So, we find ourselves back at the very beginning. Today’s Tay-Tay Top Five is focusing on Taylor Swift’s debut album, aptly titled Taylor Swift. As of today, we’re equals pequals in this series, although I hope by the time this gets posted we get some sort of update on what the next Taylor’s Version recording will be. I have a slight revelation to make in this intro, and it’s this – I only discovered Taylor’s debut album earlier this year. Of course, I was aware of it. I was aware of tracks like Tim McGraw and Picture to Burn, but I’d never actually heard them. I know, how dare I call myself a Swiftie? Well, to that I say I was fully engrossed in the incredible work that she had put out into the world since this album, and I didn’t quite have the time to go back any further than the albums I already knew. Anyway, when it was announced earlier this year that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was getting released, I felt now was as good a time as any to delve into her earlier stuff. So, I listened to Taylor Swift for the first time. I had many feelings. After months of listening to Evermore and Folklore on repeat, hearing the voice of what would have been a 15 year old Taylor was something that felt pretty emotional. I’ll admit right off the bat that this isn’t my favourite album of hers, and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that, but I will say that the lyrics and the emotion in them hit you hard AF. Plus, when you consider the fact that she was only 16 when the album was released, you can’t help but be amazed at her talent.
Taylor Swift’s first album was written drawing perspectives on her experiences as a teenager, focusing on friendships, insecurity and romantic relationships, and she worked on the album during her first year of high school. Taking much of her inspiration from female country musicians like Shania Twain, LeAnn Rimes, Faith Hill and The Chicks, the album largely features country music elements combined with elements of pop. Initially, it faced criticism from Nashville industry experts, who argued that the subject matter of the album wasn’t appropriate for the country music target demographic of middle aged listeners. However, promoting the album largely through social media platforms such as MySpace meant that Taylor gained a significant fan base of teenage girls who listened to country music, a demographic that was largely unheard of before then. In fact, Billboard argued that Taylor paved the way for a future generation of singer-songwriters, particularly in the country genre.
Information correct at time of writing.
Release Date: 24th October 2006
Producers: Nathan Chapman, Robert Ellis Orrall
Label: Big Machine Records
Tracks: 11 (15 on the International version)
Awards & Nominations:
Academy of Country Music Awards – New Female Vocalist of the Year 2007 (Nominated)
Country Music Association Awards – Horizon Award For Best New Artist 2007 (Won)
Grammy Awards – Best New Artist 2008 (Nominated)
Academy of Country Music Awards – Album of the Year 2008 (Nominated)
My Top Five
- Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)
- Tim McGraw
- Our Song
- Picture to Burn
- Should’ve Said No
Honourable Mentions: Tied Together With a Smile, Invisible, Teardrops on My Guitar
Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)
I was not ready for how emotional this song would make me. The song was inspired by a couple who Taylor used to live next door to, who told her the story of how they met, fell in love and got married. It’s one of the earliest examples of Taylor’s storytelling in her songs, and it paints the picture of this classic love story, giving you a warm and fuzzy feeling. I think one of the main reasons I loved it so much is because it brought back a lot of memories from the early days of when Liam and I first got together over 12 years ago. I appreciate the sickly sweet love story trope that the song carries may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, Mary’s Song immediately stood out as one of my favourites on the album.
Over the years of being a full-on Swiftie, I’d heard a lot about Tim McGraw, but for some reason I never got around to listening to it until I listened to this album. I know, the die-hard fans are probably wanting to shank me right now, but I apologise. I should have listened to it sooner. Tim McGraw was Taylor’s debut single and was written in her freshman year of high school about her senior boyfriend and the knowledge they would ultimately break-up later in the year when he left for college, with the song focusing on all of the things that would remind her of the relationship. Knowing this was her debut single makes the song all that more powerful, especially listening to it in the present day when she has 9 albums under her belt and her music has only gotten stronger. The fact it all started with Tim McGraw just makes the song that more special.
This is one of the most catchy songs on the album, and even though it’s one I discovered a little earlier on (it was on the international release of Fearless which we’ve established I listened to before this album), it’s been one of my favourites all this time. The idea of the song is pretty simple – it was written about a boyfriend she didn’t have “a song” with. While the version that’s on Fearless is a little different, I actually prefer the version on this album. There isn’t necessarily a huge, meaningful reason why I love Our Song so much, other than the fact it’s just incredibly catchy and a great song to listen to when you’re driving in the sunshine. However, one thing that makes me smile is that during the early years of our relationship, Liam and I discussed what “our song” would be. It came up multiple times over those first few years, and subsequently it was incredibly difficult to choose a first dance song at our wedding. Sadly, Lover wasn’t around in 2015, otherwise you can bet your powdered bottom that it would have been our first dance. I think we did pretty well with our choice of You & Me by Lifehouse though.
Picture to Burn
I’ll admit, this wasn’t one of my favourites when I first heard the album. Initially, I found it a little bit too country for my taste, and the line about “there’s nothing stopping me from going out with all of your best friends” just made me cringe. However, after multiple listens, it really started to grow on me. Taylor just has this great collection of revenge/”fuck you” type songs and when you think that they technically started with Picture to Burn – written about a narcissistic ex-boyfriend – you see how much she’s grown as a songwriter, especially when it comes to this particular type of song. I also have to take into account the fact that 14 year old me (the age I was when Taylor Swift was released), would have absolutely fangirled the hell out of this song – despite the fact I was incredibly lonely and at this point had never had a boyfriend.
Should’ve Said No
Again, this was another song that I discovered on the international release of Fearless, so I was pretty familiar with it already when I listened to this album. Written about an ex-boyfriend who cheated on her, the song is yet another early example of Taylor’s musical confrontation to an ex-lover, and when you consider she wrote it at just sixteen, you can’t help but be impressed. I really like the contrast between this and Picture to Burn, as with this song, you’ve got more of an emotional, intense confrontation to the lover in question, whereas Picture to Burn takes more of an upbeat approach that still gives off the vibes of “I’m done with you, you prick.” It’s a great one to scream out when you’re driving too.
One of the first songs I think deserves an honourable mention is Tied Together With a Smile. The lyrics are just beautiful, and in researching for this post I discovered that Taylor wrote the song about a friend who was suffering from an eating disorder. While I don’t relate to the song on that particular level, the song has a theme of insecurity running through it and I certainly related to some of the lyrics in the sense of how I’ve felt over the years about my own body image and self esteem, and I’m sure for anyone struggling with similar issues this will have been similar. My final honourable mention goes to Teardrops on My Guitar, which, again, is a song that I was already familiar with due to it appearing on the international version of Fearless. It was actually one of the first Taylor Swift songs that I found myself “attached” to – as I discovered it shortly after hearing Love Story for the first time. At the time, I was this lame-ass little sixteen year old desperately wanting a boyfriend and would sing this in my room while channelling my unrequited love of Dec (yes, of Ant & Dec – shut up), Drake Bell (from Drake & Josh), and Zac Efron. No, YOU need to get a life. The irony is that I can’t even play a fucking guitar.
And yes, if you’re wondering, now when I sing it in the car I think of Paul Mescal. Obvs. And I still can’t play a guitar.
As I’ve said before, if there are any therapists out there who fancy a challenge, please do hit me up.
Right, so we went a little off topic towards the end of that paragraph so let’s just discreetly bring things back. I feel as though I didn’t give this album the recognition it deserved when it was released – although, as a 14 year old I probably wouldn’t have appreciated everything about it that I do now, so maybe it’s a good thin1g I didn’t listen to it properly until now. I’ll be the first to admit that this wasn’t exactly my favourite of Taylor Swift’s albums, but you have to hand it to her, writing something this at just sixteen is something we should all be in awe of, and I for one will be looking forward to hearing the re-record of this in the (hopefully) not too distant future, as it’s going to be such an amazing contrast between the two.
What did you think of Taylor Swift’s debut album? Let me know in the comments!
Catch Up with the Rest of My Tay-Tay Top Five Series
Featured image credit: Spill It Now.com.