Taylor Swift’s Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

Taylor Swift is a megastar, and her profile as a celebrity can overshadow her musical abilities. Opinions on Swift are wildly diverse. In some quarters, she’s dismissed as disposable music for teenage girls. In others, she’s highly respected as a songwriter and recording artist.

Swift is an adept songwriter, particularly as a lyricist. Her storytelling abilities allow her to pepper her songs with interesting details and memorable phrases.  Swift’s equally capable with upbeat, poppy material and slower, more brooding tracks. Her songs are straightforward musically, and she operates in the mainstream contexts of pop and country-pop.

It’s an interesting exercise to try to find comparisons for her in pop music’s past. Swift is equal parts a carefully manicured image-maker like Madonna and an uncluttered and robust songwriter like Carole King. Her track record as a tier-one hitmaker is unparalleled – no one’s lasted longer at the top of the pop pile than Swift.

Starting her career young, Swift has already built an impressive back catalogue where almost all of her albums have a unique flavour. As well as hit singles like ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, Swift also has beloved deep cuts. Dedicated fans gravitate to lengthy, soul-baring tracks like ‘All Too Well’ and ‘Dear John’. 2020’s Folklore and Evermore show that she still has plenty of ideas, fifteen years into her recording career.

Taylor Swift’s Albums Ranked

Taylor Swift Albums
Taylor Swift
Credit: Big Machine

#11 Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift was only 16 when she recorded her debut album, launching an astonishingly successful career. The smooth country sound of Taylor Swift is less interesting than her subsequent work, but she’s already a talented writer.

The most memorable track is ‘Our Song’, which Swift wrote in twenty minutes for her school talent show. Taylor Swift starts strongly with the trio of ‘Tim McGraw’, ‘Picture to Burn’, and ‘Teardrops on My Guitar’.

#10 Reputation

After a tough time with the media, Swift’s tucked away in her bunker for Reputation. She’s firing shots at the world with titles like ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ and ‘Look What You Made Me Do’.

Swift is putting as much effort into self-expression as into crafting good songs and Reputation ends up as a disorienting mix of pop songs and darker, more personal material. I listen to Reputation more than her early country albums, but it’s disappointing after two near-perfect pop albums. ‘Getaway Car’ stands proudly as one of her best songs.

#9 Midnights

Taylor Swift’s tenth album tells the story of thirteen sleepless nights throughout her life. Working again with producer Jack Antonoff, Midnights crosses the more mature style of Swift’s 2020 folk-tinged albums with the pop textures of 1989 and Lover.

Thankfully, Swift has grown past the need to write forced radio anthems like ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘Me!’, but Midnights is disappointingly uniform with little stylistic variation. Swift’s still an impressive lyricist – “Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room?” is a great image-conjuring line. And ‘Anti-Hero’ is an effortlessly catchy hit single.

#8 Speak Now

2010’s Speak Now is notable as the album that Swift wrote alone, without any collaborators. Speak Now is a fan favourite on account of personal songs like ‘Dear John’ and ‘Back to December’.

It’s also in need of an editor as its fourteen songs stretch out to nearly 70 minutes. There’s plenty of strong material within the long running time, like the punchy ‘Mine’ and the pretty balladry of ‘Enchanted’.

#7 Fearless

Fearless is my favourite record from Swift’s early years. It’s wider-reaching than her debut, from upbeat material like the Olympic anthem ‘Change’ and the joyous ‘Love Story’ to gentle acoustic ruminations like ‘Fifteen’ and ‘Best Day’. My favourite is the tuneful melodrama of ‘Breathe’, a string-laden ballad with Swift bidding farewell to a bandmate

If your back catalogue is strong enough to push Fearless into the bottom half, you’re a very good recording artist. Fearless was re-recorded by Swift in 2021 as Fearless (Taylor’s Version) – an expanded edition with 26 tracks and cameos from Maren Morris and Keith Urban.

#6 The Tortured Poets Department

Swift’s eleventh studio album is another collaboration with Jack Antonoff. It’s more idiosyncratic than Midnights, combining the mature pop of that record with the storytelling style of Folklore and Evermore.

The record captures a turbulent time in Swift’s dating history. After splitting with long-time partner Joe Alwyn, there was a controversial relationship with The 1975‘s Matty Healy, then a much-publicised union with NFL star Travis Kelce. It feels often fixated on Healy, with references to Healy’s beloved The Blue Nile and song titles like ‘I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can’).

More importantly, there are strong songs like ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ (another track seemingly about Healy) and the dynamic ‘Florida!!!’, featuring Florence and the Machine. The Tortured Poets Departments is an impressively immersive hour.

#5 Evermore

Swift’s second surprise album of 2020 isn’t quite as strong as her first, but it’s a very good record mere months after Folklore. As on Folklore, The National’s Aaron Dessner is her main collaborator, while HAIM and Bon Iver contribute guest vocals.

Swift’s storytelling has never been better; these tales of adult disillusion recall Bruce Springsteen’s The River on songs like ”tis The Damn Season’ and ‘Coney Island’.

#4 Lover

Swift bounced back from Reputation with the joyful and mature Lover. Swift describes it as a “love letter to love”, and it’s largely synth-pop with Jack Antonoff in the producer’s chair.

The title track is a great torch song, while ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ is a poignant return to country music. Forget about the florid single ‘Me!’ – Lover is all about deep cuts like ‘False God’ and ‘Cruel Summer’.

#3 Red

Before Red dropped, I was only aware of Swift as the teenage starlet who was interrupted by Kanye West at the VMAs. After Red, Swift was inescapable, with hits like ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and ’22’.

Red featured a strong and wide-ranging set of tracks to back up the hits – from the gentle country of ‘Begin Again’ and the epic balladry of ‘All Too Well’, to the reverb-laden, driving ‘State of Grace’ and the countrified stadium rock of the title track. The two duets are a mild blemish on an otherwise terrific record.

#2 Folklore

Swift created Folklore during the COVID-19 pandemic, a surprise release in July 2020. Collaborating with The National’s Aaron Dessner, Swift employs a low-key, acoustic sound – an “indie record that’s much cooler than mine”, if you will. It’s maybe a little uniform and overlong, but Swift’s vocal melodies have never been prettier on songs like ‘August’ and ‘Invisible String’.

#1 1989

1989 takes its inspiration from the pop sounds of the year of Swift’s birth, all glossy synths and drum machines. She dabbled in pop in Red, but here she embraces it, working with producers Max Martin and Jack Antonoff.

The lead single ‘Shake It Off’ was never a personal favourite. But subsequent singles like ‘Style’ and ‘Blank Space’ were sublime. 1989 boasts a great set of pop songs, where almost every track sounds like a potential radio hit – even bonus tracks like ‘New Romantics’ are indispensable.

What’s your favourite Taylor Swift album?

What Is Your Favourite Album by Taylor Swift?

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  1. I have both Red and 1989 and I’m of the opinion that 1989 is an exceptional album. Even though I’m not drawn at all to any of the other stuff, it’s clear she’s a fine songwriter. I honestly reckon she’s gonna hit the world with a great country album at some point – a Dolly or Loretta Lynn type.

      • I’m a sucker for some of the old stuff. Not all of it, right enough – some of it really does sound a bit slick, but Dolly has some great stuff, as does Loretta Lynn. Of course, mostly I dig Merle, George, and the outlaws (Willie, Cash, Kris, and Waylon). But yeah, some early country is exceptional before it became a Nashville pop machine.

          • Gram and Emmylou are great – no doubt about it. There so much great stuff there, but there’s a lot of the older stuff that gets overlooked (I know cause I used to discard it) – Patsy Cline, Dolly and Kenny Rogers have a lot of great songs.

          • I guess the 70’s shaped them. Kenny’s best stuff is from the late 60’s (The First Edition stuff is somewhat more adventurous than his solo stuff – though his The Gambler is a good one). Patsy was a fair bit before that, yeah.

  2. I’ve never been much of a fan wondering how much of her popularity was (in part) based on her Barbie-doll looks. (But I suppose all entertainers trade on that.) But I’m always bugged when someone comes to my site with a closed mind. So I decided to give these a listen. And I must say while I’m not much of a country fan, I somewhat like the country stuff you’ve laid out here. I’m less enamored of the pop stuff. Too candy for me. That said, I know about the Ryan Adams cover and one night I’ll give ‘1989’ a spin.

    • You do need a decent share of attractiveness to play the pop game – probably been that way ever since MTV. I was thinking about this recently as I’ve been working on a 2010s page – all the pop oriented acts I’ve covered – Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX, HAIM – are very attractive women. none of them are industry puppet type figures (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that if the end product is good) – just makes you think about less attractive people who can’t play the pop game. I guess it’s less important in other genres so that’s where they end up.

          • I don’t know how things are down there in ‘Lord of the Rings’ land, but here in the States, some artists are loathe to take any sort of political position for fear of (literally) alienating half their audience. So, good for her for finally taking a stand.

          • Maybe, maybe not. A lot of people don’t like Springsteen’s politics (leans left, doesn’t like Trump) but they go to his shows anyway. They love his music but hate when he talks politics. Which, in a four-hour show, he does sparingly.

          • To correct myself, Bush isn’t right-wing, she just spoke out in favour of Teresa May as a female leader.
            I don’t know about the UK, but in New Zealand left and right are way less demarcated – both of the major parties are reasonably centrist, and we had a fascinating mess in the 1980s when the right-wing prime minister almost bankrupted the country by overspending, then the left wing party instituted a bunch of extreme right wing financial policies that the country is still recovering from.

          • We are more polarized = both people and party – than we have been since the ’60’s. It’s due largely to one man who likes it that way and promulgates it.

          • There are definitely seeds of discontent to exploit – globalisation and fast change have disoriented many people. But it’s doesn’t feel like Trump’s going to solve anything for them.

  3. I am a huge Swiftie and I always like to see unbiased people supporting Taylor and noticing that she really is talented! I see far too many people thinking she makes mindless music for young girls when she’s actually a fantastic lyricist and can tell an entire story in just a few lines.
    In regards to your ranking of her albums, I personally would swap around Fearless and Speak Now but other than that I totally agree! I was also a little disappointed with reputation, especially since it followed such epic albums like Red and 1989. I’m intrigued to see what her 7th album will be like, and perhaps you will update your ranking when it is released?

    • Hopefully this site will still be going then! I wouldn’t expect another record for a couple of years. It’d be interesting to see where she goes – she really hasn’t made the same album twice yet.

  4. Came here to check it out. I really think Folklore will rise in stature. It doesn’t have the pop sensibilities of 1989 but man is it great. I give her credit as it is a huge leap in production for the biggest pop star in the world to make. Her storytelling is always great as is her vocal delivery. I have seen people shitting on her as a “Lana del Ray-lite” on this record. Think that is unfair.
    Like it or not when you are the biggest pop star on the planet it is harder to spit out a record like this. She did it and I respect her for it.

    • I think it probably already stands as her most critically acclaimed record, and probably the most likely to change people’s opinions on her. I could see it eclipsing Red to become my second favourite, but I don’t know if it’s going to overtake 1989 as my favourite anytime soon.
      I do think it sounds like Lana Del Rey, but Del Rey’s never managed to hold my attention for an album as well as Folklore does.
      It will be interesting to see where she goes next. Hopefully the days of having to do a big crass single (IMO) like ‘Me!’ are behind her, like she can do another mature album next time but something a bit different to Folklore.

  5. I’ve been a lukewarm fan of Taylor Swift from the beginning. While I strongly agree that she’s a brilliant songwriter, I just didn’t care much for her music style, other than for an occasional song here or there. I did not like most of the songs on “1989”, especially “Bad Blood”, which I outright hated. But when I heard Ryan Adams’ wonderful cover, it reminded me of what a great songwriter Swift really is. With “folklore”, which I loved at first listen – not to mention her outspoken rebuke of Trump and support of the Democratic ticket – I was forced to reassess my feelings for her, and now admire her much more. I think she sounds better (at least to my ears) when true to herself, not when trying to sound ‘badass’ or ‘cool’ like on “1989” or “Reputation”.

    • I feel like her heart’s been in most of the projects she done – country, pop, indie folk. I reckon her most interesting sound is actually the country/stadium rock hybrid she pursued on parts of Red.

  6. Yeah she picked the two worst songs as singles lol. I don’t dislike ME or anything, but it really doesn’t represent LOVER. Also YNTCD was pretty mediocre sounding.

  7. Considering Taylor’s discography is really hard to rank her albums… but seing reputation almost at last is a crime

  8. I am in the opposite camp here, Taylor’s first album was pop magic. Teardrops on my Guitar is pretty much a perfect song. It was all downhill from there.

    • I’d say there are a few different eras in there – you get the young, earnest songwriter on ‘Speak Now’, the pop superstar on ‘1989’, and the indie artist on ‘Folklore’. It’s possible you’ll like one of these, even if you don’t like others.

    • I’m aware it’s the fan favourite, but I didn’t find it as constantly interesting as most of her other records. It needed an editor IMO.

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