Carolyn Kruse

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There’s so much to celebrate about Taylor Swift lately…and again. Firstly, we celebrate the anniversary of her historic, self-titled debut album. Taylor Swift was released on October 24 of 2006. So, happy sweet 16 Taylor Swift! This collection became the longest-charting country album on the Billboard 200 for the 2000s. Further more, the alubm’s third single, “Our Song,” earned 18 year old Taylor the title of youngest person to both write and perform a Hot Country Songs chart No. 1 alone. Boom!

Taylor Swift opens for Rascal Flats


Secondly, we celebrate the release of Taylor’s third studio album, Speak Now, which was released on October 25 of 2010. Happy 12th anniversary to the album that spawned one of my all time favorite Swift songs, “Sparks Fly.” Now, we may have even more to celebrate, if the Swifties observations are on target (and they usually are). In Swift’s new video for her song, “Bejeweled,” she drops major hints as to a re-release of Speak Now, a Taylor’s version. Hang on to your hair clips, here’s a big hint.

In honor of all this, and the release of her record- breaking, chart stomping, monster hit new album, Midnights, (released last week), I take you to Taylor Swift Country.   These 13 essential tracks will bring you back to where it all began, in the country (music business, that is). So, let’s celebrate the Country Queen Taylor Swift, who left her cowboy boots behind 7 albums ago.

  • 1. Sparks Fly

    2011’s “Sparks Fly” had all the things we love about Taylor. A super infectious melody, and a vastly visual message, eloquently laid out in lyrics to remember. Who could forget “The way you move is like a full on rainstorm, And I’m a house of cards.” Most of Taylor’s country singles were released in her teens, so there were centered around being in love, wanting love, or a love gone wrong. This one has all the “looking for love in all the wrong places” feels. And I’m here for it.

  • 2. Tim McGraw

    There is nothing like your first. Swift’s first hit came in 2006, before she even had her driver’s license. I remember our first phone interview and I asked Taylor how it felt to have her first song on the radio. Her response was something like…”And I’m getting my driver’s license soon!” She seemed more excited for that pivotal life moment, which is so 16, isn’t it?

  • 3. Should've Said No

    “Should’ve Said No” was a last-minute addition to Taylor’s self-titled debut album, and the last single released. She told Rolling Stone that the song was added just 2 days before the album was mastered, and she wrote it as a reaction to “something dramactic and crazy.” Apparently, she felt the need to address it in song, and quickly. Perhaps that explains it’s fiery delivery. Banjos never sounded so angry.

  • 4. Fearless

    “I don’t know how it gets any better than this.” In 2008 Taylor released her 2nd studio album which became her most successful and critically acclaimed country album. The title track did not dissapoint. It’s all about how love can make us feel fearless. And it’s melody and message still hold up today. “Fearless” is timeless.

  • 5. Mean

    By the time “Mean” came along, Taylor was much more video savy. She knew exactly how she wanted to put her words to images and became an integral part in the video concept process. The song went on to win Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song at the 2012 Grammy Awards. The anti-bullying message was powerful, as was the message to Taylor’s biggest critics about her vocal abilities.

    “And I can see you years from now in a barTalking over a football gameWith that same big loud opinionBut nobody’s listeningWashed up and ranting about the same old bitter thingsDrunk and grumbling on about how I can’t singBut all you are is mean”

  • 6. Love Story

    A beautifuly tragic love story made into a beautiful music video, what’s not to love? In 2008 Taylor released the first single from her Fearless album. She was  inspired to write “Love Story” because of a real life love interest her family wasn’t so in love with. Taking a page from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, many critics, at the time, considered this song one of Taylor’s best pieces of work.

  • 7. Back To December

    According to Taylor, her album Speak Now was all about the things she wanted to say to the people in her life, but never had a chance to. “Back To December” is esstenially a lyrical apology to a past love. The music in the song included a lush string orchestra accompaniment to give power to the ballad. The result is pure and pretty.

  • 8. Our Song

    This is the one! The first #1 hit for Taylor Swift, and the one that made her the youngest person ever to write and sing a #1 country hit. Swift was 17 when all this happened. Quite an accomplishment. And to think she wrote this little diddy about making every day things in life your song, for a high school talent show. She was in ninth grade when she wrote, “Our Song.” It spent 6 weeks on top of the country charts.

  • 9. You Belong With Me

    As she does, Swift loves to draw from real life experiences for her lyrics. “You Belong With Me” was “inspired  by a phone call between a male friend of hers and his girlfriend that she overheard.” (Wikipedia). Ahh, the unrequited love theme, it never gets old. At the 2010 Grammy Awards, the song received 3 nominations for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Performance.  This is the song that will live in infamy for the “Kanye West debacle.” It was nominated at the 2009 VMAs, and was Taylor’s  first invitation to the MTV awards show, as she was transitioning to a pop star. You remember, that time Kanye stormed the stage as Taylor was accepting her award for Best Video by a Female Artist. West said to Taylor,“I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!” He stole her moment, but not her award.

  • 10. Picture to Burn

    Don’t mess with Taylor Swift’s heart or she’s going to write about it. She proved this early, and often. “Picture to Burn” was inspired by a real life high school love interest, who was interested in someone else. The video also stars Taylor’s bff Abigail. Taylor rage can be a beautiful thing to witness in song.  On the 2008  hit single, Billboard proclaimed it to be , “a totally infectious slice of fun with a singalong chorus that you won’t be able to dismiss from your memory bank.” I second that. Rock out, Taylor, rock out.

  • 11. White Horse

    Taylor told CMT, “To me, ‘White Horse’ is about what, in my opinion, is the most heart-breaking part of a break-up – that moment when you realize that all the dreams you had, all those visions you had of being with this person, all that disappears.” The white horse represents the prince you think a person is, until their dark side is revealed, and you realize a prince is a just fairy tale. Grey’s Anatomy fans will know this song from a 2008 episode called “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” Taylor has been a long time fan of the show and presented the song to the producers.

  • 12. Teardrops On My Guitar

    Released in early 2007, this single (only the 2nd in her career) is likely the  most stripped down of Taylor Swift country songs. It’s acoustic vibe gave us a sense of how it all began for Taylor; just her journal and her guitar. We felt like we came to know Drew, the object of Taylor’s affections in the song, and in 9th grade life. “Teardrops” was based on a classmate of Taylor’s named Drew. No protecting the innocent here, I guess. He had no idea she was interested in him. And a song was born.

  • 13. Ours

    This single was the beginning of the end of the Taylor Swift country era, as she was emersing herself into the world of pop. “Ours” was available of the deluxe edition of “Speak Now,” and became her last #1 on the country music charts. Many have speculated this song was about her relationship with John Mayer, as the lyrics “Any snide remarks from my father about your tattoos will be ignored,” might suggest.