Taylor Swift is gearing to give us yet another sure-to-be hit album, Midnights. With Swift being as cryptic as ever, we still don’t know much about what is waiting for us on October 21. One thing we do know is that we have her back catalog to go back to, time and time again, to hold us over while we wait.
Right from the beginning of her career, Swift set herself apart as a masterful songwriter that had a knack for constructing melodies and delivering hard-hitting storylines—skills she has only honed over the years. Because she rarely misses, ranking her albums can be a tough practice, but we’ve sussed out our decision below with all nine of Swift’s original albums being pitted against one another (We’ve shied away from including her Taylor’s Version re-recordings this time). Swifties, don’t shoot the messenger.
9. Taylor Swift (2006)
Swift has been praised for her songwriting efforts from the very earliest days of her career—and for good reason. Her gift for melody, her POV-reversals in her bridges, and her knack for storytelling, it was all well and accounted for in her debut. But looking at the wealth of material she has put out since, we have to put her debut in last place. She’s gotten nothing but better.
Highpoints: “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My),” “Invisible,” “Should’ve Said No”
8. Fearless (2008)
Fearless saw Taylor becoming a little bit older and a little wiser. If you were a teenager in 2008, nothing could have summed up all that whistful tension you were feeling better than “Fifteen” or “Breathe.” Because it’s so linked to doe-eyed infatuation and first-love gone-wrong tales, it feels a bit stuck in a particular time and place that doesn’t age with us. It will always flurry up a bit of nostalgia but we look to new Swift tracks to be our guiding light now.
Highpoints: “Tell Me Why,” “Forever & Always,” “The Best Day”
7. Reputation (2017)
Ah, Reputation…This album is a tricky one to place. If you get into the nitty-gritty of this record, you’ll find some of Swift’s best work, but upon its release, this record was largely shunned by the public. Pre the drama with the Kardashians, it was safe to assume that everyone and their mother had heard whatever Swift was putting out. After, Swifties became a niche group of stalwarts that were hanging on for dear life. Of course, the beef has now been squashed and Swift is back on top of the world, this album will always have an air about it that leaves it a little lackluster in our opinion.
Highpoints: “Delicate,” “Getaway Car,” “New Year’s Day”
6. Speak Now (2010)
Speak Now is a testament to Swift’s ability to be a one-woman hit-making machine. She wrote and composed the entire album on her own which is almost unheard of in pop these days. With the added factor that she was only 21 when it was released, Speak Now was certainly an important stop on the road to success for Swift. While the album has no shortage of anthemic pop hits, it does feel a bit juvenile in comparison to her other material. Lacking the scope she puts in her other records, Speak Now has to take 6th place.
Highpoints: “The Story of Us,” “Enchanted,” “Better Than Revenge”
5. Lover (2019)
Bouncing back from her Reputation era, Lover saw Swift leaning into a honeymoon period. It’s bright, it’s glittering and it saw us get a little bit of Swift pre-Kim Kardashian drama back. While all the songs are rich in narrative heft, it lacks a certain sense of sonic consistency. It makes for an interesting listen and we love all of the songs on their own, but the genre whiplash on Lover puts it in the middle of the road for us.
Highpoints: “The Man,” “Paper Rings,” “Daylight”
4. Folklore (2020)
Swift shocked the world when she put out Folklore. Fully leaning into an indie aesthetic with more of a focus on the lyrical content than ever before, Swift’s music may never be the same after Folklore—and we don’t mind at all! The lush instrumentals and stunning melodies she infuses into these 16 songs are something of a marvel. The only reason it’s not higher is that the melancholy vibes can be a bit one note at times, albeit a stunning one.
Highpoints: “seven,” “invisible string,” “peace”
3. 1989 (2014)
1989 was endlessly influential on the 2010s pop scene. The tracklist is hit after hit with “Shake It Off,” “Style,” “Bad Blood,” “Out Of The Woods,” and “Blank Space” all receiving platinum records. With thematic consistency, a honed songwriting voice, and a true pop icon’s sensibility, 1989 remains one of her best.
Highpoints: “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” “This Love,” “I Know Places”
2. Evermore (2020)
The Folklore/Evermore debate is a fickle one. It’s hard to pit one over the other, but we’re making a list so we will…While both albums are arguably Swift’s best songwriting pursuits to date, Evermore seems more honed than its predecessor. She forayed into the indie-pop/folk sphere with Folklore but she was an old pro by the time she got around to Evermore. Tracks like “champagne problems,” “no body, no crime,” and “’tis the damn season” are hard to beat.
Highpoints: “tolerate it,” “cowboy like me,” “marjorie”
1. Red (2012)
It was a tough decision. The competition is so stiff, but ultimately we have to give the top spot to Red. It was a bit of a gamble for Swift to take a hard turn into pop in 2012. Her previous albums (albeit less and less) held on to some semblance of her country roots. Red, however, was chock full of pop anthems with nary a sign of a twang in sight. I mean, “22?” “All Too Well?” These are classic Swift tracks. It was a gamble that paid off tenfold and only further catapulted Swift further into superstardom.
Highpoints: “State of Grace,” “Treacherous,” “All Too Well”
(Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)