She said it first: the Old Taylor is dead. In anticipation of reputation (just recently released!) and the supposed birth of a new Taylor, Street examines her evolution.
Taylor Swift (2006)
Taylor’s eponymous debut album introduced us to curly haired, happy–go–lucky T–Swift. With a wistful longing for high school in singles like “Our Song” and “Tim McGraw,” this first work feels more nostalgic than your grandparents’ VCR shelf.
Listen to when: midterm season has you pining for simpler times.
This second studio album rocketed Taylor to household name status with songs like "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me." Maintaining her reputation as a singer–songwriter sweetheart, Fearless was full of wholesome, vulnerable images ("She wears short skirts, I wear T–shirts").
Listen to when: You want to feel better about your crush on your TA.
Speak Now (2010)
Kanye West interrupted Taylor when her video for “You Belong with Me” won best female video at the VMAs. The incident provides context for a turning point in the country star’s career: Speak Now, her third studio album, was peppered with indignation and acidity absent from her previous work. However, with songs like “Mean,” Taylor still had her feet planted firmly in innocence.
Listen to when: you’re still salty about that boy who did no work taking all the credit for your group project.
Taylor’s fourth album, Red, saw the sharpest change in Taylor’s identity, casting aside notions of her as a doe–eyed, naive romantic. By injecting harsher tones of reality into her songs like “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor painted an image of herself as stronger and wiser than she was before.
Listen to when: your old hookup texts you “eyyyyyy” at 3 a.m.
After Red, the media seemed to attack Taylor with fierce criticism and slut–shaming. Taylor responded with 1989, a work largely concerned with her treatment in the media. "Blank Space" particularly drove this point home, painting a tongue–in–cheek allusion to her reputation as a deranged serial girlfriend.
Listen to when: You're done with everyone's bullshit.
The album's first single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” provides a glimpse into Taylor's orchestration of her image and her music. She might, once again, be consciously rebranding her image in response to the media ("The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now..."). However, the title of the new album—reputation—in conjunction with her highly publicized sexual assault lawsuit suggests instead that Taylor understands now more than ever her reputation as a star—and she's using the force of that reputation for good.
Listen to when: Honestly, anywhere. This song is damn catchy.