The 5 best Taylor Swift songs

English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak...
English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak Now tour in July 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Taylor Swift. I am saying it here, loud and proud.  I am tired of being shamed by the “haters,” those who attempt to belittle us “Swifties,” her devoted fans.

Yes, I know that I am not her typical fan, as I saw clearly when I went to her Red concert; that is, I am not a 9-year-old girl. Rather, I am a college student who is alternately confused with and in love with the world. And Taylor Swift gets this; she gets me. After all, she is a 23-year-old female; I am a 21-year-old female. We have many things in common.

I was inspired to write this because I am tired of constantly having to defend my tastes in music. Now, when people turn up their noses at my collection of Swift playlists or make a grimace when I say that I know every word of her songs, I can direct them here, instead of saying it out loud.

This list was very difficult to make. I rewrote the list at least five separate times, and I spent two weeks thoroughly researching every single Swift song. Please note that these are not my favorite songs, or the ones with the highest number of plays on my iTunes. Many of these songs have never even been on the radio. They are the ones that I feel are the highest quality, either musically or lyrically.

The discernment process was too difficult to go through alone.  I frequently consulted two TSwift experts: my friends Anna and Anthony. Both are 21-year-old college students who have seen her live. I also received lots of feedback from the twitterverse.

Here they are, counting down to the best Swift song: (Click the song title to listen to the music video)

5) “Eyes Open”
Written by Taylor Swift. From the album “The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond.”

Best Lyric: “Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown/
Everybody’s watching to see the fallout/
Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping/
Keep your eyes open.”

Swift wrote this song about fictional character Katniss Everdeen from the “Hunger Games” book series.  This song implores the subject to stay wary because nobody is to be trusted during times of turmoil.

This song has a spot on the list because it shows that she can write for other things than love or boy trauma. (Her latest song, “Sweeter than Fiction,” is an 80s-inspired movie song for the forthcoming movie “One Chance.”)

The song, punctuated with heavy rock guitar, has no audible country influences, besides the ballad-type storytelling.

While being a musical warning, “Eyes Open” has the same general theme and essence that can be found in many of the runner-ups to this list: a general theme of optimism and “You can do it!” Swift is a great cheerleader, despite never having been one in high school.

4) Sparks Fly
Written by Taylor Swift. From the album “Speak Now.”
Best Lyric: “Get me with those green eyes, baby, as the lights go down/
Give me something that’ll haunt me when you’re not around.”

This song, from Swift’s third album, sounds like a country single from her earlier days. The music, while nice and memorable, isn’t what makes this song worthy of a spot on the top 5 list. It is the words and the delivery.  When listening to this song, you can hear more than Swift’s voice—you can hear her emotion. (Listen to the lines “You find I’m even better than you imagined you would be” or “And lead me up the staircase/Won’t you whisper soft and slow?”)

The image of sparks flying across the night sky is a powerful analogy for raw chemistry between two people. She also takes  it literally when she sings “I’m captivated by you, baby, like a firework show.”

This incredibly catchy song is applicable to a variety of situations, such as young love, old love, passion for an art or activity, etc.

3) “Treacherous”
Written by Taylor Swift and Dan Wilson. From the album “Red.”
Best Lyric:”All we are is skin and bone trained to get along/
forever going with the flow, but you’re friction.”

With “Treacherous,” Swift gets philosophical. She seemingly questions free will in the second verse, saying “I can’t decide if it’s a choice, getting swept away.” She is on a treacherous, slippery and reckless path, but she likes it. The guitars, both acoustic and electric, make it much different, musically speaking, from her previous work, such as the album “Fearless.”

Swift expert Anthony, who saw the “Red” tour, says that the bridge to “Treacherous” is his “favorite part of any Taylor Swift song.” The lyrics (“Two headlights shine though the sleepless night…. And I just think you should, think you should know/that nothing safe is worth the drive…”) are wrapped in a drum beat so driving that you can almost picture her foot on the accelerator, driving to her love’s house.  Echoing voices during the bridge add a hint of urgency to the song and make it simply miraculous.

2) “Enchanted”
Written by Taylor Swift. From the album “Speak Now.”
Best lyric: “This night is sparkling, don’t you let it go/
I’m wonderstruck, blushing all the way home/
I’ll spend forever wondering if you knew…I was enchanted to meet you.”

This might be my favorite Swift song ever. I love that she uses words like “sparkling,” “wonderstruck,” “blushing,” “flawless” and (obviously) “enchanted.” Those terms conjure up a magical scene of  innocence and the first stages of becoming smitten by another. The version of Swift portrayed in this song perfectly embodies the image of a wide-eyed and giggling love-struck girl that popular culture associates with her.

This song perfectly captures a feeling of hope, beginning with the title itself. According to the Google dictionary, the verb “enchant” means “to fill someone with great delight; charm. To put something under a spell.” Meeting someone at a party and instantly feeling a connection is what this song is about, but I feel that it is more than that. Being captivated by another person, or a passion, is a miraculous feeling, and Swift figured out how to write it down on paper. 

The song begins as a quietly, with couplets sang over a synthesizer and lone guitar. It then swells into a multi-faceted exclamation of feelings before tapering off into a simple prayer of sorts: “Please don’t be in love with someone else. Please don’t have somebody waiting on you.”  Swift repeats these lines to her self as if they are fragile and saying them out loud will end the magical spell she is under. 

Ugh. This song grabs at my heartstrings every time. My friend Gabby, who is not a Swift expert but appreciates good music, said that this song had to be on my list. “Every human with a soul can relate to that one,” she tweeted at me, and I agree. 

And finally, the best Taylor Swift song is…..(drum roll, please)….

1) “All Too Well.”
Written by Taylor Swift and Liz Rose. From the album “Red.”
Best Lyric: “But you call me up again, just to break me like a promise/
So casually cruel in the name of being honest/
I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here, cause I remember it all too well.”

This song has obvious relationship-gone-bad undertones, but I think that it is relateable to anyone who has been hurt by a loved one.  People can be so incredibly mean when it isn’t necessary, just for the sake of hurting someone.  Ever had a perfect friendship that crashed and burned? Or a family member who said something that fed into  your insecurities? How about a boy or girl who has wrecked your emotional well-being with one text message? If you have experienced any of these, then you understand exactly what Swift means in this song.

“All Too Well” is from Swift’s most recent album, titled “Red.” This album is the most musically mature of her work. It is less country and more emotionally honest and mature. The cattiness found in some of her previous songs (such as “Mean” or “Better Than Revenge”) is gone, replaced with fantastic imagery. My favorite visual in this song is Swift and her boyfriend dancing in the kitchen, late at night,illuminated only by the glow of the refrigerator light.

What do you think? Did I make the right choices? What did I miss? Comment below and tell me!

A few notes: Swift became the youngest artist to win the Grammy for “Best Album” for 2008’s “Fearless.” I did not include any of those songs, or any from her eponymous first album, on this list, not because I don’t love them, but because Swift’s musical growth has been astounding over her last two albums. “Red” is nominated  for the “Best Album” Grammy award in 2014.

List finalists/honorable mentions: “Change,” “Hey Stephen,” “Safe and Sound,” “Story of Us,” “Long Live,” “Dear John” and “A Place in this World.

P.S. check out my review of the “Red” album here.


9 thoughts on “The 5 best Taylor Swift songs

  1. Anthony bruises December 30, 2013 / 9:34 PM

    What about never getting back together

    • Amanda Brandt January 1, 2014 / 10:59 PM

      I personally feel that Taylor Swift songs that are “snarky” or whatnot, while being some of my favorites, aren’t her best songwriting work. I do like “We are never get back together” as well as “mean,” “Better than revenge” and “I knew you were trouble,” but I find they lack the metaphors and imagery I love so much.

  2. annashymanski December 31, 2013 / 2:06 AM

    Finally got to reading this all the way through, and to say I loved it would be an understatement. You described “Treacherous,” “Enchanted,” and “Sparks Fly” perfectly; you have such a way with words! I completely agree with your #1 – I honestly think “All Too Well” is one of the most beautiful songs ever written, not just by Taylor Swift but by anyone! We share the same favorite lyrics, and I also enjoy the line “We danced around the kitchen in the refrigerator light” – I just think it’s so cute and real and something I would do but wouldn’t think to put in a song.

    I know you were torn between including “Fearless” on here, and I think that if you would have switched that for “Eyes Open,” you would have my list! That, or “Fearless” would be tied with “The Way I Loved You.” However, I think showing that Swift can write for movies really shows how diverse her talent is, which I commend you for.

    All in all, I really enjoyed reading this as a die hard Taylor Swift fan. I think musical feature writing might be your forte, my friend! Keep it coming.

  3. breakfastwiththebeatles January 2, 2014 / 3:50 AM

    I love this Amanda ! Taylor Swift is one of my favorite singerd too (ever since ‘Teardrops on my guitar’). I’m tired of people calling her a slut because she dates a lot of guys. I think that this is a normal process you go through before you find the right guy. She’s only getting hate for it because she’s famous. I love celebrities like her that make you think “I’d totally be her best friend !”

    • Amanda Brandt January 3, 2014 / 11:37 AM

      I keep waiting to get sick of her music, but luckily it hasn’t happened yet!

  4. Dan February 5, 2014 / 10:45 AM

    I have no idea how you kept this to a top five. I’m a sucker for Fearless so I’m a little sad “Fearless” or “White Horse” didn’t get a little love, but it doesn’t matter; T-Sweezy is the greatest no matter what.

    • Amanda Brandt February 9, 2014 / 1:48 PM

      White horse is one of my favorites; after all, she won a grammy for that song! Dan, this was such a difficult task to pare it down…I’m sure you felt the same way with your Disney Bracket.

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