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Column: UNC's Taylor Swift discography ranking is depressing. Ours is better.

The rollout for Taylor Swift's latest album "Reputation," released last Friday, has courted much controversy.
The rollout for Taylor Swift's latest album "Reputation," released last Friday, has courted much controversy.

UNC must be a sad place. How else, then, does anybody come up with such a depressingly bad ranking of Taylor Swift’s discography? Our, ahem, friends in Chapel Hill clearly can’t be trusted with the monumental task of ranking 158 of Swift’s songs if this is what they come up with. For brevity, here’s the top and bottom five songs in the ranking of The Daily Tar Heel’s “Resident Taylor Swift Expert,” Ira Wilder:

Bottom Five

158. “ME!”

157. “Bad Blood”

156. “Stay Stay Stay”

155. “Paper Rings”

154. “Gorgeous”

Top Five

5. “Love Story”

4. “Enchanted”

3. “Champagne Problems”

2. “All Too Well”

1. “Dear John”

There’s a lot of problems here. While nobody is going to complain about “ME!” or “Bad Blood” being at the bottom, those other three… whew. These are fun songs! Taylor Swift is having fun! Let her have fun! What does UNC have against happiness? In fact, Wilder literally ranked “Happiness,” a beautiful “Evermore” track with a misleading title, 150th. 

Anyway, among the bottom five here, “Paper Rings” is particularly egregious – it’s a “Lover” standout that has no business anywhere in the bottom half of a Swift discography ranking. What Wilder calls a “simple, weak metaphor” is in reality an endearing refute of material love, and what Wilder classifies as “too bubblegum pop for Swift” is really a retro bop unlike any other in her catalogue. “Gorgeous,” too, is undeserving of its low placement. Swift is carefree as she bounces along with the bubbly electropop production, and she manages to pull it off! While the lyrics may not cut glass, there are certainly worse songs on “Reputation” to be had (looking at you, “So It Goes...”).

At least Wilder does somewhat of a better job at picking Swift’s best songs. “Champagne Problems” and “All Too Well” in particular are obvious career standouts anyone would be remiss to forget about. (Your Midas touch on the Chevy door! November flush and your flannel cure!) However, she has so many amazing tracks that picking acceptable songs is not a hard task, and some choices here are uninspired at best. “Love Story”? “Enchanted”?? Sure, they’re great, but top five

The only really real problem here is “Dear John” in first place. That song is nearly seven minutes long! “All Too Well” deserves to be a long song. “Dear John,” frankly, does not. It doesn’t even do anything great until its bridge, which, admittedly, does shine like fireworks over a sad, empty town (Chapel Hill?).

To remedy UNC’s depressing ranking, I propose some amendments. Here follows my own, better, more flavorful and more tasteful top ten Taylor Swift songs:

10. “Champagne Problems” – “Evermore”

It has Swift’s best bridge – thought-provoking, literary, narrative and, most importantly, inhumanely sad: "She would've made such a lovely bride // What a shame she's fucked in her head." 

9. “Mirrorball” – “Folklore”

“Mirrorball” is way too underrated. It’s also way too relatable. That's all.

8. “Cruel Summer” – “Lover”

If you haven’t screamed at the top of your lungs “I’M DRUNK IN THE BACK OF THE CAR AND I CRIED LIKE A BABY COMING HOME FROM THE BAR!” at least once, then you probably aren’t living life to the fullest. Your loss. 

7. “The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version)” – “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”

I have literally said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is arguably Swift’s best song pre-”Red.” Yes, even better than anything from “Speak Now.” Sorry, “Last Kiss.”

6. “Right Where You Left Me” – “Evermore”

Don’t be mistaken by its status as a bonus track – ”Right Where You Left Me” is a force of nature. Occupying the niche of heartbreaking lyrics set to an irrefutable melody that Swift has slowly perfected over the years, “Right Where You Left Me” will catch you by surprise if you’re not careful. 

5. “Style” – “1989”

“Style” is the definition of pop perfection. Functioning as the artistic centerpiece of “1989,” the song virtually single-handedly led the mid-decade synth-pop revival, and for good reason! Glossy, crisp and perfect for late night drives, “Style” is, well, never going to go out of style. (Sorry.)

4. “Cowboy Like Me” – “Evermore”

A country ballad in the midst of an alternative album, “Cowboy Like Me” is a stellar example of Swift’s ability to weave through genres like an idiot pushing 100 on the interstate. Consider it a testament to Swift’s ability to tell beautiful stories about whatever she wants, even two con men falling in love after trying to scam each other. Also, can we please get Swift to write a book?

3. “All Too Well” – “Red”

“All Too Well” is the crowning jewel of Swift’s discography. The archetypical Swift song, it’s an autobiographical country ballad about a rough breakup with a soaring bridge that takes your breath away. Any discussion of Swift’s discography is incomplete without a mention of “All Too Well” – just consider its impact in Swiftian lore: stolen scarves, track fives, refrigerator lights, the rediscovered ten-minute version, the head-banging Grammys performance and so much more. 

2. “Cardigan” – “Folklore”

Notably, this is the opener of the teenage love triangle, the concept at the heart of “Folklore.” Notably, this is Swift’s best single. Notably, this is the world’s introduction to alternative Taylor Swift. Notably, this is the first song ever to debut number one alongside an album that also debuted number one. Notably, this song has Swift’s best verse ever (the third). Notably, I have cried to this song. 

1. “August” – “Folklore”

“August” is the best song in all of Swift’s discography, and as the second song in the “Folklore”  teenage love triangle, it is proof that the second installment in a trilogy is always the best. “August” manages to achieve perfection because it combines the best elements of Swift-Antonoff pop with the atmosphere of alternative “Folklore” to a nostalgic, ethereal and tragic effect. Frankly, all other songs wish they could be “August,” and “August” knows this. 

If you want to see the entire ranking, you can find it here. I can 100% guarantee it’s more tasteful than the Tarheels’ – at the very least, I didn’t put “Paper Rings” in the bottom five.

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