Monday, March 4, 2024

Dueling Column: Taylor's Top 5

February 16, 2022
<p>Lifestyles reporter Miranda Dunlap and Entertainment reporter Liz Nass speak on their top five Taylor Swift songs.</p>

Lifestyles reporter Miranda Dunlap and Entertainment reporter Liz Nass speak on their top five Taylor Swift songs.

Culture reporters/best friends Miranda Dunlap and Liz Nass are certified Swifties. 

Let it be known, before you hate on us too much, that this list was extremely hard to compile. It seemed that our top 20 songs were at such a close tie, choosing five was an impossible task. However, we’re here to be reporters of the people and give you what you all wanted, but maybe never asked for: The most definitive list of Swift’s top tracks and why our opinion is the best. If you hear yelling from the State Newsroom at any time, it’s probably us still fighting over which is the best. 

Miranda’s Top 5 


“When you are young they assume you know nothing…”

“Cardigan” will forever and always be my number one song. I’m the type of person that listens to music almost exclusively for the lyrics, and lyrically, this is some of Swift’s best work. “Cardigan” is more than a song; it is literature, it is poetry, it is imagery, it is an experience. The bridge can’t be described as anything other than cathartic, it’s a rebirth. It has the kinds of lyrics that make you punch the dash of your car and yell, “Are you kidding?! How did she think of these words?!” 

“Cardigan” is for the girls who turned their heartbreak into strength, with a slight hint of contempt. It’s for the girls who do most things out of spite because the hurt left them with the knowledge that they now see as power. 

Dear John

“Don’t you think 19 is too young to be played by your dark twisted games?”

If you don’t agree with this ranking, it’s likely because you don’t know the context surrounding the birth of such a symbolically rich song. The title itself is a double entendre -- though never confirmed by Swift herself, the song is highly assumed to be about John Mayer, who she dated when she was just 19 and Mayor was 32. The title takes a stab at Mayor, but remains ambiguous, as “Dear John” is known as the term for a letter written to a partner to inform them that a relationship is over. Swift put the emotional abuse she endured from Mayer into words: “Counting my footsteps, Praying the floor won't fall through,” and “ I lived in your chess game, But you changed the rules every day.”

These concepts take most grown adults years to come to terms with, and Swift managed to make it poetic at the age of 19. If you’ve never cried to Dear John on your bathroom floor you’re missing out on a formative experience. But not to fear, the time for this song to be your #1 will come … We all have our “Dear John” era. 


“To live for the hope of it all, cancel plans just in case you’d call…”

I am attached to this song because of the feeling it gives me. It takes a truly incredible song for it to radiate a feeling, its own personality of sorts. To me, “August” is whimsical. It is summer, on a beach, with breezy linens flowing in the wind. This song sounds like how a dream feels, it is nostalgia and happy memories. It feels like a montage of all the memories of you falling in love, recorded on a vintage camera.

But what makes it incredible is its duality: it’s an airy song that just sounds good, but it also has those belt-worthy lyrics, because of course it does. You’re lying if you say you don’t clutch your chest and scream, “So much for summer love, and saying ‘us’, cause you weren’t mine to lose!”

All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (From The Vault) 

“You kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath…”

I didn’t want this song to be in my top five because it’s so predictable but I would have been being dishonest with myself if I didn’t put it here. It’s obviously receiving the praise it deserves at the moment, but the real ones (me) have been crying to this song for years! However, the 10-minute version delivers new lyrics that allow this song to reach new depths. I see myself in this song, I feel like Swift and I have a shared experience that you don’t understand unless you go through it. I listen to it and I’m screaming, “Oh my god, yes! I felt that way too!” I’m in love with the production of this song. There’s not a moment of it, from the beginning to the end, that I’m not completely lost in the story, the lyrics and the sound. I’m fine with being labeled basic for this song. It’s popular because it is simply great.


“I’m fine with my spite, and my tears and my beers and my candles…”

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

I’m ready for the backlash I’m going to receive for this pick but I will defend this song with my life. It’s art! I recognize the chaotic noises in the beginning as a very clear symbolism. Swift’s message was not lost on me. As the banging weaves in and out with the sound of a delicate piano, it sounds as if something or someone is trying to break in. This noise is symbolic of the past and who she is trying to leave behind. Her lyrics describe a scenario in which someone is trying to reach back out to her after she has started to heal from them: “Yes, I got your letter, yes, I’m doing better” and “reaching out across that sea that you put between you and me.”

Her piano overpowers the banging noises several times but it sounds like a clear struggle. She is fighting to remain moving forward and not backward because she isn’t completely over it yet and it’s tempting: “the shape of your name still spells out pain”. But in the end, she knows she can’t entertain or communicate with this person because it will disrupt her process and the peace she has worked hard for. We can see this realization in the lyrics: “I know that it’s over, I don’t need your closure.” There are some conclusions we have to come to on our own. Swift demonstrates this in this absolutely beautiful song. 

Liz’s Top 5


“I’m still on that tightrope, I’m still tryin’ everything to get you laughing at me…” 

This song sends me into another dimension when the first chords hit. I am immediately transported to a dance floor, but not a frat basement-type of LED-lit and sweaty environment. I’m picturing only myself swinging around a Great Gatsby-esque ballroom with a giant disco-ball, feeling myself and reflecting on all of my past content moments. I think the symbolism of the “Mirrorball” is the most important factor to me. You are reflecting the best parts of you for everyone else, working to surprise and entertain everyone around you. You’re stuck seeing everyone benefit from you, while you try to keep them looking at you and finding you interesting, even if you feel empty giving away the best parts of yourself.

While I think Swift made this song specifically for those in the entertainment industry, I think it can apply itself to everyone in the social media age. We are always trying to create a following, report our mundane days online, get people to laugh at our jokes, and see ourselves in a bright light in the eyes of others. We are all mirrorballs, trying to reflect how we want to make people feel and prioritizing it. Also, the bridge makes me so hype I could jump off an actual bridge. All I do is try, try, try, like shut up, that’s poetry. I absolutely lose my mind to this song, not only because it means so much to me personally, but because it's just genuinely moving.  


“It’s the goddamn fight of my life and you started it…”

I would like to clarify that this would be my pick for the best Taylor song if “Mirrorball” did not mean so much to me and the vibes were not as immaculate. I think this is the most lyrically gorgeous song that exists in the expanded Taylor universe. It's the story of falling in love with someone after being so scared. It’s the story of not being able to be apart from someone no matter how hard you try because they will always bring you back in. There are tons of theories on whether this song is actually about a woman cheating on her husband, or about a woman falling in love after her husband dies and feeling guilty about it. Either way, I feel like you could have your own personal take on every lyric in this song. Personally the bridge stands out to me yet again, but “my pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand.” Please, enough blondie. I cannot take it. 

Evermore (ft. Bon Iver)

“In the cracks of light, I dreamed of you, it was real enough…”

The minute the piano started, I knew this would be an obsession song for me. Also, the fact that Bon Iver is on this track is unfair to all of the other songs because I’m obsessed with their musical friendship. This song has so much depth in its songwriting. You almost know what Taylor is trying to say, but the lyrics are so personal that only she could know what she meant. This song has one of the best bridges ever without being too overpowering to the rest of the song. There’s a slight change in the piano, and that’s when you know the real lyrics are coming. The lines about being shipwrecked, or, in reality, a very bad place, and only thinking about the person you’re in love with that you can’t have is one of the most relatable feelings in the world, but is worded so eloquently in the bridge. However, just the thought of this person was enough for her to get through a hard time. That is heartbreaking. Along with the echoes from Bon Iver, this song strikes a chord no other song can. The song ends with the conclusion that her pain will, in fact, not be evermore, proving that all wounds heal. 

Out of the Woods

“But the monsters turned out to be just trees, when the sun came up, you were looking at me…”

This song is the epitome of Swift’s ability to tell a story. This is her most effective narrative storytelling song to date. It explains the story of her and Styles’ relationship so vividly that while we didn’t live the story, we had the chance to with this song. The song also explains the anxiety that comes with rocky relationships or uncertainty in situationships, wondering if they’re in the clear yet to start loving each other, only to be met with more drama.

This obviously also has one of the most iconic bridges in Swift's history. While I pride myself in loving more of Swift’s underrated jams, this one is so valid as being one of the most popular songs. How could it not? Jack Antonoff wrote and produced it. 

Dancing With Our Hands Tied 

“Cause it’s gravity keeping you with me…”

This is my newest favorite and took the longest to grow on me out of this list, but it is one of the most special ones to me. The song is about going through the anxiety of a new relationship but making the best of the butterflies in your stomach about this new person. It is very much a Romeo and Juliet relationship: the world and the odds against them, yet loving despite it. The song has a very upbeat tone to it, yet the lyrics are more frantic and anxiety-ridden, having this juxtaposition between the music which has always been interesting to me. This song also has been a favorite of mine not just because all of the lyrics are beautifully written, but the live version of this song that I got to see on the Reputation tour being acoustic on the guitar. It has an even more authentic feeling, seeing how Taylor wrote it originally. This is the perfect song to close out my list because I just realized that this list has an unfortunate, yet true theme: anxiety in love. That’s so fun for me. 

What kind of Swiftie are you? Are you team Miranda or team Liz? And of course, we will be taking it very personally.

If you’re looking for even more Taylor from our point of view, we made a playlist of our Top 20 to grace all of campus with. You’re welcome:


Share and discuss “Dueling Column: Taylor's Top 5” on social media.