51 million downloads. 22 million albums sold.
213 nominations. 172 awards.
The most awarded album in the history of Country Music (Fearless)
And her current album, Red, is her riskiest yet.
Taylor Swift has left her mark on Pop Culture, with 33 singles released.
Here’s my personal Top Ten:
10) “Highway Don’t Care”
This is technically a Tim McGraw record. But it took the Tim/Taylor pairing, with a soaring Keith Urban guitar solo, to send it into the Country Music stratosphere. Add in a powerful video and this should be a shoo-in Vocal Event of The Year/Video of the Year.
9) “Teardrops On My Guitar”
It’s a theme as old as Country Music itself.
Example “A”: Ray Charles, 1962.
But the spin Ms. Swift puts on this tale of unrequited love makes it both personal and universal. You’re almost crying with her by the end.
“Teardrops” put the world on notice the brilliance of her 2006 debut “Tim McGraw” wasn’t a fluke.
8) “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
Wait a minute Charlie? Didn’t you, um, dis this song last year?
I did say that as a Taylor Swift song it fell short…then again, if the goal was to create a Perfect POP song for 2012, then she’s Babe Ruth. And Mario Lemieux. And Michael Jordan.
My beef was – and remains – that it never, ever should have been released and promoted to Country Radio.
And since I decided this list won’t be limited to just Taylor Swift’s Country songs…but ALL of her hits, this makes the list.
7) “White Horse”
What do you think of when you come upon the term “white horse”?
A hero, a daring rescue, a journey to happily ever after?
Taylor takes it all and turns it upside down.
Like “Teardrops On My Guitar”, she is at once both deeply personal and universal. You can feel the pain coming out of the speakers, and understand the praise and validation she receives from legendary artists in Pop, Rock and Country.
One thing Taylor Swift has in common with those aforementioned legendary artists? (You have to click the link to see who they are!)
They all read Bob Lefsetz. (warning: some NSFW language)
Seems virtually every artist, artist wannabe, or person connected with the music industry reads his blog.
Lefsetz, a highly-respected music industry analyst, was the inspiration for “Mean”.
Here’s the column that ignited the whole controversy. (warning: some NSFW language)
Yet Lefsetz has written much positive about Swift, even while being critical. He continues to do so.
While Taylor’s anti-bullying rally cry deserves a spot on this list…now that I know the story behind “Mean”, I also see it as the first public glimpse into Taylor the Superstar…rather than Taylor the Girl Next Door.
Need I remind you which Taylor became the Biggest Star On The Planet?
We all need people around us who will challenge us and hold us accountable. Even international superstars.
“Fifteen” is a cautionary tale inspired by Taylor’s real-life “bestie” Abigail Anderson, who lost her virginity to “a boy who changed his mind…we both cried…”
Yes, Abigail gave her blessing to recording the story, stating “ If one girl can kind of learn from it or connect to a song like that, it’s totally worth it.”
I’d always liked Taylor’s music. But “Fifteen” made me a fan. Total genius.
People love to laugh at the Lindsay Lohans and Amanda Bynes of the world…teen stars who crashed in adulthood.
At age 13, Tanya Tucker had a promising launch…but by adulthood, she was more known for her affairs with much older men than as a Country hitmaker. Thankfully, Tanya’s story had a happy ending with a string of Country Classics between 1986-1994.
Could Taylor transition into her Twenties and continue to make the kind of personal yet universal music that propelled her to superstardom?
“Ours”, a declaration of adult love determined to conquer all, answers the question with an emphatic “YES”.
3) “You Belong With Me”
Back when Nickelodeon had it goin’ on, the TV channel released Snow Day, starring Chevy Chase.
One subplot in the movie is about Hal’s feelings for the glamorous Claire, while girl-next-door Lane, who isn’t as glamorous, becomes increasingly frustrated that Hal doesn’t see her as anything more than friends.
But by the end, Hal comes to his senses, realizing Claire is not “all that”, and takes up with Lane.
I have to assume Taylor saw Snow Day…because the Hal/Claire/Lane triangle is what I think of every time I hear “You Belong To Me”.
2) “Our Song”
Those detractors who call Taylor “not country” forget this gem, Swift’s first Number One…a giddy celebration of young love.
And note it’s the boyfriend who explains what their song is, then turns it into a prayer at the end…”asking God if He would play it again.”
1) “Love Story”
Gotta admire a songwriter who can successfully turn the tragedy of Romeo & Juliet on its head; this version resolves with Romeo proposing to Juliet on the way to Happily Ever After.
When I was a kid, the Romeo & Juliet story was a part of Blue Oyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear)”The Reaper”…a much darker tune often misinterpreted as advocating suicide, when it was actually, well, I’ll let lead singer Donald “Buck Dharma” Roesen explain it…
…”basically a love song where the love transcends the actual physical existence of the partners.”
So while (Don’t Fear)”The Reaper” uses Romeo & Juliet to make the case for everlasting love (with more cowbell!), Taylor Swift completely reimagines the story into a young couple’s triumph against all odds. It’s easily the least personal song of her early career (2006-2009), yet I think it spoke plenty about Taylor and her upbringing in what appears to have been a happy, well-adjusted, upper-middle-class home in Reading PA before moving to Nashville.
The stereotype is that the brightest, most talented stars are also the most dysfunctional, the most tortured among us.
But that’s not Taylor Swift.
Her unique ability to relate to her fans springs from her having been one of them.