 70%
It comes as no surprise that Red breaks the top three of the list. In fact, I realized that it could be a cool idea to publish a Taylor Swift article in The Argus after reading an article that revisited the album upon its release. If evermore was the first Taylor Swift album that I followed, this version of Red would likely be the album that I’ve listened to the most, with highlights including, but not limited to, “State of Grace,” “The Very First Night,” “Stay Stay Stay,” and, of course, “All Too Well (10 Minute Version).” Like Fearless (Taylor’s Version) I found this release to represent Swift’s growth as an artist. I found her voice to better match the songs compared to the original release and, as always, the sheer magnitude of the release gives it extra brownie points from me.
Liked Song Percentage: 80%
Perhaps this is because of recency bias, I don’t know. However, it is clear that Midnights is amazing. While there is a common sound throughout most of the album, no two songs are alike and culminate to represent the evolution of Taylor Swift in a comprehensive, thought-provoking way. Upon first listening, I was not the biggest fan of Midnights, but that quickly changed when I embarked on the album a second time. If you are still unsure about Midnights, I implore you to listen to “Lavender Haze,” “Mastermind,” and “Question…?” again. Also, the 3 a.m. edition of the album is also impeccable with notable songs being “Paris,” “High Infidelity,” and “Dear Reader.” Please do not be mad, and give the album another listen.
Liked Song Percentage: 100%
Finally, the last entry on the list. Reputation is sheer perfection, with every one of its songs winding up in my liked music on Spotify. A pick that my friend described as “despicable,” Reputation has such an original, distinct sound relative to every other album. While Reputation represents a stand-alone era that is a stark difference from her other albums, there is clearly a great amount of thought poured into each song. To me, Reputation marks a clear transition from the childlike nostalgia of Ms. Swift to the Taylor that we have today. In other words, the album serves as a significant and phenomenal work musically and professionally.
I know that I cannot satisfy every Swiftie, but these are my takes pertaining to my favorite albums. I am treating this list as a right of passage into becoming a formal Swiftie. Now that I’m here can we see a Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)?
Oliver Cope can be reached at email@example.com.