Taylor Swift’s storied career spans nearly two decades and six full-length albums, including the chart-busting Reputation (2018), which debuted at No. 1 with the highest first-week sales of any album in her career. She’s also earned a handful of Golden Globe and Grammy nominations for her acting work, including the role of Bombalurina in the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats. In addition to her music and acting, the singer has shown a penchant for giving back, whether it’s donating $500,000 to victims of natural disasters in Tennessee or lending her voice to the Dr. Seuss movie The Lorax in 2012.
But it’s Taylor’s songwriting that has set her apart from every other pop artist of her era. From sugary sweet lyrics that perfectly capture the fluttering of teenage love to adolescent self-esteem issues and the frustrations of dealing with toxic relationships, she’s proven her ability to write songs that resonate with listeners across age groups and generations.
Whether you’re just getting acquainted with Taylor or have been listening for a while, here are 10 of her most iconic tunes to start with.
1. “Shake It Off”
This playful and sassy debut single from the 1989 album topped the country charts and proved that Taylor was here to stay. The sly track, which was inspired by the teen romance of her childhood, is all about that feeling of butterflies in your stomach and the need to share everything with your crush. It’s the ultimate girl power anthem, and its iconic music video is a must-watch for any Swift fan.
2. “Back to December”
This tearjerker of a ballad was the most intimate moment on her third album, Red (2012), and the beginning of a new chapter in Taylor’s life. This is when she started to move away from the world of country and embrace top 40 pop. Its heartbreaking tale of a jilted ex is a surprisingly moving and evocative track that still holds up today.
3. “Invisible String”
A decade into her career, Taylor was maturing in more ways than one with Folklore (2015). This album marked a turning point for the star as she focused more on personal stories that would allow her to connect with her audience on a deeper level. The most striking song of the bunch is this dreamy ballad about how her own experiences and her lover’s intersected to create a magical moment in time.
Revenge and calling out her haters were always a prevalent theme on Taylor’s later albums, but this was the first time she fully embraced the concept on a record. It’s a lyrically strong track that proves she can handle a little bit of heat from the haters, even when she’s just trying to take the high road.