Taylor Swift Albums Ranked

Story posted November 11, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment by CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Staff.

While the singer’s career is likely far from over, Taylor Swift has already accumulated quite an impressive discography in her 14 years of creating music. As one of the biggest artists in history, it’s easy to say that all of her work is top-tier.

However, the CommRadio Arts & Entertainment staff has dissected over a decade of Swift’s work to rank her eight albums.

1. “Folklore” (2020)

“Folklore” could very well be one of Swift’s most well-written albums to date. It came as a surprise for everyone when she released the album during the quarantine.

The album is one of Swift’s most unique and cohesive albums; mostly produced by Aaron Dessner from The Nationals and Jack Antonoff from The Bleachers.

“Folklore” marks a new sound and direction for Swift, the indie/folk productions and the stripped-back instrumentation allowed Swift’s sharp lyrics to stand out more so than ever. Throughout the 16 songs, Swift told a story that she described as a “teenage love triangle,” with each song written from a different character’s perspective.

The different narratives are cleverly woven together with Swift’s personal life, which is why “folklore” could easily be one of her best albums to date. — Jimmy Lu

2. “1989” (2014)

Swift released her fifth studio album “1989” in October 2014. “1989” features 13 unique songs, with six more on the deluxe version of the album.

“1989” was a new era for Swift, marking her official transition from country to pop. She utilizes different genres throughout the album and her lyrics are more honest than ever before.

Swift exudes a sense of maturity in “1989,” focusing on the nostalgia and innocence of her past relationships rather than the targeted breakup songs she was known for.

The inspiration for this album was largely drawn from Swift’s personal life and how she was depicted by the media. For example, in songs like “Blank Space” and Shake It Off,” she satirizes the public’s perception of her and expresses that she doesn’t care about her haters.

“1989” ended 2014 as #3 on the US Billboard 200. Additionally, the 1989 World Tour featured 85 performances worldwide and was Swift’s most attended and highest grossing tour at the time. — Sarah Simpson

3. “Red” (2012)

After making a name for herself as America’s sweetheart, Swift reached a necessary step in her career with a move toward maturity through “Red.” While “1989” is often believed to be the album that opened doors to the singer’s new style, “Red” was truly the gateway for her transformation.

Notably her most heartbreaking album, “Red” is filled with much of Swift’s best songwriting up until this point. “State of Grace” and “All Too Well” remain some of the best pieces the singer has ever created with fan favorite lyrics like “so casually cruel in the name of being honest.”

The country singer had already reached mainstream popularity with “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me,” but “Red” is what shot her to super stardom. Pop tunes like “22,” “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” would become a foundation for her shift to pop. In fact, “WANEGBT” would become Swift’s first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

While Swift herself discredits the album for its lack of sonic cohesivity, “Red” marks the first time her albums would have thematic movement. It’s easy to understand the intimate details of this period in Swift’s life as she breaks them down so carefully through each song and builds up a storyline through the track list.

“Red” would ultimately become the blueprint for the rest of the singer’s career. — Jade Campos

4. “Reputation” (2017)

When the world thought “Taylor Swift is over” back in 2017, Swift came back with the darkest album in her discography: “Reputation.” The album was misunderstood by many critics and audiences, with many assuming that it’s a vengeance album filled with anger.

Described as a “linear album” by Swift, the album told an intimate story of a young woman being scrutinized by the media and how she found love and peace through the storm with her lover (pun intended).

In “Reputation” Swift also switches the 80’s synth-pop from “1989” with dark EDM pop, R&B, and hip-hop elements that brought out more edge and some of her most savvy lyrics such as “I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me.”

The use of vocoders and synthesizers on tracks like “Delicate” and “Call It What You Want” emphasizes Swift’s vulnerable moments. “Reputation” started with the heavy-bass of “…Ready For It” and ended on a quiet and calm tone with “New Year’s Day,” which symbolizes Swift’s journey throughout the years.

This album definitely details one of Swift’s more interesting chapters in her life, with some of her best pop songs like “Getaway Car” and “Delicate.” — Jimmy Lu

5. “Speak Now” (2010)

“Speak Now” is likely Swift’s least popular album commercially, with even her debut in 2006 gaining more attention from the media. However, the singer’s third album is still chock full of masterpieces in her discography.

One of the most defining characteristics of “Speak Now” is Swift’s total independence on the album. Although several tracks on the deluxe version of the album were co-written, Swift worked alone for the album’s 13 primary tracks.

While there are little instant standouts in terms of mainstream popularity, it’s obvious “Speak Now” was a period of experimentation for the singer who played with full piece orchestras and much longer songs than she’d previously produced. The longest song on the album, “Dear John,” totals in at six minutes and 44 seconds, which remains Swift’s longest song to date.

“Speak Now” is truly impressive given the fact that Swift was only 19-20 years old at the time of completion. The flowery elegance of Swift’s songwriting on this album would prove her strength at such a young age and what she can truly accomplish when not focused on making waves on the Billboard charts, a feat she wouldn’t quite master until “Folklore.” — Jade Campos

6. “Lover” (2019)

Not long after “reputation,” Swift dropped her seventh studio album “Lover.” Although the album is not necessarily as ambitious as Swift’s other projects, it is still a terrific pop album with mature lyrics and political undertone in songs like “Miss Americana, The Heartbreak Prince” and “The Man.”

The album also feels like a combination of Swift’s past 6 albums, with each song being reminiscent of her past projects. The title track “Lover” and the heartbreaking “Soon You’ll Get Better” sees Swift return to her country roots. “Cruel Summer” and “I Think He Knows” could easily fit into “1989” and “reputation.”

There might be some less favorable tracks such as “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down,” but overall “Lover” feels like a celebration, since it’s Swift’s first album that is owned by her.

Tracks like “The Archer” and “Daylight” shows that Swift is constantly creating timeless classics with her artistic instincts and her refusal to follow popular trends. — Jimmy Lu

7. “Fearless” (2008)

Released in November 2008, Swift’s second studio album “Fearless” skyrocketed her into popularity. It was the best-selling album of 2009 and ended the year as #1 on the US Billboard 200. Swift made history as the youngest person to have the best-selling album of the year.

“Fearless” features 13 songs with 6 additional songs on the platinum edition. Many listeners felt that Swift’s lyrics were honest, relatable and charming. “Fearless” is undoubtedly the album that put her on the map.

Swift sang of love, innocence and heartbreak on “Fearless.” This established her reputation as an artist who tells her personal experiences through music. She also collaborated with other well-known country artists, which was groundbreaking for a 19-year-old in the music industry.

In 2010, Swift won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and Best Country Album. “Fearless” is still one of the best-selling albums of the 21st century. — Sarah Simpson

8. “Taylor Swift” (2006)

It’s unfortunate that “Taylor Swift,” the singer’s debut album in 2006, has to come head-to-head with the rest of Swift’s discography. It’s clear that her lyrical prowess and musical abilities would only mature like fine wine, so this album is the singer’s least inspiring effort.

However, that should not discount the incredible work that was put into this. Swift was an aspiring singer/songwriter from the age of 12 when she began learning to play guitar and writing her own songs. Her self-titled is ultimately a collection of her best work from the time she was 12-16.

“The Outside” was written by Swift at the young age of 12, which is actually one of the strongest tracks on the album. The singer would continue to write throughout middle school and high school, making “Taylor Swift” a coming of age story for young women across the world.

While “Taylor Swift” did not immediately project Swift into the mainstream spotlight, it did turn heads in country music. It was already rare for singers to write their own songs but for such a young, budding artist to intimately pen the details of her life in such eloquently written songs like “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Cold As You” was phenomenal.

“Taylor Swift” is primarily a gem for die-hard Swift fans though it was a glimpse into what would become one of the most successful careers in music in history. — Jade Campos

 

Jade Campos is a junior majoring in print/digital journalism. To contact her, email jmc7727@psu.edu.

Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu is a senior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email jfl5603@psu.edu

Sarah Simpson is a junior majoring in film-video. To contact her, email sus816@psu.edu

About the Contributors

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Jade Campos

Junior / Print/Digital Journalism

Jade Campos is a junior from Caroline, Virginia. She is a director of the arts and entertainment department of CommRadio and a co-host on the talk show The Nittany Record Club alongside Colton Pleslusky and David Fortunato. Along with CommRadio, Jade is currently the assistant lifestyle editor for the Daily Collegian. In the past, she has interned with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. To contact her, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu's photo

Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu

Senior / Telecommunications

Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu is a senior from Taiwan majoring in telecommunications at Penn State. He is a contributing writer for the CommRadio arts & entertainment department. If you’d like to contact him, please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Sarah Simpson's photo

Sarah Simpson

Junior / Film-Video

Sarah Simpson is a junior from Irwin, Pennsylvania majoring in film-video at Penn State. She is a writer for the CommRadio arts & entertainment department. She is also the president of Penn State Network Television (PSNtv), Penn State’s student-run television network. In addition, she is the director for PSNtv’s weekly news broadcast PSN News. She has also interned with Penn State Athletics as a live video production intern. If you’d like to contact her, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).