I have a disorder called Being a Taylor Swift Listener. It mostly lies dormant until Taylor Swift releases an album and then my brain goes haywire.
I wanted to do a self-indulgent list of some sort but the problem was that there are so many options? I debated ranking all of her albums and then changed my mind about halfway through and deleted it and then considered just dropping my top twenty songs. Anyhow, I just submitted an assignment and decided I am allowed to do this as a little treat to myself <3
final Midnights verdict:
top twenty taylor swift songs according to the joanne newsletter
I do think the best tracks on each album are: Our Song; Love Story; Dear John; All Too Well; Out of the Woods/Style; Getaway Car; Cruel Summer; exile; champagne problems; Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.
This ranking is based on how I feel. There is kind of a method to ranking and then I usually look at the list and decide it is wrong? Either way it is on vibes. Thanks for attending.
I decided that I can’t be bothered to write about 11—20, so there they are in reverse chronological order.
my tears ricochet
The Lucky One
You Belong With Me
Heh :3 Most of these are just me telling little stories about my feelings. This ended up being like a Twitter thread except that I don’t have a limit (terrible for you all) and feel obliged to put titles in quotation marks and then italicise lyrics because I don’t want to put those in quotes as well. Great time all round.
A true classic. Like this is just a perfect song I keep trying to express how but it just is. Taylor is excellent at telling a story through song and I do think she perfected it here which is crazy because this is literally only her second album? I could try to break it down or you could just go and listen to the song and appreciate it. Hearing the introduction notes alone is such a rush. I do love the ‘pop’ version that is out there and wish she would release that like that is a From the Vault I would stream. Literally a song about gay people.
My emotional support song when I was about fifteen. I feel like the water imagery should feel tired or even trite but it works. Maybe because Taylor Swift commits so wholeheartedly to it—drought was the very worst, flowers dying of thirst, sky turning black like a perfect storm, rain came pouring down / when I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe, floods carrying picture away, water filling lungs, and of course all of this water making you clean. The contrast between the water and ‘you’ being all over the speaker like a wine-stained dress. She loves a rain moment, we know this. Maybe it’s really just the emotional support and healing. Specifically, the chorus of ‘Clean’ is quite straightforwardly about healing, by way of being able to breathe and then being clean, and so we return to these lines again and again even as the verses and bridge recall how difficult it was to reach this point, which makes the ability to breathe that much more meaningful. I’ll say that I still don’t fully know what the butterflies turned to dust that covered my whole room / so I punched a hole in the roof means but hey this happens. The butterflies can’t escape and so she finds a way out for all of them? Or these lyrics came to her in a dream.
All Too Well / All Too Well (10 Minute Version)
Conflating these even though I do regard them as different texts. I abide by the idea that there was never a full 10 minute version of ‘All Too Well’, and the ATW10 that we have today comes from the fandom latching onto something that she said in passing, combining lines written in 2012 and others have added hindsight + maturity + sound folkmore-esque. Which I love! The original is brilliant the whole way through—again, I genuinely don’t think I could articulate it in a way that does it justice. Go listen and pretend I said something about gorgeous lyricism. I still honour the sanctity of the All Too Well Bridge and regard it as the greatest bridge of all time by anyone. It is how I feel. Now that I say all this, I can remember when I was getting into Taylor Swift (like, there is a period of time when this all began for me) and had downloaded various songs onto my red iPod touch and ‘All Too Well’ came on and I was like pacing for some reason when then the bridge really hit for me and I kept rewinding back to maybe we got lost in translation and generally channelling a heartbreak I had never experienced. I’d like to be my old self again but I’m still trying to find it is just a line in any context. The extended version recontextualises the original by weaving new verses throughout the song, expanding the story from within to emphasise how Taylor was not only heartbroken but also manipulated and then shattered. Now I listen to ‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version)’ and feel the pain and anger and frustration and it’s cathartic in a different way. All time great songs, both versions.
There’s something ‘bout the way / the street looks when it’s just rained / there’s a glow off the pavement. What a memorable scene to open a song/album on because we all know what this looks like. I think this is a song where like. One day you decide that this song is fantastic and then it is fantastic forever. Again with the rain imagery that has shaped so much of Taylor’s discography (until very recently?). One of the greatest Taylor Swift Rain Songs. Partly because it’s also a Taylor Swift Dancing Song, a lesser-known category but still quite a strong one. I think it’s the exalted chorus that does it—I don’t know how it gets better than this / you take my hand and drag me headfirst, fearless / and I don’t know why but with you I’d dance / in a storm in my best dress, fearless. Oh, and one of the greatest Taylor Swift Songs About Romance, which in my mind is separate from but adjacent to love songs. The joy and anticipation! The wonder! All of that wanting and some hesitancy too (my hands shake, I’m not usually this way), strung together by the guitar and tied to this core idea of being fearless.
exile (ft. Bon Iver)
I’m currently obsessed with this song. Who knows whether this will stay so high because it is quite a bold statement. But is it? I think that it is that good and I just happen to be late to appreciating this song to its fullest. I watched a [info classified] MV that that reframed ‘exile’ as a song about falling back in love with somebody when you don’t know if they are in love with you despite the signs (like a ‘Labyrinth’ redux kind of) and I do texts that open themselves to multiple interpretations. This new angle, combined with the live performance, truly opened my eyes. I do enjoy a Bon Iver song (approx. three of them) but I’ve never loved men being on Taylor Swift songs in the past. However! I am acclimitising. She has done the dual-perspective duet before—‘The Last Time’—and on other tracks will add a perspective switch that adds ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ or ‘you said’. Here, I think that you never gave a warning sign / I gave so many signs is SO devastating like yes! miscommunicate! pain and agony! I think I’ve seen this film before! They do both have exceptionally strong voices and each time one or the other comes in it’s like ooh. Many people have said this but so step right out is such a moment. What a song ← I feel like I have been repeating this well these are all songs
Okay let’s go Red enjoyers. I actually don’t know if it’s in my top three anymore (maybe it’s evermore/1989/red??? with folklore and fearless behind but who knows) but the songs that I love I still REALLY love. ‘Holy Ground’ looks back on a relationship and chooses to linger on the highs, the experience of spinning like a girl in a brand new dress / we had this big wide city all to ourselves / we blocked the noise with the sound of ‘I need you’ / and for the first time I had nothing to lose. Red is generally such an emotional album like it is really the highs and lows of being in your early twenties. Realising that she was around my age writing this album which I will now unrealise. The emotions and nostalgia in this song are palpable like the frenzied dreambat and then the images! I truly think that the first verse is incredible just the rush of it all and that was the first day. The chorus declaration!! darling it was good / never looking down / and right there where we stood / was holy ground. AND THEN THE OUTRO! It’s about being alive and revelling in the moment!!!
As an aside(?) I think that Taylor is very good at writing from the edge of relationships, either describing the thrill/anticipation of entering one or reminiscing on one. Though it has been nice to see her foray into love songs where the speaker is like present in the relationship and experiencing it in real time and expressing love in that way. Yes there are only so many like broader perspectives from which you can write a song.
Kind of magical honestly. This one is less about the early sparks of a relationship and more the sparks that could be sparks. The first verse is razor sharp, there I was again tonight / forcing laughter, faking smiles / same old tired lonely place / walls of insincerity / shifting eyes and vacancy / vanished when I saw your face / all I can say is it was enchanting to meet you. Such a precise emotion which then spins out into top tier yearning. It’s lying awake at night and indulging in imaginary scenarios with somebody you just met, with a kind of freedom you can only have when your relationship is still ambiguous and you don’t know if you will ever see them again (my thoughts will echo your name / until I see you again). That chorus plea, this night is flawless / don’t you let it go which fades (or escalates) into please don’t be in love with someone else. This one is for the gay people and also hopeless romantics. ‘Enchanted’ flew so ‘Gorgeous’ could cut glass, or something. Remember the Enchanted/Wildest Dreams mashup on 1989 tour? That was crazy. 1989 tour was my first concert and on the train back into the CBD I kept thinking about this night is flawless / don’t you let it go. And then she released a recording of that specific show but edited in the most disorienting way you could possibly edit a tour video. There’s a little story <3
combat i’m ready for combat i say i don’t want that but what if i do? cause cruelty wins in the movies i’ve got a hundred thrown out speeches i almost said to you easy they come easy they go i jump from the train i ride off alone i never grew up it’s getting so old help me hold on to you i’ve been the archer i’ve been the prey who could ever leave me darling but who could stay dark side i search for your dark side but what if i’m all right right right right here and i cut off my nose just to spite my face and i hate my reflections for years and years i wake in the night i pace like a ghost the room is on fire invisible smoke and all of my heroes die all alone help me hold on to you i’ve been the archer i’ve been the prey screaming who could ever leave me darling but who could stay i see right through me i see right through me. et cetera.
cowboy like me
Absolutely obsessed . . . I was drawn to this song on first listen and then it very much grew on me. I feel like this is quite a simple, subtle song, held together by storytelling and a gorgeous melody. It should be boring and yet I could listen to this song endlessly. Once you get past tent-like thing (arbitrary cringe lyric to balance out the ones that hit) there are so many quietly expressive lines: dancing is a dangerous game; it could be love; forever is the sweetest con. The quiet anguish . . . something about it makes me hold my breath. And of course the gay undertones—especially takes one to know one / you’re a cowboy like me. That’s romance! I do also just enjoy that there are cowboys here. It makes for a good storyline. This might be the definitive Aaron Dessner/Taylor Swift collaboration to me actually. The instruments are truly lush, creating a sonic dreamscape that helps carry the strung-out wistfulness of the lyrics that carries the story even as Taylor sings about swindling rich folk. I love instruments. Don’t you love instruments? (← @jackantonoff)
State of Grace
I actually don’t think this will ever change. This was truly a moment in Joanne history and culture and personality-shaping. Taylor Swift being like ‘now I will extend my shift into pop by opening my album with a five minute long pop-rock anthem celebrating love and heartbreak and healing’ which. good for her. Seriously the opening (the drums!) (the guitar for the whole song!). I do think that we fall in love until it hurts or bleeds or fades in time is the thesis of Red—again, very much about highs and lows, and of course the regular album ends with ‘Begin Again’. ‘State of Grace’ is like this glorious song that precedes the album very nicely and I still think it’s her best album opener. The chorus! AND I NEVER SAW YOU COMING! AND I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME! And then, so you were never a saint / and I loved in shades of wrong / we learn to live with the pain / mosaic broken hearts / but this love is brave and wild comes in first as a kind of a pre-chorus interlude the first time we hear it, and then it’s repeated at the end and interspersed with the chorus as if to emphasise this cycle of love and heartbreak and love again. ‘State of Grace’ is full of truisms and so it’s just kind of line after line and driven by the guitar and drums, especially once it slows down for the bridge and we get, this is a state of grace / this is the worthwhile fight and this is the golden age of something right and real. Like it is a song with lines and sounds and it is brilliant. Songs of all time.
Let’s all enjoy this rendition that I like to randomly remember and return to:
At some point you stop trying to reword yourself and accept that it is 3am.
xoxo forever is the sweetest con
even thouhg i have a different top 20 list at the same time i agree with all of these ... state of grace is probs also my #1 tho like literally song of all time song of forever
my brother believes this recent taylor focus a lot more in lyrics, which he dislikes and i adore. happy to see many of my favorites up in the list eheh <3
clean was also my comfort song, before many other ones joined (aka soon you'll get better), there's something very... reframing about it. like it tells you everything will be okay. the outro in holy ground gives me so much JOY, i always sing along to it. and the archer... no words can describe how heavenly the bridge is. state of grace and enchanted were so played when i was younger, these songs are part of my system at this point.