What is Taylor Swift's best Era? Our writers make the case for three records

What is Taylor Swift's best Era? Our writers make the case for three records
Taylor Swift Wins Songwriter Of The Year At The 2024 BMI Awards
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Taylor Swift is the most popular artist in the world right now, with her highly anticipated Eras Tour breaking records.

A key part of Swift’s brand is how each of her 11 albums is defined as an “era” since each new one brings in a different sound and aesthetic for fans to relate to – and this is clear to see at her concerts with her Swiftie fanbase dressing up in outfits that represent their favourite record.

(You only have to look on TikTok to see fans posting clothing inspiration based off Swift’s previous looks in music videos, album covers, red carpets etc).

From her early country days with her self-titled debut and Fearless, the self-written Speak Now, the pop-country hybrid Red, to her move into mainstream pop with 1989, followed by the electropop Reputation, and dreamy pop of Lover, we then see a shift to the alternative genre with folklore and evermore that were made during the Covid pandemic.

Following this, Swift returned to her familiar pop space with Midnights, and her most recent album The Tortured Poets Department seemingly combines her recent eras with a folk-pop sound.

So basically, there is something for everybody.

If you had to ask Swifties what Swift’s best era is, there will no doubt be differing opinions and answers – but nevertheless, indy100 has attempted to answer this question.

Most commercially successful album – 1989

When success is measured by numbers, the album which comes out on top is Swift’s 2014 album 1989, named after the year she was born.

This era marked a drastic change in sound for Swift who had risen to fame as a country artist. 1989 is a pop record to its core with the upbeat lead single Shake It Off, to the synthpop track Style and the catchy hooks in Blank Space.

The original album has sold over 14 million copies worldwide, and fans found a new appreciation for the era when Swift re-recorded the album 1989 (Taylor's Version) last year.

This album also had new unreleased songs and was a hit with listeners as it sold 2.8 million copies worldwide in pure sales that year, it registered the highest single-day streams globally for an album in 2023, with 176 million reported streams and Swift also broke her own record for the most single-day Spotify streams for an artist.

Indy100 staff picks

Sinead - Red (Taylor's Version)

Taylor Swift performs live after switching on the Christmas lights at Westfield London, White City/Shepherd's Bush on November 6, 2012 in London, England. Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

For me, Red is Taylor Swift's best album as it's not defined by a particular genre and Swift experiments with different sounds from the dubstep elements in 'I Knew You Were Trouble', to the arena rock production of 'State of Grace,' the soft rock and country twangs in the breakup title track 'Red,' it's an album you can never get bored of listening to.

I was 14 years old when the original album was first released and so this evokes a lot of teenage nostalgia for me as an era where Swift embodied the twee fashion style that was popular in the early 2010s which included tea dresses and fedora hats. While online Tumblr was at its peak popularity and we all loved to add an excessive filter or border to our Instagram posts.

Some personal favourites from the album include 'State of Grace', 'Red', 'All Too Well,' and 'The Lucky One.'

So I was delighted when Swift dropped Red (Taylor's Version) in 2021, as we finally got to hear 'All Too Well (10 Minute Version)' as well as other unreleased tracks she wrote at the time and the standouts for me were 'Ronan,' 'Better Man,' 'Nothing New,' and 'Forever Winter' - what can I say I'm a sucker for the sad songs.

All in all, I think the re-release proved how the album has stood the test of time nearly 12 years on from the original release and it was an important album for Swift to make before she delved into mainstream pop with her follow-up 1989 which you can hear the beginning sounds of in songs from Red like 'I Knew You Were Trouble', 'Message In A Bottle' and 'The Very First Night.'

To this day, you can see a connection between the songwriting in Red and Swift's future albums such as folklore, evermore, and The Tortured Poets Department which shows how integral this album is to Swift's discography.

Plus, red also just so happens to be my favourite colour.

Catherine - 1989 (Taylor's Version)

Taylor Swift during her 1989 World

There's a reason the original release of 1989 was Swift's most commercially successful!

But her re-release in 2023 managed to push the album even further into greatness, featuring her best vault tracks so far.

As already mentioned, Red really showed the world Swift's potential as an artist, but 1989 made it undeniable that she was one of the biggest names in pop. Every track helped define Swift as one of the biggest names in music, with the album going on to win three Grammy's. Shake It Off was perhaps the song of 2014, the music video for Blank Space is so iconic people are still recreating Swift stabbing the cake for their birthdays, and what song does everyone use on their Instagram stories when they visit New York? The album's opening track Welcome to New York.

But move past the pop hits and we also find some of Swift's most vulnerable tracks, especially when we bring in the vault tracks. 'Clean' and 'Slut' are tracks that I think particularly resonate with Swift's female audience. Clean especially gives listeners the ability to apply Swift's struggles to their own, and know they can come out the other side. And whilst most of us cannot compare the criticism we may have faced over our dating life to Swift's, ' Slut'empowers listeners to continue living their lives despite any negativity they may face. It also offers insight into the struggles Swift has faced throughout her entire career, only increasing the depth she has as an artist.

I became a fan of Swift months before 1989 was released, when I was 11-years-old. I got the CD for Christmas and went to see the 1989 tour with my mum (when tickets were much easier to get!), so the album will always hold a special place in my heart.

Greg - folklore

Taylor Swift after winning Album of the Year award for ‘Folklore’ during the 63rd Annual GrammysGetty

Let's be honest, 2020 wasn't a great year for obvious reasons. If you didn't have Covid you were cooped up indoors binging the Tiger King on Netflix. However, despite the upheaval and sudden change to our lifestyles new and rather good music kept being released.

You had Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers, What's Your Pleasure? by Jessie Ware, The New Abnormal which was the best Strokes album in years, and Fiona Apple's Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Amongst the top releases was a folk album by Taylor Swift, a genre that she hadn't previously delved into. Her previous record 2019's Lover, was a pure pop affair featuring some of her biggest hits to date.

Was this shift from pop to folk for a previous country singer a wise move? The evidence would say yes.

Folklore is Swift's most acclaimed album to date and features the highest score on the music hipsters website of choice rateyourmusic. It's easily her most mature-sounding album with songs like 'August' 'My Tears Ricochet' and 'Cardigan' have a genuine haunting-waltz-like quality to them. 'Exile,' a collaboration with indie-folk icon Bon Iver, is a contender for one of Swift's best songs ever, telling the story of two lovers whose relationship has disintegrated with the correlating verses by both create a narrative that wouldn't be out of place in a Sundance festival movie. It also has a very metal album cover.

More importantly, folklore was ideal for 2020. Its warm production and chamber-ish sounds were perfect for those cold lockdown months, feeling like a much-needed blanket as the world fell apart. Sadly 2020's other release Evermore, didn't reach the same heights and felt more like cuttings from the editing room floor.

Although I enjoyed many of Swift's albums prior to this one, folklore seemed to see her reach the zenith of her powers both musically and lyrically. Despite excitement, the albums since then haven't chimed the same for me, which makes me wonder will we ever see this Taylor again?

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