Over the last 15 years or so, Taylor Swift has built a fantastic discography. After reviewing every track on Lover and reputation, I feel drawn to continue working my way back through the rest of Taylor’s albums, starting with 1989.
It’s considered one of the best pop albums of the century so far, and for good reason: it’s absolutely packed with stellar 80s-inspired bops. Its music videos have regularly topped a billion YouTube views (sometimes 2 billion!), and it won the “Album of the Year” GRAMMY in 2015.
Basically, this is some good shit.
Let’s go through 1989, arguably Taylor Swift’s best album, and review every track individually.
1. “Welcome to New York”
From the first 10 seconds of the album, it’s clear Taylor is serving something different. The pop flavor she taste-tested in Red is going to be the main course on this record.
“Welcome to New York” has never stood out to me, but it’s a perfectly acceptable introduction to this new era. The song matches its message sonically, as New York is the most vibrant big city you could ask for. NYC is exactly the opposite of small-town Tennessee, so it neatly represents Taylor’s transition from country roots to full-tilt pop.
(“And you can want who you want – boys and boys and girls and girls” deserves a mention as T-Swift’s first-ever acknowledgement of LGBTQ fans. We love to see it.)
2. “Blank Space”
When I look at all of Taylor’s work, 1989 is clearly her first pop album. But when I think about Taylor’s first true pop masterpiece, “Blank Space” is it.
I mean, my god. Sis really delivered a catchy bop with self-deprecating lyrics meant to satirize the media’s ridiculous portrayal of her love life. It checks all the boxes for a great pop song, and then checks some more.
She’s got a long list of chart-topping singles, but she had a blank space to write “Blank Space.” And I love it. Truly, I have no choice. It’s the hit from 1989.
You know what? This one has always been good. But as the years have passed, I think it has grown to be one of the standouts from the album (which is saying a lot).
“Style” is atmospheric with an unforgettable beat. It shows a level of maturity Taylor has been accused of lacking, with an ashamed admission of unfaithfulness (“I said ‘I’ve been there, too, a few times’”). And, most satisfyingly, the song is about her ex, Harry Styles. Styles. “Style.” Sneaky, huh?
I think it would be fair to call this a pop masterpiece, too.
4. “Out of the Woods”
If you don’t like simplistic or repetitive choruses, this one’s probably not for you.
But I happen to love the rhythm, and the way it drums on through the song. Lyrically speaking, “OOTW” has the first great bridge on the record. I don’t know if this is anyone’s favorite, but it’s an unforgettable addition to 1989 with a fabulous music video to boot.
5. “All You Had To Do Was Stay”
On many other pop albums, this would be the best song. But on 1989, it’s sort of mediocre. That’s no shade (truly). It’s a fun song, but that’s all I really have to say.
6. “Shake It Off”
Oh, boy. One of Taylor’s most popular songs ever, “Shake It Off” really changed the game. As the lead single, it sort of carried the 1989 flag into pop culture. And, oh wow, is this Taylor Swift?
Depending on your opinion of Taylor’s quirky side, you heard “Hey, hey, hey! Just think, while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty dirty cheats of the world, you coulda been gettin’ down to this. Sick. Beat,” and either recoiled in secondhand embarrassment or thought “Yaaass, this is so fun and peppy!”
Either way, this is an undeniable hit. Kids love it. Grandparents love it. It’s on just about every party mix made since 2014, and it’s one of the biggest pop songs of all time. Period.
7. “I Wish You Would”
This one feels a lot like “All You Had To Do Was Stay.” I know the story is different, but that’s just the energy I’m getting. They’re both in that middle “this is really good” tier that doesn’t quite reach the upper echelon of masterpieces on 1989.
You know what? I’m reading through the lyrics again, and I’m going to put this one ahead of “AYHTDWS.” And again, a mediocre 1989 hit is far beyond most of our wildest dreams of a pop song.
8. “Bad Blood”
I just sighed.
It’s so bad, but it gained so many points back with the Kendrick Lamar version and the all-time great music video. Do we count that?
The version on the record is horrible. There’s no denying it. Most of the lyrics are plain and uninspired, and I doubt anyone but the most supportive Swiftie would let it play without skipping to the next track.
The Kendrick version would certainly place higher in my ranking, but unfortunately that’s not what you hear when you listen to 1989.
Sorry, queen, but this is a bad one (Hey!).
9. “Wildest Dreams”
This is the most whimsical track on the record, which matches its lyrics perfectly: “Wildest Dreams” sounds like a dream.
It’s impossible to separate 1989’s music videos from its songs, so I won’t try. The video is gorgeous and features Scott Eastwood (an undeniable bonus).
I almost forgot to mention that “Wildest Dreams” features one of the most incredible hidden details on any Taylor Swift song: the beat is a looped recording of Taylor’s own heartbeat.
Hello? Yeah, I’d like to report my own murder, because I’ve been slain.
10. “How You Get the Girl”
It’s cute, but doesn’t rise to the bar set by 1989’s finest. It’s certainly one of my least-played songs on this album, which I suppose is an accurate proxy for gauging how much I like it.
11. “This Love”
I wish I could say I love it. Clearly, she put her heart into it (not literally; she already used that trick). But it has just never stood out. Perhaps it’s because it’s the slowest song on an album full of upbeat bops.
When I read the lyrics, it actually feels more meaningful than I ever gave it credit for. But, again, I don’t listen to it as much as most of the others, which must mean it’s one of my least favorites.
12. “I Know Places”
A close Swiftie friend has always sworn by this song’s quality. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it above the, say, 33rd percentile, but it has grown on me over time. This will be a tricky one to rank, but overall it’s not a favorite.
“Clean” got a huge boost when Taylor performed it during her reputation tour, and included that performance in her Miss Americana documentary this year. It’s touching, bittersweet, and an overall high point in the album’s final moments.
1989 Review & Song Ranking
Even non-fans have a tough time denying 1989’s impact on the music industry. Taylor Swift didn’t just dip her toes into pop music; she swan-dived, earning 10s across the board on her first try.
It’s shocking how good this album is.
Not every song is A-tier, and as I get through the last half of 1989, I realize it’s a bit front-loaded with its best work. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are several masterpieces on the track list, and that this album dramatically improved an already-excellent discography.
1989 exceeded Swifties’ wildest dreams in a way we couldn’t shake off, and it’s got a sound that will never go out of style.
So, how would I rank 1989’s tracks from worst to best? Probably like this:
- “This Love”
- “How You Get The Girl”
- “Welcome to New York”
- “Bad Blood” (a slight change of heart)
- “I Know Places”
- “Shake It Off”
- “All You Had To Do Was Stay”
- “I Wish You Would”
- “Wildest Dreams”
- “Out of the Woods”
- “Blank Space”
(The Kendrick version of “Bad Blood” would probably be in the top 5 but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.)