Taylor Swift

We Are Never Getting Back TogetherRed
Bad Blood1989
Karma Midnights
Shake It Off1989
Blank Space 1989
Welcome To New York 1989
Wildest Dreams1989

Taylor Swift poster 1
2023 concert tour movie poster image



Taylor Swift playlist


Contributor: David Lewis

She was Time’s Person of the Year in 2023. She has broken more records than anyone else. She was the first performer to become a billionaire through music alone – in a period of time where music sales are through the floor. She is a multi-talented artist – writer, performer, producer. She can sing like a bird. She can write a song so catchy it stays in my head for hours. She is not the teenybopper act that her critics accuse her of.

She saved guitar sales – inspiring young women and girls to take up the instrument.

Her achievements just aren’t of the musical kind. She is a noted philanthropist. She recently donated enough money to help feed hundreds of thousands of people in California, just part of her philanthropic work. She successfully encouraged over 35,000 younger people to enrol to vote, demonstrating her leadership and influence. She didn’t tell them who to vote for, though that didn’t stop the usual critics accusing her of having an opinion.

In 2013, she accused a DJ of groping her. He sued her for defamation seeking up to $3 million, claiming she got him sacked and he was unable to find more work. She counter-sued for one dollar claiming he sexually assaulted her. She won. You do not mess with Taylor Swift.

Why am I, a middle-aged man of seemingly traditional music tastes, hoping to get you to read about perhaps the biggest – certainly one of the biggest – pop stars on the planet?

Well let me assure you it’s not prurience. (Stop rolling your eyes. It’s not.). She’s not unattractive of course, but the history of pop music is (not) littered with forgotten singers whose sole talent was meeting society’s standard for attractiveness. She’s an artist of importance who has mastered the pop form. As a music historian, how could I not notice these achievements? And given how great these songs are, how could I not be a fan?

One of the noticeable aspects of the 21st century is the rise of independent women. Sure, we haven’t fixed sexism and misogyny, but Adele, Beyoncé, Taylor, Pink, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Katy Perry and a whole host of others were able to do very well for themselves in a way they couldn’t have last century. That’s not to deny the artistic and commercial success of Joni Mitchell, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Janis Ian, Joan Baez, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Suzi Quatro, Madonna etc. but I’d argue they started from a worse position and allowed for today’s stars to have a slightly – ever so slightly – better starting point.

It’s not for me to discuss sexism to any great depth in this type of article. I do want to introduce you to the music of Taylor Swift and hopefully demonstrate it’s not superficial disposable pop. There’s a craft and a depth that her critics ignore. This is mostly the angry internet: those furious (mostly) men who don’t like anyone but themselves having anything, who rage against films and tv programmes reflecting a diverse society. To these men I say, get over it. The world has changed. And we want more Taylor Swifts and less pale stale males. And it’s not an either/or situation anyway. I can enjoy this, and throw on the Rolling Stones or Van Halen or Led Zeppelin or Queen with the same amount of pleasure and joy.

So to the songs. Nine of these are singles from her current catalog of over 60 single releases. Pop is about the singles, isn’t it? But some are so ubiquitous that it’s worth hearing them properly. Listen carefully. There’s always neat production. And vocal skill that is easily missed. Taylor’s grandmother was a noted opera singer and some of this seems to have rubbed off. She’s not a flashy technician, like Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have technique. Anyway, here are 10 songs. I could easily do another 10 or 20 but these are pretty representative.

Also, I’ve put in a line or two of lyric, just to try and demonstrate how good she is as a lyricist and an interpreter of lyrics. She wrote some, and some were in co-writes. They’re all terrific. Also, like most songwriters, she often revisits themes and ideas, so if I don’t talk much about a song it’s because it’s likely one of her lyrical themes. At least in this list the themes tend be of relationships – their starts, their ends and the bits in between, or answering her critics. As McCartney suggested, “you’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs”.

Taylor was a child star – perhaps prodigy is too strong but she was performing her own songs age thirteen. Her debut album was released when she was seventeen. Due to space considerations, I’m not taking anything from her teenage years. Also, it’s fairly generic country but she learned the craft of music in those songs. So chase them up. As an adult she mastered pop and I’ll hopefully demonstrate this.



You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me

We Are Never Getting Back Together is probably the first one that non-country fans heard first. Rampant speculation as to who it is she’s talking about, but that’s never interested me. Just a great song.


Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes

Kendrick Lamar adds a rap, and it’s rumoured to be about an apparent feud between Taylor and Katy Perry. Kendrick is terrific. I couldn’t care less about personal lives. Bad Blood is from the magnificent 1989 album which we’ll revisit in a bit. The wailing is exceptionally good, at least to me.


Karma is a cat purring in my lap / Flexing like a goddamn acrobat

Taylor tries to do more good in the world than bad and I’ll leave it to others whether she succeeds. Compared to other billionaires she is a saint. Karma’s unusual melody examines whether the good she does pays back. It does, at least from her perspective.


Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead end street

While the album version of Red is a hard rocker, it was the version she did at the 2013 CMAs that made me notice just how underrated she is. Her backing band is Alison Krauss on fiddle and vocals, Vince Gill on guitar and vocals, Sam Bush on mandolin and backing vocals and Edgar Meyer on double bass. About as close to an A list Nashville band as you can get. And not only does the song suit them all, Taylor is not out of her depth. You might notice the bigger cheers Alison and Vince get when they do their parts. That not only reflects their popularity but I suggest that, today, Taylor would get the same level of adoration.


Just think, while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty dirty cheats of the world / you could’ve been getting down to this sick beat

If Shake It Off isn’t a contender for greatest single of the 21st century, it’s certainly in the top 10 or even five. Infectious, joyous and great fun, Taylor takes on her critics. She goes on too many dates, stays out too late. Like that’s anyone’s business. She’s smarter than they tell you she is, when you expect her to zig, she zags. And the rap. Pure white girl glory. A lesser production would have brought in, I don’t know, Nicki Minaj or 50 Cent, and they’d have have done a great job. But it wouldn’t have worked. Taylor deals with her critics by shaking it off, and advises us all to do the same. If you’re not at least suppressing the urge to dance, check your pulse. And it’s got a great film clip too.


Got a long list of ex-lovers / they’ll tell you I’m insane

A warning. Taylor is not to be messed with. We saw that above. But here, with Blank Space, she might be looking to spend some time with you. Be careful, though. She might leave you with a scar. Or, you never know, it might last forever. There’s a vacancy. Think about it. Just a great pop song.


When we first dropped our bags on apartment floors / took our broken hearts, put them in a drawer

Welcome To New York. The city that never sleeps. If you can make it there etc. This, to me at least, is Taylor on the verge of conquering that most wonderful of cities. The past doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you’re going to do. The city is waiting. Take your turn. Taylor is ready.


Say you’ll remember me / Standing in a nice dress / Staring at the sunset, babe

God this is a great song. Wildest Dreams. The images, the melody. The drama. The relationship is new but it’s doomed. Let’s enjoy the ride and cherish the good memories. The drama builds. Musically superb. And a wonderful vocal performance. Those sighs. Ahh … just perfect.


Like you were a trophy or a champion ring / And there was one prize I’d cheat to win

The chamber folk approach suits Taylor. And Willow is a gorgeous ballad based around traditional instruments like glockenspiels and cellos but also drum machines and electric guitars. The well has not run dry. As the next song shows.


It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me

It must be exhausting always rooting for the Anti-Hero. This mea culpa – or is it? – asks how guilty is she? Is it altruism or narcissism? Is her success deserved? No matter how well she does there’s always someone bringing her down. In the bridge she tells a nice story of a dream she has. Quite Hemingway.


Taylor Swift is an important and significant artist. No less a personage than Billy Joel stated she was the heir to the Beatles. Before you dismiss that, one Richard Starkey – you might know him under another name – also dubbed her an heir to them. I don’t know how much more she has in her – what more can she achieve? How much more could Elton or Madonna achieve after 1990? They kept going and forged new trails. Whatever happens, I do think we’ll be discussing and analysing and copying her for decades.




Taylor Swift official website

Taylor Swift Web – online resource

Taylor Swift: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

The Swift Agency fan site

Taylor Swift biography (AllMusic)

David Lewis is Australia’s best jazz mandolinist, unless you can name someone else: then he’s Australia’s second-best. In any case, he’s almost certainly top 100. He is a regular contributor to Toppermost, and also plays guitar, banjo and bass professionally. More of his writing can be found at his rarely updated website. David is also the co-author of “Divided Opinions” and “Politics, Protest, Pandemic: The Year That Changed Australia”, both derived from an established podcast on Australian politics.

TopperPost #1,100


  1. David Ross
    Jan 31, 2024

    Great article David but Taylor clearly needs more mandolin in her life. I’ve finally decided to take the plunge as it were beyond Shake It Off starting with your playlist. Love what I’ve heard so far. I took the liberty of sharing it at The Afterword a forum full of the men you describe who talk bollocks about prog mostly. It’s had its usual mix of serious and slightly left field responses…

  2. David Lewis
    Jan 31, 2024

    Thanks so much for your comment and sharing the article, David. Yes, Taylor needs more mandolin but really don’t we all?
    I had a look at the thread with great pleasure. Thanks again for sharing. Of course she’s a Pentagon asset being used in a psyop operation to rig the NFL. It all makes sense now.
    I also appreciated the less outre comments, whether positive or negative. Thanks again!

  3. Ilkka Jauramo
    Feb 4, 2024

    Great article … but no, sir. I gave her a chance but … no, sir. As in my profession as a teacher I never turned my back on girls like her. Besides mandolin she needs more banjo or fiddle. I prefer a more genuine approach like Sweden’s First Aid Kit. Anyway, thanks for the article.

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