Every Taylor Swift Album, Ranked
See exactly when she became a musical "Mastermind."
Taylor Swift is celebrating her Eras, and so are we, by rounding up and ranking all Taylor Swift albums. In solidarity with the artist, we are—as the fans have—taking Taylor's Versions into account over the original recordings where possible. In ascending order, here's every Taylor Swift album, ranked.
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Taylor Swift Albums, Ranked
10. Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift
It's one small sign of what a career Swift has had that this critically acclaimed, country record, that helped the artist earn her first Grammy nod, ranks last. What's so special about Taylor Swift—and a key reason she connected with fans from the jump—is the way she weaves sophisticated songcraft with unapologetically adolescent musings. Much of her core fanbase has grown up with Swift; Taylor Swift was a far-reaching sleeper hit—Billboard's longest-charting album of the aughts, in fact—released when she was still in high school.
Taylor Swift draws a lot of parallels to 1983's Madonna: some songs really stand out, it's clear she was just warming up, and there's very clearly something here that stands out from everything else on the charts.
Best Track: "Our Song"
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After an angrier departure of an album on Reputation, and a mightily successful worldwide tour that surely revitalized the artist, "The Old Taylor" re-emerged on Lover, a triumphant return to form that's lengthy, a little unfocused and best enjoyed as the sum of its parts.
The highlights of Lover go really high: "Paper Rings" is a retro blast. Country ballad "Soon You'll Get Better," about mother Andrea Swift's health struggles, poignantly weaves mature lyrics about uncertainty with bright harmonies from The Chicks. On the title track, the heartbreak kid commits to long love in a grand slow dance. "The Man" displays the bite that made Reputation such a treat, and the Swift-directed music video, sort of like The Wolf of Wall Street in drag, is one of her best.
Best Track: "The Man"
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The highs of 1989 are so high it's safe to call them historic: "Blank Space" is a delicious and even riveting dissection of Swift's public image, "Shake It Off" is anthemic in a way barely any songs will even aspire to be. "Wildest Dreams" is top-notch country on a pop record, "Style" is fittingly timeless.
Not all tracks are on that level: "Welcome to New York" is airy. "Bad Blood" was a big hit; there's also a case to be made that it's Swift's least substantial song ever. 1989 is an undeniably beguiling pop confection. It just doesn't cut as deep as some of Swift's very best records.
Best Track: "Shake it Off"
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After the whole summer 2016 fiasco (let's not even rehash it here), Swift, the biggest name in music, disappeared from the public eye for about a year). Her career took a strange but gratifying turn the following August, when (underrated) "Look What You Made Me Do" embraced the snake. It's a thrilling middle finger; exuding a welcome aggression that's present throughout the record. She's also having a lot of fun here.
Reputation is grumpy, often glorious—and frankly, it's even better than 1989 in a lot of ways. For all of 1989's bops and symmetry, it felt like she was holding back. Sometimes spirit and attitude counts just as much as song craft when we're talking pop music.
Best Track: "Delicate"
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6. Fearless (Taylor's Version)
Fearless takes what worked so well on Taylor Swift and hones it. Following the callous sale of her life's work, Fearless (Taylor's Version) was the first release of an ambitious effort to re-record her back catalog. In her public power moves and in her craft, the artist has always had a way of turning negatives into unexpected wins. Here, she's re-recorded a Grammy-winning landmark with richer vocals.
Critics and listeners probably started floating words like "mastermind" or, dare "musical genius" right around the time sticky lines like "she wears high heels/I wear sneakers/she's cheer captain/and I'm on the bleachers" first emerged. Fearless is full of standouts: "Fifteen" is touching, "Hey Stephen" is playful.
Best Track: "You Belong With Me (Taylor's Version)"
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The follow-up and companion piece to folklore was arguably more of a surprise than its predecessor. Really, two folk albums in five months? Once the novelty subsides, the raw skill and invention on display starts to sink in. Evermore is about as good as folklore, with an even stronger and more cohesive sense of identity.
Every time evermore threatens to get repetitive, there's a curveball. "No body, no crime" with HAIM is a winning channeling of Swift's idols TheChicks. With producer ANDco-writer Aaron Dessner, mesmerizing and romantic "willow" is a highlight of this era. It's simply, stripped-down great songwriting.
Best Track: "willow"
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4. Speak Now
Fearless was a considerable step forward from Taylor Swift, and Speak Now into superstar territory. There was hardly a shortage of pop stars on the rise at this time (notably, Lady Gaga was exploding), but storytelling being the name of the game set Swift apart from the early years onward. Virtually every song on Speak Now has a merciless hook, a compelling narrative and personality. Most pop acts do considerably more outsourcing for their biggest chart-toppers. Speak Now made it more apparent than ever what a formidable one-woman hit factory this artist truly is.
As her country sound flirted more with pop, the words became more personal, and even emotionally brutal. In all but outright telling us who the most revealing heartbreak songs were about, Swift's tracks became their own PR reps, generating buzz throughout the culture as critics heaped on praise. Some references were more veiled than others, the least of which was likely "Dear John," rumored to be about her relationship with John Mayer.
Best Track: "Dear John"
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We all tried to make the best of the peak pandemic era; Taylor Swift made two surprise albums. Not just that; there was a sharp pivot into a folk direction with limited theatrics. With sharp, inspired and idiosyncratic production flourishes, notably from Jack Antonoff, the whole enterprise is bewitching. The worst that could, maybe, be said of folklore is that it sometimes it wears its influences on its sleeve. Ultimately, it's a bold career high. This record reminds us that, even though she's one of the most famous people in the world, it's always been about the music for Swift.
Swift shape shifts throughout folklore, most rewardingly on betty, a winsomely earnest ballad from a heartbreaking 17-year-old boy. It's funny, sad and utterly convincing.
Best Track: "betty"
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The dust has barely settled on Midnights' release; maybe it feels like it's a little soon to rank it so high, but damned if Midnights isn't the place where pop and singer/songwriter art collide in a glitter bomb, to deliriously pleasurable effect. Midnights is a great record that multiple great Taylor Swift records have promised, airtight and adventurous.
Her country roots are still on display, notably on lost-love centerpiece "Midnight Rain." "Lavender Haze" rips, and she saves the best for last with "Mastermind" ("I'm only cryptic and Machiavellian 'cuz I care"). Midnights works as a concept album, and every song is sticky as hell on its own. Swift mastered pop songwriting a long time ago. Confidence is what takes Midnights into the stratosphere.
Best Track: "Mastermind"
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1. Red (Taylor's Version)
Even in its original incarnation, Red was already Swift's best album, a sensational step into adulthood—or at least 22—with mighty choruses throughout and deft genre-bending. Among the bangers, her first Billboard number one, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
In a historic triumph for artistry over the industry, Red got much, much better in fall 2021. There are 30 tracks on Red (Taylor's Version) in total, and Red's been enhanced in more ways than that. There's a fuller sound in the instrumentation and more emotional vocals from Swift and numerous collaborators.
Of course, it's ultimately all about the ten-minute version of "All Too Well." It's her magnum opus; it would be anyone's magnum opus. In 2012, "All Too Well" was freshly bitter. Here, it's a victory lap. This entire record is a victory lap, finding a second, bigger life thanks to an artist who's as empowered and in control as any in history.
Best Track: "All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)"
Next, check out the 60 best outfits to rock at Taylor Swift's Eras Tour—if you were lucky enough to get tickets.