When Taylor Swift was just coming into her prime, I was discovering Rage Against the Machine. Rage is all about, well, rage, and Taylor Swift is about much more delicate feelings. In my tiny teen brain, if Rage Against the Machine ruled, Taylor Swift had to suck.
But things are different now! I’m a Joni Mitchell fan! There’s no reason I need to hang on to this childish anti-Swift attitude. So, in order to talk about T. Swift fairly, I talked to some T. Swift fans.
The general consensus was that Red is not the album they would have picked to be in the Top 100. After all, 1989 (#363) won a Grammy, and “has most of the Harry [Styles] songs” on it as well, according to my sister. Red also has “22” on it, which is a big mark against it.
My sister pointed out that Red might be under-appreciated because people were sexist and unfair to her. My friend Sean put it differently:
“What’s so special about Taylor Swift is this: Every generation has a pop singer songwriter who [writes music that feels] so ripped-out-of-their-diary, and with Taylor Swift it really did feel that way, especially at the beginning. … She was just writing about teenage girl feelings in a way that wasn’t judgmental.”
And that reminded me of what I loved so much about Rage Against the Machine. I was an angry young teen, and I recognized teenage outrage in Rage. But I was also a teenage girl!
So to listen to Red for the second time, I put myself back in my middle-school skinny jeans and pretended I had just been gifted my acoustic guitar. This proved to be the right way to listen.
“Red” — I had trouble with “State of Grace,” but this song was a jam.
“I Knew You Were Trouble.” — I thought I hated this song but it is jammed so deep in my ear I don’t know if I will ever get it out.
“All Too Well” — Lovely. The line So casually cruel in the name of being honest is brilliant.
“Stay Stay Stay” — My sister mentioned that the songs on Red that weren’t major hits weren’t very well-known, and I see what she means.
“Holy Ground” — About midway through the album I started to get it.
“The Lucky One” — I actually started to sing along to this one.
“Everything Has Changed” — Look, it’s my favorite character from the movie Yesterday, Ed Sheeran! I know his tattoos are terrible but I love them anyway. Also I love when Ed goes higher than T. Swift on the harmonies.
“Begin Again” — I’m glad this album ended on a pretty ballad instead of one of the pop songs.
LEAST FAVORITE SONGS:
“22” — No.
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” — I thought I hated this song and I was right. Although I do love the line about “some indie record that’s MUCH cooler than mine.”
“Starlight” — Oh MAN, I was a little into it until she goes, “We can have ten kids and teach them how to dream!” Ugh.
IS RS FULL OF IT?
My two Swift Consultants submitted Fearless and Evermore as the best Swift albums — neither of which made the 500 list. (Though to be fair, I don’t think Evermore had been released when this list came out.)
I’d like to submit my own: I think Taylor Swift, her debut, should be here, because my favorite T. Swift song is “Picture To Burn.” Most of all, I am happy to report that my attitude towards her has softened considerably. Maybe I needed to be primed by Lucinda Williams.