All good Taylor Swift fans know that the singer’s album releases tend to stick to a pretty tight schedule. New music gets teased towards the tail end of the summer, followed up with an album drop in the autumn. From Taylor Swift to Fearless, Speak Now to Red and 1989, it’s a pattern that gets repeated every two years, giving Taylor time to perform the whole thing on a gargantuan world tour and find plenty of, ahem, material for her next set of songs. In a cruel and unpredictable world, it’s been one thing that never changes – until now.
The Hiddleswift circus (and the continuing Kim and Kanye saga) might have temporarily distracted the world from the fact that Swift is primarily a singer and musician, the Internet’s Swifty contingent hasn’t failed to notice that – two years after ‘Shake It Off’s debut – we’re yet to hear even a whisper of new material from Taylor, unless, that is, you’re counting ‘This Is What You Came For.'
But while we may not be graced with any new material from Taylor for the foreseeable future, we’re trying to see the positives in the situation. And with Taylor’s back catalogue finally back on Spotify (a move which certainly wasn't time to coincide with the release of rival Katy Perry's new album), now is the perfect time to give some love to the often overlooked sections of her discography…
Like most of Swift’s best work, 'Enchanted’s lyrics tell a simple but nuanced story of girl-meets-boy. Yes, that meet-cute is a ‘sparkling’ night that’s very much seen through a 19-year-old Taylor’s fairy-tale goggles (it’s unsurprising that the line ‘I’m wonderstruck / blushing all the way home’ ended up as the inspiration for a very princess-y fragrance campaign), but the beauty of it is in the plaintive echo of the ending: ‘Please don’t be in love with someone else / Please don’t have somebody waiting on you.’
It’s a criminal offence that this 1989 album track didn’t become a single. Written with Imogen Heap, who you’ll know for the OC soundtracking ‘Hide and Seek,’ ‘Clean’’s hiccupping electronica is worlds away from bubblegum takes like ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘How You Get The Girl.’ Quiet, hypnotic and almost painfully reflective, it’s also home to some of Taylor’s most strikingly figurative lyrics: it’s lines like ‘You’re still all over me like a wine stained dress I can’t wear any more’ that will make 1989 a hard act for the singer to follow.
Better Than Revenge
‘Now go stand in the corner and think about what you did.’ If you’re unfamiliar with the Swift back catalogue, ‘Better Than Revenge’ comes as a deliciously bitchy backhander. A biting takedown of ex Joe Jonas and his new girlfriend Camilla Belle, the lyrics are carefully considered and self-referential. It’s Taylor at her brutal best: as she puts it, ‘You might have him but I always get the last word.’ A-men.
If you’re yet to watch this 90 second parody co-starring autotune king T-Pain, do so right now. Filmed for the 2009 CMT Awards, it’s a joyfully rubbish rap that pokes fun at Taylor’s goody-goody status as America’s Sweetheart: we’re talking standout lines like ‘What, what? I knit sweaters, yo!’ and ‘You out clubbing? Well I just made Caramel Delight!’ Taylor’s rap career surprisingly never took off, but ‘Thug Story’ will live on in our hearts forever.
Opening with a grandiose string section laid over growling guitars, ‘Haunted’ is is four minutes of pure, unadulterated teenage angst. Melodramatic, overblown and boasting a driving riff that won’t leave your head for days, it’s a well-observed interrogation of the final stages of a dying relationship where ‘something keeps [me] holding on to nothing.’ With a breathless, urgent chorus and truly great string breakdown about three minutes in, Emo Taylor is definitely in our top five favourite Taylors...
Never Grow Up
‘Your little hand’s wrapped around my fingers, and it’s so quiet in the world tonight.’ A sister song to ‘The Best Day’ from Fearless, cynics would class ‘Never Grow Up’ – a rose-tinted take on childhood innocence – as a little on the schmaltzy side, but this Speak Now album track is so simple and understated that it never steps into greetings card territory. Just like ‘The Best Day,’ the emotional gut punch comes when Taylor suddenly becomes all too aware that time’s passing for her parents, too. Heart-breaking stuff.
State Of Grace
The opening track of 2012’s Red, ‘State Of Grace’ is the ultimate slow-burner. Kicking off with a rolling drum beat and gradually building guitars, it’s the song that eases us in from the country pop of Speak Now to the more commercial pop-rock of Red – a tough task, but one that’s executed seamlessly. It’s a more grown-up and reflective Taylor that we see in ‘State Of Grace,’ – not the hopeless romantic of her first three albums, but tentatively positive all the same. As she puts it, ‘this is the golden age of something good and right and real.’
Tell Me Why
Spurned Taylor is the best sort of Taylor, followed closely by Nashville Taylor. The two incarnations come together in ‘Tell Me Why’ from 2008’s Fearless, which sees the singer taking a spectacularly rubbish-sounding boy to task over some country guitar riffs. We’re pretty sure a banjo makes an appearance in the background, too. The perfect soundtrack for some angry barn dancing.
Taylor’s best-known for her break-up anthems, but ‘Long Live’ tells a very different – and more enduring – kind of love story, dedicated to her band and touring companions. It may not be Swift’s most sophisticated song, talking about fighting dragons, moving mountains and ruling the world, but it’s certainly a wide-eyed and joyful take on the singer’s first successes.
All Too Well
She has since described it as being the most difficult of all her songs to write, but Taylor's five-and-a-half-minute-long ‘All Too Well’ was definitely worth the struggle. Often overshadowed by showier and shoutier Red cuts like ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,’ it doesn’t even matter that this epic is essentially an extended Jake Gyllenhaal reference – every lyric is among Taylor’s best.
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