From stadium filling pop to heart-wrenching ballads: Taylor Swift’s top 5 albums

Calling all cottagecore folk! As we prepare to listen to Swift's new album 'Midnights' on repeat, HUNGER ranks her five strongest records.

At the end of August this year, pop singer-songwriter Taylor Swift announced that she would be releasing her first batch of new songs in two years with her 10th studio album titled, Midnights. Fans had a glimpse of what would be coming in October, with the tracks holding “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life.” Having dominated headlines and charts for almost 16 years, the 32-year-old has released nine studio albums and laid her heart on the line for her loyal following since she was 14 years old. Here HUNGER compiles Swift’s five strongest records to date. 

5) Fearless (Taylor’s Version) (2008)

We start the top 5 early on in Swift’s career where it all began. This album nabbed the star a Grammy for Album of the Year, the youngest winner in 2009. Though not her first album, Fearless holds a certain nostalgia for how teen listeners felt at its time of release, with a false maturity and heightened emotions present from the opening track. It introduced the days of true storytelling, with our favourite writer stepping out and travelling the valleys of youthful infatuation on our behalf. If you weren’t daydreaming about a cream dress and classic ‘08 bohemian chic updo on a balcony whilst singing out for your Romeo in ‘Love Story’, then what exactly did you do with your time? 

4) Reputation (2017)

From rosy-cheeked 18-year-old Swift to the 27-year-old household name ready to tear down the frenzied media surrounding her, the introduction of Reputation was perhaps her career’s biggest turning point. This album may not have been a bestseller, but it was one of her most important projects in pushing back against this vindictive persona being created by the media. After the run-in with Kanye West where he stormed the 2009 VMAs stage and told her, “I’mma let you finish…,” this album finally proved that Swift is not to be messed with. The feast of easter eggs in her videos of reptile thrones, a clan of Taylors and clapbacks to exes reveal an era where Swift is no longer tip toeing around the media. Even amongst the headlines that came from this media mania, her power remains rigid in her lyrics and storytelling. ‘Delicate’, ‘Getaway Car’ and ‘New Year’s Day’ detail this best, even when “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now”, we see glimpses of her and, with this change, love her even more.

3) Folklore (2020)

At number three, we reach the pinnacle of Swift’s storytelling. Her first 2020 album sings tales that got us through lockdown and concocted characters and scenarios from an heiress to a love triangle, all whilst travelling the realms of a new genre in indie-folk. Swifties embraced cottagecore and wrapped us in whimsical lyrics and a yearning for a countryside life. This album proved prose-level lyricism that elevated it from the rest. She distanced herself as a narrator and tells tales of others, which has yet to have been done until this point. Favourites lie with three of her songs that parallel the teenage love triangle between ‘Betty’, ‘Cardigan’ and ‘August’. Declaring the album release the day prior, Swifties were knocked off their chairs with the announcement and found themselves scrambling to decode the sweet summer stories of missing the ones you love. This album was truly a blanket of comfort on a cool summer’s night in lockdown and lined the long days with tales of sorely-missed human connections.

2) Red (Taylor’s Version) (2012)

From her recent release of original songs in Folklore and Evermore in 2020, Swift proved a true artist never rests as she re-released Red (Taylor’s version) in November 2021. Her second re-release held some of her best tunes, with songs like “State of Grace (Taylor’s version)”, “I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s version)” and “22 (Taylor’s version)” that cemented the album as a masterpiece. The release confirmed that Swift was and always will be a global star, as it gained the title of the most-streamed album in a day from a female artist on Spotify, with more than 90.8 million global opening-day streams. It is with all the lost scarves and heartbroken car drives that the glistening star on the tree was the release of the short film featuring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien for ‘All Too Well (10-minute version) (Taylor’s version)’. The song featured one of the best melodies produced by the songwriter and broke hearts around the world, as we all curled up in a ball with glassy eyes and a lump in our throat… and bought a dartboard with Jake Gyllehalls face on it. 


1) 1989 (2014)

We all have our number 1 Swift album, but ours is ultimately 1989. Call us locals, call us basic: the album is a decade-defining choice for fans and critics alike. It encompasses everything we love about Swift, from her personality to romantic scepticism to her power as a woman in the industry. With 2.7 billion streams of Spotify and 9.5 billion on YouTube, this was her best-selling album by far. Iconic Swift tracks like ‘Shake it Off’ and ‘Blank Space’ make the album, followed by the likes of ‘Bad Blood’ which brought together some of Hollywood’s finest in the accompanying video. This album presents a confident and assured version of Swift, whose emotions lie less on her sleeve but are shouted from the rooftops with a red-lipped ferocity. This mixture of finding pleasure in her songwriting as well as performance is found in 1989 and leaves blissful traces of all that makes the beloved artist scattered throughout the album. 

WriterElla Chadwick