A Look Back on Taylor Swift’s Discography

Ahead of her re-records, we re-listened to all the albums she’ll be redoing. And we fell in love with her music all over again.

By: Julia Collins & Kristine Villarroel

Photo by Julia Collins

The re-records are changing everything. Taylor Swift, if you’re unaware, is re-recording six of her albums to regain the rights to her masters and own her own work. With the Fearless (Taylor’s Version) album that dropped today, we thought it would be appropriate to look back on Taylor’s discography and relive the magic. The following albums we go into are the ones she’s re-recording. Swift has the rights to her albums Lover, folklore and evermore so she’s not re-recording those.

Taylor Swift

Photo by Julia Collins

The album that changed her life, Taylor Swift, or Debut, as most fans refer to it, is a time capsule of Swift’s adolescence. With popular tracks like “Tim McGraw,” “Teardrops On My Guitar” and “Picture to Burn,” Debut sits on a mantle next to other country legends. The record was written when Swift was just fifteen, and it shows in the best way. If you haven’t listened to this album since 2006 when it dropped, I recommend doing so. Swift’s voice is young and reminds me of a simpler time. When I recently relistened, I discovered that my six-year-old self seriously overlooked some of the lesser-known tracks.

“Should’ve Said No,” “Cold As You” and “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)” are some new favorites of mine that were previously buried in the Taylor Swift corner of my brain. It’s worth it to dust off her debut album and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

Fearless

Photo by Julia Collins

Fearless is undoubtedly the album of the moment. Swift dropped Fearless (Taylor’s Version) today, April 9th. With that record release, she dropped six new “from the vault” songs. “From the vault” songs are songs that she wrote at the time she was writing the original album but that didn’t make the final cut for the original record. In an attempt to show the music industry why it’s important for artists to own their own work, she’s recording and releasing these “from the vault” songs to explain that only an artist can understand the significance of their record. 

Fearless was the album that took Swift from famous to a household name, in my opinion. With now timeless classics like “Love Story,” “Fifteen” and “You Belong With Me,” the album is a bridge between Swift’s old life in a small town in Pennsylvania and her rise to stardom in Nashville. The first batch of songs on the record are about high school and growing up, while the second half is an ode to her 2008 relationship with then-Disney star Joe Jonas as well as what comes with burgeoning stardom. Another writer might not have been able to translate the unique experience of becoming famous to their audience, but that’s the magic of Taylor Swift. One of the best songwriters of our generation, Swift not only explains her life experiences in a relatable way, but does it well enough to earn a Grammy. Fearless gave her her first “Album of the Year” Grammy. 

Speak Now

Photo by Julia Collins

A fan-favorite album, Speak Now marked a new fairytale-esque era of Swift. She wrote Speak Now all on her own with no other co-writers — an impressive feat for any songwriter, let alone a 21-year-old. Speak Now is an album filled with impressive figures of speech and creative writing, taking the listener through the story of her and John Mayer’s relationship, with the occasional dig at her haters. The radio hits from this album were “Mine,” “Mean” and “The Story Of Us.” Though I love those songs, my personal favorites have to be “Haunted,” “Better Than Revenge” and “Never Grow Up.” 

If you haven’t tuned into Speak Now since 2010, and you’ve grown up significantly in the past eleven years, listening to “Never Grow Up” will make you cry. 

It hits a different nerve now that we’re the ones experiencing this feeling, 

“So here I am in my new apartment

In a big city, they just dropped me off

It's so much colder than I thought it would be

So I tuck myself in and turn my nightlight on"

Red

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A career highlight, Red most clearly shows Taylor Swift’s gradual transition from country to pop. Looking back at the full picture of her entire discography, Red clearly stands out as the turning point between the country sound we heard in her first three albums, and the pop sound that Swift continued to expand and develop in her following records. 

Collaborating for the first time with the legendary pop mastermind songwriter and producer Max Martin, Swift delivers the anthemic trio of hit singles “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “22” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Fully coming into the popstar status she quickly achieved, Swift started facing scrutiny that focused purely on her personal life rather than her music — with special attention being paid to the romantic endeavors she narrated in her songwriting. Anyone who had to live through the 2012-esque Youtube era of parody videos can probably remember Bart Baker’s parody of “I Knew You Were Trouble.” While not 2021-friendly at all, this parody is a fair summary of what represented a significant portion of the negative media response Swift got after Red.

As Swift continues to release songs from the vault, Swifties hope that the Red re-recording includes an extended version of the fan-favorite “All Too Well.” The track, despite not being a single nor being promoted by Swift, amazed fans and attracted a cult following that passionately express their admiration for the song. Talking about the song during an interview with Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums podcast, Swift revealed that the original session in which she worked on the song resulted in a 10-minute-long recording that also included a swear word (something Swift stayed away from until her recent album folklore.)

1989

Photo by Julia Collins

Considered by some as the modern pop bible, the Grammy-winning 1989 marked the moment where Swift completely abandoned her previous country sound and fully embraced pop. In its essence, 1989 is a fun album that isn’t afraid to be pop. 

This album is as self-aware as it is self-embracing. In 1989, Swift takes the fairytale-esque love songs and digs at her exes that got her mocked and criticized, and rather than running away from them, she blows them up to the extreme — unapologetically. Rather than letting the borderline bullying she faced scare her away from her signature narratives, she takes it and flips the script, reclaiming control over her image on songs like “Blank Space'' and “Shake It Off” where she directly references the things she got made fun of and owns them. 

1989 also featured the production and co-songwriting of Jack Antonoff, who has also worked with the likes of Lorde and Lana del Rey. Soon enough, Swift and Antonoff became a dream duo. 

Many fans are speculating that 1989 will be the next re-recording that Swift will release after snippets of the re-recorded version of “Wildest Dreams” appeared in a trailer for the upcoming film “Spirit Untamed” that first aired on TV during the 2021 Grammy Awards. 

Reputation

Photo by Julia Collins

Following the most controversial period in her career, Taylor Swift uses Reputation as a declaration of her confidence and as a defense of her character.  

Thematically, Reputation is an epic tale in which Swift battles against multiple antagonists. In it, Swift fully expresses all the frustration, anger and resentment and liberates herself from the passive image she had previously built. Swift takes full ownership of her narrative in songs like “I Did Something Bad” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”  

Perhaps overlooked because of the album’s thesis and nature, Reputation shows a natural progression in Swift’s songwriting and a departure from the fairytale love songs of her earlier work and presents a more mature and personal approach to romance in songs like “Delicate,” “Gorgeous” and “Dress.” These songs show Swift’s perception of love as a grown adult, often narrating how her superstar status affects her personal relationships.

With Reputation being her last album recorded under Big Machine Records, it might take a while before the release of the rerecorded Taylor’s Version. Fans hope that the songs from the vault show more of Swift’s personal narration of this period in her career. 


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Evermore: A Reflection of the Past in a Year Filled with So Much Turmoil

By: Nicholas Palmer

Photo from Unsplash

When Taylor Swift dropped Folklore in the summer of 2020, it came as both a surprise and shock to fans. While an album may have been expected to arrive in the near future, the lack of leadup and promotion led to a release that focused solely on the music and the message behind the songs. As such, it came as an even greater surprise to most when a second album was released in the winter of 2020. Evermore, a 15-track album that delves into concepts of escapism and introspective thought, is a sister album to Folklore. Many think that Folklore can be thought of as the spring and summer to Evermore’s fall and winter. As well, Taylor Swift dedicated this album to people who use music as a means to deal with loss, a theme that touched heavily upon the hearts of those impacted by 2020.

Evermore can be described as bold and revealing in nature, delving strongly into the idea of love in a more sophisticated and mature manner. American Songwriter perfectly described the album as representing, “‘the ‘unhappily ever after’ anthology of marriages gone bad,” (Crone, 2021). Through concepts of forgotten love, intolerance and even a curious murder plotline, the concepts explored in this album show a maturity Swift hadn’t revealed before.

Swift takes these concepts of love and heartbreak so rooted in traditional western pop songs and completely flips the script; providing an introspective look on the human condition and how relevant these emotions can be. Along with the intriguing themes of the album, Evermore also roots many of its songs in first-person storytelling through a third-person lyrical style that dances between what is real and what is not to create a sonically whole piece that is as devastating as it is beautiful.

Being a 15-track album, there were many highlights for me throughout my listen, and many that I will have to revisit in time. For now, however, I will narrow down my highlights to four pieces: “Champagne Problems,” “Tolerate It,” “No Body, No Crime” (ft. HAIM), and “Marjorie.” While the musical stylistic elements of each song may differ, some being wildly different from others on the album, what each of these tracks has in common that stood out so strongly to me was a lyrical precision that was original and intoxicating.

As such, with each song (and really with every song on this album) I highly recommend following the lyrics while listening to the piece before making a decision on whether you like it or not.

“Champagne Problems” opens with a beautiful piano melody that carries through the entire song, with Swifts vocals being some of her best on the record. Many Swifties have noted that the chord progression in this song is identical to that of the song “New Year’s Day” on Reputation, which showcases Swift’s proclivity for Easter eggs and storytelling. Another one of her skills is evident in her range through this record (especially in Champagne Problems) as she is able to hit some rather high notes, while hitting probably her lowest note on the word “problem.” Moreover, her vocals building on themselves in the bridge is absolutely angelic and other-worldly. However, as stated earlier, some of the best parts of this song are the message and the underlying story.

The song discusses a woman turning down a marriage proposal before Christmas, with the woman being heavily hinted to have a history of mental illness, which is especially evident in the lyric, “She would’ve made such a lovely bride; what a shame she’s f***ed in the head.”

Champagne Problems is typically defined as something that is very stressful and difficult to someone, but insignificant compared to global issues. Mental health can often feel this way to the individual, being so suffocating, despite seeming irrelevant compared to natural disasters and other worldly problems. What this song does best as the second track on the album is create an emotional discourse right out of the gate, while also providing beautiful instrumentation and melodies that set the bar high for the rest of the album. A potential favorite of the album on the whole, I think this song is best understood when experienced, with its motifs and illustrated scenes conveying this extremely sad, yet powerful perspective.

Keeping with the idea of unsuccessful love stories, another impactful song is “Tolerate It.” Upon research, I learned that the fifth track on Swift’s albums typically are her more vulnerable songs on her albums. As such, you can imagine the relatable message that can be felt behind this song. Describing the struggle of being ignored and unappreciated by someone you love, Swift’s inspiration for this song came from her reading of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier in which she said she thought, “Wow, her husband just tolerates her. She’s doing all these things and she’s trying so hard and she’s trying to impress him, and he’s just tolerating her the whole time.” Throughout the song, the piano provides these deep, depressing chords as Swift’s vocals almost seemingly cry out in anguish. The percussive beat matches the tempo of the piano, providing an almost anxious element to it. The end of the song is very lacking in hope, as she spends the final chorus speaking on how she could leave if she wanted to, before repeating the verse at the beginning; that she continues to try to impress him anyway. As stated before, its a vulnerable, personal piece that will only get better the more you relate to it.

Compared to the past two songs, if you’re looking for a song that is sonically unique compared to the rest of the tracks, look no further than “No Body, No Crime.” This song features HAIM band member Este Haim, a good friend of Swift’s, whose parts may be subtle but add a lot to the song in the emphasis of the line “He did it.” While the other songs may have talked about failed relationships or very intimate elements, this track is the center of a missing persons case involving a cheating husband and a missing friend. Returning back to Swift’s country roots, where I must confess I have never been the biggest country fan, it stands so unique and is done so well, that it feels both refreshing and exciting at the same time. While the lyrics may be repetitive for some, I felt that their constant drumming in the chorus was haunting and chilling, especially when the subject turns from the husband to the mistress and Swift. Overall, I felt that the instrumentation did a lot for this song, with the country ensemble giving it this ruthless vibe that feels very western standoff in nature, with small elements like HAIM’s parts and the police sirens at the beginning just raising this track to be one of the best on the album all together.

While perhaps not my absolute favorite on the album, “Marjorie,” in terms of connection to its audience, feels the strongest in an already impressive catalog. The song is a tribute to Swift’s late grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, whom she lost at age 13. This track is a reflection of the track “Epiphany” from Folklore which described the loss of her grandfather, Dean. An opera singer, Marjorie helped to inspire Swift to pursue music, with her background vocals in this track being credited in the album notes. One of my favorite elements about this song is how it just seems to keep growing all the way to its final seconds, bringing in acoustic guitar, background vocals and various other elements all the way to the final chorus. Furthermore, the lyrics, while simplistic at first, have a lot of interesting things going on, with repetition being a common technique used throughout the album. She also utilizes a form of chiasmus, in which the grammar or structure of one phrase is inverted in the following phrase, such as in the opening lines, “Never be so kind you forget to be clever; Never be so clever you forget to be kind”. Its the way that she uses literary techniques and unique ways to transcribe her music that makes her one of the best lyricists in the industry, consistently amongst some of the most talked about artists year after year. In a year unlike any other, with such heavy loss and devastation shaking the planet, this song can be an escape for many. It’s a song to listen to and reflect in ourselves and the things we’re going through. I went into Evermore with pretty much no expectations, having never fully listened to any piece of discography by Taylor Swift before. While I have heard many of her singles over the years, the disparity between her singles and her other tracks can often limit one’s exposure to her true capabilities as a songwriter and performer. While I did find some of the repetition of elements and instrumentation to be a bit tedious in a 15-track album, many tracks, such as “No Body, No Crime” really broke the mold whenever things felt to be turning stale. While this album may have been out for a while, if you have not given every single track a listen, I would say they are each worth a try. Each tells a different narrative in a way that if you only know Taylor Swift from her past works, you’re missing out on what she’s creating now. An album that will most likely go down as a marker of the year 2020 in totality, Evermore represents everything dark, depressing and yet inspiring about the human condition. With Taylor Swift having recently re-recorded past tracks of hers, as well as two bonus tracks that can be listened to on the album, Evermore stands as a great re-introduction into the true talent that is Taylor Swift.

New Song Recommendations to Broaden Your Music Taste

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Do you often find yourself listening to the same few songs over and over and wish you could find new music to add to your playlists? I’ve curated a small sample of songs that I think you’ll enjoy if you like the following artists:

If You Like: Ariana Grande

Photo by Roger Harris on Unsplash

For starters, if you like Ariana as a whole, I definitely think that you will enjoy Chloe x Halle’s “Don’t Make It Harder On Me”

Hardcore Arianators might recognize Victoria Monet and Tayla Parx, both being longtime Ariana collaborators that share a similar vibe in their music. 

You might have heard Monet’s “Monopoly” featuring Ariana Grande already, but if you’re a Positions stan, check out Victoria Monet’s “Experience” featuring Khalid and SG Lewis. 

Parx worked with Ariana to make hits like “7 rings”, “thank u, next”, and “34+35”. If you enjoy these absolute bops, you need to listen to Tayla Parx’s “I Want You”.

If you enjoy Ariana’s R&B-influenced pop sound, you’ll love iyla’s “Naked Girl”.

Just here for the vibes? Give a listen to Tei Shi’s “Even If It Hurts” featuring Blood Orange.

For a catchy, unapologetic banger with big thank u, next energy, check out FLETCHER’s “Bitter” featuring Kito. 

If You Like: Taylor Swift

Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash

Have you been going back and forth between folklore and evermore for the past few months? Give Samia’s “Triptych” a listen. 

Are you a fan of old Taylor music? Do you also like HAIM? Then you might like Waxahatchee’s “Lilacs” too. 

For a more Lover and indie pop vibe, I would go for Maude Latour’s “One More Weekend” and spill tab’s “Name

If you’re looking for a sad girl anthem that might come with tears included, listen to Sasha Sloan’s “House With No Mirrors”. 

If You Like: Harry Styles

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If you’re not a fan already, I’m sure you’ll love Declan McKenna. In terms of sound, I think his music is the closest you can get to Harry’s. Check out Declan McKenna’s “You Better Believe!!!

You might already be familiar with Jack Antonoff, A.K.A. the mastermind and frequent collaborator of Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana del Rey, etc. If you haven’t already, check out Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better”. 

If you like songs like “Golden” and “Lights Up”, check out Rina Sawayama’s “Love Me 4 Me”.

For a similar sound from a local band, listen to Flipturn’s “August”. 

For a Kiwi-like explosive and energetic song, check out The Wrecks’ “Freaking Out”.

Finally, if you’re a Harry stan, I definitely recommend you look into The Regrettes’ “Pumpkin”.