More about: Taylor Swift
Although many have tried, it’s difficult to properly describe the sheer power behind Taylor Swift and her discography. After causing quite a stir this year after releasing two albums within 6 months of one another (folklore + evermore) and taking a rightful stand in regards to her battle to get her masters back, Swift truly was the name on everyone’s lips in 2020. As we get closer and closer to the imminent release of her re-recordings, a listen through Swift’s entire discography is integral to better understand Swift, the start of her career, and just how far she’s come in her decade-long career.
With nine studio albums full of incredible tracks, there are always going to be some that don’t always receive the love they deserve. Whether you’re a new fan or you’ve been around since the beginning, here are 11 underrated songs, ranked in chronological order, recorded and released by this generation’s best storyteller.
An unreleased track from her high school days before signing with Big Machine Records, ‘I’d Lie’ is everything we expect & love from Swift — an early insight into the mind of a songwriter who excels at looking around the room, analyzing it, and picking out specific details to craft into her songs. With lyrics that easily tell an entire story, like “He stands there, then walks away/My God, if I could only say,/’I'm holding every breath for you,’” it’s telling where Swift’s career was headed with this song.
'Cold As You'
The first of the famous ‘track 5s’ - an understanding among Swift fans that some of her best (and saddest) tracks are always placed perfectly in the fifth spot. ‘Cold As You’ is one of the first released with songwriter Liz Rose (who also co-wrote ‘All Too Well’) and describes the realisation of knowing the person you have feelings for will not only never feel the same, but doesn’t deserve you in the first place. Think of it and ‘All Too Well’ as two sides of the same coin, carrying just as much pain and perception, especially with heartbreaking lyrics like “And you come away with a great little story/Of a mess of a dreamer with the nerve to adore you.”
'Tied Together With a Smile'
A stand-out on Swift’s self-titled debut, ‘Tied Together With A Smile’ is another of Swift’s more observational tracks as she pens a song to a friend who on the outside looks like she has it all but is struggling with an eating disorder. The first out of two songs on this list where Swift zeroes in on friendship, ‘Tied Together With A Smile’ is both moving and heartbreaking; listening to Swift battle with the knowledge of what her friend is going through. With Swift only being 16 when this record came out, it’s striking to think about her ability to perceive both things she encounters and things about people who don’t think she’s paying attention. More than ten years later, she’s embraced those types of influences in her songwriting more than ever.
Released just shy of her 19th birthday, ‘Breathe’ is one of Swift's strongest in her entire discography. The country-pop song is a duet with singer/songwriter Colbie Callait - the first duet for one of Swift’s albums - and addresses the pain and loss that is felt when a close friendship ends. To evoke the feelings of sadness and instant-nostalgia that arrive in such a situation, the track is driven by an acoustic guitar and accompanied by violins. If there was ever a song to prove to naysayers that not all of Swift’s songs are about boys and break-ups, it’s ‘Breathe’.
'The Way I Loved You'
No other track has a build-up like ‘The Way I Loved You’. Written & sung to an ex-lover, Swift details the lack of emotion felt in this new partnership, especially when compared to the last enthralling rollercoaster relationship. In each verse Swift seamlessly pulls back to mimic the feeling (or lack of), creating more and more tension for the chorus.
Writing about the complexities of love and relationships is what Swift might be best known for and ‘Haunted’ fits perfectly alongside her love-sick ballads and her odes to break-ups. Released on her third studio album Speak Now, ‘Haunted’ is the catalyst that comes from realising who you’re in love with is drifting away. Did Swift describe what ‘ghosting’ is before it even had a name? Perhaps. ‘Haunted’ is everything a ghost isn’t — forceful, blaring, and makes its presence known immediately, and Swift does this masterfully by pairing tragic lyrics with a big live string section. It’s a song that represents the full spectrum of emotions when you’re getting ghosted — the intensity one feels to get to the bottom of it and the confusion that it brings.
'State of Grace'
Out of her nine studio albums, ‘State of Grace’ is her best opening track and best opening song on tour. Equal parts powerful and poetic, the track sets the stage for everything that is the album Red, especially with a lyric like “This is a state of grace/this is a worthwhile fight/love is a ruthless game unless you play it good and right.” Encapsulating the feeling of falling for someone this track brings Swift’s Brit-rock sound to the forefront, pulling from predecessors within the genre and their love of a strong, powerful build-up. It’s both a love letter and a warning to herself; knowing she’s about to jump into something life-changing, whether it turns out good or bad.
'Come Back...Be Here'
Swift explores three L’s — longing, love, and long-distance — in this bonus track on Red. Somewhat mirroring what was felt at the fresh-in-love stage in ‘State of Grace,’ on ‘Come Back… Be Here’ Swift explores the achingly difficult feeling of being in love with someone who is, in no way, in proximity to you. Its simple guitar highlights the vulnerability in Swift’s vocals; the anxiety that stems from not wanting to get too attached but doing the exact opposite.
If folklore and evermore were Taylor embracing pulling from fairytales, ‘Wonderland’ was the true archetype. Like it’s bonus track predecessor on this list, Swift draws on her anxieties within her relationship while drawing comparisons to Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The percussion, in particular, carries this song; giving more and more weight to the frights and foes that appear at every turn in Swift’s version of wonderland.
'So It Goes…'
The best way to describe reputation’s seventh track ‘So It Goes…’ is to say it’s ‘Wildest Dreams’ more mature, much sexier older sister; exploring sex and intimacy in a way that Swift only touched on before on her previous album. Taylor pairs this feeling of a cat-and-mouse game with a booming production that’s half parts sensual and seductive. Although it was criminally left out of many shows during the reputation Stadium Tour it’s clear the song has significance to Swift, mentioning the same three words in songs like ‘Style’ and ‘You Are In Love.’
'It’s Nice To Have A Friend'
If we all had a slice of intuition, ‘It’s Nice To Have A Friend’ would’ve been the song to alarm us where Swift was heading after 2019’s Lover, setting up the narrative building and intimate sound Taylor would be wholeheartedly embracing on tracks like ‘seven’ and ‘invisible string’ from folklore. In its three-part act, ‘It’s Nice To Have A Friend’ sees Swift gives us an insight into a close friendship-turned-relationship throughout the character’s childhood, teenage years, and adulthood together. It is, without a doubt, what Taylor Swift does best: tying together a story that feels so intimate, you could be the person she’s singing about. With its stripped-down production, background singers from a Toronto youth choir mimicking the sounds of a church wedding, and Swift’s dreamy vocals, ‘It’s Nice To Have A Friend’ is one of Swift’s most underrated but confident tracks; letting all of us know that she’s comfortable where she is and where she’s headed.
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More about: Taylor Swift