Outlines of Taylor Swift throughout her career. Each of these silhouettes are from one or more of her album eras. Illustration by Everette Cogswell. 

The dynamic artist with 11 grammys, Taylor Swift, recently announced the upcoming release of her 10th studio album, “Midnights.” The album will premiere on Oct 21, 2022, and features 13 new songs that touch on different eras of her career.  Taylor Swift is an artist that many students at Franklin High School grew up listening to, but her capacity to continue generating compelling music that transcends genres has garnered her a large fan base with people from all walks of life, not just teenagers. 

Swift is widely acclaimed for her songwriting and musical organization skills, and many are eagerly anticipating her newest album’s release. Franklin Senior Madalynn Hines is thrilled for Swift’s new work to come out this October. “[Swift] said it’s about sleepless nights and thinking about her demons and the mistakes she’s made,” Hines explains. “I feel like a lot of people can relate to that including me… I’m going to be analyzing every single song and after, you know, I’ll need like a month to recover.” Hines has some hypotheses surrounding the genre and theme that “Midnights” may be. “I think it’s probably gonna be folk-y and slow… as far as the theme, it’s very blue and dark, depressing.” While nobody can definitively know what this new album will be like, it’s fun to guess. But before “Midnights” is here, we must review her iconic past albums and rank them, starting with my most beloved, “Folklore.” 

1. “Folklore”

Frankly, this album got me through the pandemic. The melancholy, nostalgic lyrics and lullabye-like melodies make this album my favorite that Swift has ever released. Each track seems to climax in the bridge of the song, full of agony or love or anger. Perhaps the best example of this is in the bridge of “August,” a song about a couple spending a summer together only for the girl to realize her lover, James, was longing for someone else the whole time. Swift sings from the girl’s perspective, “Wanting was enough, for me it was enough, to live for the hope of it all, cancel plans just in case you’d call.” To the listener it feels like there is a narrative woven throughout the album. Swift takes on the role of a storyteller; she sings from James’ perspective in the song “Betty,” which is essentially a teenage boy’s apology to the girl he wants (Betty), asking for forgiveness for taking off with another girl all summer. He begs for her to take him back: “Betty, I’m here on your doorstep and I planned it out for weeks now but it’s finally sinking in… The only thing I wanna do is make it up to you.” Finally, in the track “Cardigan,” we hear Betty’s perspective on James leaving with another person all summer: “A friend to all is a friend to none, chase two girls, lose the one.” The entirety of the album feels like a wistful dream, one where you wake up and have already forgotten how it ended. Maybe Betty and James got together again, maybe Betty told him it was too late. 

2. “Red”

This is the perfect heartbreak album. Swift writes of such potent and tangible heartache that the lyrics conjure empathy until you feel just as raw, hurt, or even explosive as she was during the writing process. Metaphors line each song, with lyrics such as “Loving him was red” or “I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here” that convey her emotion without stating the literal meaning of the phrase, allowing the listener to fill in the blanks with their own ideas. The similes throughout the album have a similar impact; in “All Too Well” Swift cries, “You call me up again just to break me like a promise.” “Treacherous,” the third track on the album, is a personal favorite, not particularly in a lyrical sense, but in the melody. It’s an ideal song for head banging along with the symbol crashing in the background. 

3. “Speak Now”

I can’t determine a specific theme to this album. It seems to be a mix of 2000s teen movies with songs like “Mine” or “Enchanted,” but with spunk and vehemence in tracks such as “Haunted,” “Better than Revenge,” and “Dear John.” Somehow, even with the different attitudes and messages that are thrown together in this album, it works. The album is perhaps even more impressive since it is written solely by Taylor Swift herself. In contrast to some of the more metaphorical phrases in “Red,” in this album, Swift eloquently paints literal scenes from her personal life. “Dear John,” a track blatantly calling out an ex-boyfriend of hers, carries reflective lines like, “Wondering which version of you I might get on the phone tonight. Well, I stopped picking up, and this song is to let you know why.” 

4. “Evermore”

A sister album to “Folklore,” “Evermore” is like the elegant older sister who had more time to reflect on her past. It is clear and healing, almost like she is consoling her younger self for what her future will hold for her. Taylor Swift also sings of sacrifice and the challenges of growing up in the spotlight. In “Long Story Short,” Swift sings, “Fell behind all my classmates and ended up here, pouring my heart out to a stranger.” Some tracks, such as “closure,” seem to add next to nothing to the album as a whole, and could have been left out altogether. Closure is repetitive, lacking intriguing lyrics, and melodically uninteresting with four main chords. 

5. “Lover”

“Lover” is Swift’s most pop-infused album, with loud vibrant colors and defiant political messages. This album is where she for the first time, publicly shares her opinions on politics, specifically relating to gay rights and pride. In this era, Swift was moving away from her “Reputation” attitudes, of being angry and hurt as her fame and influence were being battered. This album has more of a nonchalant, freeing attitude of her not caring anymore and exploring her sound as a musician. In the timeline of her career, making this album was a crucial step in exploring her abilities, and she successfully crafted a pop album that could become a classic down the line. Some songs on this record that stand out include “Cruel Summer,” “Cornelia Street,” and “False God.”

6. “Fearless”

“Fearless” is a country album of teenage youth, mistakes, and love. The tracks are either outstanding, such as “You Belong With Me,” or “Love Story,” while others are unexciting, like “Breathe,” and “Change.” Listeners can hear Swift as a young girl, pining over a boy in “Hey Stephen,” and navigating past relationships in the track “White Horse.” “The Way I Loved You,” the tenth track, is the highlight of the album with lyrics yearning for the past: “It’s 2 a.m. and I’m cursing your name, so in love that you acted insane, and that’s the way I loved you.”

7. “1989”

This is a blissful and poppy record from the artist’s early twenties. There aren’t any tracks that standout in terms of lyricism or sound, and some feel empty and purposeless. “All You Had To Do Was Stay” has a basic drum hook that is dull and programmed and the chorus is repetitive, consisting of Swift singing the title of the song five times consecutively. Several tracks are effectively catchy and danceable, such as “Blank Space,” “Style,” “Clean,” and of course, the hit song, “Shake It Off.” In between those, however, are filler tracks that don’t add to the record. 

8. “Reputation”

While one of my favorite Swift songs of all time is in this album (“New Year’s Day”), this record falls flat on messaging and is confusing to listen to. The foundation of this album is its pop-hip hop rebellious energy, where Swift breaks down and rebuilds herself in the wake of the public’s and the media’s harsh relationship with her image. “Look what you made me do,” Swift sings on the track where her look and sound are most drastically shifted, with the video featuring extravagant diamonds, black lipstick, and an electro-pop ballad style.  “New Year’s Day” is one of my favorite Swift songs. It doesn’t actually fit in with the other tracks on the album; it feels vulnerable as Taylor Swift sings softly over acoustic piano and light guitar plucking. The other songs feel dissident and dark in nature, essentially giving the finger to those who tore her down. The album overall is synth-heavy and confusing. Not everything seems to fit together like in her other albums, and some of the songs are simply not good, such as “So It Goes…” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” 

9. “Taylor Swift”

Swift’s debut album, released when she was sixteen years old, is an impressive piece of work that someone so young crafted. It is heavily country and twangy, which is the genre that Taylor Swift originally produced. Highlight tracks of this record include “Picture To Burn,” “Teardrops On My Guitar,” and “Our Song.” This classic debut album carries a lightness that her other albums don’t share; it is full of youth and the heartache of young love. It also displays how inexperienced Swift was at the time. Many of the tracks aren’t memorable or well written, especially when compared to her later works. 

We are never unimpressed with Swift’s work, and after she released her debut, the only way she could go was up.  She has the inert ability to follow her already groundbreaking repertoire with even more enthralling music.

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