“If you write, you can turn your lessons into your legacy,” Taylor Swift mused in a speech at the 2019 TIME 100 Gala. And she was entirely right – her songs have gotten fans (including us!) through some of the hardest moments of their lives, helping them process what they were dealing with and offering a warm hug in the form of descriptive lyrics, hopeful details, and a global superstar who truly cares about her listeners.
Taylor has created an empire of lessons out of the best and worst things she’s experienced in her life, refusing to let any moment stand in her way or prevent her from pursuing her dreams. Her songwriting is so powerful that she’s won her own Taylor Swift Award in recognition of her lyrics and Billy Joel compared her to The Beatles! As she revisits her discography as part of her Taylor’s Version project, let’s take a look back at some of her best self-written songs.
From the first line of ‘Cornelia Street,’ Taylor paints the picture of a cozy relationship that develops and comforts her in spite of her romantic fears. She mentions streetlights, a bar date, an autumn walk, and barefoot kitchen nights (‘All Too Well’ callback, anyone?) in such an immersive way that builds an entire universe around the song. It makes us feel like we’re literally on New York City’s Cornelia Street with her!
Favorite lyric: “I get mystified by how this city screams your name…”
It’s no secret that much of Taylor’s discography describes her romantic experiences, and Lover’s closer, ‘Daylight,’ is the beautiful culmination of the years she’s spent looking for the right person. She touches on her past woes, her current love with Joe Alwyn, and her excitement for a love-filled future. We’re also still not over the reference to her 2012 breakup anthem ‘Red!’ What a full-circle moment.
Favorite lyric: “I once believed love would be burning red, but it’s golden like daylight…”
One of the standout tracks on her entirely self-written 2010 album Speak Now, ‘Dear John’ sees Taylor calling out an ex who mistreated her and “changed the rules every day.” It’s gone from a painful song to a rallying battle cry for anyone experiencing something similar to see their worth and walk away from toxic situations. Not to mention that incredible high note on the bridge!
Favorite lyric: “I took your matches before fire could catch me, so don’t look now / I’m shining like fireworks over your sad, empty town…”
Another one of the best songs on Speak Now is ‘Enchanted,’ which can only be described as the most magical thing we’ve ever heard. It’s a whirlwind adventure about meeting someone you’re already smitten with then going home and not being able to stop thinking about them. Relatable, right? It’s so relatable that over ten years after its release, it became a popular TikTok audio! Finally, people have woken up and realized how beautiful this song is.
Favorite lyric: “Please don’t be in love with someone else, please don’t have somebody waiting on you…”
If you didn’t listen to ‘Fifteen’ on your first day of ninth grade, you started high school on the wrong foot! It’s a sweet look back at Taylor’s short time in public high school before she started homeschooling to pursue her music career, and a lot of it also draws from her best friend Abigail’s experiences in high school. Together, they navigated not only school, but first loves and self-doubt.
Favorite lyric: “In your life, you’ll do things greater than dating a boy on the football team…”
“Tonight I’m gonna dance” to the masterpiece that is ‘Holy Ground!’ There’s a reason it’s a fan-favorite track from Red, and you need to listen to it ASAP to get in on the hype. It’s a fast-paced look back on a relationship that ended on a bittersweet note, and we love the nostalgia embedded in the lyrics.
Favorite lyric: “We blocked the noise with the song of ‘I need you’ and for the first time, I had something to lose…”
‘my tears ricochet’
Even though folklore is largely fictional (see bops like ‘betty’ and ‘august’), ‘my tears ricochet’ offers one of Taylor’s most vulnerable songs to date. It addresses her battle for her masters and how betrayed she felt when her old label sold the recordings of her first six albums. As we know, she’s taking back her work with the Taylor’s Versions of her albums, so as much as it hurts her and us, we can still celebrate albums 1-6 as she reclaims!
Favorite lyric: “I still talk to you when I’m screaming at the sky, and when you can’t sleep at night you hear my stolen lullabies…”
‘no body, no crime’
Taylor and her friends in HAIM take on an unfaithful husband in the evermore true-crime epic ‘no body, no crime.’ Este Haim tells Taylor her husband is seemingly cheating on her before Este mysteriously disappears, and Taylor vows to avenge her and get to the bottom of the situation. She takes note of details like her husband’s new tires, his new lover, and how Este doesn’t show up at their weekly Olive Garden meetup to solve the case.
Favorite lyric: “That ain’t my Merlot on his mouth, that ain’t my jewelry on our joint account…”
We’ve been waiting for a Taylor and Phoebe Bridgers collab for years, and they finally delivered it with the amazing ‘Nothing New’ on Red (Taylor’s Version)! The song discusses how women in the music industry are treated and how the industry’s quick pace can make artists feel cast aside when new acts start rising. We’re not over Taylor or Phoebe’s gorgeous vocals or the melancholy lyrics that still make us tear up.
Favorite lyric: “How can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22?”
Taylor wrote ‘Our Song’ for a school talent show before it made it onto the tracklist of her debut album, and we’re so glad her classmates liked it enough to convince her! The song is a playful celebration of a relationship where Taylor and her boyfriend didn’t have a song they closely connected with, so she made her own. It took off on country radio and the rest is music history.
Favorite lyric: “I’ve heard every album, listened to the radio / Waiting for something to come along that was as good as our song…”
‘State Of Grace’
‘State Of Grace’ is more than just the opening song of Red – it’s a five-minute epic that walks through all the thrilling phases of a new romance. It’s a perfect example of how Taylor fused country and rock in her late country years, with the electric guitar adding the perfect energy to match the lyrics’ passion. It sets the scene for the love and heartbreak described throughout Red with a bang!
Favorite lyric: “This is the golden age of something good and right and real…”
‘This Love’ is one of the most immersive tracks on 1989, following an up-and-down relationship as it flows back and forth like “high tide.” It started off as a poem that Taylor wrote just days before Red came out, so it’s safe to assume this was one of the first songs she worked on for 1989. It perfectly captures the hope and frustration present in on-and-off romances!
Favorite lyric: “When you’re young, you just run, but you come back to what you need…”
How many artists can say they wrote their debut single completely on their own? Taylor can! ‘Tim McGraw’ is an ode to doomed love, inspired by her own romance with an older guy who was getting ready to head off to college. They danced to Tim McGraw songs by a lake on their summer nights together, so she named the song after him and later got to perform it right in front of him.
Favorite lyric: “September saw a month of tears, thanking God that you weren’t here to see me like that…”
What are your favorite self-written Taylor Swift songs? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! And to get to know more Swifties, be sure to buzz on over to our Discord server, The Hive.