Taylor Swift's seventh album Lover constitutes a return to form for the songwriting laureate of her generation, focusing on the ins-and-outs of what she knows best: falling in love, being in love, and the heartbreak of having love ripped away too soon.
There's more about the good times than the bad on Lover, a testament to Taylor finally finding her forever boy in BF Joe Alwyn, but how do Lover's titular tracks stack up to the idealistic love song of her youth? We took a chronological look at the best Taylor Swift songs about new love in honor of her most recent victory lap.
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Taylor released her eponymous debut album when she was only 16, and "Mary's Song (Oh My My My)" perfectly encapsulates the lovestruck optimism of a teen just beginning her journey towards a forever love. "Mary's Song" wasn't based on Taylor's life — obviously, she was a little too busy becoming the biggest thing in country music to simultaneously be a child bride. The song about childhood best friends who grow up and fall in love was based on her next-door neighbors, an elderly couple whose story became an inspiration to Taylor and anyone else with a beating heart.
One of the best Taylor Swift love songs wasn't intended for her first album, but "Our Song" ultimately became the fledgling star's second radio hit. Taylor wrote the uptempo single for a talent show during her freshman year of high school, fittingly because she didn't have a song with her boyfriend at the time. Taylor told The Boot she decided to include it on Taylor Swift because it was so popular with her classmates, and even as she's completely pivoted away from twangy banjos and fiddle solos, it remains one of her signature songs.
There are some songs that can effortlessly transport you into the past. The titular song from Taylor's Album of the Year-winning sophomore album, "Fearless," has opening notes that are nostalgic enough to immediately bring us back to our most important first kisses, nights running on freshly wet asphalt before we cared about the weight of the world on our shoulders and wild teenage freedom. There's a whole generation of girls who will hold the new love described on "Fearless" as a paradigm for all first dates from now until eternity, and the willingness to dance in a storm in our best dresses should be the litmus for any fledgling relationship.
It's hard to extricate "You Belong With Me" from its legendary music video, and not just because it sparked Taylor's career-long feud with Kanye West at the VMAs. The feeling of falling for a close friend who seems to have no idea you're meant to be is universal, and Taylor's cinematic imagining of best friends who communicate through their windows at night is the stuff of YA fantasies. Whether you're a Duckie Dale or a Sally Albright, "You Belong With Me" is the peak of Taylor's uncanny ability to explain that intangible feeling of being close enough to know exactly what you're missing.
A true romantic, Taylor Swift read Romeo and Juliet and decided to turn it into an inspirational tale of love triumphing above all else. Taylor explained to the Los Angeles Times that "Love Story" came about after her family and friends turned against her love interest at the time, and it didn't dampen her feelings. She describes how Romeo and Juliet had the potential to be the best love story ever told but instead is one of the world's most famous tragedies, highlighting the all-encompassing emotional impact of love and how one choice can make or break even the strongest relationship.
The best Taylor Swift songs in recent memory are rarely her singles. It seems like the deeper the cut, the better the song. This is proven on Taylor's deluxe records with songs like the bouncy "Jump Than Fall," one of her catchiest, most upbeat tracks about new love. Honestly, chalk this phenomenon up as a sign of her marketing genius: everyone in the general public can consume her singles, but to get the very best Taylor has to offer, you have to cough up another $15.99 for her album's re-release. Taylor played "Jump Then Fall" for the first time in eight years during her Reputation stadium tour, and even Rolling Stone agrees it's stood the test of time.
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Can we believe the greatest meet-cute song of the '10s was written about the dude from Owl City? Nothing came of Taylor's enchanting meeting with Adam Young, who she met at a party in New York City, but the Speak Now song sums up everyone's biggest fear when meeting a new crush: that they're already in love with someone else. "Enchanted" became the official theme song for Taylor's Wonderstruck fragrance, and its accompanying commercial captures the fairytale magic of a sparkling night, even if it was only a pit stop on the way to enduring love.
Speak Now was a hopeful era for Taylor. Recorded after Fearless made her the biggest name in modern music, Taylor wrote the entire album alone, but "Sparks Fly" was a carryover from her Taylor Swift-era days that had never made it onto an album. Roughstock notes that Taylor had performed an early version of the song way back in 2007, but Taylor's ode to connection and chemistry remains one of her strongest allegories for the first days of a relationship, when you know falling for someone might be a bad idea and can't help but do it anyway.
Not to be confused with "Mine," also off of Speak Now, "Ours" is a perky, uptempo-ballad hybrid that has been criminally underrated within Taylor's discography. Another instance of Taylor describing an "us vs. the world" love story, "Ours" boils a relationship into its simplest terms. Taylor loves her unnamed boyfriend and doesn't care what anyone else says because she trusts her own instincts. While that's not always the best mentality to have IRL, when you've been the subject of as much public scrutiny as Taylor, it's refreshing to see one of the best Taylor Swift songs maintaining a healthy romantic optimism.
Another deep cut that deserves its day in the sun, "State of Grace" introduced the world to Pop Taylor as the opener of Red, her tour de force transitional album. Arguably the first of Taylor's adult love stories, "State of Grace" describes her newfound urban lifestyle and an unexpected romance that changed her perspective forever. Gone are the childhood fairytales and blind optimism: this boyfriend is no saint and love has become a ruthless battle, but Taylor's willingness to fight should serve as an inspiration for all of us struggling through an era of dating apps, d*ck pics, and ghosting. We, too, could get dumped by Jake Gyllenhaal and live to tell the tale.
Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran never dated, ironically disproving the romantic comedy trope that boys and girls can't just be best friends. Their love at first sight single "Everything Has Changed" didn't exactly help rumors that the friends were secretly dating, but it did provide the world with a folk-pop ballad to end all folk-pop ballads. Combining the two foremost lovesong writers of the 21st century is a feat that may never be topped, and their duet about the day you meet someone who alters your life forever encapsulates the exciting first moments of a massive mutual crush.
By the time Red came around, Taylor had experienced her first scarring heartbreak. Sure, getting dumped by Joe Jonas in a 27-second phone call couldn't have been fun, but her split with Jake Gyllenhaal inspired some of the saddest songs of her career to-date including the seminal, career-defining breakup song "All Too Well." "Begin Again" was Taylor's closing word, marking the end of her mourning for the one that got away and, like a phoenix from the ashes, returning to the optimistic belief in love that drew her to music in the first place. May we all bounce-back from failed relationships with as much romanticism as our girl Taylor.
Another example of Taylor's bonus tracks being the best Taylor Swift songs, "Come Back... Be Here" succinctly explains how horrible it is to fall in love with someone fully knowing you don't live in the same state. Love comes down to two things: magic and timing. In "Come Back... Be Here," Taylor's relationship with Harry Styles showed that just because you've found the right person doesn't mean it'll work out if distance and circumstance keeps you physically apart, leading to a struggle between falling deeper in love and trying to get over a doomed romance before it really begins.
Speaking of bonus tracks, it might be controversial to include "Wonderland" on this list instead of its sister song "New Romantics," but we've made the executive decision that "New Romantics" is about blossoming friendships and self-love, while "Wonderland" is a fantastical tale of the early days of a doomed relationship. Simultaneously a cautionary tale, a dreamy remembrance, and a testament to Taylor's life-long obsession with green-eyed men, "Wonderland" takes Taylor's fairytale mentality from earlier albums and reframes it for an adult take on the dizzying, sometimes blinding descent into romantic madness. New love can be as painful as it is exciting, but if Taylor has taught us anything, it's that love is worth going down the rabbit hole.
"Delicate" introduces us to Taylor's relationship with longtime beau Joe Alwyn and acts as a precursor to her most loved-up album yet, Lover, in the midst of Reputation's crisis-management clap backs and experimental rage. Reputation tells the story of three relationships: the end of her love affair with Calvin Harris, her likely overlapping relationship with Tom Hiddleston, and her burgeoning crush on Joe bubbling beneath it all. "Delicate" is one of her most revealing, relevant songs about falling in love because "Delicate" is shaping up to be the tale of her last first date.
Consider "Dress" the sexy older cousin of "You Belong With Me." Both deal with friendships blossoming into crushes, but on "Dress," a wiser, more sex-positive Taylor decides to take matters into her own hands. Fans that grew up alongside Taylor will appreciate this mature take on an age-old problem, and even Billboard called "Dress" the best Taylor Swift song on Reputation. It's a slow jam that explains Taylor doesn't want Joe her BFF "like a best friend," a sentiment anyone with hot hands and a human heart can relate to.
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After two meh singles, "Call It What You Want" was a breath of fresh air and a welcome signal that Reputation wouldn't just be Jack Antonoff's over-produced '80s agenda and petty clap backs. Don't take our word for it — even Complex admitted they let out a sigh of relief when "Call It What You Want" unexpectedly dropped. We're calling this a "falling in love" song despite allusions to a relationship that's been going on for a few months because Taylor and Joe hadn't DTR'd yet, as per the title, and this chorus glows with big honeymoon phase energy.
Would it be controversial to say that "New Year's Day" is the best Taylor Swift song of all time? "All Too Well" stans will undoubtedly disagree, but if you're more drawn to stories of hope than stories of heartbreak, "New Year's Day" is the chef-d'oeuvre of a lyrical genius proving that even in her most vulnerable, experimental moments, she never lost her touch. Scientific studies have reported that certain musical structures can intuitively cause a physical response in its listeners, and I'm eternally convinced that the harmonic progression in "New Year's Day" is one of those sonically destined compositions. Add Taylor's devastating live performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, where the song just so happened to echo a specific three-squeeze handshake between Jimmy and his recently deceased mother, and only monsters could be able to listen to this album closer without shedding a tear.
We've finally arrived at Taylor's most recent triumph, Lover. This is the first Swiftian album born of a loving, healthy relationship instead of a tumultuous facsimile of the real thing, and it shows. The album's titular single, a '50s-adjacent waltz through a love that's been lived in, is the first step towards a lifelong commitment. Taylor has moved in with her beau and is picturing marriage in a more grounded way than any of her many, many other references to that happily ever after during her decade-plus career, and it describes falling in love a little more every day. Its depth comes from the haunting feeling Taylor, as a narrator, has been hurt before and wants to freeze this moment before it changes into something not necessarily worse, but different.
As we said, Taylor's a little obsessed with weddings. Slate even wrote a history of Taylor's wedding-centric evolution, with "Paper Rings" signifying a shift from the pageantry of the tradition into a better understanding of forever. It's bubblegum pop in the most literal sense, but the imagery of Taylor marrying her man with paper rings embraces the core of marriage as a loving gesture instead of a faraway goal. We'll admit this song isn't really about falling in love, but the allusion of hating accidents "except when we went from friends to this" is such a beautiful culmination of her career-spanning tendency to fall for her BFFs we couldn't stop ourselves from including it.
If Lover is Taylor's victory lap, "Daylight" is Taylor crossing the final finish line. We're sure she's got plenty more albums in her, but "Daylight" feels like the culmination of a journey of self-discovery she started in her teens with references to "Out of the Woods," "Wildest Dreams," and (of course) "Red" echoing as she comes to a new understanding of what it means to love and be loved. Instead of the burning red imagery of passion from her early 20s, Taylor realizes the love she's been looking for is golden and warm like daylight as she lets the past go. Excuse us while we cry.