What is the Best Taylor Swift Era? The American Songwriter Staff Weighs In

December 13 marks everyone’s favorite national holiday. Of course, we’re talking about Taylor Swift‘s birthday. Swift has been a majorly important part of our year, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t help ring in her 34th trip around the sun.

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Below, the American Songwriter staff weighs in on a question almost impossible to answer: What is the best Taylor Swift era?

[Taylor Swift on Tour – Get Tickets]

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Speak Now

Taylor Swift showcased her strength as a songwriter on Speak Now. Released in 2010, Swift’s third studio album marked the first time the then-country singer/songwriter wrote an album entirely by herself. Penned while on the road during her Fearless Tour, Speak Now highlighted the artist as a hopeless romantic on songs like the soaring “Sparks Fly” and stirring “Enchanted.” It also saw Swift mature on the more realistic takes on love as seen in album opener “Mine” and the heartfelt “Back to December,” where she apologizes to an ex for doing him wrong.

On Speak Now, Swift has had her heart broken by both men, women, and the industry (“Dear John,” “Better Than Revenge,” “Mean”) but lives to tell about it and comes out on the other side stronger and more sure of herself. It’s a lesson in confidence and triumph that any Swiftie (and really, any human) can still relate to today. – ANNIE REUTER

Red

There are many answers to this question. Every era of Swift’s career has shined in its own way. But, if I had to pick one (and also many of my other favorites were already picked) I would go with Red. Swift spread her wings as a songwriter on this album. From career-defining hits (“I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Red,” “22”) to soft, meditative ballads (“I Almost Do,” “Ronan”), Swift started to establish the essence of what would make her the world’s biggest star: the impressive mix of an unstoppable hit maker and a true lyricist.

The expanded Taylor’s Version release of Red only made me love it more. More sides of the story were revealed through the vault tracks–many of which rival the songs on the original tracklist in my book. Red marked a shift in Swift’s career–one that broke her free from her country confinements and allowed her to truly skyrocket. – ALEX HOPPER

[RELATED: The Meaning Behind “Red,” Taylor Swift’s Requiem for a Dead-End Maserati of a Love Affair]

1989

Taylor Swift and I were both born in the same year, which meant we simultaneously made the rocky transition from youth to adulthood. Although I regularly heard her songs on country radio as a teen, I didn’t personally connect with her music until 2014. That year marked the delivery of 1989, her first fully pop-centered project. Her songs echoed my own experiences at the time as I adjusted to life in a new and exciting city while chasing love and a career. Her ability to exude the complicated emotions you feel during that pivotal life chapter, varying from bubbly optimism to the bittersweetness of fleeting relationships, is unmatched. From the anthemic opener “Welcome to New York” to the flirty “Style” and cleansing ballad “Clean,” every track on 1989 is an example of pop perfection. – LORIE LIEBIG

folklore/evermore

Amid a global pandemic, Taylor Swift began writing songs that came to her like a stream of consciousness, induced by isolation. Working virtually with producers Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, Swift released the first of two career-altering albums with folklore in July, followed by a second, surprise album, and continuation, evermore, in December. Both albums were a departure from the mellower pop genius of her previous Lover in 2019 and highlighted a contemplative state, and painted more atmospheric folk and Americana renderings along with some of Swift’s most affecting storytelling. Through folklore, Swift romanticized the good and bad and a thematic love triangle through “cardigan” and “exile,” featuring Bon Iver, which expanded into more themes around the entanglements of love and loss and the flood of emotions with the affecting stories revealed on her ninth album, and folklore sequel, evermore. – TINA EVES

NFL darling, tour mogul, billionaire

What’s the best Taylor Swift era? How about right now? Though she has had more prolific creative eras when it comes to songwriting and releasing records, Swift is as on top of the world today as anyone has ever been. Her 2023 summer tour raked in billions—or was it trillions?—of dollars.

She just released a popular concert film. She is also the biggest story of the current National Football League season, even though she has never worn shoulder pads and a helmet on a game field (as far as we know). Swift, who is currently in that famous relationship with the Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce, and who just had perhaps the most successful concert tour ever, is now experiencing her greatest era, in my humble opinion. The only question is: What’s next and can this triumphant period be sustained or, dare I say, improved upon? – JAKE UITTI

Photos: (left to right) Larry Busacca/Getty Images, Kevin Kane/Getty Images for Jingle Ball 2012, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

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