20 great but seriously underrated Taylor Swift songs

20 great but seriously underrated Taylor Swift songs

Let's revisit some hidden gems that showcase Taylor Swift's masterful lyrical chops, including tracks from her new album Midnights

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Taylor Swift (Photo courtesy from L to R: Beth Garrabrant, Larry Busacca/Getty Images; Republic Records; Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images, Beth Garrabrant)
Taylor Swift (Photo courtesy from L to R: Beth Garrabrant, Larry Busacca/Getty Images; Republic Records; Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images, Beth Garrabrant)
Graphic: Rebecca Fassola

Let’s state the obvious first: Taylor Swift does, in fact, have numerous underrated tracks. Ever since her self-titled debut album in 2006, the singer-songwriter has become a pivotal industry artist. She’s recorded over 220 tracks in her career so far, successfully experimenting with various genres in the process. Yet for anyone only vaguely familiar with her discography, the popular standouts are limited to “Love Story,” “Shake It Off,” “All Too Well,” or, more recently, “Anti-Hero.” Her music tends to be eclipsed by snap judgments, a torrid news cycle around her love life, or other headlines (including a wild Ticketmaster situation to nab concert tickets).

The narrative around Swift’s body of work is often distilled down to one (untrue) notion: She only seemingly croons about heartbreak. While Swift draws from her reality—find us an artist who doesn’t—her creative genius lies in her lyrical ability. She’s always been a passionate storyteller with a talent for waxing poetic about love, individualism, insecurities, friendship, and grief. Her 2020 albums, folklore and evermore, prove she can spin a poignant fictional yarn as well.

Swift launched her 10th studio album, Midnights, on October 21. Written during “13 sleepless nights,”—a recurring motif in her discography—it echoes her past eras as well. To mark the release, The A.V. Club digs into Swift’s impressive repertoire to highlight some of her less-celebrated songwriting gems, picking two tracks from each of her albums. Yes, even from Midnights, which quickly broke records by securing all Top 10 charts upon release. And hey, who knows? With an open mind, you might be introduced to a whole new side of Swift, too.

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2 / 22

“Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)”—Taylor Swift

“Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)”—Taylor Swift

Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)

Though Swift would (understandably) go on to be pegged as a confessional, diarist songwriter, examples of the inventive storytelling that made folklore a success can be found as far back as her debut. Mary’s Song, a sweet, nostalgic tale of childhood friends-to-lovers, is one of those examples. It’s not as sophisticated as later hits (or even the singles from the same album). Still, it’s remarkable for launching motifs that would long be part of the Swiftian oeuvre: driving the backroads with your lover at 2 A.M., explosive fights and tender make-ups, cinematic proposals, and small-town weddings. [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “And I’ll be 87; you’ll be 89 / I’ll still look at you like the stars that shine.”

Also check out:Cold As You.” Pure teen angst from the teen queen of the 2000s.

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3 / 22

“Tied Together With A Smile”—Taylor Swift

“Tied Together With A Smile”—Taylor Swift

Tied Together with a Smile

Swift’s first and most recent album both deal with the uncertainty of what lies ahead and failing to live up to expectations. The singer capitalizes on this unique yet universal anxiety whether you’re 13 or 31. Swift has handled the subject with a marvelous evolution that spans from Taylor Swift’s “Tied Together With A Smile” to evermore’s “happiness.”

She co-wrote this one with Liz Rose. The lyrics are pointedly inspired by her high school classmate, a beauty queen who suffered from an eating disorder. More broadly, though, it’s about the toll it takes when you’re trapped by other people’s assumptions. The subject matter is heavy, but Swift’s exceptional country twang and soft vocals make it easier to digest. This album was released when Swift was only 16—being a teenager is when insecurities are at their peak, and “Tied Together With A Smile” encapsulates that. [Saloni Gajjar]

Most striking lyric: “And no one knows / That you cry, but you don’t tell anyone / That you might not be the golden one / And you’re tied together with a smile / But you’re coming undone.”

Also check out:A Place In This World.” A straightforward catapult into the mind of every teenager who is clueless about their identity and how they fit in.

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4 / 22

“Forever & Always: Piano (Taylor’s Version)”—Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

“Forever & Always: Piano (Taylor’s Version)”—Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift - Forever & Always (Piano Version) (Taylor’s Version) (Lyric Video)

Can anything really be called underrated on the blockbuster that is Fearless? “Forever & Always” wasn’t even a single, but it was much discussed as a last-minute addition to the album after Swift’s breakup with Joe Jonas. The furious lyrics, solely written by the teenage Swift, are some of the best on the album, which is saying something. The sophistication with which she was able to transform that infamous 27-second phone call into a wordy (but catchy!) diatribe against a neglectful beau signified the direction her songwriting career would soon take.

While the country-pop original is a certified banger, do yourself a favor and turn your attention to the Platinum Edition bonus track Piano Version. It’s a lovely arrangement that lets the heartbreak breathe, designed (and, this writer can assure you, means-tested) for brooding while gazing dramatically out the window of a moving vehicle. [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “Was I out of line? / Did I say something way too honest, made you run and hide / Like a scared little boy?”

Also check out:The Other Side Of The Door.” Search the song on TikTok to see some appreciation for how hard it goes.

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5 / 22

“Don’t You (From The Vault)”—Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

“Don’t You (From The Vault)”—Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift - Don’t You (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault) (Lyric Video)

As her first re-recording of own her masters, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) came with high hopes. What do the tracks she worked on over a decade ago sound like today? Thankfully, the album passed with flying colors. As noted in The A.V. Club’s review : “It works as a throwback, but it’s mainly a showcase of Swift’s mature, confident vocals, with a sharper sense of musicianship and instrumentation this time around.” Among the six new additions, or “from the vault” tracks, was “Don’t You (Taylor’s Version).” It got cut from the initial album, but blissfully fits into the update.

Co-written by Swift and country artist Tommy Lee James, the track deals with the most awkward circumstance: Running into an ex who said they wanted to be friends. (So casually cruel in the name of being honest, am I right?) The songwriting here is simple but works as evocative wordplay as she reopens an old wound. The titular phrase is both a passive-aggressive request (“Don’t you smile at me and ask me how I’ve been”) and a heartbreaking question (“You don’t know how much I feel I love you still / So why don’t you?”). Much like Red (Taylor’s Version), one fresh track has dominated this album too (“Mr. Perfectly Fine”), but give “Don’t You” a chance. [Saloni Gajjar]

Most striking lyric: “So I’ll walk out of here tonight / Try to go on with my life / And you can say we’re still friends / But I don’t wanna pretend.”

Also check out:The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version).” A furiously paced track about missing an old flame.

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6 / 22

“Long Live”—Speak Now

“Long Live”—Speak Now

Long Live

Every artist claims to love their fans, but Swift has turned her relationship with her fans into its own cottage industry. That relationship later transformed into a highly involved Easter egg hunt with secret sessions and wink-wink in-jokes. But back in 2010, the pinnacle was this anthemic thank-you note that attributed her success to her fans’ willingness to fight dragons with her. (This would prove particularly prophetic during her more turbulent years.)

Since overshadowed by other big stadium crowdpleasers (“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Shake It Off,” “... Ready For It,” etc.), “Long Live” was her first song written with a roaring crowd in mind—and while it will still make any Swiftie emotional to this day, it’s also a fine example of metaphor and her canny ability to craft a track with an audience in mind (literally). [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “I was screaming, ‘Long live that look on your face’ / And bring on all the pretenders / One day, we will be remembered.”

Also check out: Better Than Revenge.” Like Paramore’s “Misery Business,” this is a bit of early aughts internalized misogyny that nevertheless hurts so good.

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7 / 22

“Last Kiss”—Speak Now

“Last Kiss”—Speak Now

Last Kiss

Looking at the Swift tracks yet to be discussed in this list, “Last Kiss” might seem lightweight, but it actually highlights her lyrical strength. Speak Now is still Swift at her country music best, and it’s evidenced by this track. She mines the text from her past relationship with Joe Jonas profoundly. It’s refrained nostalgia because the words convey exactly how Swift romanticized their bond, never imagining it would break, only for him not to feel similarly. That doesn’t mean you can’t miss it anyway.

Speak Now has several haunting tracks, from “Back To December” to “Dear John,” which symbolize key moments from Swift’s life back then. In that regard, “Last Kiss” is not very different. But the song, which was released 12 years ago in October 2010, feels like an extension of present-era Swift. Listen to this and folklore opener “the 1" to see what I mean.) If there’s one thing she knows how to do well, it’s to connect her work with an invisible thread. [Saloni Gajjar]

Most striking lyric: “All that I know is I don’t know / How to be something you miss.”

Also check out:Enchanted.” Perhaps not as underrated, but an iconic banger that’ll never get old.

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8 / 22

“Treacherous (Taylor’s Version)”—Red (Taylor’s Version)

“Treacherous (Taylor’s Version)”—Red (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift - Treacherous (Taylor’s Version) (Lyric Video)

Joni Mitchell was an obvious inspiration for Swift’s Red album, an influence which is perhaps most clearly felt in the subtle but powerful “Treacherous.” This track is also a perfect distillation of what made the Red era successful: a haunting, newly mature singer-songwriter vibe combined with wrenching personal lyrics that poetically re-examine a possibly toxic relationship.

The song flirts with a sensuality that Swift obviously wasn’t ready to commit to (yet), but that ambiguity works perfectly in this context, wherein the singer isn’t sure how far she should let herself fall. As the lyrics move from uncertainty to confidence in her desires, the music builds to a complementary crescendo that could sweep anyone away. [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “And all we are is skin and bone / Trained to get along / Forever going with the flow / But you’re friction.”

Also check out: The Last Time” (featuring Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol). A juicy, angsty precursor to folklore’s “exile” featuring Bon Iver.

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9 / 22

“State Of Grace: Acoustic (Taylor’s Version)”—Red (Taylor’s Version)

“State Of Grace: Acoustic (Taylor’s Version)”—Red (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift - State Of Grace (Acoustic Version) (Taylor’s Version) (Lyric Video)

To a more general audience, Red houses pop hits like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Or, notably, it’s attached to wild theories over a scarf Swift sings about in “All Too Well.” Her re-recorded album, released in November 2021, featured a grand total of 30 songs (including the masterpiece, “All Too Well (10 Minute Version).” So, naturally, many genuinely stellar tracks get lost in the shuffle.

Red is a dizzying mix of ballads and dance rotations, most directly indicated by the dual use of “State Of Grace.” The opening track sets precedence for what to expect lyrically throughout the album: “Love is a ruthless game / Unless you play it good and right.” But the impact deepens and hits harder in her melodious acoustic version. The song revels in Swift’s velvety voice, paired with soft guitar and drum notes instead of the original’s uptempo beat.

“State Of Grace (Acoustic Version”) is about that blissful stage of an early relationship where everything is viewed with rose-tinted glasses. But the vulnerability doesn’t equal gullibility in the lyrics, written solely by Swift. She’s aware that this phase doesn’t last long—it’s a state of grace—and the future depends on how both sides play the game. [Saloni Gajjar]

Most striking lyric: “So you were never a saint / And I loved in shades of wrong / We learn to live with the pain / Mosaic broken heart.”

Also check out:Forever Winter (From The Vault).” Don’t let the pop beats fool you. Pay attention to the words.

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10 / 22

“Clean”—1989

“Clean”—1989

Clean

1989 is another album wherein few tracks can really be called “underrated”; even the bonus tracks are landmark entries in Swiftie history. (See Saloni’s pick for further discussion.) The Imogen Heap-assisted “Clean” certainly has fans, but even so, this all-time-great album closer still lives in the shadow of some of her biggest-ever singles.

There are occasions when Swift’s whimsical metaphors can become overwrought, but the fantastical imagery of the lyrics and the zen chime sounds just work on “Clean.” The “rain in your bedroom” we first encountered on “Forever & Always” still threatens after heartbreak, but this time it has the power to wash the past away and allow the singer to “finally breathe.” For a woman who famously never lets anything go, she wrote a perfect ode to set oneself free–although she’s self-aware enough to admit that “just because you’re clean, don’t mean you don’t miss it.” [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “You’re still all over me / Like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore.”

Also check out: All You Had To Do Was Stay.” Propulsive, perfect pop courtesy of one of Swift’s best collaborators, Max Martin.

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11 / 22

“Wonderland”—1989

“Wonderland”—1989

Taylor Swift - Wonderland (Lyrics)

1989 might’ve produced some of Swift’s liveliest and most well-known songs: “Blank Space,” “Shake It Off,” “Style,” and “Out Of The Woods,” to name a few. Yet there’s something to be said about her glorious bonus tracks on this album because “New Romantics” is a banger, while “Wonderland” doesn’t get the adulation it demands.

I won’t lie; on first listen, it’s sonically jarring. The music crescendos and falls quite a bit, but grounds itself in lyrics from Swift, Shellback, and Max Martin. Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland has inspired many a TV show and film adaptations, but “Wonderland” succinctly elevates it into a crusher about stumbling into the rabbit hole of a relationship. Swift has often written about the pitfalls of diving in head first, consequences be damned. Maybe that’s why it strikes stronger in hindsight.

Here she sings, “But there were strangers watching / And whispers turned to talking / And talking turned to screams,” while addressing the pressures of the outside (or real) world. Compare it then to folklore’s “peace”—written about in detail below—and how in that track she doesn’t mind those interferences anymore because her love is true. “Wonderland” yet again showcases Swift’s love for symbolism, and it’ll grow on you. [Saloni Gajjar]

Most striking lyric: “We found Wonderland / You and I got lost in it / And life was never worse but never better.”

Also check out: I Know Places.” A song about secret spots for lovers, perhaps their own little wonderland.

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12 / 22

“Dress”—Reputation

“Dress”—Reputation

Dress

There’s a joke among Swifties that Reputation is the album in which she declared she really likes alcohol. (Fair enough: lots of drinks getting name-dropped here.) Her drinking habits seem to have overshadowed a much more important development, which is that Reputation is by far her sexiest record. The songs are littered with coy references to what she’s up to in her dreams, eyebrow-raising imagery like the scratches down her lover’s back and wearing them like a necklace (!!!), and proud declarations that she does actually do bad things.

“Dress” is the perfect marriage of Swift’s romanticism and newfound lust, about a garment worn specifically to be taken off. Hot! But it also includes her trademark vulnerability, admitting that part of what makes this person so attractive is that they saw her at her lowest and still wanted her. (That’s another classic preoccupation of Swift’s, particularly on Reputation.) The song is all the more compelling because the singer is brimming with desire, but for some reason, is not acting on it. Yeah, “Carve my name into your bedpost” is swoon-worthy, but somehow the sexiest image of all is that “My hands are shaking from holding back from you.” [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “There is an indentation in the shape of you / Made your mark on me, a golden tattoo.”

Also check out: Dancing With Our Hands Tied.” Secrecy and danger lurking around every corner of her romantic relationships are a common motif, and this urgent, loquacious pop track is one of the genre’s hallmarks.

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13 / 22

“King Of My Heart”—Reputation

“King Of My Heart”—Reputation

King Of My Heart

Swift has never sounded more confident than she does in “King Of My Heart.” The song belongs on Reputation, a potent album in which the Grammy winner finally clutches on to writing about her desires. The heavy synth tunes add fuel to the lyric’s fire.

In “King Of My Heart,” Swift openly declares that her partner has satisfied her unlike anyone else, crowing him the king of her heart, body, and soul. While lust is a driving force, the song paints a complete picture of how their wholesome relationship is everything Swift didn’t think she’d ever get. See: “Your love is a secret I’m hoping, dreaming, dying to keep / Change my priorities / The taste of your lips is my idea of luxury.” The song is about her British beau Joe Alwyn, and not-so-subtly has references to English slang and her country roots. The record is both highly specific and also an instant earworm. [Saloni Gajjar]

Most striking lyric: “Is this the end of all the endings / My broken bones are mending / With all these nights we’re spending.”

Also check out: So It Goes...” Think of this as a fourth companion piece to “Dress,” “King Of My Heart,” and “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” and turn it into a party.

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14 / 22

“It’s Nice To Have A Friend”—Lover

“It’s Nice To Have A Friend”—Lover

Taylor Swift - It’s Nice To Have A Friend (Official Audio)

“It’s Nice To Have A Friend” is unique, even amidst the varied sounds and stories on Lover. On the one hand, it’s classic Swift with another sweet childhood friends-to-lovers tale. On the other, it’s musically unlike anything she’s done before or since: Impressively brief (for a woman who topped the charts with a 10-minute track), backed by soothing steel drums, with a choir vocal on the chorus so haunting it belongs in a horror trailer.

It just proves, once again, her mastery over her craft–drop her into any sonic landscape, and she’ll still shine. And the ability to tell a complete story within this nursery rhyme-esque structure is another credit to her as a lyricist. [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “Something gave you the nerve / To touch my hand / It’s nice to have a friend.”

Also check out: Soon You’ll Get Better.” Swift’s exploration of her mother’s cancer battle is so powerfully emotional, she’s only ever performed it live once. With backing vocals from The Chicks, it packs a punch.

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15 / 22

“False God”—Lover

“False God”—Lover

Taylor Swift - False God (Official Audio)

There aren’t many sensual tracks in Swift’s discography. It’s a shame because when she heads down that lane, the results are quite fun and sultry (see: Mary Kate on “Dress”). Lover’s “False God,” co-produced and co-written with Jack Antonoff, is instantly alluring thanks to its use of saxophone, jazz, and notes of R&B. And if that doesn’t lure you in, Swift’s euphonic combination of religious allegory and, well, oral sex will do it.

“False God”—or the song I would attach to Fleabag—posits how knowingly making false promises can temporarily repair a romantic bond. It’s not the wisest choice. But the lyrics claim that the couple’s physical connection is stronger than distance (they live oceans apart at times), prayer, and God altogether. The words spotlight their push-and-pull; the fights and the silences are all just a build-up: “And you can’t talk to me when I’m like this / Daring you to leave me just so I can try and scare you / You’re the West Village / You still do it for me, babe.”

Among the many standouts on Lover, including the should’ve-been-a-single “Cruel Summer” and the eloquent ballad “The Archer,” it’s easy to forget that the album delivers a short and sexy melody (even if Swift performed it on SNL, it got swept under the rug). But don’t sleep on her use of reverence as a form of seduction. [Saloni Gajjar]

Most striking lyric: “We might just get away with it / Religion’s in your lips / Even if it’s a false god / We’d still worship...”

Also check out: Afterglow.” A slow synth-pop bop about regret and a knack for self-sabotage. What’s not to love?

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16 / 22

“epiphany”—folklore

“epiphany”—folklore

Taylor Swift – epiphany (Official Lyric Video)

folklore is in every way a product of the COVID era. Swift herself has said she wouldn’t have had the courage to release it without suddenly having all that time to write, reflect, and experiment. Mostly, the result was pure escapism, beautiful little fictional worlds and brand-new sounds. But “epiphany” confronts the pandemic directly in a way that few artists of any medium have yet done. A heartbreaker on par with Lover’s “Soon You’ll Get Better,” it’s among the most poignant tracks in her entire discography.

Swift has cited her grandfather’s experience in World War II as a partial inspiration for the song, and the comparison is brilliant: Two very different, yet similarly impactful mass death events across two generations. The lyrics present these two historical moments in brief vignettes, which is probably as tactful as someone not on the front lines can be in handling their stories. Yet the dreamy music and vocals really capture the confused, exhausted, trancelike attempt to parse a trauma while it’s still happening. [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “Only 20 minutes to sleep / But you dream of some epiphany / Just one single glimpse of relief / To make some sense of what you’ve seen.”

Also check out: illicit affairs.” Underrated amongst the many yarns Swift spins, this track cuts deep with its simplicity. “You taught me a secret language that I can’t speak with anyone else”—oof!

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17 / 22

“peace”—folklore

“peace”—folklore

Taylor Swift – peace (Official Lyric Video)

“peace” is an expression of unadulterated love. It lyrically shines in a way that romantic songs from Lover don’t. folklore’s 15th track is fully realized and layered. The stripped instrumentation and lo-fi-ticking guitar notes alone are spectacular, and along with Swift’s punctuated vocals, it’s a song that deserves your attention. She experiments with and embraces indie and alternative genres in folklore, which won her a third Album of the Year Grammy in 2021. Most of it has a poetic narrative—especially the triangle scattered across three tracks—but “peace” is the most personal.

Swift teams up with The National’s Aaron Dessner to ask: What if uncontrollable drama around you makes it impossible to be with the person you love? She inevitably has experience with it. That’s why “peace” feels particularly empirical (and is reminiscent of Reputation’s “Call It What You Want”) as she sings about Joe Alwyn. The lyrics wonder if unshakeable devotion is enough to endure pressure from an outside bubble. She refers to the external drama in the line, “There’s robbers to the east, clowns to the West / I’d give you my sunshine, give you my best,” about issues with Scooter Braun and Kanye West.

Now, we’re not all award-winning singers with paparazzi running behind us, so it’s hard to relate to that aspect. Even so, a relationship can be challenged by anything, as everyone has a history and carries baggage. So can you find peace with another human being while accepting flaws and situations you can’t change? “peace” makes a case for it, and so is a love song in the truest ways.

Most striking lyric: “And you know that I’d swing with you for the fences / Sit with you in the trenches / Give you my wild, give you a child / Give you the silence that only comes when two people understand each other / Family that I chose now that I see your brother as my brother / Is it enough?”

Also check out:this is me trying.” Want to continue wondering if you’re enough? Give this song a listen.

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18 / 22

“closure”—evermore

“closure”—evermore

Taylor Swift - closure (Official Lyric Video)

First of all, the entirety of evermore is underrated, so jot that down. Coming after the seismic shift of folklore, the second sister album didn’t really stand a chance. But it includes some of Swift’s most incredible songwriting to date, both lyrically and musically. While the Grammy winner usually gets her due as a lyricist, she doesn’t tend to get credit for being sonically innovative. Yet she’s repeatedly proved to be ahead of the curve, switching up genres and predicting (or setting) pop music trends with every new release.

The complete freedom of the “everlore era” is evident in the way she experimented with new sounds, particularly on evermore, and never more so than with “closure.” One of her strangest tunes, it’s a song that may fit better on a Big Red Machine album (Swift’s collaborators Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon both have credits on the track). Yet the somewhat discordant sound and lack of syncopation pair perfectly with the lyrics about rejecting the closure offered by a former friend or lover.

Musically and emotionally, nothing feels resolved–and that’s exactly how the singer wants it. Plus, she so rarely leans into an aggressive emotion like pure spite as she does on this song, making it even more of a surprising treat. [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “I know I’m just a wrinkle in your new life / Staying friends would iron it out so nice / Guilty, guilty, reaching out across the sea / That you put between you and me /But it’s fake, and it’s oh so unnecessary.”

Also check out: gold rush.” More subdued, but equally experimental in its own way—and perhaps a way for Swift to expand on her favorite Carly Simon lyric.

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19 / 22

“happiness”—evermore

“happiness”—evermore

Taylor Swift - happiness (Official Lyric Video)

In my opinion, 2020's evermore is Swift’s most atmospheric and lyrically captivating album to date, proving the singer-songwriter is a powerful storyteller. There are zero skips, with instant favorites like “ivy” and “champagne problems.” However, “happiness” is one of the most crushing because it juggles being oddly hopeful. This track is also written by Swift and Dessner. With vivid allusions to The Great Gatsby, the lyrics paint a devastating picture of a relationship freshly ending. But that’s just scratching the surface. Its depth stems from not knowing what comes next (who can’t relate to that?), and ultimately being alright with this fact.

“happiness” deals with the narrator taking a step back and gaining a broader perspective on a romance gone wrong. The writing captures a desperate desire to let go and move on, as grueling as it might be, and give your partner the green light to do the same. Prepare yourself for an achingly honest bridge about two good people hurting each other. There’s leftover rage, lingering feelings, and general wistfulness. But there’s also an appreciation of the relationship’s good and bad; plus, a recognition of the post-separation possibilities ahead. It’s a chance for reinvention.

The track’s mature, melancholic spirit is elevated by Swift’s ethereal vocals and ambient synth music full of hi-hits and organs. Her recent partnership with Dessner has clearly resulted in some beautiful renditions on this album alone, including “tolerate it” and “tis’ the damn season,” but “happiness” has been underappreciated for far too long in comparison. [Saloni Gajjar]

Most striking lyric: “Haunted by the look in my eyes / That would’ve loved you for a lifetime / Leave it all behind / And there is happiness.”

Also check out:coney island” (feat. The National). Think of it as a spiritual sibling to “happiness.”

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20 / 22

“Labyrinth”—Midnights

“Labyrinth”—Midnights

Taylor Swift - Labyrinth (Official Lyric Video)

How to select an underrated track from a monstrously successful album like Midnights? First, eliminate all the songs that dominated Billboard’s Top 10. Then look for the most deceptively simple yet hauntingly beautiful tracks in Swift’s repertoire. “Labyrinth” sits at the intersection of romance and heartache, where the artist feels raw and vulnerable yet can’t resist the pull of blossoming love. Still, “underrated” might not be the right term–even this song has its own unlikely TikTok dance. [Mary Kate Carr]

Most striking lyric: “It only hurts this much right now / Was what I was thinkin’ the whole time”

Also check out: Are there any tracks left that can reasonably be called underrated? Try “Sweet Nothing,” a song some fans have posited as a grown-up sequel to motherly love anthem “The Best Day.”

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21 / 22

“The Great War”—Midnights

“The Great War”—Midnights

Taylor Swift - The Great War (Lyric Video)

Swift is the metaphor queen, and no song expresses this skill on Midnights better than “The Great War.” One of the surprise releases from her 3 a.m. Edition, this track is a melodious ballad about a couple surviving conflict. With wrenching nuance, she compares their fight to a bloody battle. It’s a little over-the-top, no doubt, but arguing with a loved one sometimes feels that way.

The singer taps into a life-and-death scenario as two people lay everything bare but somehow reach for each other to survive this great war they’ve begun. As the narrator, she also sings about how her own intrusive thoughts and sordid past can be a problem because it’s led to trust issues. And who can’t relate to being weary of potential heartbreak because they’ve been through it already? Weirdly, the song ends on a hopeful note despite the title; it’s proof that if they can survive this devastation, they can survive anything else thrown their way. “The Great War” is the perfect introductory song for the remaining 3 a.m. tracks because each of them is about a highly specific and potent emotion. [Saloni Gajjar]

Most striking lyric: “And maybe it’s the past that’s talking / Screaming from the crypt / Telling me to punish you for things you never did / So I justified it”

Also check out: “Hits Different.” As always, Swift takes a personal tragedy and uses her songwriting abilities to render a track that will make you want to cry, throw up, and dance simultaneously. Hopefully, this bonus track will get a proper release very soon—it’s currently only available on Target’s exclusive Lavender Edition CD.

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