1989: Taylor Swift’s Most Emotionally Connecting Album

As one of the most successful pop artists of all time, Taylor Swift’s legacy stretches far beyond music. Her savvy, unflappable persona has inspired generations of young women to believe in themselves and her meteoric rise has transformed pop culture in profound ways.

A native of West Reading, Pennsylvania, Taylor started singing in local talent shows and at fairs as a preteen before beginning guitar lessons at age 12. She later moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue her dream of becoming a country singer after deciding she didn’t fit the mold of what the industry was looking for at the time.

At the height of her fame, Taylor appeared in multiple blockbuster movies and won numerous awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2008 American Music Awards and Record of the Year with “Blank Space” at the 2012 Grammys. In 2023, she embarked on her multi-year Eras Tour that saw her perform in more than 100 locales worldwide.

In between those tours, she continued to release her critically acclaimed studio albums and chart-topping singles. She also established herself as a bona fide fashion icon, modeling for brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and starring in several coveted film roles.

Throughout her career, she has reworked and remixed her music as her tastes changed, creating an oeuvre that ranges from classic, pop-oriented hits to indie folk. But it’s her latest album, reputation, that’s arguably her strongest—and most emotionally connecting—to date.

It’s the sound of a confident Taylor taking back control after an infuriatingly public breakup, setting her sights on new goals for herself. The result is an album of lush, montage-ready pop songs that feel distinctly Taylor Swift.

She’d already begun adjusting her ratio of country to pop on 2010’s Speak Now and 2012’s Red, but with 1989 she went all the way. Her collaborations with Swedish superproducers Max Martin and Shellback helped her to embrace big beats and glossy surfaces. But it was in the lyrics that really made a difference.

On a track like “Style,” she describes her newfound freedom to have a life of flings and weekend getaways with the same level of careless abandon she used to reserve for high school dramas. And while this isn’t the most resonant song of the album, it reminds listeners that this once-princess wasn’t always an all-conquering planet-like force.

Folklore’s sister album, evermore, came out in 2020 and was a clear departure from her previous work. She teamed up with collaborators from other genres—like Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff from The National and HAIM, respectively—and made the album about her search for identity in a world that was rapidly changing. She shrewdly tapped into the current cultural climate with both its ruminative, relatively lo-fi aesthetic and its lyrics about losing touch with family and loved ones.