Look what you made Taylor do: build a looming empire. Her detractors aside, Taylor Swift has amassed millions of albums and singles sold, sold-out world tours and launched a clever reinvention we all asked for. Anchored with her dark and twisted new single, reputation (out Nov. 10), promises to see her have a blackout moment, a chance to rearrange the narrative critics have drawn up for her. In “Look What You Made Me Do,” she owns up to her flaws, admitting her role in social media clap backs, the ever-growing pile of receipts (thanks to Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry) and the persona she herself has mastered.
Over the course of 11 years, her songwriting has been the glue to her craft. From her wide-eyed days as a country darling to today’s deliberate and strategic genius, she has established quite a solid songbook of hits. But which ones are her absolute best?
Below, One Country ranks Swift’s 10 best singles, from good to great.
Taylor Swift’s 10 Best Singles, Ranked:
10. “Ours” (Speak Now)
Relegated to the deluxe edition, it quickly became a fan favorite, so Swift gave fans exactly what they wanted. Blending her country roots and a slick singer-songwriter tone, she details the high-stakes of a relationship amidst a flurry of peer pressure. “People throw rocks at things that shine,” she unfurls, her sweet vocal detailing the tumultuous love affair.
9. “You Belong with Me” (Fearless)
Fearless marked a concerted effort to make Swift as accessible to pop fans as possible. Through various remixes and hefty pushes to pop programmers, her efforts paid off tremendously. Still featuring Swift’s signature confessional writing style, “You Belong with Me,” an underdog story by all accounts, struck big and set the stage for her eventual rise to global domination. “How could you not know, baby, you belong with me?” she asserts.
8. “White Horse” (Fearless)
Borrowing images of Prince Charming (and being disillusioned in “his eyes”), Swift composes one of her best ballads. When the relationship crashes and burns, she turns to her trusty guitar to heal her wounds. From the simple melodic structure and embellishments of pounding piano, strings and gentle percussion, you feel her every tear fall down. “This ain’t a fairytale,” she admits.
7. “Teardrops on My Guitar” (Taylor Swift)
Speaking of teardrops, she proved early on she wasn’t afraid to reflect upon and share her darkest and saddest moments. This debut album hit single is a big reason she caught so much critical acclaim. “He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar / The only thing that keeps me wishing on a wishing star,” she details of her crush, a guy named Drew. “He’s the song in the car / I keep singing, don’t know why I do.”
6. “I Knew You Were Trouble.” (Red)
When Swift began working with genius pop producers Max Martin and Shellback, her transition to Pop Queen was nearing completion. Dancing between bubble gum and an EDM-lite drop, the singer-songwriter was realizing her musical potential, without sacrificing the songwriting which made her career. “Once upon a time a few mistakes ago / I was in your sights, you got me alone / You found me, you found me, you found me / I guess you didn’t care, and I guess I liked that / And when I fell hard you took a step back…without me,” she attests. The accompanying visual is suitably Panic! At the Disco in its emo-ness, and we can relate.
5. “Blank Space” (1989)
In one of many turns to control the media narrative, Swift embraced the “crazy ex-girlfriend is a man-eater” storyline. The standout single from her blockbuster, record-selling first full-on pop album is stacked with pounding drums, delicately-alluring synths and Swift’s sheepish delivery. The cut was also heightened with one of the most luxurious, high-budget music videos of all time.
4. “Mean” (Speak Now)
Swift has become known for her brazen attitude when it comes to her critics. Following her ill-advised performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards, alongside the one and only, Stevie Nicks, reporter and music critic Bob Lefsetz harpooned her vocal performance ⎯⎯ leading many to believe the song is about him. “All you are is mean and a liar and pathetic / And alone in life and mean,” she spits.
3. “Tim McGraw” (Taylor Swift)
The song that launched a juggernaut career, Swift’s diary-style writing was a refreshing take on modern women and instantly endeared the then-teenage ingenue to millions of country fans. Using one of the legendary singers of the ’90s (cough, Tim McGraw, cough) as the framework for a story of young romance was also a nice touch. “When you think Tim McGraw, I hope you think of me,” she sweetly sings.
2. “Back to December” (Speak Now)
“This is me swallowing my pride,” Swift confesses over a sweeping, orchestral-driven production. Up until this point in her career, she “never felt the need to apologize in a song before,” she explained in an interview. “In the last two years I’ve experienced a lot, [including] a lot of different kinds of learning lessons, and sometimes you learn a lesson too late and at that point you need to apologize because you were careless.” Reportedly, the song is about her split with actor Taylor Lautner.
1. “Love Story” (Fearless)
This is irrefutably the crown jewel of her catalog of hits. She reinvents the classic Romeo & Juliet structure for a modern audience with plenty of violin, steel guitar and percussion. The sweeping, romantic story put her on the map in a big way, proving she had much more artistic muscle in her arsenal. It’s a bit saccharine for some, but undeniable for others.