Lance Pauker published a definitive list of the ten most influential Britney Spears songs of all time last week. Inspired by his rankings (which proved Britney’s lasting legacy on 21st century culture), I decided to take a look at another flaxen-haired, Southern songstress whose music has made quite an impact on the pop industry.
Taylor “T Swizzle” Swift emerged onto the country scene at the ripe age of 14 after moving to Nashville — like many a burgeoning country star before her. The only difference was that Taylor had a certain bubbly, sweet-as-extra-glazed-donuts appeal that many others did not (or maybe she just got lucky — who knows how these things work?). Before long, she released her eponymous debut album with RCA Records. Her songs somehow managed to be both angst-ridden and light, sugary pop-country at the same time, and soon after Taylor Swift the album hit shelves, Taylor Swift the artist became a household name — that is, for households that contained pre-teen girls.
The rest is history. Now, ten years, four records, countless boyfriends, and one feud with Kanye West later, Taylor Swift is only continuing on an upward trajectory. The girl’s got talent, but, more importantly, she’s got bravado. She’s America’s guitar-wielding, ex-shaming sweetheart. And am I embarrassed for knowing most of her songs by heart even though I’m approximately six years older than her target demographic? Not. At. All.
In no particular order (and leave your own picks in the comments’ section):
1. “Tim McGraw”
Tay Tay’s claim to fame, this was her first song that had traction on the charts. A soft, twangy tale of love had and love lost, “Tim McGraw” showcased her pop-country roots — before she went full-on pop. 12-year-olds girls everywhere listened to the song with full hearts, posted the lyrics to their Myspace pages, and dreamed about their own flannel-wearing, truck-driving princes in shining armor.
2. “Teardrops On My Guitar”
This song inspired me to learn guitar. No joke. For a solid three months during my 8th grade year, I clumsily learned how to play basic chords on the guitar so that I could write my own songs and then, maybe the cute guy in my algebra class would finally pay attention to me. I never cried while playing the guitar but once, I stubbed my toe while carrying the guitar, and I think I shed a tear(drop) or two.
This is the power anthem for all the guys and gals who have ever suffered cruelty at the hands of others. Taylor Swift knows what you’re going through! One day, you’ll be rich and famous and on TV! And the people who were mean to you back in the day will spend their time drunkenly ranting about you in bars somewhere. Something like that.
4. “You Belong With Me”
This song — from her second album, Fearless — marked the turning point in TSwift’s career. “You Belong With Me” quickly became one of her most popular songs because it details a highly relatable experience — that of lusting after someone who is dating someone else. The music video also made waves, but I have a personal qualm with it. I’m tired of the very Hollywood notion that slapping a pair of glasses and a frizzy ponytail on an otherwise beautiful girl makes her any less attractive. No, T, you still look hot in this video.
5. “Love Story”
Even though the music video is a cheap imitation of the most recent Pride and Prejudice film (c’mon, try to be a little less blatant), the song itself is pretty good. And by “pretty good,” I mean that it’s catchy enough to make even the most cold-hearted cynic pause and consider whether or not true love actually does exist — how could they not when Taylor Swift shoves glittery rainbows and three-legged puppies and spools of cotton candy down our throat with each lyric?
6. “Picture to Burn”
I’m not sure which one of her many love interests serves as the subject of this song, but there must be some real life inspiration behind these hashtag salty lyrics and angry, thrashing chords. “Picture to Burn” is a great ballad to play on repeat when you’re trying to get over the end of a miserable relationship and an even more miserable person. Apparently, it’s not all sugar and spice and everything nice over in Tay Tay Land.
7. “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together”
Every girl in America from roughly the ages of 13-28 knows the first few lines to this song, but that’s because it’s so damn relatable. Like, who doesn’t enjoy dressing up like Urban Outfitters models and taking celfiés while out on the town? Who doesn’t enjoy making fun of an obnoxious ex — perhaps even while dressed up as an Urban Outfitters model at the same time?! With this song, Taylor Swift tries to add some edge to her image — showing that she experiences emotions just like the rest of us. Except that ex who hurt her? It’s Jake Gyllenhaal.
8. “Dear John”
Listening to this song makes me giggle because the entire thing is a (very, very) thinly veiled reference to that time Taylor dated John Mayer. She makes him sound like a horrendous human being who took advantage of her a 19-year-old girl (the age she was when they dated, ostensibly). You’ve got to hand it to her: making art out of pain is certainly a productive way of handling a break-up.
9. “I Knew You Were Trouble”
This song marks Taylor’s full departure from country or even pop-country music and her foray into what is just pop. It’s about as edgy as she’s ever gotten (which isn’t to stay much, but STILL). The music video — which is reminiscent of Lana Del Ray’s stuff — features Taylor staring woefully into the camera with pink-tipped hair (how alternative of her) or gazing at a tattooed, fedora-wearing hooligan who ends up breaking her heart. The video takes itself so seriously that you can’t help but wonder if it’s actually a little satirical.
10. “Our Song”
Another one of her earlier hits, this shows TSwift at her adorably cheesy best. It’s TSwift at her most authentic — creating fun, light music that doesn’t necessarily align with trends in pop music. TSwift unadulterated. TSwift uncorrupted. TSwift stripped bare.