All of Taylor Swift's albums, ranked from least to most iconic
Taylor Swift currently has 10 albums, with 2022's "Midnights" being her most recent release.
"Speak Now" comes in at No. 1 as it best represents the evolution of Swift and her music.
"Red" and "Lover" remain in the middle of the pack.
Taylor Swift has released 10 studio albums. Her latest is "Midnights," released in October 2022.
Unlike previous albums, no singles were released before the official album drop, and Swift dropped a "special very chaotic surprise" in the form of seven bonus tracks just three hours after the album was released.
For the album ranking, I considered a few factors including cohesiveness, listening experience, the number and quality of standout songs, and if the album is musically interesting or lyrically special. I also factored in critic reviews of the albums when deciding on the final ranking.
Read on for a ranking of all of Swift's albums, from least to most iconic in descending order.
10. At the bottom of the ranking is Swift's self-titled debut album.
Released in 2006, Swift's first studio album is so country that newer fans may barely recognize the songstress' sound considering she has experimented with a number of other genres since then.
Standouts like "Teardrops on My Guitar," "Picture to Burn," and "Cold As You" capture the essence of this album, which is "explicitly country-oriented," as Billboard music critic Jonathan Bradley wrote in 2017.
He also noted that this album began to show just how developed Swift's "potential for fury" was and he's right — "Picture To Burn" is sassy and confidently filled with anger: "So watch me strike a match on all my wasted time / As far as I'm concerned you're just another picture to burn."
Whether it's a song about an ex or someone else who wronged her, Swift's clever, catchy "revenge tracks" have only continued to improve from here.
What's likely the most famous track on this album, "Teardrops on My Guitar" is a textbook example of a popular Swift trope: a relatable song about a boy punctuated with clever lyrics. This winning combination warrants countless replays and, even now, listening to this song more than 10 years later reminds many of us so strongly of a crush we had when we were younger.
"Cold As You" highlights Swift's talent in writing beautiful lyrics about heartbreak, a key Swift signature: "You put up walls and paint them all a shade of gray / And I stood there loving you, and wished them all away / And you come away with a great little story / Of a mess of a dreamer with the nerve to adore you."
Although there are standout individual songs on the album, "Taylor Swift" isn't particularly cohesive and now that her discography has been built up, it's hard to rank this high when listeners now know exactly what she's capable of.
Plus her later albums feature songs that are more interesting and creative lyrically and stylistically.
9. "Evermore" is a great companion to its sister album, "Folklore," but isn't as compelling as the original.
"Evermore" takes us deeper into the mystical music-writing forest established by "Folklore," but like many sequels, it doesn't resonate as powerfully as the original.
In a review for Rolling Stone, Claire Shaffer called the album "a refreshing change of pace."
"Swift's usual approach to dabbling in new genres or sounds is to go balls-to-the-wall, but on 'evermore,' she's just as good at curating these more detailed production flourishes, all with the same contouring and meticulousness as she does with her best lyrics," she wrote.
As ever, Swift deftly pivots from upbeat tracks to sad ballads with devastating bridges that make you want to cry your eyes out.
There's no question her most recent two albums are related, as "Evermore" has a similar sound and features nods to "Folklore."
"Ivy," the 10th track on "Evermore," alludes to an illicit affair, which is the name of track 10 on "Folklore."
"Marjorie," track 13 on "Evermore," is about Swift's grandmother. "Epiphany," track 13 on "Folklore," is written with Swift's grandfather in mind.
Immediate highlights include tracks like "Willow," an upbeat song that transports listeners back to the "Folklore" universe.
"Champagne Problems" serves as a painful tale of a failed relationship. It has a piano introduction reminiscent of "New Year's Day," a song about an enduring love. The contrast of that relationship with the one detailed in "Champagne Problems" makes the latter seem even more heart-wrenching.
And, of course, "Marjorie" is a masterful and beautiful tribute to Swift's grandmother that's packed with soulful and illustrative lyrics.
8. Swift's second album, "Fearless," has a more cohesive sound.
Released in 2008, "Fearless" steps away from country and edges into pop in an impressive balance of the two as Swift continues to develop a style that is uniquely hers.
"Her music mixes an almost impersonal professionalism — it's so rigorously crafted it sounds like it has been scientifically engineered in a hit factory — with confessions that are squirmingly intimate and true," wrote critic Jody Rosen for Rolling Stone in 2008.
Rosen is right — this album combines intimate lyrics and incredibly catchy tunes and it is showcased in Swift's hit single "You Belong With Me," an upbeat anthem for those dealing with unrequited love.
Standouts tracks on this album also include "Fearless," an easy listen that captures the sweet feelings surrounding new romances; "Fifteen," a young love story that unfolds over several verses; "White Horse," a slow tune featuring lyrics about heartbreak that cut deep; "Love Story," a romantic tale with a fairytale edge; and "The Best Day," an emotional song that is filled with sweet childhood memories.
"Fearless" outranks "Taylor Swift" as it has more standout songs and has a cohesive sound that distinctly country-pop. That said, this album ranked below the others as it plays it a bit safer than some of the music released later in her career.
7. "Midnights" melds masterful songwriting with the synth sounds and pop production of "1989" and "Reputation."
When "Midnights" was first announced, Swift described it as "the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life" and invited fans to meet her at midnight the night the album dropped.
There were TikTok teasers to reveal the track titles, but beyond that fans weren't given many clues about what to expect from the album. Would it be soft and sincere, like "New Year's Day," poppy and upbeat like "Wildest Dreams," or go back to Swift's acoustic roots with songs like "Untouchable"?
To me, "Midnights" feels like an encapsulation of Swift's musical journey. It's synth-pop with depth — energetic beats with lyrics that linger in your mind — and soul-baring moments softened with catchy choruses ("It's me, hi / I'm the problem, it's me").
Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone writes that the album "most notably picks up where the pure pop triptych of '1989,' 'Reputation,' and 'Lover' left off, a dazzling bath of synths complementing lyrics caught between a love story and a revenge plot."
She also adds that with her recent re-recording of previous albums, Swift has "unlocked something brilliant and fresh in her songwriting," by dipping her toe back into previous eras.
Only time will tell if "Midnights" will climb up my ranking, but as a new album amidst an outstanding discography, more time is needed to test how well it stands out from the rest.
Standout tracks from my first few listens include "Anti-Hero" and "Maroon."
6. "Lover" showed a personal side of Swift, but it felt a bit uneven.
Released in 2019 and named after one of the album's singles, "Lover" introduced a new era for Swift — one that seemingly had elements of many of her past works, like "1989" and "Speak Now."
As Rob Sheffield wrote for Rolling Stone, this album combined a lot of previous versions of Swift, seemingly capping off her career.
The tracks combined her typical impressive storytelling abilities while tying together strong emotions of frustration that feel at home in "Reputation" (seen in the track "The Man") as well as stories of falling in love and almost losing it that feel at home in "Speak Now" or "Red" (as seen in "Cornelia Street").
The album feels incredibly personal to Swift, as the songs are odes to important parts of her life, from her current boyfriend to New York City.
But as Pitchfork critic Anna Gaca pointed out, the album may be honest and genuine, but it feels uneven with how much it sways from garish pop singles like "ME!" that have almost childish lyrics to soft, heart-wrenching ballads about love and loss like "Soon You'll Get Better."
Sure, this album has its highs and lows and is filled with impressive tracks, but it ranks below others because although it feels like many things she does here (like haunting lyrics and pop beats) are things she's done before — and a bit better — in her previous releases.
5. Swift's fourth album "Red" plays around with several musical styles.
Released in 2012, "Red" is a clear departure from Swift's country days, though she holds onto her signatures, like tragic tales told with beautiful lyrics and upbeat, catchy hits, pivoting easily between the two.
As J. English penned for NPR in 2017, this album really helped solidify Swift's identity in the music world.
"'Fearless' may have established her as a capable teenage singer-songwriter, but 'Red' is the album that solidified her confidence, sexuality, and identity as a bonafide force to be reckoned with," English wrote.
Songs that sum up this album include "State Of Grace," a different sound with gorgeous lyrics that are undoubtedly Swiftian; "I Knew You Were Trouble," a reflective song full of dramatic production effects and a driving beat; "All Too Well," a slow ballad reminiscing a past love with emotional lyrics and execution; and "22," an effortless pop hit.
"Red" is a sophisticated album that demonstrates that Swift cannot be put into a box of one category or another: her sound is not all emotional songs about past lovers or radio-ready pop tracks — it's so much more.
4. "1989" is her first "official" pop album.
Released in 2014 and named after the year she was born, "1989" was inspired by the pop music of the mid-1980s.
As critic Jon Caramanica wrote for The New York Times in 2014, this album is filled with catchy pop tracks but it sets itself apart from mainstream music of that genre. From the first track, you know this album isn't like what you've been hearing on the radio — it opens with the synthetic beats and sounds of "Welcome to New York."
"1989" is packed with standout songs that hold their own, like "Blank Space," featuring masterful lyrics in a pop context; "Wildest Dreams," showcasing a heartbeat driving the song and breathy singing that creates a dreamlike quality; and "How You Get The Girl," serving as a lighthearted, pop-infused love song.
Swift closes the non-deluxe edition of "1989" with "Clean," which adheres to the pop theme but is more low-key and showcases the heartfelt, haunting songwriting she's known for: "The drought was the very worst / When the flowers that we'd grown together died of thirst / It was months and months of back and forth / You're still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can't wear anymore."
3. In "Reputation," Swift showed off a new style of music while keeping parts of her songs that listeners love.
Swift released "Reputation" in 2017, three years after "1989," a noticeable gap as she'd previously been debuting albums every two years.
If the black-and-white cover art didn't let you know this one would be different, the first song she released off the album, "Look What You Made Me Do," says it all.
Dark, biting, sassy, and straight-up cool, in this track, Swift makes it known that she's here to play and no one can take her down: "But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time / Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time."
As Craig Jenkins for Vulture put it, "Although the album fixates on big enemies and bad reputations, the buried lede is a quiet romance budding in spite of them. Swift shines brightest on these songs, building and developing her story out of economic but evocative turns of phrase."
Songs range from edgy and confident with "I Did Something Bad" to breathy and beautiful with "Dress," all the while playing with different musical styles and production effects.
Although she claims the old Taylor is dead in the lyrics of "Look What You Made Me Do," we see touches of her "old self" in the softer chorus of otherwise intense "...Ready For It?" the album's opening track, and in the closing track, "New Year's Day," when we hear a stripped-down, piano-heavy ballad in which Swift sings emotion-filled lyrics.
In the 2017 article, Jenkins also noted that this album features hip-hop influences, something Swift hasn't really done before. This only further proves that "Reputation" is a prime example that Swift can experiment with a variety of genres and still create magic.
2. "Folklore" is a lyrical masterpiece that, while lacking in mainstream appeal, represents Swift's songwriting in its purest form.
I'll admit it took me a second to warm up to "Folklore" and realize how sophisticated and masterful it was — so much so that it jumped from second-to-last to second place since this ranking was last updated.
Swift's other albums have hits that I can imagine hearing in a grocery store or on a radio station years from now and immediately recognizing just from the opening chords alone. But "Folklore" has a laid-back vibe that reflects the spontaneity of how this album was created.
In this critical-darling album, Swift has done away with over-the-top production, catchy lyrics, and any sort of hit-making formulas and instead presents a stripped-back collection of songs with captivating stories and, in true Swift form, incredible lyrics.
Although "Folklore" may not have the mainstream appeal of her previous albums, it's an album longtime fans will appreciate as it highlights her stellar songwriting and pays homage to her acoustic roots.
In an album review for Variety, critic Chris Willman wrote, "For some fans, it might take a couple of spins around the block with this very different model to become re-accustomed to how there's still the same power under the hood here. And that's really all Swift, whose genius for conversational melodies and knack for giving every chorus a telling new twist every time around remain unmistakable trademarks."
He's right — "Folklore" further cements the fact that Swift is in a league all her own and cannot be placed in a stylistic box when it comes to her music.
Standout songs on the album include "The 1," which sets the tone of the album; "The Last Great American Dynasty," a folk song-esque storytelling in Swift's signature style; and "Exile," two perspectives on a broken love story (the lyric video shows off the mirroring narratives well).
Other notable tracks include "Illicit Affairs," "Invisible String," and "Betty."
1. "Speak Now" comes in at No. 1 as it best represents the evolution of Swift and her music.
All of Swift's signature elements are present on Swift's third studio album that was released in 2010 — beautifully honest lyrics about heartbreak ("Dear John," "Last Kiss"), biting diss tracks ("Mean," "Better Than Revenge"), and a story that unfolds ("Mine").
And as critic Chris Willman wrote for The Hollywood Reporter in 2010, "Speak Now" saw Swift's music style mature while still keeping elements of her youth that her fans so adored in her previous two albums.
"Entirely self-penned, sans the collaborations of the previous albums, it's an enormous breakthrough in songwriting maturity, while hardly forsaking the childlike lack of pretense that made earlier efforts such guilt-free ear candy," wrote Willman.
Some songs lean more country ("Mean") whereas others hint at the musical experimentation that would follow in subsequent albums ("Enchanted," "Haunted"), and, yet, the album is a mix of styles that seamlessly blend together.
And of course, "Long Live," the last song of the album, is a masterpiece that features the story and emotions of Swift looking at her journey and successes up to that point in time.
In the song, she celebrates a level of stardom that she'd continue to exponentially build upon in the years to come: "And bring on all the pretenders / One day, we will be remembered."
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