Don’t Judge Taylor Swift Before You Listen To These Six Songs

Hesham Mashhour
6 min readJun 17, 2018

Taylor Swift (28), the reigning Queen of Pop, is currently on a 53 stop world tour promoting her ground-breaking album Reputation. This is her sixth studio album in 12 years and I love every one of those albums. Her raw talent and hard work has brought her much success and recognition.

Still there are critics, many who are unfamiliar with her broader body of work. To the critics, I say this: don’t judge Taylor Swift before you listen to these six songs. I’ve selected one from each album dissecting the significance of each track.

Taylor Swift (2006) — Tim McGraw

The official Tim McGraw Music Video

Those familiar with Swift’s first record will know she wrote and recorded the entire thing aged just 15. Tim McGraw is in many ways the centrepiece of this record, and is to this day unmistakably “Swiftian” despite the many genre changes we’ve seen Swift undergo. Tim McGraw is the perfect love song about a romance you know is doomed. It’s about saying goodbye and hoping from the bottom of your heart that years from now you’re former lover will have some place for you in their heart.

Here Swift is wise beyond her years, but also open about what her intentions are: this is a girl who hopes to leave behind a legacy whether it be a legacy left with a former lover, her fans or the public imagination. Other tracks on the album support this idea further.

favourite lyrics: You said the way my blue eyes shined/Put those Georgia stars to shame that night/I said, “That’s a lie.”

Fearless (2008) — You Belong With Me

The official You Belong With Me Music Video

It’s hard to imagine Taylor as anything but the super star she is today but back in 2008 she was just the underdog newbie who had to deal with rejection. In this way she resembled many of her young fans. Swift translates feelings of teenage angst and unrequited love beautifully in lyrics which somehow resonate with her fans today the same way they did in 2008. The dream here is a big love story to sweep her off her feet but the reality is panic and worry at the idea that all she might ever be destined for is unrequited love. You Belong With Me is a universal anthem with personal subtext, something which would later become a hallmark of Swift’s songwriting.

favourite lyrics: She wears high heels/I wear sneakers/She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers/Dreaming about the day when you wake up/And find that what what you’re looking for has been here the whole time

Speak Now (2010) — Last Kiss

Swift performing Last Kiss live on the Speak Now World Tour

This relatively unknown ballad has some of Taylor’s best lyrics and the lyrics really hurt. The emotions build up gradually and the pain comes in waves in a remarkably similar fashion to the pain one experiences after a breakup. The haunting lyrics here see Taylor laying out the contents of her heart to her adoring fans and serve as a testament to the close relationship and mutual trust that she shares with them. The sentiment here is similar to Tim McGraw, if much stronger. Just like she did in 2006 Swift hopes you remember her and think about her as much as she thinks about you. The catch is she thinks you’ve probably moved on and don’t think of her anymore but her feelings remain unchanged. A lesser singer-songwriter would have struggled to pull off a song like this without it inevitably sounding cheesy but Swift delivers this effortlessly.

favourite lyrics: So I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep/And I feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe/And I keep up with our old friends just to ask them how you are/Hope it’s nice where you are

Red (2012) — All Too Well

Swift performing All Too Well live on the Red World Tour

Most diehard Taylor Swift fans will tell you this is Taylor’s best work and there is an argument to be made for this. In a way All Too Well feels like a natural progression from You Belong With Me. In All Too Well, Swift finally gets her big love story but it soon falls apart and it dawns on her that she may have lost her one true chance at happiness. There is an important question at the heart of this song: how do we move on after a relationship ends when all we can ever think of are the good times and how do we face each new day knowing we may have lost the one thing that really mattered all along? Swift, just like anyone consumed with grief, offers no answers and the song is better for it.

favourite lyrics: But you keep my old scarf from that very first week/’Cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me/You can’t get rid of it, ’cause you remember it all too well, yeah

1989 (2014) — Blank Space

The official Blank Space Music Video

When the tabloids took interest in Taylor Swift’s dating life scrutinising her every move and overanalysing her lyrics in search for references about former boyfriends, Swift had two reactions. At first she felt sad because she felt she was being misrepresented. Later, she felt inspired. Swift wrote Blank Space basing it largely on her portrayal in the tabloids, producing one the biggest hits of the decade. Blank Space features the same excellent songwriting we’ve come to expect from Swift, but it goes further than that. It captures the popular zeitgeist surrounding her person and propagated by the celebrity news cycle and transforms it into irresistible pop. The truth is Blank Space is closer to rap than most people imagine. The song feels like an extended chorus where Swift speaks (rather than sings) the majority of her lyrics, which while innocent on the surface carry a scathing critique of modern society.

The hit song, however, inadvertently reveals the real Swift underneath. This is possibly part of its hidden appeal. From Blank Space we know the real Swift does actually read what people say about her and cares (enough to write a song anyway) if the comments are negative. She also feels strongly about the need to stand up for oneself and was very likely a feminist long before she let on.

favourite lyrics: So it’s gonna be forever/Or it’s gonna go down in flames/You can tell me when it’s over/If the high was worth the pain/Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane

reputation (2017) — Getaway Car

Swift performing Getaway Car live on the Reputation World Tour

Any song about a rebound relationship will be a hard circle to square. For starters, what tone do you strike? Rather than apologetic, Swift chooses to be historical using an extended metaphor to cleverly avoid addressing the elephant in the room. Swift is determined not to lose any ground here. In this way, Getaway Car captures Taylor Swift’s reputation perfectly. Following a series of controversies in 2015 and 2016, everything about Taylor Swift and what she represents was turned into a battlefield so much that she can’t even bring herself to apologise to a former lover for fear of igniting an entire news cycle and endless debate. Paradoxically, rather than end the speculation into her private life, Blank Space propelled Taylor Swift into mega stardom further increasing the scrutiny into her private life. The result is Getaway Car with its telling indifference.

Despite the indifference and lack of significant emotion, Getaway Car is still an excellent song. Swift pulls this one off with meticulous and observant storytelling.

favourite lyrics: You were drivin’ the getaway car/We were flyin’, but we’d never get far/Don’t pretend it’s such a mystery/Think about the place where you first met me/We’re ridin’ in a getaway car/There were sirens in the beat of your heart/Should’ve known I’d be the first to leave/Think about the place where you first met me



Hesham Mashhour

Cambridge Graduate. I write about #health #medicine and will occasionally share my thoughts about the latest #music and trash coming out of #Netflix