Carelessly dating lyrics
But the villain costume sits uneasily on Swift’s shoulders, and even worse, the songwriting just isn’t there. “Christmas Must Mean Something More,” (2007): One of two originals on Swift’s early-career Christmas album, “Something More” is a plea to put the Christ back in Christmas.The verses are vacuous, the insults have no teeth, and just when the whole thing seems to be leading up to a gigantic redemptive chorus, suddenly The air goes out of it and we’re left with a taunting Right Said Fred reference — the musical equivalent of pulling a Looney Tunes gag on the listener. “Umbrella,” (2008): Swift has recorded plenty of covers in her career, and none are less essential than this 90-second rendition of the Rihanna hit recorded at the peak of the song’s popularity. Or as she puts it: “What if happiness came in a cardboard box?Other Swift songs have clunkier rhymes, or worse production values, but none of them have such a gaping hole at the center. / Then I think there is something we all forgot.” In the future, Swift would get better at holding onto some empathy when she was casting a critical eye at the silly things people care about; here, the vibe is judgmental in a way that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever reread their teenage diary.
Even with the widespread critical embrace of poptimism — a development I suspect has as much to do with the economics of online media as it does with the shifting winds of taste — there are still those who see Swift as just another industry widget, a Miley or Katy with the tuner set to “girl with a guitar.” If this list does anything, I hope it convinces you that, underneath all the thinkpieces, exes, and feuds, she is one of our era’s great singer-songwriters.
What sort of real life can stand up against fantasies like these?
So, uh, I don’t recommend you listen to this list top to bottom.
I count at least ten stone-cold classics in her discography. No matter how high your defenses, I guarantee you’ll find at least one that breaks them down.
Some ground rules: We’re ranking every Taylor Swift song that’s ever been released with her name on it — which means we must sadly leave out the unreleased 9/11 song “Didn’t They” as well as Nils Sjöberg’s “This Is What You Came For” — a few duets where she gets an “and” credit.
; Target edition DVD (2011): Swift’s sedate cover of the 2006 Gwen Stefani hit — those “ooh-ooh”s are pitched way down from Akon’s falsetto in the original — invests the song with a bittersweet vibe, though like anyone who’s ever tried the song at karaoke, she stumbles on the rapid-fire triplets in the first verse.