This edition of my TS Alphabet Ranking is pretty interesting — EIGHT of the 14 songs are singles, and three of the songs here aren’t featured on her own albums (
Babe she wrote for Sugarland, Beautiful Ghosts was for the Cats musical movie, Better Man she wrote for Little Big Town, and Both of Us she wrote with B.o.B for his album).
14. Beautiful Eyes
The song in ONE sentence: Taylor sings about how much she likes some guy and his beautiful eyes. Favourite line(s): “Sometimes I think of you late at night / Don’t know why” (Are you sure you don’t know why???) Fun fact: This song was released as part of the Walmart-exclusive Beautiful Eyes EP before Fearless.
I completely forgot this song existed because it’s not available on streaming services, but I wasn’t missing out on much at all. The title track’s pretty simple and there’s nothing much to digest.
Let’s cut Taylor some slack though — it was written when she was 15. My only criticism is that she should’ve picked… anything else for her album.
13. Both of Us (by B.o.B)
The song in ONE sentence: A short rap song that comments on the negative effects of capitalism in America — mostly poverty and competition. Favourite line(s): “And sometimes I wonder, why we care so much about the way we look / And the way we talk and the way we act and the clothes we bought / How much that cost? / Does it even really matter?” I don’t have much to comment on because I don’t really listen to rap, but I will say that the rap has pretty well-written verses. Though the song was two rich people singing about poverty in their country, it never came across as condescending or belittling. I also never realised Taylor only belts the same 2 lines ( “I wish I was strong enough to lift not one but both of us / Someday I will be strong enough to lift not one but both of us”) throughout the WHOLE SONG, which is pretty cool.
12. Bye Bye Baby (From the Vault)
The song in ONE sentence: Taylor bids farewell to a lover she thought was going to stay. Favourite line(s): “It wasn’t just like a movie / The rain didn’t soak through my clothes, down to my skin” (Taylor loves referencing movies and rain in her songs. And I love that.) Fun fact: There used to be a demo of this song, previously titled One Thing, floating around on YouTube. Apparently the lyrics have been changed, but I only remember the chorus, so I can’t comment. Bye Bye Baby reminds me of how much heartbreak can hurt when you’re young and inexperienced. While some of Taylor’s newer songs foreshadow the end of a relationship (see: Wildest Dreams and Cornelia Street), her older songs describe how she never expected a relationship to end. I’ve been listening to devastating heartbreak songs (Adele just dropped Easy On Me and I’m not okay) lately, so this naïveté feels almost refreshing.
11. Bad Blood
The song in ONE sentence: Taylor sings angrily about someone who betrayed her and ruined their friendship. Favourite line(s): “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.” Fun fact: The song is pretty much confirmed to be about Taylor’s feud with Katy Perry, who had hired her tour dancers. I’m sure the feud was real, but I think both sides also really amped up the drama for the publicity. Fun fact #2: Taylor later references this song in invisible string: “Bad was the blood of the song in the cab / On your first trip to LA”. This song was supposed to be last in my ranking, but I watched the video above and immediately changed my mind. Sure, the lyrics aren’t very mature or profound, but it’s hard to remember that when Taylor Swift is singing live while floating down on a SKELETON at the Reputation stadium tour. I also really like rock music and need a rock version of this pronto. It’s impossible to talk about Bad Blood without bringing up its star-studded music video (which currently has 1.4 billion views?!). It really brings out the angst in the song, and that increases its ranking. This is obviously not the best Taylor Swift song — but I think it’s one of the strongest (and most well-marketed) diss tracks in pop music.
10. Better than Revenge
The song in ONE sentence: Taylor sings angrily (again) about how she’s really great at avenging herself against her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. Favourite line(s): “She looks at life like it’s a party and she’s on the list / She looks at me like I’m a trend and she’s so over it” Fun fact: Since the song was about Joe Jonas’ girlfriend at the time, the ending verse “See you deserve some applause / ‘Cause you’re so much better” is likely a reference to the Jonas Brothers’ own song, Much Better (which I’ve never played before). Not as good a diss track as Bad Blood, but I’ve ranked Better than Revenge higher here because I prefer the melody and SOME of the lyrics. Emphasis on the “some”, because as many have very accurately pointed out, this song can steer pretty misogynistic. It was released during very different times in 2010, so I can forgive that.
9. Blank Space
The song in ONE sentence: Taylor sings satirically (her first of MANY future satire songs) about how she’s going to ruin some guy’s life. Favourite line(s): “New money, suit and tie / I can read you like a magazine / Ain’t it funny? Rumors fly / And I know you heard about me / So hey, let’s be friends / I’m dyin’ to see how this one ends” Favourite line(s) #2: “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” (Proud to say I never used this lyric as an Instagram caption before.) Fun fact: As if the music video wasn’t iconic enough, the song also came with a “ Blank Space Experience App”, where users got a 360-degree view of Taylor around the mansion. I have motion sickness, but that didn’t stop me. And so it begins: the part where I clarify that I love all Taylor’s songs, and that the next few songs are only in the lower rankings because there are just too many good ones. To illustrate this — Blank Space is one of her biggest singles, and it’s only ranked 9th here. The song was inspired by Taylor’s image in the media as an obsessed “serial dater” who couldn’t keep a man. Take note that it was released back in 2014, when Taylor only went out with a few men over the course of a few years, but couldn’t BREATHE in anyone’s direction without hundreds of articles about her ~new beau~. Taking on the image of a “conniving fox”, Taylor sings ironic wisecracks about how she’s met someone new and will probably ruin his life because that’s what she always does. This song is just production brilliance, with a great music video to boot.
8. Babe (originally sung by Sugarland)
The song in ONE sentence: Not an angry song this time, but the singers get really upset at a dude for his betrayal. Favourite line(s): “I break down every time you call / We’re the wreck, you’re the wrecking ball” Fun fact: Some speculate that Taylor took this off the Red album because it sounded “too country” and she was trying to make the switch to pop. Like Sugarland themselves said, Taylor doesn’t usually call up people to say she wants to give them a song — so if she does that, you should probably accept the song immediately. The song starts out as a typical country song, but instrumentals come in strong during the pre-chorus. You don’t really know what exactly the “babe” in question did — until, in true country song fashion, the bridge reveals the plot twist: “Since you admitted it, I keep picturing / Her lips on your neck, I can’t unsee it”. Then it all becomes clear. And if Taylor’s going to reveal that Jake Gyllenhaal (I still can’t spell his name) cheated on her five years later, this may be one of the most sophisticated ways to do it.
7. Better Man (originally sung by Little Big Town)
The song in ONE sentence: The singers had a really good time with some guy, but he was undeniably a bit of a jackass — and they just wish he could’ve been slightly better. Favourite line(s): “I hold onto this pride because these days, it’s all I have / And I gave you my best and we both know you can’t say that” (Such a good bridge!) Favourite line(s) #2: “ But your jealousy, I can hear it now / You’re talking down to me like I’ll always be around / You push my love away like it’s some kind of loaded gun” Fun fact: The demo/piano version of this song’s been floating around on YouTube, and it’s VERY SAD. If that version had been released instead, it’d probably be higher on this ranking since I love sad songs (a pattern you’ll notice later on in this list). Another Red reject that was offered to a country group, Better Man is a woeful song about that regret when you really liked someone but they couldn’t treat you right. There were good moments in the relationship for sure (Hence the lyrics “I wish it wasn’t 4am, standing in the mirror / Saying to myself, you know you had to do it”), but there’s only so much you can tolerate from someone who doesn’t treat you the way you deserve. Every now and then I interact with charming but ultimately disappointing people, and it takes everything in me not to return to them. Instead, I reach for this song. I think the song’s appeal is in its vagueness, because haven’t we all wished that someone we rather liked could be a better person (or at least, less of an asshole)?
6. Beautiful Ghosts
The song in ONE sentence: Victoria, a deserted young cat in the musical movie Cats, yearns for a much better life. Favourite line(s): “ Should I take chances when no one took chances on me? / So I watch from the dark, wait for my life to start / With no beauty in my memory” Fun fact: Broadway legend Andrew Lloyd-Webber composed the music for this song, but lyrics were all Taylor’s. This slow-paced and stripped-back song may be the stuff of people’s nightmares — and it doesn’t help that it was part of the special-effects-horror that was the Cats musical movie. But as a Broadway geek, I ADORE it. I haven’t really looked into Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s work, and I still haven’t watched this movie, but I love a good, dramatic “I Want” song. I think what I’m trying to say is: I need Taylor to write a musical.
5. The Best Day
The song in ONE sentence: Taylor sings about how she’s had all her best days with her mother. Favourite line(s): “And now I know why all the trees change in the fall / I know you were on my side even when I was wrong” Fun fact: This song birthed the “that’s my baby and I’m really proud” meme. This was one of my favourite songs when I listened to the Fearless album, and while it’s dropped in rankings since, I’ll always have a soft spot for it. Taylor sings about childhood innocence and how her mother has always nurtured and protected her. She’s still very close to her mother now, which only makes the song all the more touching and beautiful. I don’t know how Taylor doesn’t cry when she performs this song.
4. Breathe (ft. Colbie Caillat)
The song in ONE sentence: Taylor sings about saying goodbye to someone because things didn’t work out. Favourite line(s): “Every little bump in the road, I tried to swerve / But people are people and sometimes it doesn’t work out / Nothing we say is gonna save us from the fall out” Fun fact: Taylor has only performed this song live one time (without Colbie Caillat). Another favourite of mine from the Fearless album. I even remember the stunning photo of Taylor underwater from the album’s lyric booklet. There’s nothing particularly striking about this song, but I just like how wistful it sounds. It also contains my favourite Taylor Tropes: rain, movies, 2am, driving, and the featured artist only doing background vocals.
3. Begin Again
The song in ONE sentence: Taylor sings about a lovely first date that makes her believe in love again. Favourite line(s): “We tell stories and you don’t know why / I’m coming off a little shy, but I do” (Such a sweet lyric!!!) Favourite line(s) #2: “But you start to talk about the movies / That your family watches every single Christmas / And I want to talk about that / And for the first time, what’s past is past” When I first heard this song, I just thought it was a very sweet story about a first date. It was only until recently, when I went through a similar situation (and my Spotify wouldn’t stop putting this song on shuffle after) that I realised: this is Pure Vulnerability packaged in a country ballad. Taylor’s been hurt (by Jake Gyllenhaal, I believe) for the past eight months. It’s hard to believe in love and in lovely people. But then comes along this guy who likes it when she tells jokes and wears high heels, and while it’s not like everything is fixed again, her outlook on dating is much more positive. Begin Again makes the perfect closer to Red‘s heartbreak themes. And it makes me believe that there’s a quiet strength in vulnerability.
The song in ONE sentence: James, a high school student, apologises to his ex-girlfriend Betty for cheating on her. Favourite line(s): “ You heard the rumors from Inez / You can’t believe a word she says / Most times, but this time it was true” (Inez is chaotic neutral.) Fun fact: This song in folklore’s trio of “high school love triangle songs”. The first song in the trio, august, was ranked first in the A Edition of my ranking! If you told me that, in 2020, Taylor would sing from the perspective of a teenage boy trying to get his girlfriend back in a harmonica-led country song from her indie album, I’d be incredulous. But it happened. And it captures the young and dumb high school experience while sounding amazing.
1. Back to December
The song in ONE sentence: Taylor apologises to someone she didn’t appreciate enough. Favourite line(s): “Maybe this is wishful thinking / Probably mindless dreaming / But if we loved again, I swear I’d love you right / I’d go back in time and change it, but I can’t / So if the chain is on your door, I understand” Fun fact: Taylor wrote this song on a napkin in an airplane bathroom. The first apology song Taylor has ever written, and it’s a damn good one. If Taylor apologised to me and it was accompanied by a beautiful orchestral (mashed up with Apologise by OneRepublic), I’d absolutely go back to December. My love for this song is influenced by how much I loved the music video as a kid. Taylor rarely wore her hair straight with bangs then, so it was really refreshing to watch. I also love songs that reference December (I have a whole playlist for that), and I’ve always had a crush on Taylor Lautner (who’s confirmed that the song is about him)… so go figure. (Next in the series is “C” which has tons of CHRISTMAS SONGS, and I’m very excited.)