Keep your “Eyes Open” for Taylor Swift’s best lead singles

By Ryan Reichard, Arts and Entertainment editor.

One of the world’s biggest pop stars, former country girl Taylor Swift has been in the music business for over a decade. In that time, she has released six studio albums and several hit singles. However, with a new single signaling the imminent arrival of Swift’s long-awaited studio album, I decided to rank all of Swift’s lead off singles from best to worst.

1. “Tim McGraw”
Released as Swift’s debut single, “Tim McGraw” set the tone for the superstar’s career. A song built around the realization that Swift and her boyfriend were going to break up when he went off to college, “Tim McGraw” is a soft and tender song that is enhanced by Swift’s sweet vocals which pair well with the twangy country instrumentals. Where “Tim McGraw” stands apart from the rest of Swift’s lead singles is in the lyrics. While referencing a country star in a country song is nothing new, Swift demonstrates her ability to write insanely catchy pop based hooks that later became the staple for many of her chart hits. It’s delicate, reminiscent, and it is an impressive debut for one of this generation’s best songwriters.

2. “Love Story”
The induction to Swift experimenting with a more pop oriented sound and lyricism, “Love Story” served as the lead-off single to Swift’s commercially successful album “Fearless.” Similar to many songs in Swift’s wheelhouse, “Love Story” is about a boy and the possibility of a romance between Swift and that boy. Drawing from classic literature (“Romeo and Juliet” and “The Scarlet Letter”), Swift crafted one of the catchiest pop-country crossover singles released since Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” “Love Story” flips the proverbial tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet” and changes the ending so that both characters can have their happily ever after. Over a decade later and “Love Story” still remains enchanting upon revisiting it.

3. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
Serving as the lead single for Swift’s critically acclaimed fourth studio album “Red,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” continue to blur the lines between country and pop. While less genre bending, experimental and detailed than other songs from “Red,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is still a catchy country-pop song and another undeniable hook crafted by Swift. This song was made for arena sing-alongs. The production at times is a bit clunky rooted in a run-of-the-mill drum machine; however, the touches of acoustic guitar and banjo add an organic quality that is a call back to Swift’s country days. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is not Swift at her best, but still at some of her catchiest.

4. “Mine”
Solely written by Swift as the preview for her third studio album “Speak Now,” “Mine” continues the country-pop formula that Swift had begun developing on her first two albums. That alone is the downfall of the song. It is formulaic and falls victim to a lack of experimentation. However, the song is redeemed once again by Swift’s impeccable, big, bold and catchy hook. There is also a greater focus on Swift’s vocals in the front of the mix which lends a warmer quality to the song. The content is representing a maturing Swift as she acknowledges the hardships in a relationship instead of ignoring them. “Mine” represents a diamond in the rough and was later polished on further tracks.

5. “Shake It Off”
The grand departure from Swift’s country roots, “Shake It Off” was the lead single from her first pure pop album “1989.” It incorporated new musical elements such as the prominent use of saxophone. The lyrics are catchy and tailored specifically for a pop song; as a result, they lose the depth that was present in Swift’s earlier releases. “Shake It Off” was primarily crafted to dominate the radio and the charts, rather than offer any degree of maturity or depth. With an album packed with pop juggernauts such as the infectious “Style,” to the would’ve been radio dominant “I Wish You Would” and the insanely catchy “All You Had to Do Was Stay,” Swift instead opted to go for a shallow response to her haters. Other than being catchy, “Shake It Off” has little to offer.

6. “Me!”
Swift’s latest release and the lead single for her highly anticipated seventh studio album, “Me!” features Brendon Urie from Panic! at the Disco. This makes for an odd pairing that results in an even more odd song. “Me!” is disinteresting from start to end, following the standard “Kiss and Make-up” and self-love clichés. both of which could be found on any greeting card at the local grocery store. “Me!” better serves as the lead single for the next “Glee” soundtrack despite that show ending several years ago. The worst aspect for me is when Swift decides to yell “Spelling is fun, kids,” before spelling out the “me” in team. However, “ME!” does have some redeeming elements. The song opens with an auto tuned Swift which is reminiscent of one of the best elements of Swift’s 2018 hit “Delicate.” The addition of horns in the production is also a highlight, incorporating a welcomed organic element into an otherwise drab and boring bubble-gum pop song. While this song will surely be a hit, it is not a promising sign going into Swift’s seventh album.

7. “Look What You Made Me Do”
In the time between Swift’s chart dominating era “1989” and the introduction to her new “Reputation” era, Swift experienced blows to her public image. She was labeled a snake and took the longest hiatus between albums she has done. When Swift announced her return in August 2017, there was a large amount of hype surrounding the new song… and it was terrible. As the lead-off single to Swift’s sixth studio album “Reputation,” “Look What You Made Me Do” represents a deterioration in quality for the musician. The lyrics pandered to her “bad girl” image and were lacking in maturity. Not to mention that the production was all over the board with heavy synths and ringing bells along with some of Swift’s worst vocal layering. “Look What You Made Me Do” was a mess from beginning until end and remains as Swift’s worst lead-off single.

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