Taylor Swift: All The Best
Tim McGraw – This was Taylor’s first hit single, and it lead to a breakthrough opening slot for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill on their 2007 tour. This is a heartbreaker of the first order and there is never a time it wouldn’t be as big as can possible, country at its self-referential best as already the gift shined.
Teardrops On My Guitar – I include this song because the imagery is pure early Swift, diary confessional and also country snapshot. And also, the voice is a little weak but she works through it.
Our Song – As joyful as music can be, the opening fiddle calls you right into a blue state of heaven, riding shotgun, singing to the radio, a miss timed kiss and a prayer to God that they can do the exact same thing the next day. The kicker, when the boyfriend asks God to play the song, isn’t just smart it is also red meat Christianity for her country constituency.
Love Story – I forget how but I got this on pre-release and before it was over I turned to a friend and said “Forget it, now Taylor belongs to the world”. The brilliance, besides the obvious, is how it eclipses the Shakespearian tragedy into a modern day missed opportunity and sorrow filled song until the end when, like a fairytale, it all goes right. From “we’ll make it out of this mess” to “baby just say yes…” and you can’t help be being part of the happiness. Taylor is known for essentially playing the most recent songs on her tours and with some favorites thrown in to taste, but she never misses this dream for young girls everywhere, it has the scale of a Disney Princess story, it scales the emotional needs of transient teens.
You Belong To Me – This song gives birth to the legend of Swifties, these are the Junior High School girls who form the majority, in the bleachers cheering on the team, behind the cheerleader on the field, wallflowers at the party, pretty tomboy, ordinary but in extraordinary ways. “You Belong To Me” –with a much better video than “Love Story “ by the way, is a wonderful dream of seduction through normality, through not being that girl but this girl. Taylor embraces the realness of her fans, the reality of their life, and gives it all back. It is not a million miles away from what Elvis Costello did for boys with “Miracle man”. A joining together of us, that sweet beats sallow, that hotness can never compete with kindness and true love may beat all. It is so great it remained Taylor’s primage self image for the next three years. Again, like Costello, she tapped into an audience wider than that of the popstar manque by joining with the average teen girls she claimed to be a part of.
Forever And Always – Another relinquished love song but it exemplifies Taylor’s skills: it might be another page from her diary but it plays like a generic love song brought to life, to being above it, because it sounds sooooooooooo good. Then there’s this: ““Oh, and it rains in your bedroom, everything is wrong, it rains when you’re here and it rains when you’re gone.”
Mine – Onto album three, and she hits 20 with a thud of if not sorrow than certainly a dark hued uncertainty the “you made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter” sounds like a shoe dropping, there are world’s of unrealized problems in the song that the revved up more rock than country rock tries very hard not to notice.
Speak Now – A conceptual update of “You Belong To Me” –but the “lose myself in a daydream” is a bit of a cop out. Taylor is at a boy she love’s wedding to another woman, and leaps on the “Should anyone here present know of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace” to speak her piece. Taylor has claimed that the entire album was about speaking her piece but she more than does it here:
Don’t say yes, run away now,
I’ll meet you when you’re out,
Of the church at the back door,
Don’t wait or say a single vow,
You need to hear me out,
And they said, “Speak now”
This is so spunky and tough and it is like the end of the Graduate and a wake dream but you know she could do it, Taylor’s determination is a stand in for everyone. This album was the very height of her uniqueness, by the next one she had grown older, her puppy loveishness on Speak Now would become adult and burnt in sexuality. This is still innocent, a little older but quite as wide eyed.
Today Was A Fairytale – from the late great Garry Marshall’s movie “Valentine’s Day,” and it was maybe the last breath of innocent Tay Tay. The song is just about perfect, it is imbued with her DNA –almost self-parody, another dream day (“Our Song” anyone), another magic in the air dollop of joy.
Safe And Sound – I don’t think I’ve ever discovered a band because of Taylor, or nearly ever. This song off the “Hunger Games” soundtrack features the Civil war at the Americana song finds Taylor quite capable of anything. At this point in her career, she was perfection, everything she touched was the best in class and this is possibly her greatest song achievement in at least one way, it haunts you in a deep seated Americana. Written by Taylor Swift, Joy Williams, John Paul White, and T-Bone Burnett it is a definitive road not taken and is filled with an alternative reality, it is the diaspora, dystopian existing, alternative Taylor. As if she was part of (the picture it plays in) Hunger Games resistance.
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – The spoken word portion was money in the bank and the video a wonder of a comical break up with Jake Gyllenhaal as the likely suspect, and Swift’s frustration very very amusing. Huge hit by the way and changed her public face. Her first work with Max Martin as well. All of that is good, but it also did something else, her snapshot into her life allowed the Swifties to see her as this successful, glamorous (yet never a picture of her belly button) film star dating woman and also still in the bleachers with her fans. It saved her for her audience.
State Of Grace (Acoustic) – Her greatest vocal ever is on this acoustic version of one of her truly adult songs. I consider it her purist achievement, a real song of love and desire. She soars into adulthood here, there is no holding back, it is the vibrating lust and intelligence mingled. A perfect song perfectly performed.
Shake it Off – with a lot to prove, Taylor had a party at Yahoo.com, invited her biggest fans, and introduced this return to power, a song so great it eclipsed everything around her. Even the hooks have hooks, though the song is only three years old it is still hard to remember how it took over the world and broke her through the final wall to superstardom, it was her “Hello”. A breathless leap into pop perfection by a new master, it took over the charts and our lives the first moment we heard it.
Blank Space – Voice Memo – The actual song is debatably her greatest of them all but this voice memo of Taylor playing the song for the first to Max Martin and Shellback puts us not simply in the room when it happens but also completely in tune with how much Max adds and doesn’t add to Taylor’s song. And what he doesn’t add is the song, he adds the arrangement but the song was already there.