taylor swift
[Photo by Beth Garrabrant]

Every Taylor Swift album ranked

While listening to Taylor Swift’s discography, a quote she said always comes to mind: “I will never change, but I’ll never stay the same, either.” It’s simple, but that quote speaks to the throughline that ties Swift’s albums together. She’s in a constant state of evolution by dipping into new genres and finding new ways to push herself from previous records. But there is one thing that will never change: her ability to make her songwriting so universal while simultaneously crafting songs that are uniquely personal to her.

Read more: 15 of Taylor Swift’s most emo songs ever, ranked

It’s why it’s almost impossible to rank Taylor Swift’s albums. Regardless of personal taste and critical assessment, there is a reason why Swift’s songwriting resonates so deeply with her fans: Every record is a snapshot of our own lives just as much as they are hers. For some, Fearless holds the top spot for being the coming-of-age soundtrack they needed. For others, they found strength in the themes Swift explores in Reputation. Every album, much like every listener’s relationship with certain Swift records, is as unique as the next. 

As we rank all of Swift’s 10 studio albums from great to greatest, note that we include the ethically sourced re-recorded “Taylor’s Version” renditions of Fearless and Red

10. Lover (2019)

After the dark dramatics of Reputation comes the bright light of Lover. Swift’s seventh record is a sonic sprawl, jumping between pop rock and synth pop with acoustic tracks sprinkled throughout. At the time of release, Swift’s songwriting throughout Lover was at its most mature, analyzing her own insecurities in relationships (“Afterglow”), struggling with the knowledge of her mom’s sickness (“Soon You’ll Get Better”) and detailing the feeling of love without conditions (“Daylight”).

Lover’s free-spirited sound is its blessing and its curse. Although listeners get a taste of everything, Lover falls slightly flat in its length and cohesiveness. Songs like “Me!” “Paper Rings” and “I Forgot That You Existed” are fun to listen to, but sound weaker up against tracks like “False God,” “Soon You’ll Get Better” and “Cornelia Street.” Even with its inconsistencies, Lover was a gateway of sorts. It was a glimpse into where she was heading musically with songs like “It’s Nice To Have A Friend” and “False God,” which are in a similar vein to those on folklore.

9. Taylor Swift (2006)

For a debut, Swift’s self-titled album is a masterclass in weaving personal experiences into songwriting. Leaning on the country artists before her, Taylor Swift is majorly a country record with pop and rock elements, as heard on “Our Song” and “Should’ve Said No,” respectively. Given that she wrote songs like “The Outside” when she was 12, there is a naiveté to Taylor Swift that honored her prepubescent and early teen experience. 

Despite it being her first album, Swift explored themes that, at the time, reached far beyond her years. Rather than falling into stereotypical country songwriting tropes, she wrote about everything from unrequited love (“Teardrops on My Guitar”) to a friend struggling with an eating disorder (“Tied Together With A Smile”). The only major issue with Swift’s self-titled debut LP is its adolescent sound when compared to later records.

8. Midnights (3am edition) (2022)

Midnights is a concept record shaped around 13 (+ seven) sleepless nights. Swift worked with her trusty producing partner Jack Antonoff to craft a darker tone for her 10th studio album. Using reverbed synths and bass-induced midtempo beats to craft its overall sound, Midnights is reminiscent of the duo’s work on Lover and the tracks Antonoff produced for 1989 and Reputation. 

With that in mind, it’s clear that Midnights is more of a transition album — a sonic place for Swift to explore after testing new waters on folklore and the experience of revisiting her old songs during her rerecordings. “Vigilante Shit” could sit nicely on Reputation, and “Question…?” is the B-side to 1989’s “Out Of The Woods.” Swift’s tongue-in-cheek songwriting skills are at their strongest on tracks like “Anti-Hero,” “High Infidelity” and “Mastermind,” whereas a track like “Sweet Nothing” sounds like a poem similar to Lover’s “It’s Nice To Have A Friend.” Midnights isn’t entirely revolutionary, but it is evolutionary; the embodiment of everything Swift has created prior, slightly more refined, on one album. 

7. Reputation (2017)

Out of her entire discography, Reputation is a record that was too ahead of its time. After leaving country music behind to write, record and release 1989, everyone assumed that would be the biggest change Swift would ever make in regard to her sound. Instead, after the critical success of 1989 and the eventual drama that would ensue, Reputation would be her most experimental record. For the first time, Swift incorporated R&B into her sound, bringing together electropop influences, pulsing synths and heavy electronic productions. 

Throughout the record, Swift dances between distinct themes: revenge and anger juxtaposed with discovering love in the darkest and lowest points of one’s life. Songs like “Look What You Made Me Do” and “I Did Something Bad” show Swift’s playful side, taunting those who wronged her. “Delicate” and “Call It What You Want” are sweet odes to a love that withstands all the drama and tabloid fodder. When it was released, many found the sound jarring and fraught. Over time, Reputation serves as an experimental album that Swift needed to get out of her system to truly evolve as a singer and songwriter.

6. Fearless (2008) + Fearless (Taylor’s Version) (2021)

Where Swift’s debut record was her first foray into confessional songwriting, Fearless dives further into her teenage experience and reckons with the pitfalls of growing up and finding love. Although she uses the same traditional country elements and instruments like banjos and acoustic guitars that she used on her predecessor, Swift leans further into pop territory in songs like “Love Story,” “You Belong With Me” and the Taylor’s Version track “Mr. Perfectly Fine.”

If anything, the release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version) showed how timeless the record is as a whole. Both old and new tracks sounded fresh and oddly prophetic. The country twang that was heard on 2008’s Fearless was almost entirely preserved for the 2021 re-recording. With Fearless, there was no “sophomore slump.” Instead, Swift’s only major flaw is that she stayed true to what she was building on her self-titled debut and didn’t go out of her way to experiment — something she’d do on later records.

5. folklore (2020)

During the pandemic, Swift found inspiration in the lore she dreamed of, which would eventually be the catalyst to her surprise record folklore. Working closely with Aaron Dessner (The National) and Antonoff, Swift embraced a change of genre much like she did when she experimented with Reputation. folklore matched the similar mood for the world during that time — subdued, poignant and introspective  — and made a pivot to indie. 

Songs like “the last great american dynasty,” “the 1” and the love triangle discussed in “betty” and “august” show Swift’s ability to move away from autobiographical tracks to more universal narratives and fiction. The only flaw is its length — something Lover suffered from — because the final few songs like “hoax” and “epiphany” sometimes sound interchangeable.

4. evermore (2020)

After Swift got folklore out of her system, the record’s sister album evermore dipped into a mixture of genres from indie to alt-pop. Where folklore stayed consistent sonically, evermore was much more experimental with its sound. “long story short” and “gold rush” are uplifting, pop-infused tracks that explore past tumultuous events and the all-encompassing feeling of falling in love, respectively. On the other spectrum, tracks like “champagne problems,” “evermore” and “‘tis the damn season” are more pared back and provide the record with the depth it needs when compared to the peppier tracks. 

The HAIM collaboration on “no body, no crime” is the bolder and snarkier “Better Than Revenge” and “I Did Something Bad,” while standout tracks “dorothea” and “marjorie” prove Swift’s knack for storytelling, whether she’s pulling from her personal life or not. As a whole, evermore is Swift operating at a higher level: experimenting with her sound, flexing new ways to incorporate more motifs in her music and pulling more collaborators into her creative process.

3. Red (2012) + Red (Taylor’s Version) (2021)

As a transitional album, Red showcases Swift gravitating from country to pop, a change that would shape her future discography. Blending the rock stylings she first touched on during Speak Now’s “Haunted,” Red is a true arena-rock record, as shown on songs like “State of Grace” “Red” and “Holy Ground.” On “I Knew You Were Trouble,” she toys with a rock-dubstep hybrid, whereas on vault tracks like “I Bet You Think About Me” and “Better Man,” she incorporates the tongue-in-cheek and cutthroat country storytelling first heard on “Should’ve Said No” and “Picture to Burn.”

It’s impossible to discuss Red and its re-recorded counterpart without touching on both versions of “All Too Well,” in addition to the other vault tracks, that feel like Swift was given the chance to include more to the Red era and complete the story in its 10-minute glory.

2. 1989 (2014)

On her first fully fledged pop album, 1989 is a reinvention. She cut her hair, moved to New York and found herself after heartbreak — all points that would eventually be the catalysts of 1989. Named after the year of her birth, 1989 relies heavily on synth pop and similar 1980s pop sonics, paired together with Swift’s storytelling and ability to weave together a more positive, uplifting tale of a love gone sour as opposed to the stories penned on Red.

A record highlight is “Out of the Woods,” which features one of Swift’s best bridges, a heavy synth and layered production. It’s frantic in sound, much like the relationship told throughout the lyrics. In comparison, songs like “New Romantics” and “You Are In Love” celebrate love’s whimsical moments. As a body of work, 1989 opened the floodgates to Swift’s creativity. No longer tied to a genre, she was able to try out new sounds, producers and narrative devices. 

1. Speak Now (2010)

As the sole songwriter for the entire record, Speak Now is where Swift truly began to solidify herself as a once-in-a-generation songwriter. Her own transition from a teen into adulthood mirrored her professional career. Swift explored similar themes to her debut and Fearless but approached them with a more mature perspective, as heard on songs like “Innocent” and “Back to December.” 

Sonically, its production is tight and cohesive. Lyrically, the album is one of Swift’s greatest, with even the title track, the silliest song on the record, speaking to more of the record’s general themes of speaking up for one’s self. In particular, the standout track is “Long Live,” a call-to-arms for fans that doubles as Swift’s own autobiography as she reflects on her creative journey thus far. Ultimately, Speak Now is a record that brings together a myriad of genres — all tied together with Swift’s amazing storytelling.