In my time as a Swiftie, it has always felt impossible to rank Taylor Swift’s albums. Absolutely unfathomable choices, I tell you! It is truly like ranking your favorite family members, to their faces.
There are now 10 Taylor Swift albums in the world. Each has lifted her reputation as a songwriter higher into the stratosphere. And at this point, her discography occupies space in several distinct, incomparable genres. Apples and oranges, for real.
But just when I thought all hope was lost, and I would simply never be able to give a straight answer to the question “How would you rank Taylor’s albums?” Twitter user @tweetsricochet shared an empirical, scientific solution.
- Sort the songs in each album from your favorite to least favorite.
- Compare your favorite song on each album. Rank them from 1-10, with 1 point going to your least favorite and 10 points going to your favorite.
- Repeat this 14 times (disregard anything below 15th place since the shortest album is 15 songs including bonus track).
- Add up the points you gave each album. Then compare the results to determine your ranking.
I love math. And I love Taylor Swift. So this method appeals to me deeply.
Another Swiftie (@iridescentrey) replied to this tweet with some even deeper methology–weighting higher-rated songs with more points than lower-rated songs, across the board.
I know that might be a lot of steps to digest, so I brought pictures. Here’s how this process worked for me.
Ranking Taylor Swift’s songs in each album . . .
Fortunately, this step wasn’t as time-consuming as it might’ve been if I didn’t have a blog where I’ve already reviewed and ranked the majority of Taylor’s albums.
Very observant fans of my album reviews might notice some changes from my initial rankings (because my opinions change significantly over time), but as of February 2023, this is how I would rank all the songs in each albums.
Ranking the songs in each row . . .
This part was a little trickier. How do you compare “Message In A Bottle” to “my tears ricochet”? “All Too Well” to “ivy”? “Death By A Thousand Cuts” to “august”?
But I had a lot of fun assigning points in each row, even though the choices were tough.
And I must apologize to all the Taylor Swift, Fearless, and Speak Now girlies out there. Without exception, these albums were in my bottom 3 for each row. Don’t hurt me. She’s just grown so much since then!
Calculating the results . . .
Using @iridescentrey’s spreadsheet made this quick and easy. However, after reviewing the results, I decided to make one swap. This spreadsheet automatically assigns more weight to the point winners in higher rows, so I felt one album got the short end of the stick through this calculation.
But without any more stalling, here is my definitive answer. This is how I would rank Taylor’s 10 incredible albums, from least favorite to my personal Bible.
10. Taylor Swift (Debut)
Despite my uncertainty about comparing Taylor’s albums, I always knew this would be in last place.
“Our Song”? Incredible.
“Teardrops On My Guitar”? A classic for the ages.
“Tim McGraw”? The place it all began.
But there is absolutely nowhere else I can put Taylor Swift on this list.
It pains me to put her debut album so low. I truly love several songs on it, but Taylor has simply grown too much and come too far for this album to be a real competitor in this race.
(If it’s any consolation to the debut fans out there, I had to break the rules to promote the 9th place album.)
Spreadsheet Points: 256
9. Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
About that rule breaking….
When I saw Fearless in 10th place on my spreadsheet calculation, I said “No.” Because that would be sacrilege. And I’m not here to commit such an atrocity.
Fearless really is that girl of Taylor’s early days. Truth be told, I kind of want to promote it again to 8th place.
Every. Single. Person. Knows the words to “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story.” Taylor Swift was a success, but Fearless is the album that catapulted Ms. Swift into orbit.
This album is so iconic. It’s hard to imagine Taylor’s discography without it.
I should mention that if the vault tracks on Taylor’s Version of Fearless were a liiiiittle stronger, it could have easily brought this album up in the rankings (as we may or may not see with her other re-recorded album on this list).
Just as we saw with Taylor’s debut album, this album is so low on the list because there is such strength in her later work.
But make no mistake–Fearless alone would be enough of an accomplishment to decorate any other musician for the rest of their life.
Spreadsheet Points: 204
8. Speak Now
There is apparently a huge number of Swifties who claim Speak Now as their number-one, so let me tread carefully.
Speak Now is incredibly impressive as a feat of songwriting. (For those out of the know, she wrote the entire thing alone.) But I’m about to say something controversial and brave.
I would not have been surprised to see it in last place on my list.
Here’s why it isn’t:
Speak Now has a small handful of songs that hit very hard for me, and bring up its average considerably. “Back To December,” “Enchanted,” “Sparks Fly,” and “Mine” are all such powerful standouts from her country chapter.
Speak Now‘s most special quality is how anthemic its hits are.
It would have been highway robbery to rank Taylor Swift and Fearless above this album because Taylor did this all on her own. We all know now that Taylor is this generation’s greatest songwriter. And Speak Now is where that began to become apparent.
Spreadsheet Points: 260
This feels truly illegal.
If you believe 1989 is Taylor’s best album, I support you. It is a blueprint for pop music in the 21st century. It’s a direction none of us expected in 2014, and none of us will ever forget.
To this day, I maintain that 1989 is Taylor Swift’s most unskippable album. This record is packed with hits. Absolutely wall-to-wall stuffed with goodies.
“Shake It Off” is probably her biggest hit of all time–a song that speaks to every demographic and plays at every party.
“Blank Space” and “Style” are some of the best pop songs ever made.
There is not one dud on the album. I feel bad for placing it this low.
The songs are infectious. The production is flawless. The music videos are stunning. The coconut hair is iconic.
1989 is, dare I say, a flawless album. It’s the album every other pop album wishes it was. It will always be a legend, an icon, and the moment.
Spreadsheet Points: 521
It’s a good thing I can refer to the spreadsheet to confirm my beliefs. Because I never would have been brave enough to put Reputation so low in an album ranking.
Here’s the dilemma: Reputation has more skips than 1989, but the era as a whole is so breathtakingly gaggy to me.
The moment I saw zombie Taylor crawl out of the dirt in the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video, my life was irrevocably changed.
This album doesn’t always hit its marks. I don’t love “End Game,” “So It Goes…,” or “King of My Heart.”
But I am absolutely obsessed with “Don’t Blame Me,” “…Ready For It?,” “Call It What You Want,” “New Year’s Day,” and “Delicate.”
The Reputation tour is on Netflix, and it’s a regular church service to me.
I’m sorry. The old Tyler can’t come to the phone right now. He’s been dead for several years now.
Spreadsheet Points: 670
Midnights is a delicious blend of everything we have loved about Taylor’s music over the years. It has the lyricism of her most recent albums, plus the boppiness of her bubblegum pop albums.
What more could we ask for?
“You’re On Your Own, Kid,” “Anti-Hero,” and “Maroon” are songs I didn’t know I needed from Taylor. But she delivered big-time on this record, which none of us heard 1 second of prior to its release.
The production feels a little regressive at times, but I think it does its best to explore new instrumental corners to differentiate itself from 1989, Reputation, and Lover.
All that said, Midnights feels like a warm return to more upbeat Taylor Swift music, after a couple of years getting lost upstate and exiled into the woods.
As I write this (February 2023), nobody knows what the Eras Tour is going to be like. We’re all excited. We’re all in this moment.
I have a habit of falling into recency bias with things, so part of me wants to rank Midnights higher.
But this feels fair.
Spreadsheet Points: 807
This is the album I have to defend the hardest.
I think the predominant opinion among Swifties is that Lover is Taylor’s worst pop album. And that would be incorrect. Sorry!
I’ve said this before and I will say it again: at the time of its release, Lover was Taylor’s best album of all time. It’s nearly as glossy as 1989, with a significant boost in lyrical quality.
Just don’t get lost in the singles. We don’t know why “ME!” was chosen. But take a deeper dive into this pastel landscape and you’ll find some of the most mature, reflective, and bittersweet music of her career.
Lover feels very much like the resolution to a 3-act story of Taylor’s pop career: 1989 was her fun but socially unsustainable rocket launch into superstardom; Reputation was her fall from grace and era of self-reflection; and Lover brought us back to happy pop with a healthier and more mature outlook on fame, love, and contemporary political issues.
Taylor has never glowed like she does in all the Lover era photo shoots. Her few live performances are among her best, and it is the biggest tragedy of her career that we didn’t get more before the world shut down in 2020.
I will never be accept any slander or negativity about Lover. Never.
Spreadsheet Points: 861
3. Red (Taylor’s Version)
No album on my ranking surprised me as much as Red (Taylor’s Version).
If we were talking about the old Red, it probably would have been in 7th or 8th place for me.
But, oh my Taylor. The re-recording took this transitional record and transformed it into a masterpiece that has more than justified itself as a standout of Taylor’s catalogue.
The ascension of “All Too Well” into the zeitgeist has been a real dream-come-true for Swifties. I sometimes call this era the “All Too Well” era, because the song was the defining moment of this re-recording.
And, yes, I would consider Red (Taylor’s Version) an era all on its own.
There were looks. There was a music video. There was an even better album cover, somehow. This was truly a moment.
But as I reviewed all 10 of these track lists, I realized just why this album rose to this rank:
There are several songs on Red (Taylor’s Version) that I skip, but the vault tracks dramatically improved the album’s average quality.
“Message In A Bottle” is one of my favorite pop songs ever. Good enough to be on 1989.
“I Bet You Think About Me” is one of my favorite country songs ever.
“Forever Winter” adds a heartbreaking, yet unique flavor to the album.
“Babe” is a banger.
And, of course, “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” is an iconic part of Taylor’s golden career.
Overall, I have been so shocked at just how much was added to this record. It fought the uphill battle of justifying its existence to the world. Then, it somehow doubled the quality of the album it recreated.
Scooter Braun was never seen again.
Spreadsheet Points: 907
Taylor Swift is insane for this.
To release an indie album in the middle of a global pandemic? Wild enough.
To do it again? What can we even say?
I guess I’ll start here: evermore is one of the best albums ever made. Period.
“Ivy” is arguably Taylor’s best-written song of all time. So is “cowboy like me.” So is “right where you left me.” So is “champagne problems.”
It is actually unbelievable. How she created several of her very best songs on this one album, during lockdown, we will never fully understand. It is a mystery of nature.
This album is a great companion to folklore. It takes more risks. It’s less cohesive, but its high points are arguably higher. It’s still very indie and folksy, with a little more flair and color.
Evermore is a perfect record.
Spreadsheet Points: 1011
We lovingly refer to folklore and evermore as “the sisters.” And much like actual siblings, they are hard to compare fairly.
But we have a job to do. And folklore is the best album I have ever heard in my life.
It’s difficult to think of any criticism for folklore. In truth, I skip a couple of the songs in the back half of the album. They’re just a little low-priority compared to the numerous masterpiece tracks found elsewhere on the list.
And that’s about where my criticism stops.
When Taylor casually surprise-dropped her magnum opus in the middle of summer during a worldwide pandemic and lockdown, I really began to fear her power.
It’s difficult to listen to “cardigan” and not feel moved. It’s challenging to listen to “my tears ricochet” and not feel heartbroken. It’s impossible to listen to “the 1” and not miss your ex.
When I listen to folklore, I feel transported to a forest far away, foreign yet familiar. It’s twinkling fairy lights and green leaves. It’s towering trees and sepia soundscapes.
Folklore is a glowing book of poetry Shakespeare wishes he wrote.
Spreadsheet Points: 1103
Thank you so much for joining me to discuss the works of our Lady and Savior, Taylor Swift. For more reviews and rankings just like this, be sure to subscribe and come back soon!