The Folklore/Evermore Album Review No One Asked For

I originally didn’t think I’d have much to say about Taylor’s re-recordings of her old music, but since she released Lovestory (Taylor’s version), it’s become clear to me that I will have much to say. And I don’t want to delve into that without having touched on her two most recent albums. So that’s right–I, a regular person and not a music journalist, am posting an in-depth review of Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore albums. What can I say? I do it for the fans. Of all the posts I’ve written, I got the most positive feedback on my post ranking all of Taylor Swift’s songs. It was a blast to write and I love engaging with people about someone who has influenced me in such a major way. Below, find my thoughts on the project as a whole, the albums individually, and each track.

Overall: folklore & evermore are the albums I always wished Taylor Swift would write and I still can’t believe they’re real. I’ve always thought her greatest strength was in her lyricism. While I loved her pop music, that genre is more about sound than lyrics. I honestly had not had a gut-punch moment listening to her music since Red came out and I wasn’t sure I ever would again. Enter folklore. I think my jaw was dropped for most of my first listen. She wrote to tracks by Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner for most of the album, which allowed her to focus fully on writing lyrics. To put this in context, that’s like telling Rainman all he has to do is count toothpicks. As her co-writers have often said, Swift is something of a songwriting savant, and on folklore and evermore, it shows. She billed these albums as being largely based on fiction or stories she’s heard from others, with a few of her own experiences peppered in. While I’m not disputing that, I do think it’s more based on her life than she’d like us to believe. I think she’s using the playground of fiction to write about her own feelings in a way that allows for privacy in her personal life.

folklore: Swift said she wanted this album to represent spring and summer. You’ve heard of Hot Girl Summer, now get ready for Sad Girl Spring. I can somewhat see this album having spring/summer themes as compared to evermore, but I find them both to be albums to turn to when you want a certain feeling rather than at a certain time of year. The overall emotional tone of this album is reflective, and sees the protagonist in each story either looking back on a past experience, or responding to a personal conflict. Swift indulged herself in rich, lush lyrics that feel like an embarrassment of riches for longtime fans.

The 1: This makes for a great album opener. She starts with the line, “I’m doing good, I’m on some new sh*t. Been saying yes instead of no.” Fitting for a release totally unlike her carefully calculated prior album promos. It reflects on a long-gone relationship when enough time has passed to give it a rosy glow. This song is for anyone who’s ever wondered wistfully about the road not traveled. I believe in my heart that this song was inspired by Harry Styles, and you can’t take that away from me. My favorite lyric: “We never painted by the numbers, baby, but we were making it count. You know the greatest loves of all time are over now.” The loves celebrated as the “greatest” are often unsustainable in their intensity. It is the quieter, unassuming love that lasts. But it can be fun to look back on the good times once you’re safe in the embrace of your soulmate, at least if your good times involved as many private jets as Taylor’s.

cardigan: The sound of heels on cobblestones in the background? It’s the detail for me. This song unpacks the feeling of finally being chosen by your love after being tossed aside by so many others. Even though the road was rocky and there were missteps along the way, in the end you’re wrapped in something warm and cozy that feels all the better for being a little worn. Dessner’s track builds perfectly to match the emotional fever pitch of Swift’s imagery. My favorite lyric: Literally every line from the start of the first bridge (to kiss in cars…) on. If I have to pick a few? “You drew stars around my scars, but now I’m bleeding.” “Tried to change the ending, Peter losing Wendy.” The “When you are young they assume you know nothing/’Cause I knew everything when I was young” juxtaposition. “Chasing shadows in the grocery line.” I really think this goes down as one of her best lyrical showings ever. She is a master at marrying the emotion in her vocal to the emotion in a lyric and runs the marathon of this performance flawlessly.

The Last Great American Dynasty: When I first saw this title on the track list, I was afraid she was back on her Kennedy b.s. When I tell you I was SHOOK at the line “And then it was bought by me…”?! My jaw literally dropped. Here Swift chronicles the history of her Rhode Island mansion “Holiday House.” She parallels her experience owning the home and being hated by the locals with that of Rebekah, the eccentric heiress who came before her. Ever the revisionist historian, she glosses over some of the more painful traits of her heroine, and re-casts a cat as a dog. But I defy any other songwriter to use the word “gauche” effectively AND make a song about their enormous mansion an enjoyable listen for us peasants. My favorite lyric: “I had a marvelous time ruining everything.”

Exile: This duet with Bon Iver (?!) features a mystery co-writer named William Bowery. Until she revealed him to be her boyfriend Joe Alwyn, I was convinced Bowery was…*puts on tin hat*… Harry Styles. I’m so glad Taylor is happy while Harry is out wrecking homes, but I am finding it hard to picture a man who looks like a piece of dry toast writing some of these lyrics. Nevertheless, I love this song. A back-and-forth between a man and woman in the midst of a breakup, the lyrics show the difference in perspective on where a relationship breaks down. His “You never gave a warning sign” is echoed by her “I gave so many signs.” I can’t recall hearing a male/female duet that captures the moment a relationship is ending, and hearing the story from both sides is poignant and painful. My favorite lyric(s): “I can see you staring, honey, like he’s just your understudy.” and “So step right out, there is no amount of crying I can do for you.”

My Tears Richochet: I’m not sure where to begin. The chorus of ooh’s blanketed in just enough synth to create an eerie echo? The sheer BBSE (Big Bronte Sisters Energy) of the line “You know I didn’t want to have to haunt you, but what a ghostly scene. You wear the same jewels that I gave you as you bury me?” The howling vocal performance in the bridge? This song could be applied to the death of a relationship, friendship, or an emotional loss of any kind. Taylor’s gift is turning her pain into something that resonates with all of us. I personally think this song is about the breakdown of her relationship with her former record label, Big Machine, and their subsequent sale of her masters to a man she despises. I cannot imagine the fury of having your life’s work taken from you by two men who have profited immeasurably off your success. My heart breaks at the lyric, “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace, ’cause when I’d fight you used to tell me I was brave.” When Taylor penned her letter to Apple insisting that music has value, Scott Borchetta praised her and joined the crusade, because he profited off the sale of her music. When she used that same spirit to fight for autonomy over the very music she wrote, he turned the tables viciously. My favorite lyric, other than the ones already mentioned: “You turned into your worst fears. And you’re tossing out blame, drunk on this pain, crossing out the good years.”

Mirrorball: Did anyone else feel personally attacked by this song? There’s now an anthem for the people pleaser in all of us. This album has some of my favorite ever Jack Antonoff works, and I think his producing talent is particularly evident here. The vocals are layered beautifully, and there’s a sparkle to the track that evokes the imagery of a mirrorball. He and Taylor have a unique ability to make something sound the way it feels. I found this one remniscient of Dashboard Confessional’s “Stolen,” almost like a response from the girl their song is about. Taylor gives some rare glimpses into her world with lyrics like “You are not like the regulars, the masquerade revelers, drunk as they watch my shattered edges glisten.” All those parties she threw in that New York penthouse, and it turns out she’s just as insecure as the rest of us. Probably one of the most vulnerable things she’s ever said: “I’m still a believer, but I don’t know why. I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try.” Taylor was never the natural choice for a superstar. She was a girl who could write. She had to fake the rest until the real her got lost somewhere and she had to find it again. My favorite lyric: “I’m still on that tightrope. I’m still trying everything to get you laughing at me.”

seven: This song describes the almost savage wildness of girlhood. The lyrics detail a friendship that profoundly impacted the narrator, coming back to her mind in half-remembered images and moments. The most intriguing line, “And I’ve been meaning to tell you, I think your house is haunted, your dad is always mad and that must be why,” hints at the dark things we notice but don’t fully understand as children. The girls fantasize about running away, sure that their story will be passed down through the years. Of all the songs on the album, this one feels the most literary. I saw it compared to this Emily Bronte quote from Wuthering Heights: “I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free; and laughing at injuries, not maddening under them!” My favorite lyric (because it reminds me of one of my favorite movies, A Little Princess: “Pack your dolls and a sweater, we’ll move to India forever. Passed down like folk songs, our love lasts so long.”

august: This song seems to be about a love that never got the timing right. Looking back on it, you realize the person was never yours to lose in the first place. The two of you shared a moment in time and that was all you were ever going to have. Seemingly years removed from the relationship as she writes, Taylor knows this person wasn’t the one for her, but the memories they shared are still vivid in her mind. They were naive, hopeful, both going through change and trying to navigate it together. They didn’t know how they were going to beat the odds, but they knew they wanted each other and that was enough. One lyric that set my Haylor senses tingling (no I’m not dropping this): “Your back beneath the sun, wishing I could write my name on it.” Back in 2014, Harry co-wrote a song for a duo named Alex & Sierra called “I Love You,” which featured the lyric “You ran your finger down my back and you spelled out your name.” Guys…the evidence is overwhelming. My favorite lyric: “To live for the hope of it all, canceled plans just in case you called.”

this is me trying: Perhaps the most Taylor’s songwriting has ever resembled a stream of consciousness. This song seems like what you might say to yourself as you paced around your room, ultimately deciding to break the silence between you and someone you’re fighting with. Maybe you don’t know what to say and maybe you’re really going through it, but you’ve realized you miss this person and it’s time to lay down your pride. Taylor has had many songs over the years about a guy who hurt her showing up on her doorstep, so this is an interesting way to flip the script. My favorite lyric: “I didn’t know if you’d care if I came back. I have a lot of regrets about that.”

illicit affairs: Written from the perspective of The Other Woman, this is one of Taylor’s most subversive narratives to date. Is there a less sympathetic character in the literary canon than the girl the guy is cheating with? And yet these lyrics give her flesh and bone by putting us in her shoes. The sneaking around, the lying to everyone you know, the passion cooling to shame, rendering yourself invisible to fit into this man’s life. Some of her most impressive vocabulary appears in this song. Words like clandestine, illicit, and godforsaken lend a gravity that isn’t present on pop radio. (BTW, best of luck to anyone else trying to fit the phrase “dwindling mercurial high” into a verse.) The mournful background vocals and guitar licks that mimic the sound of rain make it clear, this woman is in pain. The bridge ends the song, closing with the line, “And you know damn well, for you I would ruin myself a million little times.” As the strumming fades out, one can’t help but feel like maybe she already has. My favorite lyric: The entire bridge is gut-wrenching and gorgeous, but if I have to pick one line, “You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else.”

invisible string: Here we get a rare glimpse into Taylor and her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn’s story. Swift uses repetition to illustrate the winding road time took them on that ultimately brought them together. I particularly relate to this song because of how my own love story played out. Andrew and I talk often about all the dominoes that had to fall to get us in the same room at the same time. Even the tiniest twist of fate and we never would have crossed paths. Time, she reflects, curious, mystical, wondrous time, pulls us where we’re meant to be. Favorite lyric: “And isn’t it just so pretty to think, all along there was some invisible string tying you to me?”

mad woman: Do not–and I cannot stress this enough–make Taylor Swift mad. I really think this song is about Scooter Braun and co. and their attempts to paint her as crazy and vindictive for telling her side of the story. Sorry, Scooter, gas-lighting doesn’t work when you do it in front of the entire world. Here Swift seems to explore the ancient adage, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” She asserts that everywhere you find a woman who’s gone mad, you find a man who made her that way. “Every time you call me crazy, I get more crazy, what about that?” Yes…WHAT ABOUT THAT?! This is for all those times you’re having a completely healthy emotional response to something and someone tells you to calm down. She insinuates that the subject of the song is a cheater and that his wife knows, but she’s too worried about being painted as “crazy” to confront him. I honestly think she’s dabbling in witchcraft and trying to curse her masters until she gets them back. Favorite lyric: “And women like hunting witches, too, doing your dirtiest work for you. It’s obvious that wanting me dead has really brought you two together.” I am scared for Scooter’s life, tbh.

epiphany: Here Swift juxtaposes the death and destruction seen by soldiers, like her grandfather, in WWII with the death witnessed by medical personnel during the current Coronavirus pandemic. Her grandfather was never able to speak about what he had seen because it was just too horrible. That amount of death is nearly impossible to process, as it likely will be for those who have treated COVID patients in highly populated areas where death tolls have been especially high. This song is sonically very interesting to me, but I don’t ever go back and listen to it. I think it’s a beautiful piece of art that speaks to the historic event we’re going through, but it’s not a song I want to hear again and again. I don’t think it’s intended to be. Favorite lyric: “Just one single glimpse of relief to make some sense of what you’ve seen.”

betty: Another co-write with Joe Alwyn aka William Bowery (eye roll), this is written from the perspective of a teenage boy apologizing to a girl whose heart he broke. Tough sell for me to feel sorry for a guy who lost the girl he liked because he slept around, if I’m being honest. AND YET, this song makes me absurdly happy. I love the harmonica, the storytelling, the key change, and the way she rhymes “cardigan” with “car again.” Favorite lyric: “Will you have me? Will you love me? Will you kiss me on the porch in front of all your stupid friends?”

peace: Here we get a very honest glimpse into what goes through Taylor’s mind as she navigates her current relationship. She can never give her significant other a “normal” life. Her public image will always rise and fall. Paparazzi will always camp outside her house(s). “Would it be enough,” she asks, “if I could never give you peace?” I’m not in love with this one sonically, but I think a lot of us relate to the fear of never being good enough for the person you love. Fearing that they’re settling by choosing you and that there’s some better life they could be living if you weren’t holding them back. Those are the types of lies insecurity tells us in our low moments. It’s comforting to know that even global superstars have those moments, too. Favorite lyric: “And you know that I’d swing with you for the fences, sit with you in the trenches.”

hoax: If your mental state is in any way fragile, I must advise you not to listen to this song. Lyrically, this is a collection of some of her most powerful couplets. If I had a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you what this song is about. Did she write as if Joe had left her? Is it about Karlie Kloss’ apparent betrayal? Is it about Scott Borchetta? Is it just a bunch of sad lyrics she had in a note on her phone? WHO HURT YOU, TAYLOR?! I love this song for the way it shows off her ability to knock the wind out of you with words. I love the hook, “Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in.” It’s hard to single out just one lyric because there’s not a low point anywhere, and it changes each time I listen. For now, favorite lyric: “My only one, my kingdom come undone.”

the lakes: I don’t like this song so I kind of just pretend it doesn’t exist. *plays “I Forgot That You Existed”*

evermore: Folklore’s sister album represents fall and winter. I loved folklore but I’ve found myself going back to evermore over and over. It feels like what she dipped her toe in on folklore, she dove into headfirst on evermore. At the same time, it’s hard for me to fully separate them as they feel like two sides of one album.

willow: Taylor described this track by Aaron Dessner as a witchy incantation designed to get someone to fall in love with you. I find the “90’s trend” lyric jarring because the song as a whole feels so timeless and immersive and that lyric takes me out of it a bit. I really do picture a witchy woman in a colonial coastal town meeting a pirate who came in on his ship one night. In terms of sound, this song reminds me of “Safe & Sound,” which I love and always wished she would have explored more. She starts high in her falsetto, and gradually moves down in both range and volume until the repeated “that’s my man” in the outro is little more than a sultry whisper. The vocal feels to me like a story she brings to a satisfying conclusion by the end of the song. Favorite lyrics: “Show me the places where the others gave you scars.” & “Every bait and switch was a work of art.”

champagne problems: Reader, this song DID something to me. I could honestly write a dissertation on this song alone. I cannot explain it, but as soon as I heard it, I had this overwhelming feeling like I knew the story she was telling. I can see it all playing out in my head like a movie. I don’t know if it’s because the characters remind me of F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, (who I love and whose work & lives I’ve studied) or if she just told the story so well I got swept up in it. To me this is where she absolutely nails the thing she set out to do with these albums. She creates a character, letting her songwriting out of its cage by removing the parameters of real events. The details are so visceral and there are so many subtle moments that create a wealth of story. The lyrics and Taylor’s own comments set up the narrative as follows: College sweethearts attend a party together. He proposes, she rejects him. The song is narrated by the young woman speaking to the young man, comforting him in the pain she has caused. My interpretation is that this woman suffers from a mental illness, but no one takes her struggle seriously because she’s a beautiful rich girl and people assume her problems are trivial (the metaphorical use of champagne problems). Her boyfriend truly loves her and is prepared to spend the rest of his life with her, but in the moment she finds herself unable to accept his offer. He had told friends and family, preparing for an engagement party afterward (a literal use of champagne problems). Instead he finds himself taking the train home alone, presumably reading a letter from the woman who has just broken his heart. For me the other layers of the story come in the repetition of the last line, “You won’t remember all my champagne problems.” Up until that point, it’s clear she has been reassuring him that he’ll move on, he’ll forget about her, and he’ll go on to have the happy ending he’d hoped for with someone new. The repetition of the line is key, because the first time she’s clearly saying it to him. When she repeats it after a pause, I think it’s a realization she’s having herself. She’ll be forgotten. He’ll move on, but where does that leave her? It calls into question WHY she’s rejecting this proposal. Is it because she really doesn’t love him and want a life with him, or is it because she’s trying to spare him a life of dealing with her illness? She knows he’ll find someone new, but will she? Is she ever going to find anyone again who will be willing to take on the baggage she’s carrying? Is she ever going to be capable of accepting and reciprocating a love that would require her to let someone in to see what she’s struggling with beyond the beautiful façade? She knows everyone will take his side and label her “crazy.” Is she truly following her heart, or is she sacrificing her own happiness for his because she thinks he’ll be better off with someone who’s not sick? I honestly could unpack this song forever. I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard and it’s certainly one of Taylor’s greatest songwriting accomplishments. Favorite lyrics: “Your Midas touch on the Chevy door, November flush and your flannel cure.” & “One for the money, two for the show, I never was ready so I watch you go.”

gold rush: This Jack Antonoff collaboration takes place inside the fleeting moments of a daydream. I love this concept for a song. It’s original but so universal. I’ve said before that the magic of her and Jack together is their ability to make things SOUND the way they FEEL and that’s certainly on display here. You can almost feel yourself looking wistfully off into the distance. She waxes poetic over how attractive the subject of her admiration is, plans a whole future together, and then concludes she doesn’t actually want to be with that person. The production builds perfectly to carry you off into the daydream, pulsing quickly through it, fading back out, and ending abruptly as she snaps out of it back to reality. The hook “I don’t like a gold rush” comes from the notion that this person is someone everybody wants. One of those ridiculously beautiful people no one can help being attracted to. Everyone flocking to the same place hoping to score. She knows better than to throw her hat into the ring, but she lets her mind wander for just a moment. Favorite lyric:“I don’t like that falling feels like flying ‘til the bone crush.”

’tis the damn season: Another Dessner track, this one talks about returning to an old high school flame when you come home for the holidays. It’s a sort of resigned, depressed admission that they both know it’s not going anywhere, but the feelings are still there and they might as well hook up while she’s home. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. I like how it starts in the middle of a conversation. On her end of things, she feels like he knows the real her as compared to her shallow, fake friends in LA. She sometimes wonders about the road not taken, admitting that it looks good when it’s standing right in front of her. But she also knows she’s never coming back to this small town and wouldn’t trade her success for the warmth of a familiar bed. On his end, there’s some hinted-at resentment that she left in the first place. We get the first mention of a truck since she left country music. I find this to be one of the more relatable dynamics she’s written about, especially recently. Favorite lyrics: “We could call it even, you could call me babe for the weekend.”

tolerate it: A heartbreaking look into a relationship where nothing major is wrong, but instead of being loved and celebrated, the woman is merely tolerated. Taylor said she drew inspiration for this character from her own experiences of “Trying to love someone who’s ambivalent.” (*cough* John Mayer *cough*) She delivers a trademark gut punch with the hook, “I know my love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it.” She’s loving him with everything she’s got, making them a beautiful home, looks the other way when he’s unfaithful, admiring him and always painting him in the best light. (I found the “use my best colors for your portrait” line to be one of many richly narrative metaphors she uses on this album.) In return, he simply tolerates her existence. I think the saddest part of the song is when the opening line is repeated, in present tense: “I sit and watch you.” She didn’t leave. This whole monologue has taken place in her head as she sits there watching him read, remaining silent and invisible. Favorite lyric:“But what would you do if I break free and leave us in ruins, took this dagger in me and removed it, gain the weight of you then lose it…believe me I could do it.”

no body, no crime: If you’ve even casually listened to country music over the last few decades, you know the satisfaction of the “He cheated on me so I killed him” song. On a tier above that is the “He’s a wife beater so I killed him” song. Now, here to claim supremacy once and for all, is the “He cheated on my best friend AND killed her, so I killed him and framed his mistress” song. Backing vocals by the HAIM sisters add a menacing, sultry contralto layer. I think this is a song Taylor’s been wanting to write for a long time; her vocals seem to relish each word. (Also why do I feel like Scott Swift absolutely did make her get a boating license when she was fifteen?) This isn’t the only song on the record that hints at Taylor dipping her toe back into country music. I am here for it, honey! I don’t have particularly strong feelings toward this song, but it does check a lot of boxes for me. A fascination with the macabre, mandolin and harmonica, women helping women dispose of violent men…check, check, check. Favorite lyrics: “No body, no crime. I wasn’t letting up until the day he died.”

happiness: Just when you think she’s written a song for every possible situation, Taylor goes and writes a song about divorce. I love how she opens in the middle of a thought and dives right in. The narrator is sifting through the confusion, anger, hurt, and disbelief of her circumstances. There’s a “The Great Gatsby” reference with the use of “I hope she’ll be a beautiful fool.” This song examines how our feelings ebb and flow with time. Two seemingly conflicting things can be true at once. Sometimes what we know intellectually doesn’t feel true in our circumstances. I also love how the narrator of the song goes through such a range of emotions as she speaks. It’s really a song that’s processing something, and I have no doubt many people have felt seen when they listen to it. Favorite lyric: “There’ll be happiness after you, but there was happiness because of you, too. Both of these things can be true.”

dorothea: I kind of didn’t need Dorothea because I already had Betty. In this world Taylor has created, Dorothea is written from the perspective of the lover in “‘Tis the damn season.” I mean what a moment for Tupelo! This isn’t a Taylor song that will become part of the fabric of my life in the way so many others have, but it’s good and it fits well on this album, which I can’t always say about the songs I’m not crazy about. Favorite lyric: “Well damn, Dorothea, they all wanna be ya, but are you still the same soul I met under the bleachers?”

coney island: I think one thing Taylor set out to do with this project is to silence her songwriting critics once and for all by proving that she can write anything. That should be obvious by now but there are still people who dismiss her. She can write a country chart topper. She can write a platinum pop album in an era when albums were dying. She can write arena rock. She can write a John Mayer guitar lick over a breakup ballad. I could go on and on. In her now-extensive collaboration with The National, she’s proving she can dominate the most elitist of musical genres, Sad White Boy Indie Pop. In my head, Folklore is set on a farm in the late 1800’s. Evermore is set in the 1920’s. The imagery of Coney Island, of something that was once grand but is now bleak, provided the backdrop to a relationship that ended because one person took the other for granted. The lyrics are a bit non-sequitur and remind me a little of The Killers. I have to be in a very specific mood to listen to this song, but I find something new each time. Favorite lyric: “Did I close my fist around something delicate, did I shatter you?”

ivy: Another tale of infidelity, which has emerged as a theme in her recent work. This is the only song where I felt her cursing was a bit gratuitous; like once she decided she was okay with an explicit rating she was trying to make up for lost time. The imagery in this one is particularly compelling. A woman who’s engaged to one man and in love with someone else compares the hold her lover has on her to ivy growing over a stone house. This one is spooky, and leaves open to interpretation whether the husband ever did catch them and burn the house down. I don’t listen to this one a ton because I have a toddler and cannot play this in front of her for obvious reasons, but it has stuck with me more than a lot of others on these two albums. Favorite lyric: “Your touch brought forth an incandescent glow, tarnished but so grand.”

cowboy like me: I love how subtle the backing vocals by Marcus Mumford are, but I want more Taylor + Mumford and less Taylor + The National/Bon Iver. This narrative is about two con artists in a transient town who meet their match in one another. Like several songs on this project, it starts in the middle of a thought. Just like in a con, there’s a bait and switch. You think the narrator got duped by a fellow con artist, only to discover by the end that the line “I’m never gonna love again” is because they’re found their forever. Favorite lyric: “Now you hang from my lips like the Gardens of Babylon, with your boots beneath my bed, forever is the sweetest con.”

long story short: How I wish we’d had this instead of “I Forgot That You Existed.” A Spark Notes version of Snakegate and the ensuing fall from public favor Taylor went through a few years ago, this one tells us everything we need to know. (You hear that, Taylor? We don’t need any more songs about how sad it made you to not be everyone on the planet’s favorite person.) This is the only song that could arguably have fit on a different album better, like Lover, for example. Tom Hiddleston is once again paid dust, and we get another small peek into what was going on in Taylor’s mind during that whole mess. The overall message of this song is one we can all relate to. Some things you go through in life seem so important at the time, but as you grow you realize you get to decide what matters to you, and the things that used to kill you seem petty in hindsight. Favorite lyric: “And he’s passing by, rare as the glimmer of a comet in the sky. And he feels like home, if the shoe fits walk in it everywhere you go.”

marjorie: The OG Taylor fans will remember early mentions of Taylor’s grandmother, Marjorie, being an opera singer. When Taylor first came on the scene, a lot of interviewers asked questions about where someone so young got their musical abilities. The answer always referenced her grandmother, who had a modicum of success as a performer, but always harbored dreams of stardom. This song is a beautiful tribute to her, and maybe one of the most personal songs Taylor’s ever released. Marjorie died right as Taylor’s career was starting, before Taylor could share any of it with her. Taylor’s mother has often said that Taylor’s resemblance to Marjorie is eerie, down to the mannerisms. You can tell she feels some guilt for getting to live out the dreams Marjorie had but gave up for family–the very choice that allowed for Taylor’s existence. Marjorie even left her performance dresses to Taylor, which she describes as her “closets of backlogged dreams.” Anyone who has felt the presence of a loved one even in their absence will find this song beautiful. Favorite lyric: “What died didn’t stay dead, you’re alive, so alive, in my head.”

closure: I could take or leave this song, I think I’m just sort of over the whole “Taylor has to get the last word in every conflict” thing. Like girl please let SOMETHING go. I would, however, love to know who this is about. This is a song with a bit more real-world application than some of the more deeply fictional tracks on these albums, and I think a lot of people can probably relate to it. Some people can’t stand to be held accountable and want you to pretend things are OK between you even though they haven’t really owned their side of it. Favorite lyric: “I know I’m just a wrinkle in your new life. Staying friends would iron it out so nice.”

evermore: I’ve come back to this song again and again. Of the two Bon Iver duets, I prefer Exile, but I love Taylor’s part on this one. Some people seemed to interpret it as being yet another song about her Sad Times circa 2016, but I thought it was about a breakup or loss of a friendship. It takes you on the journey from when you’re in the thick of the sadness, feeling like you’re going to feel that way forever, to when you’ve started to heal and you can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Favorite lyric: “I was catching my breath, floors of a cabin creaking under my step. And I couldn’t be sure, I had a feeling so peculiar, this pain wouldn’t be for evermore.”

right where you left me: If you look me in the eyes and tell me this is not about her final breakup with Harry Styles, you are LYING. She’s still TWENTY THREE inside her fantasy? Taylor was 23 when she and Harry were still on again/off again. We’ve all heard Style. All the mentions of hair pins and pinned up hair send it back in time and sort of give it A Rose for Emily vibes. This song could be at home on a country album, which I think is a direction shes hinting at deliberately to make Scott Borchetta sweat. I haven’t sat with this song a lot because it took forever to show up on streaming so I didn’t get to digest it with the rest of the album. But I really like it and I think it will stick with me. Favorite lyric: “If our love died young, I can’t bear witness.”

it’s time to go: A song about how you know deep down when it’s time to end any type of relationship. The unknown of leaving is scary, but you’re only holding yourself back by staying. Having the strength to walk away is the only way to allow what’s really meant for you to come into your life. This has more of an obvious application to her real life than many of the songs on this project, and I hope it will be the last where she feels the need to reference the break with Big Machine. As she continues to forge success without being shackled to them, I’d love to hear her explore more themes now that she knows fans will go anywhere she takes us. Favorite lyric: “Sometimes walking out is the one thing that will find you the right thing.”

I’m so glad we got these albums before the re-release of her old music really gets underway. They were a perfect illustration of her undying songwriting talent and something I don’t think she ever would have done were it not for a pandemic rendering the tent-poles of pop stardom (touring & marketing) pointless. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to mentally prepare myself for Breathe (Taylor’s Version) and would appreciate your thoughts & prayers.

To 20 from 30

November 8th will be my 30th birthday. It’s a little hard to wrap my head around that number, but I’m so excited for what my 30’s may hold. Hitting this milestone has me looking ahead more than looking back on the past, but I have found myself reflecting on where I was the start of this decade versus where I am now. I had so much fun writing my letter to Lyla on her first birthday and to my pregnant self. I wanted to speak to the 20-year-old version of myself, now that I have a decade more experience under my belt. I don’t tend to hold back, but I got really real in this one. Maybe there will be something here than resonates with you, no matter your age!

Dear Ashton,

Happy birthday! Your 20’s have officially started. SPOILERS AHEAD: This will be the year you have your first, actual, serious boyfriend (Hey, Stephen!), the year you get your first job, the year you learn what a toxic relationship is and begin the slow process of walking away from it, and the year you work at Disney World, which will turn out to play a major role in your life. I’m torn, because I don’t want you to do anything different. I want you to take all the steps that led you to the life you have here at 30. But there’s also so much I’d love to tell you, if you’ll let me.

On boys: Listen to me, pretty girl. If a boy who is worth your time likes you, it won’t be confusing. It will be easy and natural and fun and exciting. He won’t fall head over heels for you, then get bored the second you like him back. He won’t make your head spin with mixed signals, like sitting beside you in every group setting but spending the whole time making fun of you, or writing you letters in private, but acting too cool for you in public, or holding your hand ice skating one weekend and introducing you to his new girlfriend the next. He won’t swear up and down that the two of you are “just friends” but freak out when his girlfriend shows up at the restaurant where you’re eating, or motion for you to be quiet when she calls while you’re hanging out. (Begging the question, if we’re just friends, WHY DOES IT MAT-TER?!) You’re going to waste so much of your precious time trying to figure out which series of flaming hoops will get you those guys and constantly picking yourself apart wondering why you’re never the one anyone wants. I want you to repeat this to yourself and live by it until the right one comes along: I don’t want to CONVINCE someone to love me. You did not have to convince Jesus Christ Himself to love you. You sure don’t have to convince some boy. I don’t want to spoil too much for you, but if you could see the way your baby’s face lights up when the man you end up marrying gets home from work, not another tear would be shed over the boys who didn’t want you.

On body image: I know you don’t realize this because you’ve been so busy criticizing yourself, but you are a ten. There are a million girls in a million gyms trying to get the body you have without lifting a finger, and all you can see is what it doesn’t have enough of. Your skin is radiant (For the love of God, cherish it!), your stomach is flat (!!!!!), and your eyes are your secret weapon. There is nothing wrong with your size or your shape. As the version of you whose entire body responded to pregnancy like a balloon that had juuuuuuuust a little of the air let out, I am begging you to wear crop tops and bikinis as much as you can. And take pictures. Stop worrying that you’re not measuring up, what size you are, and what people think. No one questions someone who’s confident, they just question themselves. You are altogether beautiful, my love. One helpful hint? You have eyebrows. Do something with them.

On anxiety: Speaking of worrying, let’s just go ahead and cut back on that. When I look back at the photos from this year of your life, I see the fun memories and the smiles. I see you surrounded by incredible young women and true friendships. I see cute boys with their arm around you. And I know that you operate under the assumption that those girls are all better friends with each other than they are with you. And that none of those boys like you, they’re just being nice (Hint: boys aren’t nice). You would never say it out loud, but the voice in your head isn’t a big fan of yours. All your life you’ve made your decisions primarily out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of disappointing your parents or a teacher or a bible study leader or any adult for that matter, fear of “doing it wrong.” You’re in Cru with a ton of kids from Nashville and Louisville who are getting together to write songs and you’ve never even told anyone that you sing. Or that you’ve been writing songs in your notebooks since you could write. You think anything outside the very acceptable “get a scholarship-go to college-pick a sensible major-get a good job” model is for kids who are braver than you and whose parents are richer than yours. If there’s anything I could change for you, it would be that. Stop thinking so dang hard about everything. Do the thing you want to do. You are allowed to fail. You’re allowed to try something and not be incredible on the first try. There is no Achievement Police. I could write a whole book on this topic, but I’ll leave you with something I know you’re going to think sounds lame: Just breathe. Trust me. It’s never as complicated as you’re making it.

I think that’s all for now. This is a great year, full of learning about yourself, working through some baggage you’re carrying, spontaneous adventures, and opening yourself up to love and heartbreak. You’re so beautiful, and life is so good right now. Let it be that simple. Your future is a dream come true, I promise.

My Personal Ranking of Taylor Swift Songs

I started this post when I was 38 weeks pregnant and needed something to occupy my mind (besides the endless list of unpleasant side effects of being great with child). I never published it because I thought people would think I was insane for writing it in the first place and I didn’t think anyone would read it.

My how times have changed!

Now we’re all quarantined for Coronavirus and we have enough time on our hands that maybe a few people will be bored enough to read this admittedly ridiculous post. And…Taylor Swift is the topic I get asked to write about more than any other topic. So I’m giving the people (all five of you) what they want! Full disclosure: this list does not contain “Christmas Tree Farm” or “Only the Young” because they were released after I wrote it and I was NOT about to go back and re-do all the numbers. But I can sum up my thoughts by saying: Christmas Tree Farm slaps, Only the Young does not.

Some items of note:

-Cover songs & songs released by other artists are not included

-Taylor’s age when writing the song was taken into heavy account when ranking

-I like country music/singer-songwriter music better than pop, which influences the rankings

128.Girl At Home: I cannot come up with one positive thing to say about this song, which is why it ranks last. The entire premise is annoying. A guy wanted to cheat with her and she said no. Based on the lyrics, she thought this made her a feminist hero. It did not. I still cringe at the clunky “I know I don’t know her but I feel a responsibility to do what’s upstanding and right.” When it comes to the Taylor Swift discography – in the immortal memes of Mariah Carey – I don’t know her.

127.I Heart ?:This was released on the “Beautiful Eyes” EP exclusively for Wal-Mart in 2008. And you know what? Wal-Mart deserved better. Even at the time, when I was positively guzzling the Taylor Swift Kool-Aid, I didn’t understand the point of this song. It doesn’t make any more sense in hindsight. It’s supposed to upset a guy who did her wrong that she has “I Heart ?” written on her hand. Yeah…I have a lot of question marks, too.

126.Christmas Must Be Something More: Listen…I think Christmas means something more. But this song is preachy nonsense. I’ll take my Yuletide sermons from The Grinch and The Muppets, thank you very much.

125.Beautiful Eyes: Another Wal-Mart EP release. Because Swift is such a prolific songwriter, even her duds aren’t bad, per se. This track is simply irrelevant in comparison with some of the other stuff she wrote at this age.

124.Stay Beautiful: I never could get into this one. Yet another song about pining away for a guy who just doesn’t know she’s been there all along. I have no problem with that theme (see You Belong With Me), but this one never gets off the ground lyrically.

123.Speak Now: The theme of the Speak Now album is derived from the phrase in a traditional wedding ceremony, “Speak now or forever hold your peace.” The premise is: it’s better to say how you feel and risk the results than it is to sit in silence and let your chance go by forever. Unfortunately, this title track does not capture that sentiment. It’s awkward and contrived. Speak Now is such a triumph as a whole, which is why this song sticks out as particularly bad for me.

122.Gorgeous: I want to like this song. I’m happy that Taylor is happy. But the lyrics leave so much to be desired. I mean I really can’t say much for the sad/mad rhyming in the bridge and the monotony of the verses. She has spoiled me to the point that I expect more from her.

121.Superman: This bonus track from Speak Now is about seeing your man as a hero, even if he’s just walking out the door to go to work. That’s a wonderful premise. Below the surface, it’s about a relationship that is absolutely toxic. Swift hopes he doesn’t “save some other girl,” and says she’ll be waiting for him on the ground, wishing he would call. We can surmise through context clues that this song is about John Mayer, which adds a whole ‘nother level of cringe.

120.Innocent: This was written about the Kanye situation. I guess I should specify…the original Kanye situation, when he stole the mic from Taylor at the VMA’s and declared Beyoncé’s video the greatest video of all time. It features poignant lyrics and an almost haunting melody, but feels just a teensy bit gratuitous given that Kanye didn’t, like, murder anyone. His subsequent behavior feels more deserving of a strong response than his original offense. Also, while I have the microphone, Beyoncé doesn’t need Kanye to advocate for her. She’s Beyoncé.

119.A Place In This World: This one gets some pity points for being one of the first songs Swift ever wrote. She was just a kid, after all, which explains why this track doesn’t say much of anything. Although…there are people (or should I say men?) on country radio right now who couldn’t write this song now, much less as a child.

 118.False God: Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” already did what this song was trying to do and did it better. Also, I am completely creeped out by songs that equate sex with religion. Not today, Satan.

 117.The Moment I Knew: Taylor Swift has an uncanny ability to make her experiences feel universal, no matter how many personal details she shares. However, the hyper-specificity of heartbreak resulting from the realization that your relationship is over because your boyfriend didn’t show up to your birthday party after he said he would be there is too much for even her abilities.

116.The Outside: Another one of Swift’s first songs. This one is about feeling left out by girls at school. A bit redundant alongside “A Place in This World,” I rank this one the higher of the two because it has a clearer narrative.

115.Call It What You Want: I’m so glad Taylor is at a place in her life where she doesn’t care what people say about her relationship, she’s happy, and she has boundaries in place to allow her to keep some things for herself. I just did not connect with this song. I find the bridge where she answers her own question (Would you run away with me…yes) annoying. I feel bad even saying that because I really am happy for her and I want her to feel the way this song describes. It just didn’t do anything for me personally.

114.Sweeter Than Fiction: I have a love/hate relationship with the songs Taylor does with Jack Antonoff. This one leans closer to hate. I forgot it immediately after listening to it the first time. It struck me as clunky and over-produced. But he also gave us Out of the Woods, so it’s hard to be that upset.

113.Starlight: Taylor has been known to be quite the revisionist historian (she once gave an interview where she claimed “Style” was inspired by the timelessness of certain fashion trends), and she takes several liberties with this fantasized account of how Ethel Kennedy met Bobby Kennedy. I’m just not a huge Kennedy family fan, so I’m not prepared to dance to a song about their matriarch’s fictionalized love story. *shrug emoji*

112.King Of My Heart: Again, I couldn’t be happier for Taylor. I don’t care for the chorus on this one and overall it’s a bit too electronic for my taste. An honorable mention for the line: “Is this the end of all the endings?”

111.Superstar: This song has a beautiful melody, but I am just not a fan of the subject matter. It’s about being in love with a celebrity and knowing they’ll never know who you are. I mean…we can all relate, but I’m not sure we need to sing about it. The chorus gets stuck in my head sometimes in spite of myself, which is a testament to Taylor’s ability to craft the perfect earworm.

110.Christmases When You Were Mine: Leave it to Taylor Swift, The Patron Saint of Breakups, to provide us with a song that laments feeling lonely at Christmastime. If you’ve never been broken up with during the holidays, perhaps you can’t appreciate how deeply it sucks. But let me assure you from personal experience, it definitely feels like something there should be a Taylor Swift song about.

109.A Perfectly Good Heart: A bonus track from her debut. There’s nothing wrong with this song, but there’s nothing great about it either. Of course, if you were a recently heartbroken teenage girl circa 2006, this song was required listening.

108.Tied Together With a Smile: Written about a girl Taylor knew in school who struggled with bulimia, this one struggles a bit in the verses. But the chorus is so good I can’t rank it any lower.

107.I’m Only Me When I’m With You: A cute bonus track about feeling understood in a relationship. It’s an encapsulation of what it’s like to be young, when we all feel like no one understands us except our friends. I loved this song when it came out; but it’s not one I go back to like some of her other early tracks. It also gets knocked a few slots for production that sounds like it was recorded in an abandoned barn, which I think it sort of was.

 106.You Need To Calm Down: I always respected that Taylor wanted to keep her politics to herself. I never understood the backlash she got for that. I also respect that we all grow and change over time, and she is now at a place where she wants to use her platform in that arena. It does, however, feel a leeeeeetle bit much to go from being completely silent on all things political to literally telling people who to vote for and endorsing federal legislation. Like, I have whiplash from just typing that. It’s a fun song that makes some good points. I’ll stop there because the internet is a scary place for discussing politics.

 105.The Lucky One: Ah, the classic “fame sucks” lament that every artist eventually puts out if their career lasts long enough. I loved the aesthetic of the Red album so much, and this just didn’t fit with that vibe. I must give credit, though, for the lyric: “And your lover in the foyer doesn’t even know you.”

104.Picture To Burn: Two tracks in on her first album and Taylor was already showing us she could serve up a revenge track ice cold. Dripping with sass, this song perfectly captures the bratty emotions of high school heartbreak. What Southern girl didn’t want to scream “You’re a redneck heartbreak who’s really bad at lying” at her cheating boyfriend? You’re not likely to hear this one now if Swift has anything to say about it. Its politically incorrect original lyrics have made it a song she refuses to perform.

103.Welcome To New York: Eventually everyone who moves to NYC succumbs to the Stockholm Syndrome of the place. This song gave us a wealth of Instagram captions for our trips to New York. As the 1989 opener, it also brought to life the 80’s synth sound Taylor was exploring on her first official foray into pop. I could take this song or leave it, especially in comparison with some of the other songs on 1989.

102.Mean: For reasons unclear to anyone but Taylor, there was a time when she was fixated on the negative feedback of one particular critic. I won’t name him here because he’s gotten enough attention. This song was a direct response to his negative reviews. It’s hard not to love an anti-bullying anthem set to banjo, but the bridge is a bit harsh. Swift calls him “pathetic and alone in life.” At the time she released this song that felt like a sick burn. Now it just feels, well…mean.

 101.Better Than Revenge: This is probably one of those songs Taylor should have written but never released. It’s objectively a good song, with major Paramore energy that sees Swift embrace delicious, villainous pettiness. It’s everything you want to say to the girl your boyfriend left you for, but saying it out loud in front of the whole world is not ideal. Add to that the fact that Swift performed this on tour complete with faux slapping her backup singer across the face and you get a big fat yikes. ALSO, this song is on the same album as “Mean.” Irony abounds.

 100.Bad Blood: In the same vein as Better Than Revenge, this song was about a personal vendetta and ended up playing right into the media trope that women are catty rivals. The songwriting once again shines on the bridge, however. “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes. You say sorry just for show. If you live like that, you live with ghosts…If you love like that blood runs cold.” A chilling lyric, indeed.

 99.Look What You Made Me Do: There’s a lot about this song that I respect. The fact that it was such a MOMENT in pop music, the genius of sampling perhaps the wormiest earworm of all time (Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”), the fact that she finally played the villain and not the victim…I could go on. But what attracts me to Taylor’s music is the lyrics, and this song doesn’t deliver in that arena for me. But of course, Taylor is incapable of writing a song without at least one lyrical nugget. Here they’re “Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time!” and “I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me. I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams.” P.S. my feelings are still hurt from seeing all the Old Taylors falling down in the music video.

 98.Eyes Open: I rank this one higher than a lot of songs I listen to more often because it demonstrates Taylor’s ability to extract a narrative even when she hasn’t lived it. Commissioned to write for the Hunger Games movie soundtrack, she penned this from Katniss’ perspective in the arena.

 97.The Man: This song makes all the points and it couldn’t be more well-timed. I don’t rank it super high because I don’t want to listen to it over and over. It’s a bummer how true the lyrics are, especially in the music industry.

 96.Wonderland: This 1989 bonus track compares a tumultuous relationship (i.e. Haylor) to a fall down the proverbial rabbit hole. As Taylor notes, “It’s all fun and games ‘til somebody loses their mind.” The song feels very dissonant and frantic, emphasizing the meaning of the lyrics.

 95.London Boy: In spite of the fact that this sounds like if the EPCOT U.K. pavilion wrote a song, I like it. As a totally basic Anglophile, it speaks to me. Critics have been hard on it but Ryan Tedder said it’s one of his favorites so…critics who?

94.Red: I always say I don’t like this song, but every time I go back to the Red album (every fall, obviously), I have to admit it’s a banger. For me, this is one of the few Taylor Swift songs where the production/performance value outshines the lyrics.

93.Stay Stay Stay: The secret message (oh, how I miss those days) in the album liner for this song is, “Daydreaming about real love.” We can therefore presume it’s not about anyone in particular. But I like to imagine Taylor listening to this song now and realizing it was about her current relationship, she just didn’t know it at the time. One thing I love about Taylor’s music catalog is you could make a playlist of the saddest breakup songs or the happiest, bounciest songs with equal ease. Stay Stay Stay is most definitely on the bouncy playlist.

92.Never Grow Up: This song features one of the saddest lyrics I have ever heard: “I just realized everything I have is someday gonna be gone.” SHEESH. Taylor wrote this song after moving out on her own and it reflects beautifully on the fleeting nature of childhood. I don’t tend to go back to this song much because it’s so very sad.

91.Change: This victory anthem was written after Swift’s first big wins during awards season and ended up being the Olympic theme for Team USA. There’s not all that much to say about this one, but it ranks above others I like for the sole fact that it shows off how freakishly long Taylor can hold out a note.

 90.I Forgot That You Existed: I’m a little bummed about all the songs Taylor has written about Kanye West. I’m sad that he took up that much space in her life. Hopefully, this is the last one we’ll ever hear, because it’s the ultimate kiss off. Broadly, it applies to the moment you realize you’ve stopped giving a toxic person power in your life—and it no longer takes effort. “It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference.” I wish you all the freedom of that moment with the toxic people in your lives. (Lord knows we all have them.)

89.I Wish You Would: This Jack Antonoff track has a little too much going on for me, but it features Taylor at peak pop star vocals so things even out. The lyrics feature things we probably all wish we could say to a lost love in those weak moments when we want them back.

88.Dancing With Our Hands Tied: This song gives us a glimpse into what it’s like to have a relationship in the public eye. Taylor had all but decided she would have to be alone as the scrutiny surrounding her relationships seemed to make them impossible to manage. But then she fooled around and fell in love. I wish this was a little more ballad and a little less bass drop, but I do appreciate the glimpse into her world provided by the lyrics.

 87.ME!: It can’t be overstated how much Taylor loves an emo moment. So it makes total sense that she would work with Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco! fame. But…plot twist! They teamed up for the happiest little self-love anthem you’ve ever gotten a spelling lesson from. I love the juxtaposition of the lyrics “And there’s a lot of cool chicks out there/And there’s a lot of lame guys out there.” Ain’t it the truth?

 86.How You Get The Girl: I seem to recall Taylor saying in interviews during 1989 press that this song contains the instructions you should follow if you want to win back a girl you did wrong. This sweet-as-cotton-candy track, like the wispy treat, is best enjoyed sparingly-but it sure is fun from time to time.

 85.New Romantics: Clearly influenced by her life in New York, this strikes me as the modern version of something F. Scott Fitzgerald might have written about the 1920’s. I realize that’s an extremely bold statement, but it’s about navigating a social landscape that is completely of its time. If I were still in college I would write an essay about this parallel. This is another that’s chock full of one liners Swift had surely been sitting on like, “Cause baby I could build a castle out of all the bricks they threw at me.” Another honorable mention: “The rumors are terrible and cruel, but, honey, most of them are true.”

 84.I Don’t Wanna Live Forever: I want to rank this lower because I have so much distaste for Zayn and Fifty Shades of Grey. But I love the bridge, Lord help me! It would be hard for anyone to keep up with Zayn vocally, though it pains me to admit it, but Taylor delivers.

 83.Dress: I mean…what to say about this song that I’m comfortable publishing on the internet? I think what separates this from other *sexy* songs of this era is that it highlights the intimacy of being known and accepted even at your worst by your significant other. I honestly can’t believe no one beat her to this hook, but then again of course they didn’t. She thinks our thoughts before we think them, y’all!

82.I’d Lie: I would have taken this on the debut album in a heartbeat before A Place in This World, The Outside, or Stay Beautiful. This is one of my favorite early Taylor songs and it’s a crying shame it was relegated to the Walmart EP. This is an early example of Swift’s ability to include hyper-specific detail (“…born on the 17th”) and yet somehow make the lyrics feel totally universal at the same time. “First thought when I wake up is, ‘My God, he’s beautiful.’ So I put on my makeup, and pray for a miracle.” Who can’t relate to that…especially in high school?

81.So It Goes: My vanilla, conservative self is a bit scandalized by this song, but I love the production. And the bridge, as so many of her bridges, goes OFF. I do take issue with the lyric, “I’m so chill but you make me jealous.” I love her dearly, but if anyone on this planet has no chill, it’s Taylor Swift.

80.Come In With The Rain: A lovely ballad with profound lyrics like, “I’ve got you down, I know you by heart. And you don’t even know where I start.” This bonus track from Fearless: Deluxe Edition is fairly simple but packs a punch.

79.Tell Me Why: A Fearless deep cut that sees Swift finally telling off a person who insists on keeping her down. This song contains one of my favorite lyrical asides: “And here’s to you and your temper, Yes I remember what you said last night.”

 78.The Best Day: This is a lovely tribute to Taylor’s mom. The last chorus always gives me chills. I’m pretty sure if you listen to this and “Soon You’ll Get Better” back to back, you’ll turn into Sadness from Inside Out.

 77.Miss Americana And The Heartbreak Prince: Taylor swears this song is a political commentary. I don’t think the song makes a ton of sense regardless of how you look at it, but as the kids say, it’s a vibe.

76.Invisible: Though lyrically a bit simplistic compared to some of her other ballads, this song captures the big, big feelings of watching the boy you like date someone else. This appears to be something Taylor experienced a lot of in her time, which could be why I latched on to her music so tightly. Ya girl knew a thing or two about unrequited love, and no one articulates it better than Ms. Swift.

75.Mary’s Song (Oh My My My): A sweet storyline inspired by Swift’s elderly neighbors, this song has aged well. If you want to feel all warm and fuzzy inside or need a song to play at your grandparents’ 50th anniversary party, might I recommend this track? The fact that this was never a single upsets me to this day.

74.Should’ve Said No: This song showcases some of Taylor’s best early vocals. If you’ve ever been cheated on and you haven’t scream-cried to this song…you’re lying. This song also represented a *moment* in Swift’s career. It was given the honor of a rain performance and played at some of her earliest award show appearances. This is not a song I tend to go back to, but whenever I hear it, I must say it holds up well.

 73.Hey Stephen: Who knew so many words rhymed with Stephen? One of several songs where Taylor names names, this one details a meet-cute that left her daydreaming about a future with the Stephen in question. This track is sweet as sugar, and I’m a sucker for any song that includes a well-placed giggle. It also has several stand-out lyrical moments, including, “All those other girls, well, they’re beautiful, but would they write a song for you?” We know as well as Stephen that the answer is no.

72.It’s nice to have a friend: The production on this one is so interesting and soothing. It really evokes the feeling of simple companionship talked about in the song. I like the linear imagery of an easy childhood friendship, a friendship that blossoms into romance, and ultimately enjoying friendship with a spouse.

 71.Getaway Car: Finally, a peek inside what in the actual heck was going on in her mind during Hiddleswift. Don’t get me wrong, Tom Hiddleston is attractive, but even as a diehard fan I remember thinking “What is she doing?!” As it turns out, she needed a reason to leave Calvin Harris, just as everyone who has ever dated a professional DJ eventually needs a reason to leave them. She uses a sort of Bonnie and Clyde metaphor to describe a doomed relationship that was only ever meant to be a diversion. If you’d like a visual aid to go with this song, I suggest googling paparazzi photos of Taylor and Tom in Italy, where it is abundantly clear on her face that nothing good starts in a getaway car.

 70.Today Was A Fairytale: There is a substantial amount of hate for this song within the fandom, but it’s my party and I’ll stick up for underappreciated soundtrack songs if I want to. I think seeing the magic in everyday life is a hallmark of Taylor’s songwriting and it’s a tenet of my worldview, so Today Was a Fairytale forever! This song was the cornerstone of the soundtrack for Garry Marshall’s “Valentine’s Day.” Her vocals are gorgeous, the lyrics are sweet, the haters gonna hate.

69.The Way I Loved You: Sigh…the lure of the bad boy. If you’ve ever been guilty of thinking that drama = love, this one’s for you. With a breathless head rush of a chorus, narrative verses, and a driving bridge, this one is a standout on an album of pretty much all standouts.

 68.End Game: In case you ever wondered if Taylor Swift could write rap, the answer is yes. “And I bury hatchets but I keep maps of where I put them” would be at home on any hip hop chart topper. She also serves us sultry power vocals and cheeky winks at the camera like “I swear I don’t love the drama…it loves me.”

 67.Ready For It?: As I just mentioned, Taylor Swift can rap. Who knew? There will never be a bigger flex than “He can be my jailer, Burton to this Taylor.” Now…when are we gonna get that Drake collab?

66.Shake It Off: I loved this song so much when it came out, I made it my alarm. Consequently, I am now #triggered every time I hear it. But I will still never be over the bridge. And I maintain that “the fella over there with the hella good hair” is Harry Styles.

 65.Daylight: When I heard “I once believed love would be burning red, but it’s golden,” I was shooketh. I don’t *love* ending an album with a voice memo, but the line “you are what you love” made sense to wrap up an album titled, “Lover.”

 64.Crazier: Don’t @ me, but these are some of Taylor’s best vocals ever. What a travesty that they appear on the Hannah Montana movie soundtrack of all places. This is a sweet country slow dance that, in my opinion, didn’t get enough love from fans.

 63.Sparks Fly: The Taylor Swift fandom is living proof that if you just b*tch and moan enough, eventually you will get your way. This song is Exhibit A. It was an unreleased track Taylor had only performed live, and fans essentially harassed her until she recorded a studio version. Another lyrical classic from the School of Swift Songwriting, it features kissing in the rain and a metaphorically significant staircase. This song loses it a little bit in the second verse for me, but the chorus goes so hard I don’t really care.

 62.Untouchable: This is the only cover song to appear on this list. Swift gets songwriting credit for completely re-imagining the melody of this Luna Halo tune. Honestly, she did this song several favors. We can’t give her credit for the lyrics, but this may as well be a Taylor Swift song by the time she’s done with it.

 61.You’re Not Sorry: Taylor has evidently met a lot of toxic people in her time. This song describes the moment you decide you’re done with a person who apologizes over and over but keeps hurting you. As always, she is well beyond her years here in terms of emotional maturity.

 60.The Story Of Us: That awkward moment when you dated John Mayer and it ended badly (does any relationship with John Mayer end well?)  and then you’re seated near each other at an award show. We’ve all been there, amirite? Despite the inspiration behind this song being something none of us will ever experience, Swift works her magic and spins a narrative we can all relate to. She serves up major Shania Twain vibes with the sassy spoken transitions (“Next chapter…”). This song is chock full of impactful one-liners that describe what it’s like to watch the story of a relationship change so drastically from what you thought it would be. Among my favorites? “But you held your pride like you should have held me.”

 59.Death By A Thousand Cuts: Mmmkay, full disclosure: the phrase death by a thousand cuts doesn’t super resonate with me. But this mega-bridge cannot be denied. (Her heart. Her hips. Her body. HER LOVE.) Thank God she can still write a breakup song. I may be happily married but we all have feelings to feel!

 58.Jump Then Fall: This first track from Fearless: Platinum Edition fits perfectly with the rest of the album’s themes. Young love, jumping into a relationship without fear, and Being Extremely Cute…all elements of the Fearless Era. The dreamy verses and lilting chorus are full of lyrical gold nuggets like, “I had time to think it o-over, and all I can say is come closer.” If you can listen to this song and not smile, you might be broken.

 57.All you had to do was stay: Inspired by a dream, this pop anthem is a big sorry ‘bout it to an ex who wants you back when THEY’RE THE ONE who let you go. I love the lyrics in the pre-chorus “People like you always want back the love they gave away, and people like me wanna believe you when you say you’ve changed. People like you always want back the love they pushed aside, but people like me are gone forever when you say goodbye.” You tell him, Taylor.

 56.I think he knows: When the relationship is so on you don’t even have to define the relationship. Despite the fact that I could not for the life of me understand the lyric “I want you bless my soul” and FULLY believed it was “I want you, that’s my toe.” and was baffled as I have never been baffled in my life, this song grows and grows on me. Let’s all sing together: LyricalsmileindigoeyeshandonmythighwecanfollowthesparksI’lldrive.

 55.You are in love: If I practice cognitive dissonance and willfully forget that this was inspired by Lena Dunham and Jack Antonoff, two people whose relationship I would like to know absolutely nothing about, this one is in my top tier of her love songs. I love the quiet pulsing–the imagery of those seemingly mundane and yet in hindsight huge and defining moments in a relationship. There’s also a pretty defining Swift lyric in the bridge, “And you understand now why they lost their minds and fought the wars. And why I’ve spent my whole life trying to put it into words.” Also, the dancing- in-a- snowglobe lyric? We have to acknowledge that You Are in Love walked so Lover could run.

 54.I Know Places: This is a song about Taylor realizing that any relationship she has is going to have to take place out of the public eye in order for it to survive. At least, that’s what she said during 1989 press. She went on to put us through Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston so I’m not sure the lesson sunk in at the time. This song gets me in my feelings because I love her and Harry Styles and I feel like they just never got a CHANCE because there were so many eyes on their relationship. I don’t think they would be together today, but I do think they could have had a long relationship with an amicable breakup. (Or, if I’m being honest with myself, he would have habitually cheated on her with Victoria’s Secret models). But just think of the songs we’d be missing out on if it weren’t for all the turmoil.

 53.Holy Ground: Part Three in the Joe Jonas Trilogy. Swift looks back on a relationship with the patina of time and hindsight and realizes it was good. There’s not a single low point in the lyrics, the driving beat is downright exhilarating, and she sings the crap out of it. A personal favorite moment? The way she attacks, “And I guess we fell apart in the usual way, and the story’s got dust on every page, But sometimes I wonder how you think about it now, And I see your face in every crowd.”

52.Treacherous: Poetic verses, a pretty chorus, and a bridge that could be a chorus make up this song about recognizing a relationship might be risky, but going for it anyway. A standout lyric: “And all we are is skin and bone; trained to get along. Forever going with the flow, but you’re friction.” If we got a whole album of this singer/songwriter vibe from Taylor I would die happy.

51.The Last Time: This duet with Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol is immersive, understated, cinematic, and y’all have slept on it long enough. Honestly the entire Red album is so emotionally evocative for me (except Starlight and The Lucky One, boooooooo!). This is one I don’t hear a lot of fans talking about but I love it. So I guess as the kids would say I’m a “The Last Time” stan? Regardless of how you phrase it, if you see me in my car with this song turned up way too loud trying to sing both parts by myself…just mind your business.

 50.Begin Again: The sweetest little almost-acoustic ballad about working up the courage to go on a first date after a bad relationship. For inquiring minds, this was inspired by a date with the lead singer of Parachute and I’m willing to bet “Kiss Me Slowly” is about this same date or a date thereafter. I love the sentiment of this song and it’s one of her many that we can all relate to. It’s SO hard to open yourself back up after being hurt. I love the hopefulness of this song. It feels like she’s laying down a weight she’s carried far too long and taking a deep breath.

 49.We are never ever getting back together: Written as bubblegum pop as possible to piss off a Top 40-hating hipster ex, this song gives us new levels of pettiness to aspire to. (Or not aspire to? Don’t be petty unless it’s making you a lot of money.) One of my many obsessed fan opinions is that the voice memo in this talking about him calling her and saying “I still love you” is about the same phone call she references in All Too Well. That’s called GROWTH, girlies.

48.Long Live: A lot of Taylor Swift fans could take or leave this song, but I have a personal connection to it. I did a Cru summer mission working at Walt Disney World the summer after Speak Now came out, and all the fairytale references fit perfectly with my experience. You know those experiences where you live so much life with a group of people that you can’t really explain it to anyone who wasn’t there…kind like summer camp? This song is the anthem for those. So many of the lyrics are special to me, but the one that makes my heart flutter is, “Long live the walls we crashed through, how the kingdom lights shined just for me and you.” #emporiumforever

47.Afterglow: Thanks to Taylor, women now have an anthem for when they get into a needlessly huge fight with their partner because they were feeling a lot of things. I can think of so many arguments with Andrew that fit into the narrative of this song, where I made assumptions that then fueled my emotions without ever giving him a chance to explain himself. I love the heavy drums in this track and the line “This ultraviolet morning light.”

 46.I Did Something Bad: I wish so badly this had been the opening single from Reputation. What Blank Space started, IDSB finished. Swift fights back against criticism surrounding her dating life with this banger she claims to have written from a character’s perspective. Personally, I think she was just being completely honest. The lyrics left me wondering, “Girl, did Tom Hiddleston spend your money?!” The production, the hand claps, the clap backs…who could ask for anything more?

 45.New Year’s Day: Yet another example of an incredible lyric being tossed in as an outro: “Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.” This piano ballad sees Swift reflecting on having found a relationship that will weather the highs, the lows, and the mundane in between. Your love is not just by your side for the glitter and excitement of New Years’ Eve, they’re cleaning up after the party with you the next day. Ever the songwriter, she notices the poetic significance of this.

 44.Delicate: The opening lines of this song knocked the wind out of me when I first listened. “This ain’t for the best. My reputation’s never been worse, so he must like me for me.” Wow. This prequel to Cornelia Street is full of all the hope and vulnerability of the beginning of a relationship, before it’s officially official. That stage when you realize you really like this person and you don’t want them to date anyone else but you aren’t sure if it’s too soon to say that. Well, you better believe Taylor Swift says it.

 43.Cold As You: The fact that this song was co-written by a 15 year old is stunning. The lyric “So I start a fight cause I need to feel something, and you do what you want cause I’m not what you wanted” still slays me. The lyric about dying is the only reason this song doesn’t rank higher for me. It pushes it just a little too far over the top. But the emotional intelligence she displays here is truly impressive. If you’re a casual fan but have never listened to deep cuts from the debut, this is one to seek out.

 42.Soon You’ll Get Better: The only reason this song and Ronan aren’t ranked higher is because I can’t really listen to them without getting depressed. They are both beautiful songs and there are people who need them. For those who don’t know, Taylor’s mom has been battling cancer for the last several years. This song, featuring fiddle and breathy harmonies from the Dixie Chicks because that’s her mom’s favorite band, gives us a glimpse into the private fears and grief Taylor has been carrying as her mom fights. There is nothing to critique about a song that so bravely and beautifully captures something so many can unfortunately relate to.

 41.Ronan: I don’t know of another artist who could write this song. I’ve only listened to it once because it was so devastating, but I think about the lyrics often. The main charity Taylor works with is St. Jude. Through her work with childhood cancer, she found the story of a four year old boy named Ronan who died from a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma. His mom kept a blog of their journey. Taylor was inspired by her words to write this song. She names Ronan’s mom as a cowriter, ensuring she would get a share of the royalties, and donated proceeds from the song to cancer research. I wish this song didn’t have to exist, but I have to imagine it captures the feelings of anyone who has lost a child to cancer. What a wonderful way to use your talent to impact those who need it most.

 40.Haunted: Taylor Swift can do so many things well. Haunted sounds like it could be an Evanesence song. But no, it’s just Taylor, embracing her emo side. Pulsing violins create a frantic sound and Taylor’s aggressive vocal is fraught with emotion. In addition to her versatility, Taylor can also articulate emotion sonically as well as lyrically. Haunted is a prime example.

 39.The Other Side Of The Door: Dare I say it? The ranting bridge to end all ranting bridges. Every Taylor trademark you could want is present and accounted for: waiting in the pouring rain, rocks tossed at a window, fighting hard and making up harder. This is a song about fighting with a guy and then wanting him to try and win you back. If only Elizabeth and Nick had this song, Annie and Hallie might never have been separated. (Thank you to anyone who appreciates that Parent Trap reference)

 38.Cornelia Street: An instant classic from her latest album, Cornelia Street is the sequel to Delicate. The memories from the start of this relationship are so precious, she couldn’t bear to relive them if she ever lost this person. Those of us who have been lucky enough to find true love can relate to that. This song has one of my favorite lyrical couplets of hers, “Barefoot in the kitchen, Sacred new beginnings.”

 37.Out of the woods: This is another Taylor Swift song that I have lain awake at night thinking about. You guys. It literally SOUNDS like being lost in the woods. I mean how? The whole second verse is amazing (the paper airplane necklace reference!!), and the bridge features lyrics both hyper-personal and universal, as is her genius. (I say hyper-personal because none of us have ever been in a snowmobile accident with Harry Styles.)

 36.Back to December: Remember all those memes about how Taylor Swift should have a song called “Maybe I’m the problem”? (I won’t get into my feelings on the sexism of that because the internet is not large enough to contain them.) Well joke’s on them because she already did, and it was called “Back to December.” This was the first time Taylor apologized to a boy in a song. Taylor Lautner was real sweet to her, you guys, and she let him go. But at least he has this beautiful balled to remember her by, with lyrics like, “It turns out freedom ain’t nothing but missing you.”

35.Forever & Always: Every breakup needs a good emo moment (or several), and this was Taylor’s when Joe Jonas broke up with her quite unceremoniously over the phone. I detect a bit of Alanis Morissette energy in the line, “Did I say something way too honest? Made you run and hide like a scared little boy?” I can tell you right now that as a senior in high school who was ghosted by the boy she was dating (before ghosting was even a term) literally the week this album came out, this song spoke to me. Taylor would go on to record a piano version of the song that explores the lyrics as a devastating ballad rather than an angry romp. In either version, her songwriting shines.

 34.Style: Yet another song that applies very specifically to Taylor’s life and yet manages to remain relatable. On the one hand, a song about dating Harry Styles and not being able to stop dating Harry Styles even when you’re not dating Harry Styles. On the other hand, a song about a relationship that always seems to have a place in your life, even when the two of you aren’t officially together. To be honest, now that I type it all out, both scenarios are equally relatable.

 33.Teardrops on my guitar: There is only one word for this song in the TSwift canon: Iconic. Even if the song itself isn’t your favorite, it established so many distinct characteristics of Swift’s songwriting. She names names. She switches up the lyrics in the last chorus. It features an excellent use of the repeated opening/closing lyric. This song also demonstrates Taylor’s ability to magnify minutia sonically and lyrically to match the way it feels. The reality is, Drew was some scrub she had a brief crush on in the single year she actually attended high school. This song turns those feelings into an epic. If you’ve never watched her cover this on the Red tour, do yourself a favor and look it up now.

 32.Our Song: Swift wrote this for her high school talent show. Let’s have a moment of silence for the self-esteem of the other performers. Our Song is a lyrically innovative story of young love at its sweetest. Lines like “When we’re on the phone and you talk real slow, ‘cause it’s late and your mama don’t know” provide the relatable emotional snapshots that are such a trademark of her songwriting. Just try to listen to this song without feeling like you’re 15 again.

 31.Don’t Blame Me: Taylor tries her hand at “church choir but make it sexy” and dang it if she doesn’t knock it out of the park. I feel like because we had this song, we didn’t need False God. If you’re one of those people who still insists Taylor Swift can’t sing, please listen to this song and get back to me. Actually don’t get back to me. I don’t have room in my life for that kind of negativity.

 30.Paper Rings: Add this one to your kitchen dance party playlist. I love the lyric “Honey, without all the exes, fights, and flaws, we wouldn’t be standing here so tall.” I want this song to soundtrack the next Drew Barrymore rom-com and I really can’t give a higher compliment than that.

 29.If This Was a Movie: This bonus track from Speak Now has never gotten enough love. There has been some lyric confusion in the fandom surrounding Taylor’s lack of annunciation. How many Eli’s out there mistakenly thought this song could be about them? This song captures the sadness we feel when we realize it’s not going to work out like it does in the movies.

28.Ours: A bonus track that ended up taking on its own life as a single because it was just that good. The whole chorus is gold. Ours is one of many examples of Taylor sneaking heart-stopping lyrics in bubblegum songs. “Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine.” You’d be hard pressed to find a lyric like that in anyone else’s bonus track.

27.Fifteen: “In your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team. I didn’t know it at fifteen.” That’s just one of many impactful lyrics in this reflection on this tender age. Anyone who has ever been a fifteen year old girl has cried to this song. It’s true; all you want is to be wanted at that age. But there are bigger dreams out there for us all than fake love from high school boys. Thank God we have Taylor to remind us.

26.Fearless: This is a Taylor Swift song I go back to over and over. This whole album is so thematically perfect. It came out my senior year of high school and listening to it is like stepping into a time machine. Swift’s songwriting doesn’t always thrive on title tracks (see: Speak Now), but this song captures the essence of the album while also standing alone.

25.State of Grace: When you think arena rock, you probably don’t think Taylor Swift. And yet this song exists. She describes the beginning of a relationship as a state of grace, before anything has gotten messed up and everything is possible. This was truly a new sound for her at the time, making it a perfect opening track to Red. She fires off one-liner after one-liner with huge vocals surrounded by an immersive drum beat. “These are the hands of fate. You’re my Achilles heel. This is the golden age of something good, and right, and real.”

 24.I knew you were trouble.: I will go to my grave swearing this song is about John Mayer. I think Miss Revisionist History puppeteer-d the narrative that it was about Harry Styles because it sold more albums. Or maybe it’s a Carly Simon “You’re So Vain” style roast of several guys. Who knows? Regardless of who it’s about, this was the song that solidified Taylor as a pop star.

 23.Safe & Sound: Taylor Swift has served her fans just about everything we could ask for over the years, and with this song she served us spooky lullaby vibes. The macabre little weirdo in me could not love creepy Taylor more. The harmonies created by The Civil Wars only enhance the goosebump factor. This was another track she did for the Hunger Games soundtrack (See: Eyes Open) when asked to imagine the lullaby Katniss might have sung to Rue in the arena.

22.22: I agonized for longer than I care to admit over these rankings, but when I saw that 22 had ended up ranked number 22 without me trying, I knew I was done. This song came out the year I turned 22, my senior year of college. I lived with three of my best friends. For each of our birthdays, we were woken up by a dance party to this song. The amount of love and nostalgia I feel for this song is hard to measure. In addition to having a personal meaning, this song just nails what it’s like to be in your early 20’s. It is, in fact, miserable and magical, oh yeah. This is a Taylor Swift song that became a cultural *thing.* Everyone who has turned 22 since it came out has referenced it in some way, even Harry Styles himself.

 21.Wildest Dreams: Even when she’s a cynic about love, Taylor can still write the heck out of a song. The pounding of Swift’s own heartbeat anchors this mournful yet resigned reflection on the fact that almost all relationships end. With lyrics like, “Someday when you leave me, I bet these memories follow you around,” this is one of the few Swift songs that doesn’t end on a hopeful note.

 20.Come Back…Be Here: This is a bonus track buried deep on the Deluxe Edition of Red. It’s a long distance relationship theme song. More specifically, it’s about realizing you’ve fallen for someone after they’re gone. It’s also the first time she used the word “delicate” to describe the beginning of a relationship. So basically Come Back…Be Here walked so Delicate could run.

 19.The Archer: This is Taylor Swift at her most self-aware, and consequently her most vulnerable. Her vocals blanketed by synth and vocoder, she sings “Who could ever leave me darling—but who could stay?” There’s a lyrical juxtaposition between this song and New Year’s Day, the album closer on reputation that I love. In the first bridge of NYD, she sings “Hold on to the memories, they will hold onto you. And I will hold onto you.” In The Archer, she sings at the end of both verses, “Help me hold onto you.” It’s so interesting to hear her acknowledge that she maybe doesn’t know how to be in a good relationship. We can all have a tendency to self-sabotage. And now we have a Taylor Swift song about it.

 18.Sad Beautiful Tragic: As much as I love “22,”  “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and “We are never ever getting back together,” there’s part of me that wishes Red had been all ballads and singer/songwriter acoustics. Part of the reason I wish that is because of this song. Taylor has a way of finding beauty in sadness. This song is about the moment in a breakup when you stop villainizing the other person and realize you two were just bad together. There were beautiful times that felt like magic, but for whatever reason the two of you could never get that back once it was gone. The lyrics are wonderfully brutal. “Words, how little they mean when you’re a little too late.” “You’ve got your demons and darling they all look like me.” “Hang up. Give up. For the life of us we can’t get back…” This song makes me wish I was sad even when I’m not.

 17.Everything Has Changed: Here is another example of Taylor Swift just nonchalantly throwing in one of the best lyrics you’ve ever heard. In the outro she sings, “All I know is we said hello, so dust off your highest hopes.” She wrote this song with Ed Sheeran on a trampoline, and I don’t know a better way to describe it than to say it sounds like she wrote it with Ed Sheeran on a trampoline.

 16.I Almost Do: In a catalog of highly relatable songs, this one might be the most relatable of all. Instead of calling an ex she knows she shouldn’t speak to anymore, she writes this song. If only we could all be so productive in our moments of weakness.

 15.This Love: Over time, this track snuck up on me as one of my favorites from 1989. Taylor originally wrote this as a poem. It was produced by Nathan Chapman, who she worked with extensively on her country albums. It sounds like a siren song that might call out to you in a dream, with layers upon layers of restrained vocals. Seemingly built upon the old adage “If you love something let it go, if it comes back it’s yours,” the lyrics tell of a love she let go only to have it come back into her life right on time. “These hands had to let it go free and this love came back to me.” Poetry, indeed.

14.Enchanted: This might be the most Taylor Swift song there is. It honestly boggles the mind how she can take these tiny moments that we all experience, and blow them up lyrically and sonically to match how it felt to live them. Taylor meets a guy and thinks he’s cute and that they have a connection. Out of that we get this sweeping, cinematic masterpiece. There are sparkles and wonder and 2:00 am hoping…all the whimsical elements that make up our beloved TSwift.

13.Tim McGraw: The one that started it all. RIP to the careers that were killed when a 16 year old girl rode in on a song she wrote with Nashville veteran Liz Rose and it was this good. I’ll never forget hearing this for the first time in the car with my mom. We both stopped talking to listen to it all the way through. When we got home I Googled “Taylor Swift,” and the rest was history. A perfect country song, this track features a clear storyline and references Georgia, a Chevy truck, back roads, and God.

12.Breathe: Another song I go back to time and time again. This is such a poignant reflection about having to cut a person out of your life, but knowing they’re not a villain. I love the line, “Never wanted this, never want to see you hurt. Every little bump in the road I tried to swerve.” It’s been ten years since this album was released and every time I listen to this song may as well be the first time.

11.Blank Space: Taylor Swift saw your boyfriend slideshows and she raised you this irreverent bop. (For heaven’s sake, she did not date Zac Efron.) The day 1989 came out I had a hard time getting through the whole album because I just wanted to listen to this song over and over. Years later and I could still have it on repeat. I can’t pick one lyric to highlight because they’re all solid gold. And that pen click in the chorus? *chef’s kiss*

10.Cruel Summer: I didn’t know that Fall Out Boy Taylor was missing from my life until I heard Cruel Summer. Written as a Pete Wentz-style series of compelling imagery and jarring one-liners, this contains some of her boldest lyrics. “I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you’ve ever heard?” she shouts on a frantic bridge bookended by searing verses. I’m not sure but I think to drive around on a summer night with a car full of friends singing this as loudly as possible might be the law now.

9.Clean: If you have never gotten in your feelings in your car while it’s raining and this song plays in the background…have you even lived? Taylor teams up with delightful weirdo Imogen Heap to create a musical wonderland that describes what it feels like when you realize you’re finally over your ex(es).

8.You Belong With Me: If we were in a Ghost of Christmas Past style flashback of my life right now, we might look through the window of my hot pink bedroom and find an 18 year old Ashton performing the living hell out of this song in front of her dresser mirror. This is not just a song—it’s an anthem. Yet another example of Swift’s ability to include personal detail that feels universal.

7.Lover: With the sonic ambience of the last song played at a local dance in the 1960’s, Lover is Taylor’s greatest love song. I’ll never stopped being confused that she thinks leaving Christmas lights up until January is an act of rebellion, but that hardly matters in comparison with the rest of the lyrics. “My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue. All’s well that ends well to end up with you.” “And at every table, I’ll save you a seat.” She captures the cosmic coziness of true love.

6.White Horse: A breakup song that takes the fairytale theme and turns it on its head, with yet another reference to a stairwell. (Seriously, she loves stairs.) There are so many beautiful lyrics in this song, but the one I find most affecting is “This ain’t Hollywood, this is a small town. I was a dreamer before you went and let me down.” One of the things I love about Taylor’s breakup songs is they always end with a declaration of strength. In White Horse, she leaves that small town in the rearview to find bigger and better things. How is she so sad and yet so powerful?

5.Last Kiss: Undoubtedly one of the most devastating breakup songs ever written, Last Kiss features lyrics that silence even the loudest Swift skeptic. “So I’ll go sit on the floor wearing your clothes, All that I know is I don’t know how to be something you miss.” The entire bridge is so sad I can only describe it as emotionally indulgent. Like any Taylor Swift ballad, Last Kiss hurts so good.

4.Lovestory: Out of all her songs, this one is probably the most closely associated with Taylor by the world at large. It details a storybook love that feels timeless in any age. The lyrics ask us to believe that the fairytale love we dream about is real, even when it’s difficult. I don’t know her personally, but having listened to her most recent album, Lover, I have a feeling that sentiment rings more true now than ever for her.

3.Dear John: This song—and hear me out here— is one of the greatest acts of feminism in the last century. I don’t know if we can put audio in the Smithsonian but, if we can, I nominate Dear John. We all suffered watching human Lisa Frank kitten Taylor Swift date walking STD John Mayer circa 2009. When she came out of her teenage-girl-infatuated-with-brooding-guitar-player stupor, she wrote this song. Where do I begin? The opening Mayer-esque guitar licks…the searing vocals…the triumphant reminder that she’s not just a girl in a dress. She’s a songwriter. And rest assured, she’ll write your ass under the table if you break her heart.

2.Mine: “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter, You are the best thing that’s ever been mine.” YOU.MADE.A.REBEL…OF.A.CARELESS.MAN’S…CAREFUL.DAUGH.TER. This is the lyric Taylor tosses in to an upbeat, radio-friendly pop song. I have lain awake at night thinking about the genius of that lyric. This ranks number two for me because if you’re asking me the top examples of who she is as a songwriter, number one is a devastating ballad. Number two is a sparkly pop song that, created by any other artist, would have been fun but forgettable. When created by Taylor Swift, even the bubbliest pop song is packed with stunning lyrics.

1.All Too Well: In the Taylor Swift fandom, it’s downright cliché to rank this song as her best. But I just can’t help myself. I still remember the moment I first heard this song. I had been through a breakup the year before where the guy I was dating long distance broke up with me over the phone. I cried in my car as each lyric seemed to read my most intimate thoughts. “And you call me up again just to break me like a promise, so casually cruel in the name of being honest.” Though much ado has been made about the scarf featured in the song, that is not the point. (I swear if one more “journalist” asks Jake Gyllenhaal where the scarf is, I’m going to light something on fire.) The scarf is simply a metaphor for the little pieces of yourself you leave with someone in a relationship, and you never get those pieces back. Your mind races with memories, and the distance between those memories and the heartbreak you feel once the relationship ends can be devastating. But the triumph of Taylor Swift is that even in her sadness, she is empowered. “You can’t get rid of it, ‘cause you remember it all too well.” Swift knows she’s a lot to lose. And when you listen to this song, no matter how heartbroken you are, you know that you’re a lot to lose, too.

And that, reader, is her gift to us. Taylor Swift never runs from a Big Feeling. She embraces, embodies and magnifies what it’s like to feel without restraint. Are you sad? Great! Cry about it. Is there a bathroom floor nearby? Lie on it. Is it raining? So much the better. Have you fallen in love? How wonderful! How magical! Might I suggest kissing in the rain, having a pivotal conversation at 2:00 am, and feeling sure your love for this person is eternal despite having known them a literal day? That is, after all, what Taylor Swift would do. And God bless her for it. She’s become the soundtrack to so many of our lives by unapologetically living her life as an exposed nerve, acutely aware of the poetry of everyday life. And for that she will surely go down in history as one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

How to stay active when you hate exercise


Nothing is more #onbrand for me than hating exercise. When I was four years old, my dad asked me if I wanted to sign up for T-ball like all my friends and I responded, “…Why?!” I was just never that girl who liked physical activity, and that pattern continued throughout my life. I dreaded P.E. every day of school. (Seriously, the only B I got in all of high school was in P.E. How does that even happen?) In college, I went to my campus gym a grand total of three times in four years.

Over the years I’ve battled a lot of anxiety, which has resulted in difficulty sleeping, stomach problems, low weight, and lack of energy. My husband was always encouraging me to get active, but I never really made a serious change. It wasn’t until I got pregnant that I had the motivation I needed. If my baby was going to be using my body as a home, I was going to make sure it was the healthiest body I could give her! Here are the ways I’ve introduced healthier habits I can stick with!


  1. Get moving: You don’t have to sign up for a marathon to get off the couch. Set aside time in your day every day to move your body. Go for a walk around your neighborhood. Put on a playlist you love and dance around your kitchen. Stretch when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed at night. The more you choose movement instead of just sitting, the more you’ll realize how desperate your body was for a little activity.
  2. Do yoga: Yoga is the only form of exercise I’ve been able to stick with. I think yoga is a great starting point because you’re not going to be pouring sweat or doing intense cardio. You’re addressing fundamentals like good breathing and awareness of your muscles and joints in a way that feels very do-able for those of us who are fitness challenged. Find a local yoga class and invite a friend to go with you. Or, if classes scare you, there are tons of great yoga videos on Youtube that you can do in the privacy of your own home!
  3. Drink water: If hydration was a religion, my husband would be its greatest evangelist. Staying hydrated will do so much for your health. Dehydration causes low energy levels and tons of other health problems that make it that much harder to get active. Wondering if you might be dehydrated? Here’s a tip I’ve learned during pregnancy: you aren’t fully hydrated until your pee is almost clear like water. If you’re like me and have a hard time drinking enough water, cut up fresh fruit to add a little flavor. I also make unsweet, decaf iced tea and mix it with organic lemonade for a low-sugar Arnold Palmer. For me, anything I can do to add a bit of taste makes me more likely to drink. I also drink way more when I use a straw, so I try to keep a tumbler with a straw with me all the time. Find what works for you.
  4. Sleep tight: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night and that your sleep is routine. If you’re not sleeping well, there’s no way you’ll have the energy to get active. I once read that sleep isn’t a bank you can make deposits and withdrawals from…it’s something you have to give your body consistently. Even grownups need a bedtime. Wake up at a consistent time, too. Make sure the time you wake up on your days off is no more than an hour later than your regular routine, otherwise you’ll throw your body off track. I personally have always had trouble falling asleep and am deeply offended when my alarm goes off in the morning. These are the things that have worked for me to get the best quality sleep:
    • Set a cutoff time for screens. The blue light from our screens hinders sleep. About an hour before you go to bed, stop all screen time. And yes, this means your phone, too.
    • Have a bedtime routine. Every night when I climb into bed, I put on lip balm, put on hand lotion, and settle down with a book. I genuinely think I’ve trained myself like a dog to know that these steps mean it’s time to turn off my racing thoughts and get in sleep mode.
    • Write it down. If you struggle with turning your brain off at night, store a notebook and pen in your nightstand. If you can’t let a thought go, write it down. Whether it’s a list, reminders for the next day, or a prayer to give whatever is worrying you to the Lord, get those thoughts out of your head once and for all instead of lying there and dwelling on them.
  5. Don’t eat garbage: To this day I would eat out for every meal if I could. As far as I’m concerned, the drive thru is the greatest luxury every invented. But if you consistently feed your body with things that have no nutritional value, there simply is no way it can function properly. Pregnancy has caused me to eat the healthiest I’ve ever eaten, because my baby can’t grow a body out of french fries. Making better food choices has been a huge part of helping me feel motivated and capable to incorporate exercise into my routine. Summer is a great time to get in this habit because there are so many delicious fruits and veggies in season. If you’re into shopping local, let that translate into your grocery shopping. Support local farmers through co-ops or farmer’s markets in your area.
  6. Start small: The lifestyle I’m leading right now is pitiful compared to someone like my husband, who has prioritized fitness for many years. But it’s a huge victory for me! Take baby steps and celebrate your progress.

What are your favorite fitness tips for beginners? What habits have stuck with you? I’ll be on Instagram this week sharing some of the ways I incorporate these tips into my day-to-day life. Reach out on there or Facebook with any questions or comments!

How to Spring Clean Your Closet


We’ve finally enjoyed a few days of spring weather, and I feel like a new woman! I’ve lit my lemon-mint candle, I’ve painted my nails pastel, and I’m forging ahead with spring cleaning! One of the areas in my home that needs the most TLC is my closet. Opening your closet shouldn’t stress you out. You probably open it multiple times a day! Today I’m sharing how I go through my clothes and accessories to keep my wardrobe well-curated and my closet de-cluttered.

Eliminate Obstacles

This is my number one approach to getting rid of clothes. Every item in your closet should be something you can easily and comfortably wear. As you go through your clothes, note any obstacles that keep you from wearing them. Examples include:

-It’s itchy or uncomfortable. You’ll never wear it, and if you do, you’ll be miserable all day.

-You can only wear it with a certain bra. In my experience, that certain bra is usually uncomfortable and may require an engineering degree to put on. You’re never going to feel like going through the trouble to make it look just right and ensure no wardrobe malfunctions throughout the day.

-It only goes with one other thing in your closet (i.e. you can only make one outfit with it). I have a rule that every item in my closet has to be able to pull at least double duty. I have to be able to wear it two different places, wear it alone in summer and layered in winter, or be able to pair it with several other items in my wardrobe.

-It doesn’t fit. If something doesn’t fit, you can’t wear it. If you do wear it, you’re going to be self conscious. And every time you pass it up in your closet, it’s going to chip away at your self esteem. You’re clothes aren’t allowed to do that to you!

As you are going through and picking out your outfit for each day, if there is something you consistently skip over for any of those reasons or others, get rid of it. This will reduce so much stress in your every day routine.


Don’t get sentimental

Clothes are for wearing, not for looking at. You may have had a wonderful time in that corset-back bridesmaid’s dress, but chances are you don’t have any hand-maidens to help you get dressed in the morning. I have to remind myself that I can keep the memories without keeping the physical item. If there are items in your wardrobe that you’re only keeping because of sentimentality but you never wear them, that’s called hoarding. Choose a select few that you will wear or pass down and let go of the rest.

Make the best of your space

Andrew and I have shared a closet since we got married. The closets in our townhouse are small, so we kept our out-of-season clothes in the guest closet. No matter what we did, our closet never looked clean and there never seemed to be enough space. This year we realized we weren’t using our space efficiently. We consolidated all my stuff into the master closet and Andrew took the guest closet. Now each of our clothes are in one place and we’re not elbow to elbow trying to get ready in the mornings. Whatever space you have, make it work for you. It doesn’t have to look like Pinterest, it just needs to be functional. For example, the trend in organizing right now is to have all matching hangers. But I found that the no-slip hangers stretch out some shirts, so I use a mix of no-slip and plastic hangers. No one would Pin this photo, but this is what works for me. List out the problems with your closet, list out how you need your closet to function and what you need storage for, and compare those two lists to find solutions.

Remember that you don’t have to clean your closet all at once. Curating my wardrobe is something I do continually throughout the year. So when it’s time for spring cleaning, it’s not such a huge undertaking. Have a spot for donations in your house where you can let things collect until you’re able to make a drop off. As you get ready each morning, make note of clothes you always pass up. If you wear a pair of shoes and you’re uncomfortable all day, don’t put them back in your closet. Toss them or take them to the donate pile. Life is too short, y’all!

I promise when you get your closet cleaned out you will feel such a weight lifted off your shoulders. Getting ready will be so much easier and you’ll be free of some clutter. If you take on the challenge, tag me in your before and after pictures on social media!

How I paid off my student loans in half the time

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Yes…you read that correctly. My student loans are completely paid off five years after graduation! For a girl who literally feels anxious just looking at numbers, this was a huge accomplishment. I’m no financial wizard…in fact, I could have paid my loans off even sooner if I had been more disciplined. But today I’m sharing with you what I DO know: that if I can pay off my loans, you can too! These are the main steps I took to achieve this goal!

Live below your means:

One of the basics of financial planning is that you should be living off about 80% of what you take home. For me, 10% gets tithed to my church, and another 10% goes to savings. The remaining 80% is used to pay expenses. I used Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps as a guide. Once I had saved up $1,000 for emergencies, I stopped saving and started putting that 10% toward debt. I have never skipped tithing a paycheck since Andrew and I have been married, and the Lord has always been faithful to provide. Having an emergency fund in savings ensures that if unforeseen expenses arise, you won’t have to go into credit card debt to cover those expenses.

Set a monthly budget:

I’ve found over the years that the best way to track my budget is by month rather than by paycheck. If I try to track it further than that, I get overwhelmed. But if I track it paycheck by paycheck, it doesn’t give me an accurate view of how far each paycheck needs to go. My natural tendency is to look at the balance in my bank account and think that all of it is spending money. (Yes, I realize that is idiotic but that’s just what we’re dealing with here.) To avoid overspending, I check in with my budget weekly. I am much more careful with my spending when I see each transaction coming out of my account versus going weeks without looking at my finances and then being shocked at my balance. I also save non-essential spending (anything I want but don’t need) for the end of the month so I can be sure everything has been paid. I personally don’t use the Dave Ramsey cash envelope system for two reasons: 1) I keep up with my banking better by being able to see every charge recorded online. 2) Heaven forbid if my wallet is stolen, I can cancel my debit card. I can’t replace all my cash.

Learn financial discipline:

This is the big one, and unfortunately no blog post can make you change your spending habits. I woke up at the beginning of 2018 and realized I was so tired of paying on a student loan for a degree that wasn’t giving me much return on investment. Don’t get me wrong, I loved college and I’m so glad I went. But in the five years since I graduated, I have not once gotten a job that required a bachelor’s degree. It just didn’t make sense for a large portion of my income to go toward something that wasn’t reaping me tangible benefits. That was the fire I needed to set a goal of paying my loan off within the year.

To make that happen, I took on a second part-time job and dedicated 100% of my income from that job to my loan. I realize that is not practical for most people, but bear in mind that prior to this I had a three-day-a-week part-time job. So if you have a full time job, you are definitely making more money than I was with both jobs combined. To make my income go farther toward debt, Andrew paid all fixed expenses (rent, bills, car insurance, etc.) out of his income. When he lost his job through the military, this got tricky, but we just kept doing our best. Each month, I would budget extra tight for each category, and then at the end of the month, I took everything left and put it toward my student loan. This was in addition to my regular monthly payments. There were months that were more difficult than others, but by staying consistent, I ended up paying off my loan over the course of 2018!

The biggest piece of advice I can give is that if you want to pay off a debt bad enough, you will sacrifice other things in order to do it. We canceled our cable. I didn’t buy clothes all year except with my Christmas money, after I already knew I would meet my goal. I didn’t buy any home decor. We didn’t go to the movies or do any major traveling. If there was something I wanted, I asked myself if I was willing to subtract that amount from what I would pay to my loan that month. The thought of having that loan paid off was so much more rewarding than buying whatever I wanted in that moment. I also worked my butt off, many times working six days a week juggling two jobs to make extra income. If you are a two-income household, see if you can possibly live off one income for a period of time and use the other income to pay entirely toward debt. That season of living small will be so worth it if you can eliminate some of your debt.

Obviously if you have children, this will look different for you. You can’t just not buy your kids clothes for a year. If you don’t have kids yet I would really encourage you to buckle down on debt before they arrive, because the expenses that come with kids are unavoidable.

Keep in mind that we are not a debt-free household. With Andrew’s salary loss last year and me working part time jobs, we definitely incurred debt for his education. But that didn’t discourage me from knocking out my education debt, and it motivated us to avoid any additional debt from credit cards. I’m going to stop there before this gets any longer. I know this post was really general, so let me know if you have any specific questions! The moral of the story is: with discipline you really can reach tough financial goals and come out celebrating on the other side!