Tapes had two sides, both 45 minutes long. You had that long to say what you needed to say and then it was time to move on. We’re bringing that challenge back. 45 minutes to convince someone why they should like a certain band, artist, genre, or era.
There’s some of you that have already clicked away at the prospect of hearing 45 minutes of Taylor Swift songs, but this has been one of the toughest Mixtapes for me to whittle down to a concise playlist. Now 10 albums into her career and currently playing Stadiums across the US on her ‘Eras Tour’, I could easily have filled this with her biggest and most popular songs. Instead I’ve tried to stick with personal favourites and songs you may never have heard before. Despite some glaring omissions (I’m so sorry to the song ‘Red’) here’s my Taylor Swift Mixtape.
Blank Space – 3:52
I’m kicking off with by far the most recognisable and biggest song on this Mixtape – it’ll be mostly hidden gems from now on – ‘Blank Space’ is the definitive Taylor Swift record. A perfectly crafted pop record, each lyric more memorable and more of an ear-worm than the last, it’s the subtle details here that make this such a phenomenal song. The infuriating click sound before ‘and I’ll write your name’ is honestly genius and helps elevate ‘Blank Space’ into the upper echelon of pop hooks.
Mine – 3:51
I feel like for a lot of people Mine sounds EXACTLY like what they imagine when they hear the words ‘Taylor Swift’. A country pop tune about young love is hardly a revolution, but my god Taylor does them better than anyone else. I am not proud of the number of times I have yelled along to the lyric ‘You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter’ but ‘Mine’ follows on from ‘Blank Space’ as a definitive example of the magic she can produce. The only song here from Speak Now, an album that a still teenage Taylor Swift wrote single handedly, this is peak ‘country pop Taylor’.
Forever & Always (Taylor’s Version) – 3:45
The earliest song I’ve found space for on this mixtape (sorry to any Self Titled album Swifties) ‘Forever & Always’ sort of completes this opening trio of straight down the line catchy pop records that work even better with Taylor performing them with her guitar. This has always been a highlight of her true breakout album Fearless for me, a record that sort of defines the teen country pop style of her early career. Now we’ve got this out of the way
Cruel Summer – 2:58
There’s a subset genre of Taylor Swift songs I like to call ‘shouty pop’. Songs catered explicitly for young women to yell into their friends’ faces while watching Taylor perform. ‘I DON’T WANNA KEEP SECRETS JUST TO KEEP YOU’ on ‘Cruel Summer’ is one of the best examples of this and this song just keeps on giving. Other shouty pop highlights for me include ‘ARE WE IN THE CLEAR YET? GOOD’ from Out of the Woods or ‘AND ALL AT ONCE’ from ‘King of My Heart’.
All You Had To Do Was Stay – 3:13
The ultimate ‘shouty pop’ song though and controversially might just be my favourite song of Taylor Swift’s career is this absolute belter from 1989. There’s pure magic in this song, so effortlessly simple and yet impossible to replicate. My favourite Taylor Swift songs are where she lets it come naturally, like she’s just playing by herself on a guitar, allowing the song to be taken up a notch by those around her but never losing that core sound. Nobody does pop music like this as well as Taylor Swift does.
august – 4:22
It may feel like a big left turn, but the very same magic of ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’ is what makes ‘august’ another essential songwriting moment from Taylor Swift. Much is said of the drastic change in genre from 2019’s Lover album into the lockdown releases folklore and evermore. Going from pure pop to a more Americana acoustic sound was a shock for some, but for me the main thing was a reclaiming of the sort of songwriting that made so many of her earlier albums so good. ‘Back when we were still changing for the better, wanting was enough, for me it was enough’ is the sort of lyric that made me really get over myself around the Red era and finally give Taylor Swift the credit she deserved, while the song as a whole has this intense atmospheric build that I absolutely love.
I Almost Do (Taylor’s Version) – 4:05
Keeping focused on the lyrics we have ‘I Almost Do’ from Red, the album that sent me from being very against even the idea of Taylor Swift to travelling to London to see her at the O2. I especially love her recently re-recorded version of ‘I Almost Do’ that really heightens the musicality of the guitar and drums. It’s also probably my favourite vocal of this re-recorded era too, Taylor Swift is certainly not known as a vocalist especially over being a songwriter or a live performer, but here she captures such an intensity with her performance.
Mastermind – 3:11
I found it interesting that the chat around 2022’s Midnights album was focused on Taylor creating easter eggs for her fans and breaking all kinds of records for single ‘Anti-Hero’ and physical sales of the album itself. In the end it’s probably her most low key release, despite the return to pop it’s much less densely packed and diverse than even the more country focused albums in her discography. ‘Mastermind’ is probably my favourite moment from it, a more subtle take on pop from someone who usually goes all in.
Getaway Car – 3:54
‘NOTHING GOOD STARTS IN A GETAWAY CAR’ – ‘Shouty pop’ Taylor is back in one of the few songs from reputation that actually does hold enough back to be enjoyable. ‘Getaway Car’ is an obvious favourite and I’ve included it here over songs like ‘Call It What You Want’ and ‘Delicate’ as I think it captures what she was trying to do with that album much more clearly than perhaps some of the more infamous songs from it do. For me it was another sign that the songwriter I had grown to love was still there, even if it would take a few more years for her to fully return on a full length album.
this is me trying – 3:15
I’m picking this knowing full well that multiple people reading will ask ‘Are you OK Sam?’ I am okay…I think. I have just written over a thousand words about a popstar so maybe I’m not. Either way ‘this is my trying’ is a gut punch of a record and one of the most affecting moments of Taylor’s career so far.
right where you left me – 4:05
The most obvious ‘country song’ that Taylor has released in years I feel bad that I’ve picked out a bonus track from the brilliant evermore but it truly is my favourite song from the album. I think Taylor sounds so at home here, her Nashville roots shining through on every building chorus. I love the layered instrumentation too, probably one of the moments where the Taylor Swift/Aaron Dessner collaboration really makes the most sense. It feels as timeless as her earliest country hits.
All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) – 5:29
Before anyone comes for me on Twitter, despite loving the 10 minute version of ‘All Too Well’ that captured a whole new audience in 2021, I actually think I prefer the standard 5 minute where every single lyric is perfectly honed and necessary. I also prefer the more direct and steady build as each verse continues. At this point it’s a very boring take, but ‘You call me up again just to break me like a promise, so casually cruel in the name of being honest’ is the lyric of Taylor Swift’s career and in so many ways ‘All Too Well’ is her greatest achievement. It bookends a mixtape that showed her pop stardom prowess and here shows her power with an emotive ballad. For me though both ‘All Too Well’ and ‘Blank Space’ are sides of the same songwriter, both work because of the way that Taylor Swift writes her songs and everything in between dives into all of the additional types of music she’s so clearly inspired by. If you’ve made it to 2023 and still haven’t gotten over yourself to enjoy at least one Taylor Swift song then who are you trying to kid.
Words by Sam Atkins