Taylor Swift’s 10 Best Songs
Taylor Swift songs are creating history. Few artists have been more commercially successful than she has. Since she debuted with “Tim McGraw” in 2006, Swift’s songs have provided a soundtrack for teenagers and then young women across America. As she’s grown, we’ve grown.
With each album, the young woman shows growth as a songwriter. Swift’s best lyrics, like the relationships and experiences that inspire them, become more mature as time goes on. The picks on our Taylor Swift’s 10 Best Songs list are taken mostly from her four country music albums, but it’s difficult to ignore her pop success.
The release of Swift’s 1989 brought a whole new sound to the radio and added a wide range of songs to her catalog. Sales success she’d never seen before came with award nominations and wins. Swift was suddenly everywhere — literally the biggest star in music. “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space” are two we couldn’t deny on this list of Taylor’s top tunes, but they don’t top our list.
Her best song does indeed come from her time in country music — a time when her lyrical integrity wasn’t overshadowed by production or a thick beat. Yes, we favor the more organic version of Taylor Swift, and this list of her best songs reflects that. Take a look, find your favorites and then let us know where we got it right and wrong in the comments section below.
“Should’ve Said No”
If for no other reason, “Should’ve Said No” merits inclusion on this Top 10 Taylor Swift Songs list because of the waterfall the singer once used in performances. Swift first pulled that trick during the 2008 ACM Awards in Las Vegas and repeated it every night during her 2009 Fearless Tour. The song — about a boy who does her wrong — may have been noisier and more contentious than some would have liked, but it was still a No. 1 hit for Swift, and it sold over a million digital singles.
“Picture to Burn”
“Picture to Burn” was special because it let fans know that this 16-year-old from Pennsylvania wasn’t all sugar and spice and everything nice. While the lyrics turned some off — the “gay” line provided an early career controversy — Swift showed she was capable of understanding all sides of a relationship. It set the tone for the revenge songs that would follow, many of which were about her celebrity lovers. The song was a Top 5 hit for Swift and yet another that went platinum, a common theme for songs on our Taylor Swift’s 10 Best Songs list.
“You Belong With Me”
The first three singles from Fearless all portray a girl looking for love but mostly striking out. “You Belong With Me” was Swift’s biggest crossover hit, reaching No. 2 on Billboard‘s all-genre chart. It tastes bland in comparison to some other songs from the singer, but its success gives it a spot on this list. The song was nominated for multiple Grammys and the ACM for Song of the Year, but lost to Beyonce and Lady Antebellum‘s “Need You Now,” respectively.
It’s the song that started it all for Taylor Swift. A cute, soft-spoken 16-year-old is an easy to overlook commodity in Nashville, but week after week Swift’s debut single kept growing on radio programmers and, more importantly, fans. It also led to an all-time great awards show moment: Swift began the performance behind her acoustic guitar, but slowly walked offstage to finish it in front of none other than Tim McGraw. As much as any track on this list Taylor Swift songs, this hit has endured the test of time.
Swift’s second single from 1989 was nearly as big a hit as her first. The song is known for its music video, an elaborate story filmed in a castle that targeted the media’s perception of her love life. Like many of her songs, it earned her several awards nominations and went multi-platinum.
Swift knew she had a hit after performing this song for high school friends; they couldn’t get it out of their heads. This was the singer’s first No. 1 hit, and it went on to be certified quadruple platinum. It remained on top of the country charts for six weeks, but more importantly, it cemented an image of who Taylor Swift was at the time. She enthusiastically wrote songs about being in high school, and because they were so sharp and catchy, few of us could resist turning hits like “Our Song” way up.
The fifth single from Swift’s Speak Now album is one that removes the makeup and nail polish to reveal a simple and vulnerable lyric. It’s a more adult song than the singer had ever released to radio, a sign of things to come from her fourth album. Critically, this song was received as well as just about any since her debut album in 2006.
Swift turns the words of a grinch into one of her top songs of all time. A critic ripped apart an awards show performance, so Swift responded with a song about bullies. She gets the last laugh as the song led an anti-bully movement and picked up numerous accolades for its lyrics and video. While it hasn’t had the sales success of other Swift hits on this Top 10 list of Taylor Swift songs, “Mean” is the first to carry an impacting social message.
“Shake It Off”
“Shake It Off” is Swift’s pop debut and the song is by some measure her biggest hit ever. It remained atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart for nearly a year and nabbed her multiple Grammy nominations. It’s certified eight times platinum, something only one other song on this list can claim.
While other songs on this Taylor Swift’s 10 Best Songs list have charted higher on the all-genre charts, this No. 1 hit is Swift’s biggest because of its sales figures — over five million singles sold — and live show choreography. It’s been a highlight of the singer’s last two tours, and the video is a masterpiece. It’s impossible not to sing along as Swift gets to the final chorus, just after the key change. Plus, everyone wants to be a Romeo or a Juliet at some point in their lives.