At 10 albums in, it seems like as good a time as any to look back on the last 17 years of Taylor Swift being the greatest pop star on the planet.
From her teen country beginnings to last year’s synth pop masterpiece, Midnights, Taylor has been surprising us ever since she first appeared all those years ago.
Every Swiftie would come up with a different order for ranking her albums, but this is ours. You might not agree with us, and we rarely even agree with each other in the Holler offices when it comes to Tay Tay, but that’s what makes being a Taylor Swift fan so much fun!
Since she re-recorded her earlier albums following the dispute over the ownership of her back catalogue after leaving Big Machine Records, we’ve counted the original and ‘Taylor’s Versions’ of Fearless, Speak Now and Red as both being the same thing.
So, here they are, Taylor Swift’s albums ranked in order from ten to one, according to Holler.
"I'm sorry, the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now,” Taylor declared in the middle-8 of lead single ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. “Why? Oh, cos she's dead!"
It was all a bit sad for millions of Swifties, because we all really liked the old Taylor and we didn’t actually want her to be dead. The album was written as a defence mechanism against rampant media scrutiny, being called a snake and getting publicly smeared by Kim and Kanye.
Split into two halves, one half of reputation centred around vengeance and drama, while the other was all about finding love and friendship at the end of it all.
It was still an incredible pop record, but Taylor just didn’t seem to be having that much fun. Taylor’s old friend Ed turning up and doing a weird rap didn’t help.
Ah, here she is, the old Taylor Swift that was so cruelly killed off on reputation. If country music had always primarily been music made by adults, for adults and about adults, all that changed after Taylor.
Teen country superstars Tanya Tucker and Leann Rimes might not have turned 16 yet when they broke through, but their songs touched on the same adult themes country always had. What made Taylor different was that she sang from the perspective of a teenager, and no one had never seen anything like it.
Her debut album reinvented country for a younger audience with songs like ‘Teardrops on My Guitar’ and ‘Picture to Burn’. From Taylor Swift onwards, the timeline of country music would be split into two distinct eras: Before Taylor and Anno Taylor. Or BT and AT, as we call it.
An undiscovered clearing in "the folklorian woods" that Taylor had set up camp in during the pandemic, folkore’s little buddy evermore was surprise-released six months later, and ended up giving Taylor her second consecutive Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
Haim popped up on the country revenge fantasy ‘no body, no crime’, Bon Iver featured on the title track and Aaron Dessner brought his buddies from The National along for ‘Coney Island’.
Like most after shows, though, evermore was probably less fun than we thought it was going to be. But the drinks were free, and we were just all so excited to be there it didn’t really matter.
It was the era of celebrity girl squads and having different special guest appearances every night of her tour, but most of all it felt like just having one long summer holiday with your besties.
As the story goes, Taylor woke up at 4am and decided the album that had been swimming around in her head would be a pop record called 1989. She wasn’t going to listen to anyone at her label anymore and would begin to work on it immediately.
The record that she ended up making - executive-produced by Max Martin between London, Sweden and New York – is a fantasy synth pop masterpiece that revels in the joys of self-confidence and a whirlwind romance, filled with knowing winks, mic drop reveals and eye-rolling asides.
Taylor might have left country behind, but the songwriting chops she learned on Music Row set her apart from every other pop star on the planet.
The Taylor Swift break-up record no Swiftie was expecting.
Released in October 2022, Tay Tay’s tenth told "the stories of 13 sleepless nights” riddled with anxiety, insecurity and merciless self-awareness as she picked over the bones of the split from her boyfriend of seven years, Joe Alwyn.
Co-produced with Jack Antonoff, Midnights was filled with darkly comic confessionals, revenge fantasies and songs about falling in love and falling apart, glancing back towards the synth pop and naïve R&B sound of 1989.
The first of our Top 10 Taylor albums to have been given the ‘Taylor’s Version’ treatment. Originally released in 2010, Speak Now was the first album written entirely by Taylor as she turned from a teenager into a twenty-something, and it was her most intimate and savagely unfiltered yet.
“The songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness,” she said looking back on it. “I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing… and living to speak about it.”
The late-teenage angst was turned up so high it all went a bit Warped Tour on songs like ‘Haunted’ and ‘Better Than Revenge’, and emo royalty Fall Out Boy and Hayley Williams even turned out for the vault tracks on Taylor’s Version.
‘Mean’ went on to win Grammy awards for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song.
The only good thing about the pandemic, Taylor surprise-released her eighth studio album in July 2020 and saved us all from the daily gloom with an album full of escapist folktronica and cottagecore indie folk.
While we all sat in our bedrooms looking down forlornly at our unused tickets for her cancelled summer Lover tour, folklore felt like cosying up on the sofa and being told fairytales from the pages of an old scrapbook of black and white photos.
Quadrupling down on the polished country pop of her self-titled debut, Taylor dove headfirst into the murky pool of romantic relationships with songs like ‘You Belong With Me’, ‘Love Song’ and ‘Fifteen’ on her second studio album.
It explores unrequited love, unfaithfulness and universal heartbreak, all told from a high school teenage girl's perspective unique in country music at the time.
The most-awarded country album of all time, Fearless won Album of the Year at both the CMA Awards and the ACM Awards in 2009, and took home Album of the Year and Best Country Album at the Grammy Awards the following year.
Fearless is perhaps the album that’s benefited most from being rerecorded, and the six vault tracks on ‘Taylor’s Version’ brought in contemporary country heavyweights Maren Morris and Keith Urban as Taylor took time out from being an international pop megastar to remember her country roots.
reputation might have been a dark and brooding record preoccupied with her “haters”, but the stadium tour that supported it was anything but.
Inspired by the love she received from fans to embrace positivity and vulnerability, she performed in front of a giant snake as she reclaimed the narrative, and the shows became a joyous love-in between Swifties and their object of worship.
Her seventh studio album was conceived amidst all of that as an intimate, adorably personal and vulnerable record that felt like an 18-song love letter to the fans who had stuck by her.
With its Claire’s Accessories rainbow imagery and songs like LGBTQ anthem ‘You Need to Calm Down’ and ‘I Forgot That You Existed,’Taylor turned her back on the emo goth of reputation, colour-photocopied the Golden Hour handbook of how to cross over as a country pop singer in 2019 and made her most fun and unexpectedly enduring album.
Released in 2012, Red was the album where everything changed for Taylor.
Swedish uber-pop producers Max Martin and Shellback were brought in for the big three singles – ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’, ‘22’ and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ – and the result was an album that felt like the perfect blend of Shania Twain and Britney Spears, as Taylor yanked up her country roots and replanted them firmly in the pop mainstream.
Dabbling in everything from dubstep to Brit-rock, Red was a gloriously eclectic race around Taylor’s musical brain, tucking into the intensities of romantic relationships, singing about the ups and downs and insecurities of falling in and out of love. Ground-breaking and hugely commercial, Red is one of the great pop albums of our time.
Red (Taylor’s Version) added a whopping great 10 songs to the original tracklisting, including a gloriously indulgent 10-minute version of ‘All Too Well’, which coloured the storyline in with even more juicy details and cemented it as one of Taylor’s all-time greatest songs.
Check out our list of The Best Taylor Swift Songs here, and listen to our playlist below:
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