Taylor Swift's Songs: All Ranked by Rob Sheffield - Rolling Stone
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All 153 of Taylor Swift’s Songs, Ranked

From teen country tracks to synth-pop anthems and rare covers, a comprehensive assessment of her one-of-a-kind songbook through ‘Lover’ era

Taylor Swift the celebrity is such a magnet for attention, she can distract from Taylor Swift the artist. But Swift was a songwriter before she was a star, and she’ll be a songwriter long after she graduates from that racket. It’s in her music where she’s made her mark on history – as a performer, record-crafter, guitar hero and all-around pop mastermind, with songs that can leave you breathless or with a nasty scar. She was soaring on the level of the all-time greats before she was old enough to rent a car, with the crafty guile of a Carole King and the reckless heart of a Paul Westerberg – and she hasn’t exactly slowed down since then.

So with all due respect to Taylor the myth, the icon, the red-carpet tabloid staple, let’s celebrate the real Taylor – the songwriter she was born to be. Let’s break it down: all 153 tunes, counted from the bottom to the top. The hits, the flops, the deep cuts, the covers, from her raw 2006 debut as a teen country ingénue right up to Lover. Every fan would compile a different list – that’s the beauty of it. But they’re not ranked by popularity, sales or supposed celebrity quotient – just the level of Taylor genius on display, from the perspective of a fan who generally does not give a rat’s nads who the songs are “really” about. All that matters is whether they’re about you and me. (I guarantee you are a more fascinating human than the Twilight guy, though I’m probably not.)

Sister Tay may be the last true rock star on the planet, making brilliant moves (or catastrophic gaffes, because that’s what rock stars do). These are the songs that sum up her wit, her empathy, her flair for emotional excess, her girls-to-the-front bravado, her urge to ransack every corner of pop history, her determination to turn any chorus into a ridiculous spectacle. So let’s step back from the image and pay homage to her one-of-a-kind songbook – because the weirdest and most fascinating thing about Taylor Swift will always be her music.

Taylor Swift - Cruel Summer

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3

“Cruel Summer” (2019)

For the first 98 seconds, “Cruel Summer” is merely a perfect Taylor Swift song. Then for the bridge, she takes off into a deranged greatest-hits album’s worth of choruses from brilliant songs she hasn’t written yet. You could write a whole dissertation on the erotics of windows in Taylor’s songs — no poet since Keats has been so obsessed with the kind of desire that doesn’t dare use the door. “Cruel Summer” is about sneaking around and feeling ashamed of her secrets, but also feeling proud of how ashamed she is, until she finally yells her dirtiest secret out loud: “I love you — ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?” But make no mistake, she loves her secrets more than she’ll ever love this guy.

Best line: “I snuck in through the garden gate / Every night that summer just to seal my fate.” Listen here.

Taylor Swift - New Romantics

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2

“New Romantics” (2014)

The way Taylor exhales at the end of the line “I’m about to play my ace-aaah” is perhaps the finest moment in the history of human lungs. “New Romantics” is where she takes the Eighties synth-pop concept of 1989 to the bank, with a mirror-ball epiphany that leaves tears of mascara all over the dance floor. She tips her cap to the arty poseurs of the 1980s New Romantic scene – Duran Duran, Adam Ant, the Human League, etc. – yet sounds exactly like her own preposterously emotional self. (One of my weirdest moments of recent years: explaining this song’s existence to the guys in Duran Duran.) “New Romantics” is hardly the first time she’s sung about crying in the bathroom, but it’s the one that makes crying in the bathroom sound like a bold spiritual quest, which (when she sings about it) it is. The punch line: Having written this work of genius, exceeding even the wildest hopes any fan could have dreamed, she left it off the damn album, a very New Romantic thing to do.

Best line: “We show off our different scarlet letters/Trust me, mine is better.” Listen here.

Taylor Swift - All Too Well

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1

“All Too Well” (2012)

So casually cruel in the name of being awesome. This towering ballad is Swift’s zenith, building to peak after peak. For “All Too Well,” she teams up with her trustiest collaborators – songwriting sensei Liz Rose, producer Nathan Chapman – to spin a tragic tale of doomed love and scarves and autumn leaves and maple lattes. It’s full of killer moments: the way she sings “refrigerator,” the way she spits out the consonants of “crumpled-up piece of paper,” the way she chews up three “all”s in a row. No other song does such a stellar job of showing off her ability to blow up a trivial little detail into a legendary heartache. (That scarf should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though in a way it already is.) You can schaeden your freude all over the celebrity she reputedly sings about, but on the best day of your life you will never inspire a song as great as “All Too Well.” Or write one.

Best line: “Maybe we got lost in translation/Maybe I asked for too much/Maybe this thing was a masterpiece till you tore it all up/Running scared, I was there, I remember it all too well.” Listen here.

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