A look back on Taylor Swift's "eras" in light of her new tour

The Eras of Taylor Swift

A guide of all of the singer-songwriter's previous albums to prepare you for her 'Eras Tour' beginning in March of next year.
November 21, 2022
13 mins read

On Nov. 1, Taylor Swift announced that she will be going on tour for the first time in five years. The “Eras Tour” will not focus on a specific album, but cover her entire discography. Since her last tour for “Reputation” in 2018, Swift has released four new albums — including her latest album, “Midnights,” — and has re-released two former albums, “Fearless” and “Red (Taylor’s Version).” In her 16 years as a renowned musician, Swift has released ten albums, each representing a new “era” in style and sound. How are each of these eras unique, and what songs can fans expect to see on her “Eras Tour”?

Swift’s career was promising from the start, but her early music is drastically different from the tracks on “Midnights.” Swift released her self-titled debut album in 2006 at just 16 years old, in which she wrote three of the songs herself and co-wrote the other eight. The album topped the Top Country Albums chart for months and became the longest-charting album of the decade, effectively skyrocketing her to fame. Several of the songs — including “Picture to Burn,” “Teardrops on my Guitar” and “Our Song” — are known by virtually anyone who grew up in the early 2000s, due to their catchy lyrics and country sound.

Swift’s second album, “Fearless,” was released two years later, and she wrote most of the songs on the record. The album also featured her first collaboration with another artist; Colbie Caillat joined her for “Breathe.” The classic country sound of the record was sonically reminiscient of her debut album: relying heavily on acoustic guitars, piano and bright twangy vocals. However, two of her famous singles — “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” — attracted not only country fans, but also pop fans, the former being Swift’s second-most-popular track of all time. Other hits like “Fifteen” and “Fearless” are also memorable, and the album as a whole was another resounding success.

Speak Now“(2010) delved into Swift’s experiences with heartbreak and growing up but also included light-hearted love songs, all of which she wrote on her own. Despite her completing the album without the help of co-writers, her songs “Mean” and “Back to December” reached the Billboard Top 100, and “Sparks Fly” and “Ours” both achieved the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs. “Speak Now” is a favorite among many Swifties for its topical diversity, it touches on everything from crushes (“Enchanted”) to crashed weddings (the title song).

Additionally, since its release, fans have speculated about which songs are about which of Taylor’s exes. “Dear John” is a ballad about a mysterious man (likely John Mayer), whom Swift criticizes for dating her so young. And the aforementioned “Back to December” (probably Taylor Lautner) details a failed relationship in which Swift was in the wrong. “Speak Now” is an excellent example of what draws so many Swift fans to return to her music; she writes relatable songs that reflect her personal life in a way that requires dedicated digging to decode.

Swift’s next record, “Red,” is a landmark in her musical career. To achieve her goal of exploring different musical genres, she brought on multiple new producers from genres like pop, rock and dubstep. Four of the album’s singles reached the Billboard Top 100, with the well-known hit “I Knew You Were Trouble” taking the number one spot. The album not only made history for being what critics consider to be her first mainly pop album, but also solidified her as the first female artist to have three consecutive albums maintain number one spot on the Billboard 200 for six weeks; The Beatles are the only other group to have achieved such an honor. Throughout the album, Swift recounts the “red” emotions she had while writing the album. Her feelings are linked to her painful relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal (who inspired the heartbreaking “All Too Well”), as well as her more positive one with Conor Kennedy (yes, that Kennedy) in sweet songs like “Begin Again.”

1989,” her next album, has a synth-pop sound that hosts two of her top five most popular songs of all time: “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space.” The album also signified the beginning of a lengthy relationship with producer Jack Antonoff, who continues to work with Swift today. The beats of the album are incredibly catchy and are ingrained in the minds of any girl who grew up in the 2010s (or any person who turned on the radio). “Bad Blood” was another successful single that is speculated to be about her falling out with fellow pop star Katy Perry, and another hit, “Style,” is rumored to be about Harry Styles himself. Swift broke records once again with “1989,” becoming the first-ever solo female artist to win two Album of the Year awards.

In 2016, Swift released her sixth studio album: “Reputation.” The album is a complete 180 from innocent country Taylor, which was her goal with the project. Swift tackles the gossip surrounding her life, especially her love life, and plays into the bad girl “reputation” she developed in the music industry. Fan favorite songs like “Don’t Blame Me” and “Look What You Made Me Do” feature intense dubstep beats, while “Delicate” is more similar to her previous lighter, pop-heavy work. “Getaway Car” describes meeting a man and then leaving him in the dust, which Swift did during her relationship with Tom Hiddleston, whom she met while dating Calvin Harris.

Her next album, “Lover,” features more of the classic, heartwarming pop that brought Swift to fame. In stark contrast from her previous album in which she adopted an exaggerated persona, Swift wanted to portray “love that was very real” in all its ups and downs. Out of the 18 tracks on the album (the most songs yet), the most memorable songs are “Cruel Summer,” “Lover,” “You Need To Calm Down,” and “ME!” (featuring Panic! at the Disco singer Brendon Urie). Her song “London Boy” seems to confirm that many of the songs were inspired by her relationship with her long-time beau, Joe Alwyn.

As anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows, the COVID pandemic hit in March of 2020. The two albums Swift wrote during the height of the pandemic — “Folklore” and “Evermore” — are beautiful, folky masterpieces. Swift described “Folklore” as a collection of concepts, including a love triangle involving the characters singing “cardigan” (Betty), “betty” (James) and “august” (the other woman).

In other songs like “the last great american dynasty” and “seven,” Swift draws inspiration from her own past, and in “invisible string,” she sings a sweet ode to her boyfriend Joe once again. “Evermore” has a similarly acoustic sound and also features narrative elements. In “No Body, No Crime,” a woman discovers that her friend Este’s husband murdered Este to be with his mistress. In an act of revenge, the song’s protagonist kills Este’s husband and frames the other woman. “Tis the Damn Season” describes the feeling of returning home for the holidays and sparking up past romances. Interestingly, the bonus track, “Right Where You Left Me,” which details a woman stuck in a past relationship, is a cult favorite among Swifties and one of the most memorable of the album.

Swift also re-released two of her albums as “Taylor’s Version,” a response to her feud with Scooter Braun. Braun purchased Swift’s old recording label, Big Machine Records, in 2019, which granted him total control over all the albums she released prior to “Lover.” “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” was the first re-release and not only included the songs fans knew and loved already, but also introduced the concept of “from the vault” — a term referring to the songs that Swift had sitting on the back-burner, such as “Mr. Perfectly Fine.” “Red (Taylor’s Version)” came out a year later (2021) and also included more songs “from the vault,” including a collaboration with popular indie singer Phoebe Bridgers in “Nothing New.” Swift turned down an invitation to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show this year to prioritize “re-recording her early albums,” leaving fans to speculate that she may drop all seven before her tour begins in March 2023.

Her most recent album, “Midnights,” dropped just weeks ago and became the first-ever album to conquer the entirety of the Billboard Top 10 list. The album’s sound is a conglomeration of all her previous works. “Vigilante Shit” and “Anti-Hero” are reminiscent of the harsher “Reputation”; “Sweet Nothing” is a soft love ballad similar to “Folklore” and “Evermore.” “Karma,” the most popular song of the album, has “Reputation” themes with a “1989” pop sound. The accompanying “Eras Tour” was so popular that Swift had to add extra dates, which is due not only to excitement of seeing Swift in action again, but also to the immense popularity of the album. The vast range of Swift’s sounds across her discography allow anyone, from a casual listener to the most hardcore Swiftie, to resonate with at least one of her eras.

Teagan Angell, Fordham University

Writer Profile

Teagan Angell

Fordham University
Political Science and Psychology

My name is Teagan Angell and I’m from the Poconos in Pennsylvania. At Fordham, I’m in Every Vote Counts and the Fordham Political Review. I love music, movies, coffee and art.

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