SputStaff Top 10: Taylor Swift Songs

Published: June 14, 2022

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After four long years of inactivity, the SputStaff Top 10 is back! The staff at Sputnikmusic put their heads together and tried to come up with the most badass way to reboot the series, and, uh, the best we could muster was T-Swizzle. She knits sweaters, yo! Anyway she might be the biggest pop star in the entire world, and at just 32 years old, she already has quite the extensive catalog. If you’re anything like us, you’ve spent many sleepless nights tossing and turning in bed wondering what the top 10 Taylor Swift songs are. Thanks to our dedicated staff, you can finally put your mind at ease. We’ve done all the legwork, turned over every stone, and split every hair — so without further ado, I present to you the esteemed and irrefutably correct top 10 Taylor Swift tracks of all time.

Honorable Mentions:

15. Out of the Woods

14. I Knew You Were Trouble

13. Tolerate It

12. Shake It Off

11. Style

Sputnik Staff Top 10 Taylor Swift Songs:


(10) “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

from Red (2012)

Close your eyes – bam! We’re back in the Golden Age of Taylor Swift: a time when Swift owned vanilla rather than inadvertently epitomising it, when her worst ideas were also her best ones, when her ex-bait was stronger than her queerbait, when she gleefully muddied the debate of how seriously to take her as a songwriter by dedicating half her best writing to tracks that never demanded to be taken seriously at all. What a time! “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” takes me back like nothing else. I certainly never saw it ageing well when it originally dominated the radio, but its tongue-in-cheek fun and soft veil of irony both feel miraculously, refreshingly weightless by the standards of our current godforsaken decade. If youthful playfulness has kept it buoyant over the years, then the rest of its stock surely lies in pure dumb catchiness. Love ’em or hate ’em, those hooks are absurdly strong within or without the Taylorverse ; check into any karaoke booth, and it’s still Swift’s chief masterpiece alongside “Love Story”. Could anything be more important? Swift does hold her ground as a lyricist, but her giddy thrills and speed-dialled heartbreak have always said more in shallow instantaneousness than though any hint at depth. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is impeccably shallow and I wouldn’t want it any other way… –JohnnyoftheWell


(9) “New Romantics”

from 1989 (2014)

…and while we’re on the topic of Taylor Swift’s intersection between frivolously fun and seriously good, “New Romantics” is practically an ideal of plasticised pop exhilaration. The giddy materiality of Swift’s 1989 persona comes to a head in a snapshot of everything her Speak Now persona would have slut-shamed shot down with a blunderbuss of sour grapes. Potentially Swift’s most outgoing display of confidence to date, “New Romantics”‘ sheer momentum overrides any need for stability in its excess or sincerity in its self-satire; it takes maturity to gauge how to run away with yourself, and sensation to go there half so thoroughly as this. The song’s least convincing quality by far is its placement as a bonus track – even if we are too busy dancing to get knocked off our feet is a little mouthy compared to haters gonna hate […] I’m just gonna shake, then it’s still at least as infectious.  –JohnnyoftheWell


(8) “Enchanted”

from Speak Now (2010)

Enchanted is maybe the most Taylor Swift song that Taylor Swift has ever penned. It’s the perfect encapsulation of two of her most prominent eras. It’s got the youthful innocence of “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story”, the dramatic storytelling lyricism of “All Too Well”, and the pop sensibilities of all of her best work. It plays into all of her strengths in the way only that an artist who is incredibly confident that they wrote a great song can. Not only does she know her strengths, she takes advantage of some of her vocal limitations, with the soft falsetto delivery in the chorus adding to affectation that the song is creating – All of these are the signs of a songwriter and performer coming into their own. Is there maybe too much going on in the song? Yes, absolutely, but that is part of the charm. The bridge is absolutely wild but the guitar solo into the staccato instrumental beats with a timpani and string section will get me amped every single time. Taylor will probably never release a song like “Enchanted” again and for good reason. She’s matured past it and, while that is bittersweet, it’s probably for the best, as it would be near-impossible to top a song like “Enchanted”. –dmathias52


(7) “Exile”

from folklore (2020)

Here’s to the first – and spoiler, only – inclusion of anything from Taylor’s most recent incarnation as an indie-folk songwriter. And what better way to represent the era than with the Bon Iver-featuring ‘exile’? Whose tender, piano-driven duet isn’t the most exciting thing on this list, but just might be the most beautiful. Hear, in it, the sweetness of Swift’s voice crashing against the roughness of Vernon’s. Hear that bridge, sad and pretty, epitomising everything a collaboration between these artists should be. And hear Taylor at her freest, stripped down, stripped of any real expectation, having already earned her place in the culture. –BlushfulHippocrene


(6) “22”

from Red (2012)

So I definitely wasn’t “22” when Red was released in 2012, but maybe I should’ve. I mean I wasn’t that far off the mark right? “22” is about feelings, coming of age and blasting inhibitions out the window. Either way the song itself is catchier than an epidemic. Or is it an epidemic? Maybe that’s just Red, a collection of solicited bops and anthems. “22” sat on a precipice of Swift’s country go pop sounds that decidedly fails to fully let go of the former. Shots at the naysayers and critics come Swiftly, while pensive party hooks shed Taylor of her more traditional country style twang. Swift’s ability to meld a rebellious context over a sensible pop beat will always be one of her stronger moments in songwriting and damn you if you manage to get the trill of twenty-twoo-oooo-oo out of your psyche in less than fifteen minutes. Still, this blatant attempt at pop country crossover works – ushering in the new wave of T-Swizzle unabashed in her own potential for self maturity. –Gnocchi


(5) “Cruel Summer”

from Lover (2019)

Taylor Swift strikes me more than most as an artist who builds her music around Moments. Lover is an overlong, inconsistent mess of a release, but its hit rate of Taylor Swift Moments is decently impressive, and the best Taylor Swift Moment by far is the bridge of “Cruel Summer”. Even from an artist who excels at a killer bridge (justice for “Out of the Woods”, brutally excluded from this list), “Cruel Summer” is something else. The way it shifts the entire landscape of the song from mid-tempo Antonoffcore to pulse-pounding arena-pop, the quickening of the vocal melody, the absolutely killer drop-out of every instrument in tandem with the most pleasantly strained vocal Swift has ever released to the public (HE LOOKS UP GRINNIN’ LIKE A DEVIL). A perfect segue back to the chorus, itself a hook that would make most of Swift’s competition blush here just playing second fiddle, and then one more reprise of the bridge rounds off what at this point is basically just a flex from pop’s biggest name. It’s by no means one of Swift’s most emotional songs, nor a notable lyrical triumph from a writer whose storytelling songs generally reside a couple of tiers above everything else; but “Cruel Summer”‘s naively yearning tone pairs beautifully with the finest demonstration yet of her intuitive skill with song structure and melody, resulting in one of her most compact, replayable bangers. –Rowan5215


(4) “Blank Space”

from 1989 (2014)

When I listen to “Blank Space” it feels important. Almost all of the lyrics adduce a nexus of possibilities, a bunch of ways things could go in this particular torrid act of coupling/decoupling, from the modal verb “could” in such phrases as “I could show you incredible things,” to the exhortation “let’s be friends” before the sardonic negation “I’m dying to see how this one ends,” and of course the unforgettable “So it’s gonna be forever / Or it’s gonna go down in flames!” Swift surely gives up some quality or other of aesthetics or reflexivity in her decision to hew to all these admittedly generic conditionals. But just as “Love Story” generates its narrative energy from the putative distance between the fantasy world in which it takes place and that of the earthbound narrator, “Blank Space,” and to me maybe “Blank Space” alone, thunders with the force and direction of like a million possible worlds, all collapsed into the same gut-punch of pure unfiltered teen (or like whatever) infatuation and betrayal. That force, which is musical and lyrical at heart, is why it feels important.

And so it is that “Blank Space” has its cake and eats it too, the force of its insistent hip-hoppy skip-beat and its plangent acoustic guitars and its simple words working together to conjure up an indelible mental image of Swift presiding deity-like over the spectacle of Schrödinger’s Relationship while still mucking about in its depths, conveying both the lurid flux of personal interdependence and providing a sober perspective on the ineluctable modality (as Joyce would put it) of the game of love. Perfect pop and more than that, this #1 hit is the best goddamn sleight-of-hand magic trick you ever did see in any context ever, musical or otherwise. “Blank Space” as a title and lyric is a metaphor, I guess, for the point just before a relationship gains its constitutive “content”. My brother once said that romance is how we add narrative to our lives. What’s amazing about “Blank Space,” I think, is that it conveys with unusual force not only the intensity of the romance in question but also the processing consciousness of this girl-narrator, we’ll call her Taylor Swift, who knows that by entering into something serious with this dude she is catalyzing a narrative of utter disintegration and entropy, but who is doing it anyways. I think we have a lot to learn from “Blank Space,” from the way it works on our brain, heart, and nervous system–that is, not from some particular lesson or other Swift has to proffer directly to us but because, as with the best pop music, shit just hits different. –robertsona


(3) “You Belong With Me”

from Fearless (2008)

Sometimes I try to predict which songs will be remembered fifty years from now, and it’s surprisingly difficult. You can’t go off chart placements alone, or even critical acclaim. The best way to figure this out is to look at the past. The songs that remain with us for decades are the ones that feel universal – “Dancing Queen,” “Imagine,” “Respect.” For my money, “You Belong With Me” is Swift’s most universal song, and will stand the test of time to fit right alongside those legends. I think every single alloromantic person has felt the feelings Taylor expresses on this heartfelt song. Everyone I know has felt at some point, if not most, that they are on the bleachers of life, and anyone who’s been a teenager has felt that they know a friend better than their friend’s partner, whether their intention is to end up with them or not. It’s not just about the lyrics, as relatable as they are: it’s fast-paced, but still gives you plenty of room to breathe (check the negative vocal space immediately after the first line – beautiful!). And breathing is essential for a song as tailor-made (ha) to sing along to as this one. It’s an absolute anthem, a perfect meld of country and pop that captures the spirit of unrequited love better than anyone was willing to give her credit for in 2008. –granitenotebook


(2) “Love Story”

from Fearless (2008)

While I never suffered the ignominy of being walked in on masturbating as a teenager, I *did* get caught listening to Love Story alone in the dark when my parents came home early from a soiree. While any notion of “shame” – or evocations of the constraining category of “guilty pleasure” – was either feigned or extremely gentle, there was something about listening to such an emotionally bald song – one with mass appeal and credentials of appealing to universality, no less – that was embarrassing in a way that’s less thinkable now, when, rightly or wrongly, Taylor Swift domin-ates/-eers over the realm of endorphin-rush popular music, and exemplifies the Cultural Shift Towards Poptimism better than any other artist. Insanely Good: misogyny can no longer be wielded for critical dismissal; pop music is being appraised through a critical lens in ways new and exciting; some of the uglier archetypes of Rockist dialogue are no longer accepted as best practice. But. Pop music – and Taylor Swift’s contributions to such – has become critically untouchable, resulting in a recursive loop of commercial successes which eschew experiment in favour of formula. The idea that someone might wish to position themselves away from something mainstream for something that speaks to their anxieties, their pleasures, their longings – to carve out a unique identity, good heavens!, – is framed as sneering elitism. Ever the hypocrite, I largely think poptism is a good thing and I really like Taylor Swift(!) and I don’t know what the answer is. Love Story doesn’t know and it certainly doesn’t care and none of the above is applicable – and not just because of its time. It plays through eternally, a piece of brilliance with pop nous that alchemises Poetry out of the saccharine, Romance out of narratological detritus – but I miss it served with delicious sacrilege. Beautiful, elaborate, sparkly-yearny – but get too close and you’ll watch it unhinge it’s maw –Winesburgohio


(1) “All Too Well”

from Red (2012)

I don’t know, exactly, what makes ‘All Too Well’ such a good, such a memorable song, let alone Taylor’s best. And yet, here we are, it taking the #1 spot ahead of some of the more obvious choices like ‘Love Story’ and ‘You Belong With Me’ (songs that elicit, as well as ‘00s nostalgia, a genuine appreciation for the pop music of that era – at least for me). Unlike those songs, which garnered significant commercial success at the time of their release in 2008, 2012’s ‘All Too Well’ did not transcend its cult-like status to become the cultural phenomenon it is today until sometime after the Cultural Shift described in Wines’ blurb. Which is, I think, confusing and a tad ironic given all that parent-album Red foretold about Taylor’s future as a bona fide Pop Star. Then again, given the critical success of Taylor’s most recent sister albums, folklore and evermore – as well as the more recent, toned-down rerecordings of her back catalogue – it’s not surprising the reverence ‘All Too Well’ evokes so long after its release. Because in many ways, the song boils Taylor down to her fundamentals – here is an acoustic guitar; here is a long-winded narrative about the dissolution of a relationship. And while ‘All Too Well’ is not Taylor’s funnest song, her saddest, her most beautiful, it is the epitome of what a good Taylor Swift song is and can be – fun, sad, beautiful; personal, universal; all these things and more. –BlushfulHippocrene

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