Home Music Music Country Lists

Teardrops on Her Guitar: Taylor Swift’s 10 Countriest Songs

Though she may “Shake It Off” these days, Taylor Swift’s first seven years always kept a foot in Nashville

When Taylor Swift announced her “very first documented, official pop album,” more than a few country traditionalists rolled their eyes. “Swift has always been pop,” they said – and they weren’t completely wrong. It’s undeniable that the superstar’s musical output has always contained a rather strong pop influence (to be fair, so has almost all mainstream country music over the past decade); and in her eight years in the spotlight, she’s never tried to imitate the robust twang of, say, Waylon or Reba.

But to claim that Swift’s catalog contains no legitimate country elements is to ignore many of her signature tracks, which evoke classic country in their instrumentation, themes and song structure. So now that Swift has officially “gone pop,” let’s reminisce on her ten countriest songs — ordered chronologically, not by authenticity.

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Tim McGraw” (2006)

At 16 years old, Swift endeared herself to the Nashville community by name-dropping one of the genre's most prolific modern stars in the chorus of her debut single. "Tim McGraw," with its spare, acoustic style (the song features a lightly strummed guitar and lush background fiddle), emphasizes Swift's formidable songwriting talent – and her knack for choosing simple, potent imagery to paint a romantic portrait. In fact, between the "boy in a Chevy truck," the "faded blue jeans," and the "back roads at night," one could argue that it was Swift's evocative lyrics here that set the stage for their overuse in the bro-country era.

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Teardrops on My Guitar” (2006)

Swift's follow-up to "Tim McGraw" tapped into the mournful spirit that defines so many classic country ballads, but it doesn't set its relationship drama in a smoky bar. Rather, as its music video indicates, "Teardrops" is more suited for a high school hallway. Like many of the songs on Swift's self-titled debut, the instrumentation of "Teardrops" is markedly simple, leaving room in the arrangement for long, languid steel guitar runs.

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Our Song” (2006)

A playful fiddle and plucky banjo provide the backbone for Swift's first uptempo single, a cute reflection on a young couple's defining "song," one comprised of little moments like "a slammin' screen door" and "sneaking out late, tapping on his window." The slightest hint of a Southern accent on phrases like "Mama" and "steerin' whee-uhl" helped sell Swift's country persona.

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Picture to Burn” (2006)

Swift channeled the woman-scorned spirit of singers like Tammy Wynette and Miranda Lambert on this boot-stomping track, the most rollicking, rock-influenced turn on her debut album. Swift's sassy delivery and cheeky lyrics ("I hate that stupid old pickup truck you never let me drive") struck a nerve with listeners, who enjoyed Swift's brash perspective. The same girl-power sentiment, six years later, is making Maddie & Tae's "Girl in a Country Song" a major hit. Not coincidentally, the duo was also signed by Swift's label head, Scott Borchetta.

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Fifteen” (2008)

Swift's second album, Fearless, was a notably less country affair than her debut, and smash singles like "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me" climbed high on the pop charts. But while those were reaching the mainstream masses, critics were drawn to the poignant candor of "Fifteen," a deftly worded tune about the perils of high school, young love and even the loss of virginity. The subject matter elevated Swift's reputation as a songwriter.

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“The Best Day” (2008)

Although Swift has a proven track record when she goes for broad, explosive melodrama (see: "Love Story," "I Knew You Were Trouble"), she's often most moving when she opts to go small. Such was the case on "The Best Day," a sweetly simple acoustic ode to her mom, Andrea, on second album Fearless. The Mother's Day anthem is a musical photo album of wholesome family memories, like a visit to the pumpkin patch ("I hug your legs and fall asleep on the way home," Swift remembers) and finger-painting in the kitchen.

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Mean” (2010)

Swift's biting retort to critics, a thematic precursor to her current Number One pop smash "Shake It Off," was the most classically country song on her third album, Speak Now. With a simple arrangement driven by banjo, mandolin and fiddle – not to mention light handclaps as the primary form of percussion – "Mean" evokes a homespun creek-side jam, a vision Swift brought to life onstage during her 2012 Grammy performance.

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Dear John” (2010)

Speaking of "Mean," Swift's nearly seven-minute takedown of an ex (all signs point to John Mayer) and his "dark, twisted games" may be her harshest song ever, right alongside "Better Than Revenge." The torch-y ballad, which is framed by a distinctive, wobbling steel guitar lick, builds tension as it meanders its way through an ill-advised relationship, coming to a boil with the beautifully bitter exclamation, "I'm shining like fireworks over your sad, empty town."

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“Begin Again” (2012)

Initially released as a promotional single from Red, "Begin Again" was quickly serviced to country radio after launch single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" proved a bit too poppy for the format. The winsome tune about a pitch-perfect first date is striking in its sparse style, especially given the heavy production on the rest of the album. Subtle steel guitar and mandolin flourishes lace the arrangement.

Play video

LAS VEGAS - MAY 14: Music artist Taylor Swift performs during the Academy of Country Music New Artists' Party for a Cause show at the MGM Grand Conference Center May 14, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“All Too Well” (2012)

If there is one thing Nashville prides itself on, it is the ability to weave a story through song, and there is perhaps no better example of Swift's storytelling prowess than "All Too Well," a gorgeous, melancholic breakup ballad (purportedly about Jake Gyllenhaal) that many claimed as the standout on Red. What begins as a nostalgic reflection on autumn leaves and a lost scarf builds into a sweeping, heart-bleeding epic that climaxes with the killer couplet, "You call me up again just to break me like a promise/So casually cruel in the name of being honest."

In This Article: Taylor Swift

Show Comments