The Best Taylor Swift Singles, Ranked

Illustration by Bianca Bosso.

 

Before Taylor Swift released Look What You Made Me Do we put together a list of her best singles ranked. Countless singles later and we've decided to revisit that list ahead of the release of her forthcoming album Lover. Swift has had one of the most spectacular careers in modern music, going from quaint country star to megastar with baby steps that eventuated in the excellent 1989. Things have never quite matched that peak but there are still a number of gems in the mix.

30. ME! (Feat. Brendon Urie)

Sunshine, rainbows and unicorns.

A very obvious attempt to turn the darkness of Reputation into sunshine immediately came off like a children's song. Swift could've made something more mature if she was collaborating with Big Bird. Even he would've scrapped the "Spelling is fun" line.

29. Look What You Made Me Do

The strangest diss song of all time.

Reputation was always going to begin with a Kanye diss but no one could've quite predicted this Right Said Fred-sampling moment. It stormed the charts but fell quickly as the fun of picking apart the song wore off.

28. End Game (Feat. Ed Sheeran & Future)

Swfit's rap foray that surprisingly wasn't a disaster.

We never could've predicted Swift, Sheeran and Future on a track all together but the most surprising part of it all is it wasn't terrible. End Game was actually a semi-convincing pop/R&B moment that we didn't need but also don't hate that it happened.

27. Tim McGraw

The country one that couldn't be more country if it tried.

Swift's debut single couldn't be any more country if it tried. She sung with a twang over a banjo, name-checked a country legend and frolicked in the grass for the video. It wouldn't do anything for her now but it was endearing back in 2009.

26. White Horse

The Grey's Anatomy one.

White Horse arrived at the time when Grey's Anatomy could make a hit. It had all the makings of a country Chasing Cars but it never really went beyond a favourite of the Swifty die-hards.

25. Sparks Fly

A classic Taylor love story.

Speak Now all sounded the same after a while but Sparks Fly always stood out. Swift knows how to nail a country love song and the chorus on this one is blistering. It's a giddy fairytale that could've been the lead single.

24. Mine

The disappointing lead single.

Mine wasn't bad but it came off like a cheap Love Story. It really doesn't get good until the melody change right at the end.

23. Fifteen

The sweet one about being young.

Swift's early career was built upon young fans so this gentle, reassuring ballad was a perfect song to open her second album. "Count to 10, take it in, this is life before you know who you're going to be," is some of Swift's most genuine lyrical work.

22. Bad Blood (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)

The Katy Perry-diss that recruited Kendrick who was unaware it was a diss.

Bad Blood was easily the whingiest moment on 1989. The chorus is a little like a poem written by a vitriolic teen but the single treatment for this one was spectacular. Swift beefed it up with effortless Kendrick Lamar verses and created a video that felt like she was about to wage war with Ellie Goulding and Selena Gomez by her side. There's even no need to discuss Katy Perry alongside this song anymore because it stands on its own.

21. New Romantics

The bonus track that went far.

The bonus track that kicked it with the big kids. New Romantics shouldn't have really seen the light of day outside of the album but the Max Martin-produced number was an obvious highlight from the record and became the final single. It's a big, sparkly anthem that reached its potential when she brought it out on tour.

20. I Don't Wanna Live Forever (With ZAYN)

The 'I'm edgy now' one.

Swift's next project is expected to be darker than anything she's ever done and soundtracking a Fifty Shades Of Grey movie with the bad boy of One Direction is a great precursor. ZAYN's falsetto-led verse may threaten to steal the show but Swift's voice has never sounded smokier or more seductive. "Wondering if I dodged a bullet or just lost the love of my life," may also be one of her greatest lyrical moments yet.

19. Our Song

The boot-scootin' good time.

This was the song that packed the biggest punch on Swift's debut. It was fast paced, filled with attitude that gave us a glimpse into her pop sensibilities that she would later drive her career with.

18. Gorgeous

The kind of pop song that defines Swift.

After a dramatic beginning to the Reputation, Swift showed we were still getting 1989-slanted pop with this Max Martin moment. Finding a space in between Blank Space and Style it was a a clumsy, dorky jam that's also kinda brilliant.

17. You Need To Calm Down

The LGBTQI+ ally one.

You Need To Calm Down is an A-grade Swift pop song. It's got drama, quotes and slick hooks but this one caused a storm. This is Swift explicitly telling us that she's an ally by name-dropping GLAAD and singing, "shade never made anybody less gay". Some appreciated it, some didn't - mostly thanks to a video that highlighted queer talent but centred around her reunion with Katy Perry.

16. Back To December

The nostalgic one.

Most of Swift's early songs were like a diary entry ripped out and Back To December is her at her nostalgic best. It's a heartbreak ballad complete with a guitar solo and a sweeping orchestral section. Also, it snows in her room in the video which is kind of peak Swift, isn't it?

15. ...Ready For It

The dark beast with a chorus of gold.

If Reputation was criticised for being a little too much then ...Ready For It really should've been the iceberg that sunk it. It's the darkest, most damning moment of the album but it's buoyed by this impossibly melodic chorus that brings the whole thing home to glory.

14. Out Of The Woods

The repetitive one that got heaps better.

When Swift dropped this one pre-1989 it felt like a repetitive mess but it matured with time and provided the 1989 tour with one of the glorious final moments. It was a powerful pop moment that used the repetition of the chorus to walk towards an epic climax like no other on 1989. It might be about Harry Styles too so you gotta give it bonus points for that.

13. Getaway Car

The single that could've been.

Getaway Car was the last single off Reputation and it didn't really do anything but it's a shame because it embodied the album stylistically. Jack Antonoff's '80s drums are out in full effect here and Swift is dishing one of her best narratives.

12. 22

The one everyone makes jokes about on their 22nd birthday.

Swift can be heartbroken, dreaming, nostalgic, bitter and twisted but every so often she drops a song that just celebrates the moment and 22 does exactly that.

11. Wildest Dreams

The '1989' ballad with a bad video.

Wildest Dreams was the ballad single off 1989 and while the video was a wild misstep, the song was a glimmering fairytale, showcasing the most fragile points of Swift's voice. Like most Swift singles, she brings it home strong here, managing to work in club-ready lyric, "burning it down," into a love ballad.

10. Mean

The victim anthem done with a banjo.

By Speak Now, Swift had successfully began pulling the victim card and Mean uses it spectacularly. It's a banjo-led ditty but she basically spits hot fire the entire time with that boot-scootin' country twang. This is the Bad Blood of 2011 Swift and it's may just be even more effective.

9. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

The one that declared she's doing pop now.

When Swift finally stepped into popstar mode, she embodied. She took simple statements of heartbreak and turned them into moments. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together is a mouthful but somehow, alongside Max Martin, she turned it into this sleek chorus where the words just tumbled effortlessly one after the other. "You would hideaway and find your piece of mind with some indie record that's much cooler than mine," is a classic lyrical example of the Swift we know now. She steals from the 'cool' and gives to the dorky while still maintaining her superstar aura.

8. Red

The one about a nice colour.

Red may have been surrounded by giants We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, I Knew You Were Trouble and 22 but it held its own because it effortlessly paired together country and pop with genius, richly melodic songwriting. Using the imagery of the colour red was such a pivotal point in taking Swift from relatable country star to powerful popstar but somehow here she bundled it in to create a metaphor of a failed relationship.

7. Delicate

The subtle gem amongst an aggressive album.

Reputation was dramatic. It was a grand, dark album with plenty to unpack. Occasionally though she gave us a moment of softness. Delicate was the best song on the album and saved its performance commercially. It's a downplayed moment of intimacy that highlights the strongest aspects of her songwriting.

6. Love Story

The fairytale anthem that's a bit grating now.

Love Story is simultaneously the most infuriating and successful Swift single. It made her a megastar with its fairytale narrative and may to this day be one of the biggest country songs of all time. The whole "Prince and Princess" thing makes you feel a bit sick now but it's hard to deny the genius of it all for a 2009 Swift who was still buying into the whole the perfect guy is out there somewhere vibe.

5. Style

The slick pop masterpiece.

With its pulsating beat and seductive guitar line, Style is the sleekest single Swift has ever put out. It's also one of the most alluring cuts Martin has ever put his name to. It perfectly houses and showcases Swift's voice that often gets eaten up in the instrumental while still making way for this big, chanty, glorious chorus. A spectacular Swift moment that solidified the fact that she can never turn her back on pop.

4. I Knew You Were Trouble

The dubstep-lite anthem.

Swift takes on dubstep may have been the headline that spread news of I Knew Your Were Trouble but it's certainly not what's preserved it. I Knew Your Were Trouble is Swift taking total control as a popstar and a vocalist, grabbing the chorus in a way she never had before. This one carries a power unlike most of her other songs and signalled country Tay Tay was never coming back.

3. You Belong With Me

The cute one about snatching a boy from someone else.

The most innocently snakey song to ever make it onto radio, You Belong With Me saw Swift somehow take someone's man from under their nose while playing the sweet, innocent girl. It all came wrapped up with an addictive sing-songy melody and a teen, high school drama music video that made her an actor as well as a singer. This surely still ranks as one of the top thoughts when you think Swift's biggest moments.

2. Blank Space

The psychotic game-changer that played the press.

Blank Space was the song that informed the beat of plenty of pop songs that came after it but none were as successful as Blank Space. Swift has always been excellent at taking the headlines and twisting them to her advantage, leaving the media looking like the suckers. Blank Space does it better than any of her songs. She takes the media's conception that she's a psychopath cutting down lovers and writing songs about it, plays that character and clocked one of her biggest hits of all time. Even if you forget the genius concept, the song's a ten out of ten, from tempting verses to the final chant about "boys".

1. Shake It Off

The one.

We're still yet to see a pop single as great as Shake It Off this millennium. It addressed all the rumours circling Swift's personal life while also addressing nothing at all, shaking it off (so to speak) with this earth-shattering ear worm that subtly redefined what pop sounds like. It would've been a big song at the hands of everyone but it was Swift's personality that carried this home, dismissing the victim theory with a statement that basically she's now the greatest pop star on this earth and the rest of you can say whatever you like.