Taylor Swift has released 10 distinct albums throughout her career (and rerecorded four of them).
Insider's senior music reporter ranked them from worst to best, employing a unique scoring method.
"Folklore" took the top spot, while Swift's newest release "1989 (Taylor's Version)" is in fifth place.
Final grade: 8.3/10
Any Swiftie will tell you that "Reputation" was made to be played live.
Indeed, I challenge anyone to watch the Reputation Stadium Tour's concert film on Netflix and not come away with intensified respect for bangers like "...Ready For It?" and "I Did Something Bad."
Even "Dancing With Our Hands Tied," one of my least favorite tracks in terms of production, shines in concert with Swift's acoustic rendition.
But the reality is that outside of those clips, "Reputation" exists as an album, not a live show. And despite glimmers of genius, the "Reputation" tracklist contains some of Swift's worst decisions to date.
Her moments of sincerity, or even sincere badassery ("If a man talks shit then I owe him nothing"), are meager compared to spoonfuls of aggressive pop posturing. Swift's ever-sharp lyricism is too often overshadowed by the production, which tries to sound bold and maximalist but comes across instead as impersonal and heavy-handed. You may argue this effect is deliberate — camp, perhaps — but intentionality doesn't equal absolution.
Of course, all of Swift's albums have their comparative lows, but here we find the dregs — and the album's highs just aren't consistent enough to salvage the score.
My final grade* for "Reputation" is actually quite generous considering "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" would fall dead last on my all-time ranking of Swift's songs, far beneath "Bad Blood" and every single one of her Christmas covers. Remembering that it was the tour's setlist closer sends a cold shiver down my spine.
God-tier songs: "Delicate," "Don't Blame Me"
Worth listening to: "...Ready For It?," "End Game (feat. Future and Ed Sheeran)," "I Did Something Bad," "Getaway Car," "Dancing With Our Hands Tied," "Dress," "Call It What You Want," "New Year's Day"
Background music: "So It Goes..."
Skip: "Look What You Made Me Do," "Gorgeous," "King of My Heart," "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things"
9. "Taylor Swift"
Final grade: 8.9/10
"Taylor Swift" is widely regarded as Swift's worst album, but that's only because all her albums are good. Something has to be the "worst" — that's how rankings work — and "Taylor Swift" is often overlooked, being the singer's first and most rudimentary work.
Released the same year Carrie Underwood was topping country charts with "Jesus, Take the Wheel" and "Before He Cheats," Swift's self-titled debut is archetypal banjo-pop with a girlish twang. It did its job well, putting her on the map in Nashville and beyond, but the album wasn't designed to push any boundaries or set any trends.
That being said, "Taylor Swift" has more timeless tunes than you may realize. Led by the memorable torch song "Tim McGraw" — cleverly named after an already-popular musician, long before others would use this strategy to game streaming numbers — the 14-track album also includes hits like "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "Should've Said No," which remain staples in Swift's discography.
And that's not to mention "Cold As You," the heart-wrenching ballad that set the bar for Swift's track-five tradition. ("You come away with a great little story / Of a mess of a dreamer with the nerve to adore you." That one still stings.)
When "Taylor Swift (Taylor's Version)" is eventually unveiled, I won't be surprised if the album climbs a ton of rankings, both in and outside of Swift's existing fandom.
God-tier songs: "Picture to Burn," "Our Song"
Worth listening to: "Tim McGraw," "Teardrops On My Guitar," "Cold As You," "The Outside," "Should've Said No," "Mary's Song (Oh My My My)," "I'm Only Me When I'm With You," "A Perfectly Good Heart"
Background music: "Stay Beautiful"
Skip: "A Place in This World," "Tied Together With a Smile," "Invisible"
8. "Midnights (3am Edition)"
Final grade: 9.3/10
With a bit of editing — swap "Bejeweled" for "Glitch" and "Midnight Rain" for "The Great War," put "Would've Could've Should've" at track five where it belongs, give "Hits Different" the single treatment it deserves — "Midnights" could've been a versatile and well-paced pop album. But as it stands, it's a sprawling journey full of detours and flat landscapes.
Swift rarely explores the album's themes in depth, preferring instead to gesture broadly at interesting ideas. I'm not an "Anti-Hero" hater, but you're telling me the greatest songwriter of her generation couldn't come up with a better way to critique the infantilization and sexualization of women in Hollywood than "Sometimes I feel like everybody is a sexy baby?" Please.
But when Swift does take her time on this album to grab a flashlight and a compass — inspecting feelings of loss, regret, devotion, forgiveness, and madness without fear — the results speak for themselves.
God-tier songs: "Would've Could've Should've," "Hits Different"
Worth listening to: "Lavender Haze," "Maroon," "Anti-Hero," "You're On Your Own Kid," "Question...?," "Karma," "Sweet Nothing," "The Great War," "Bigger Than the Whole Sky," "Paris," "High Infidelity," "Glitch," "Dear Reader"
Background music: "Snow On the Beach (feat. Lana Del Rey)," "Labyrinth," "Mastermind"
Skip: "Midnight Rain," "Vigilante Shit," "Bejeweled"
7. "Fearless (Taylor's Version)"
Final grade: 9.4/10
"Fearless" claims a legendary space in Swift's career. It earned Swift's first Grammy Award for album of the year when she was just 20 years old and it's still known as the most-awarded country album of all time.
It's also a marvel of cohesion and consistency, and would be her only no-skips album if it weren't for "Folklore."
That being said, cohesion can be a double-edged sword — especially after the release of "Fearless (Taylor's Version)," which turned the album into a 26-track affair, clocking in at a whopping one hour and 46 minutes. It's not Swift's longest album, but it sure feels like it.
Save for the two certified classics that everyone and their mother could sing along to (you know the ones), the great songs on "Fearless" are all equally great. The less-great songs are all equally good. No track is so bad that it stands out, but still, some stuff should've been cut. Do you see the dilemma?
This would be a career-topping triumph for any other artist, but Swift was just getting started. She kept getting better and better, crafting so many moments of shock and awe and undeniable musical genius for other albums, they make the climaxes on "Fearless" feel like prologues.
God-tier songs: "Love Story," "You Belong With Me"
Worth listening to: "Fearless," "Fifteen," "Hey Stephen," "White Horse," "Breathe (feat. Colbie Caillat)," "Tell Me Why," "You're Not Sorry," "The Way I Loved You," "The Best Day," "Change," "Jump Then Fall," "Forever and Always," "The Other Side of the Door," "You All Over Me (feat. Maren Morris)," "Mr. Perfectly Fine," "Don't You," "Bye Bye Baby"
Background music: "Untouchable," "Forever and Always (Piano Version)," "Come In With the Rain," "Superstar," "Today Was a Fairytale," "We Were Happy," "That's When (feat. Keith Urban)"
Final grade: 9.7/10
Sonically, "Lover" is a little all over the place, but thematically, it's coherent and compelling. Swift described the album as "a love letter to love itself — all the captivating, spellbinding, maddening, devastating, red, blue, gray, golden aspects of it (that's why there are so many songs)."
More songs usually mean there are more duds, and that's certainly the case here. (Yes, "Me!" is camp and spelling is fun. It's still a skip.)
But "Lover" also has more God-tier songs than nearly any other album in Swift's oeuvre, save for "Red" and "Folklore." The peaks on this album are dizzying: "Cruel Summer" is goes-hard-in-the-car perfection; "Lover" is destined to play at weddings until the end of time; "The Archer" contains some of Swift's most insightful lyricism to date; "Cornelia Street" is so vivid that it plays like an Oscar-winning short film; "Death by a Thousand Cuts" boasts a knockout bridge that hits every time like it's the first time.
God-tier songs: "Cruel Summer," "Lover," "The Archer," "Cornelia Street," "Death by a Thousand Cuts"
Worth listening to: "The Man," "I Think He Knows," "Soon You'll Get Better," "False God," "Afterglow," "It's Nice to Have a Friend," "Daylight"
Background music: "I Forgot That You Existed"
Skip: "Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince," "Paper Rings," "London Boy," "You Need to Calm Down," "Me!"
Final grade: 10/10
Initially, "1989" managed to edge out "Lover" as Swift's best pop album by sheer force of concision. The standard tracklist is just 13 songs, allowing for a cleaner listening experience overall (pun intended).
Even taking into account the three deluxe songs (one fine, one good, one God-tier), the original album still clocks in two tracks shorter than "Lover," boosting the final grade.
Upon its release in 2014, "1989" was a meteor strike: conceptually and sonically focused, creating a distinct and profound crater that set the scene for Swift's risky reinvention. We all remember the shift in atmosphere when she became a full-blown pop star; to put it in Twitter-stan jargon, everybody moved.
Nearly a decade later, Swift unveiled "1989 (Taylor's Version)" with five additional tracks. Luckily, the integrity of the album remained intact. The extra length didn't hurt the score because every new song is excellent, slotting nicely into a saga of youth and reckless euphoria and romance at any cost.
Only Swift could cut heaters like "Say Don't Go" and "Now That We Don't Talk" from her tracklist — and sit on them for years — without an ounce of distress because her album was already stuffed with career highlights.
At 24 years old, she wrote lyrics like "You kissed me in a way that's gonna screw me up forever" and "You dream of my mouth before it called you a lying traitor" and then she left them behind like it was just another day. For her, I guess, it was. "Being this young is art," she croons in "Slut!" — and when it comes to Swift, she's absolutely right.
The word "iconic" is thrown around a lot these days. But "1989," in all its iterations, truly deserves it.
God-tier songs: "Blank Space," "Style," "Clean," "New Romantics"
Worth listening to: "Out of the Woods," "All You Had to Do Was Stay," "I Wish You Would," "Wildest Dreams," "This Love," "I Know Places," "Wonderland," "Slut!," "Say Don't Go," "Now That We Don't Talk," "Suburban Legends," "Is It Over Now?"
Background music: "Welcome to New York," "You Are In Love"
Skip: "Shake It Off," "Bad Blood," "How You Get the Girl"
Final grade: 10.6/10
This is where we cross into stratospheric territory.
Because my grading system gives an extra point to the very best songs in Swift's catalog, the top four albums have all scored above a 10 because their gems outweigh their duds. (If you have a problem with this system, you'll be happy to know that it's made up and just for fun! Take it up with your therapist.)
As Insider's music team wisely noted in our review, "Evermore" isn't as good as "Folklore," but it's still better than what everybody else was doing in 2020. The sister albums were released just five months apart because, as Swift put it, "we just couldn't stop writing songs."
She reunited with Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff to create another collection of whimsical, intricate songs that usually double as stories and sometimes as diary entries. This collection is more varied and less reliable than its predecessor; Swift tends to lose focus in the latter half of the tracklist.
But still, "Evermore" is far from deficient in empathy or ingenuity, bearing some of the most visceral turns of phrase to ever spring from Swift's brain: "Your Midas touch on the Chevy door / November flush and your flannel cure;" "I don't like slow motion, double vision in rose blush / I don't like that falling feels like flying 'til the bone crush;" the entire bridge of "Marjorie;" the entirety of "Ivy."
God-tier songs: "Champagne Problems," "Tolerate It," "Ivy," "Right Where You Left Me"
Worth listening to: "Willow," "Gold Rush," "'Tis the Damn Season," "No Body No Crime (feat. Haim)," "Dorothea," "Coney Island (feat. The National)," "Marjorie," "Evermore (feat. Bon Iver)," "It's Time to Go"
Background music: "Happiness," "Cowboy Like Me"
Skip: "Long Story Short," "Closure"
3. "Speak Now (Taylor's Version)"
Final grade: 10.7/10
For most of her career, "Speak Now" has been Swift's most underrated album. Sandwiched between the commercial juggernaut "Fearless" and the fan-favorite "Red," it seemed to fly under the radar for many of her casual listeners.
For the uninitiated, it's important to note that "Speak Now" has an interesting and impressive lore. Swift was the only songwriter credited on original the 14-track album. She doubled down on "Speak Now (Taylor's Version)," discarding the cowritten bonus cut "If This Was a Movie" and only adding songs "from the vault" that she wrote by herself.
"I didn't want to just be handed respect and acceptance in my field, I wanted to earn it," she explained in the album's prologue. "I figured, they couldn't give all the credit to my cowriters if there weren't any."
"I had no idea how much this pain would shape me," Swft continued. "This was the beginning of my series of creative choices made by reacting to setbacks with defiance."
Indeed, "Speak Now" is a portrait of a precocious young woman, hungry to prove herself. It's also a curious paradox; for someone so preoccupied with being perceived as a "good girl," her only self-written album is surprisingly fierce, strong-willed, and gutsy.
The title track casts Swift as a rebel with a cause, itching to interrupt her soulmate's wedding, while "Dear John" is an unforgettable takedown of a man who should've known better.
She confronts her critics on "Mean" ("All you are is mean, and a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life") and scathes a vintage dress-wearing saboteur in "Better Than Revenge." Even with the now-infamous lyric change, the song is still packed with quick jabs and unruly one-liners — including one that feels downright prophetic today ("You might have him, but I always get the last word").
Other highlights like "Enchanted," "Haunted," and "Long Live" further reveal the album's emo-rock roots. For "Speak Now (Taylor's Version)," Swift brought her influences to the foreground, enlisting Warped Tour icons Hayley Williams and Fall Out Boy as featured artists.
Unfortunately, a few key moments lost their sparkle in the rerecorded tracklist (R.I.P. to the shaky inhale in the bridge of "Last Kiss"), but Swift's mature voice was able to breathe new life into others.
"Innocent," which I used to consider a skip, is truly sublime when delivered by an actual 32-year-old who's still growing up, now. Once dedicated to a man who didn't deserve it, the song now shines in the afterglow of self-reflection, as though teenage Swift is reaching through time to comfort her future self.
"Speak Now" was always an album about making mistakes and overcoming shame, about "reacting to setbacks with defiance," in Swift's own words. "Speak Now (Taylor's Version)" is the physical embodiment of that spirit. By reclaiming ownership of her music, Swift made sure her words would ring truer than ever.
God-tier songs: "Dear John," "Enchanted," "Long Live"
Worth listening to: "Mine," "Sparks Fly," "Back to December," "Speak Now," "Mean," "The Story of Us," "Never Grow Up," "Better Than Revenge," "Innocent," "Haunted," "Last Kiss," "Electric Touch (feat. Fall Out Boy)," "When Emma Falls In Love," "I Can See You," "Castles Crumbling (feat. Hayley Williams)," "Foolish One," "Timeless"
Background music: "Ours"
2. "Red (Taylor's Version)"
Final grade: 11/10
For many years, it was hard to imagine a time when "Red" would be dethroned as Swift's best album.
Now, even knowing that Swift's creativity and ambition seemingly know no bounds, it's still hard to imagine a day when it won't at least land in the top three. It has always held a special place in the hearts of Swifties, and the exhilarating release of "Red (Taylor's Version)" cemented that legacy.
The album is equipped with a not-so-secret weapon: "All Too Well," the single best song Swift has ever released.
Hell, it's so good that both versions — the original as well as its long-awaited extended counterpart — are scored as God-tier in this ranking, earning an extra point apiece. "All Too Well" is a triumph of brevity, a burst of longing that still manages to tell a complete tale, while "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" is a glorious unspooling that reveals additional scenes of hurt and betrayal.
But of course, the power of "Red" isn't drawn entirely from one source. In fact, it's a testament to the album's holistic brilliance that even "All Too Well" can't eclipse its fellow tracks. The vast majority hold their own; only a handful fail to satisfy Swift's promise of "miserable and magical."
And unlike "Fearless (Taylor's Version)," every single vault track is a unique and worthy addition, adding a new layer to the story of Swift's early-20s spiral.
God-tier songs: "State of Grace," "Treacherous," "All Too Well," "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," "Holy Ground," "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)"
Worth listening to: "Red," "I Knew You Were Trouble," "22," "I Almost Do," "Stay Stay Stay," "The Last Time (feat. Gary Lightbody)," "Everything Has Changed (feat. Ed Sheeran)," "Begin Again," "The Moment I Knew," "Come Back... Be Here," "State of Grace (Acoustic)," "Ronan," "Better Man," "Nothing New (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)," "Babe," "Message In a Bottle," "I Bet You Think About Me (feat. Chris Stapleton)," "Forever Winter," "Run (feat. Ed Sheeran)," "The Very First Night"
Background music: "The Lucky One," "Starlight"
Skip: "Sad Beautiful Tragic," "Girl at Home"
Final grade: 12.3/10
What can I say about "Folklore" that hasn't already been said? It's a folk-pop monument, a feast of narrative twists and poetic winks. Even the worst song on the album is a masterclass in musical storytelling.
God-tier songs: "The 1," "Mirrorball," "August," "This Is Me Trying," "Peace"
Worth listening to: "Cardigan," "Exile (feat. Bon Iver)," "My Tears Ricochet," "Seven," "Illicit Affairs," "Invisible String," "Mad Woman," "Betty," "Hoax," "The Lakes"
Background music: "Epiphany," "The Last Great American Dynasty"
*Final album score based on songs per category (2 points for "God-tier song," 1 point for "Worth listening to," .5 for "Background music," 0 for "Press skip").
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