Taylor Swift’s Discography Ranked from Best to Worst

Jinho Lee, Contributing Writer

Swift’s nine albums span three different genres, but one thing remains consistent throughout her discography: her songwriting. In this ranking, we take a look at how she has evolved over the years as a songwriter.

1. evermore is Swift writing at her most liberated. She leaves behind her pop formula on songs like “tolerate it” and “closure,” ballads written in a 5/4 time signature. Genres blend and merge together, with the best country (“cowboy like me”), pop (“gold rush”), and folk (“ivy”) songs of her career.

2. Red (Taylor’s Version): Red perfectly captures the many different types of pain that exist. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one to cancer on “Ronan,” the feeling of being replaced on “Nothing New,” or your most beloved person skipping your 21st birthday party on “All Too Well,” Swift is an expert at turning her personal sorrow into beauty.

3. folklore: Swift’s venture into folk music spotlights her songwriting with the album’s quieter instrumentalization. The self-written “my tears ricochet” was the first song Swift wrote for the album, and it fittingly stands as an entrance into a darker, sadder world. Highlights include “august”, “cardigan”, and “betty”, three different perspectives on a teenage love triangle that showcases Swift’s ability to tell stories outside of her own.

4. Speak Now: On Swift’s only fully self-written album, she is at her most unapologetic and raw. On longer songs, Swift simply does not stop narrating her life—fan favorites like “Enchanted” and “Last Kiss” exemplify this.

5. Lover: Had Lover been cut down from eighteen to thirteen tracks, it may have been one of Swift’s best works ever. “Cruel Summer” is arguably her best pop song, and “Death By A Thousand Cuts” is one of her best ballads. However, Lover fails to match these highlights with some of her lyrically laziest songs like “ME!”

6. Fearless (Taylor’s Version): Fearless is Swift’s songwriting at her most archetypal: teenage love and heartbreak, kissing in the rain, slamming doors, her love for her mother. Deluxe track “The Other Side of the Door” quickly gained traction, becoming a fan favorite in its new iteration with stronger vocals to match the high-energy of the song. This achievement iteration is remarkable considering  how poignant Swift’s song writing was when she originally wrote “Fifteen” as a teen. It is moving to hear her sing it again in her thirties.

7. Reputation is Swift’s most divisive, yet necessary, album to date. Swift reclaims narratives of high-profile celebrity feuds, heavily-publicized breakups, and tells the story of a love that was able to be kindled despite those setbacks on songs like “Call It What You Want” and “Dress.”

8. 1989: On 1989, Swift is at her most polished. Some of her most iconic songs are drawn into existence: “Shake it Off” and “Bad Blood”— gone in these songs are the acoustic guitars and confessional lyrics she’s known for. However, Swift still impresses on tracks like the dreamy “Clean” and pop-perfection deluxe cut “New Romantics.”

9. Taylor Swift: Swift’s self-titled debut has some great cuts—it’s only last in this ranking because she has exponentially improved as a singer-songwriter exponentially since. Her debut single “Tim McGraw” has the personal specificity of all her greatest songs: back-roads at night, the moon like a spotlight on the lake, her little black dress. “Tied Together With A Smile,” is about her friend who had been suffering from an eating disorder. The song hurts even more now, with the knowledge that Swift would deal with similar struggles later in her lifetime.

This piece also appears in our November 2021 print edition.