Perhaps the most commercially successful musician of her generation, Taylor Swift has enjoyed an unbroken string of six multi-platinum albums since debuting at the age of 16.
Swift grew up in the limelight, turning seemingly every page of her diary into a relatable lyric. The Pennsylvania-born Swift has developed a strangely intimate relationship with her massive fanbase. When she performs at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday and Saturday, she’ll bring a stack of chart-topping hits. But if she breaks out an album track from the playlist below, her diehard fans will be singing along all the same.
Swift’s career can be effectively bifurcated into two eras. Her first three albums, released between 2006 and 2010, were country music blockbusters that crossed over to pop audiences but still featured a healthy helping of banjo and fiddle on sunny songs like “Stay Beautiful.” But she soon began to branch out from Nashville, and her most recent three albums released since 2012 expanded her circle to include a team of producers headed up by Swedish pop guru Max Martin.
That’s not to say that all of Taylor Swift’s music falls into two neat categories. Swift, who was named after James Taylor, began her career as a quick study of '70s-style singer-songwriters, filling songs like “Invisible” with wordy, vulnerable verses and jangly acoustic guitars. But she became a sponge for myriad styles, from the minimal synth pop of “Clean” to the brooding, grandiose power ballad “Haunted.” The opening track from 2012’s Red, “State of Grace,” sounds like a bombastic mid-period U2 anthem, complete with shimmering guitar delay that would do The Edge proud.
As Taylor Swift’s star rose and her relationships began to involve other celebrities, the personal nature of her lyrics started to fuel tabloid blind items. Each song on 2010’s Speak Now addressed a specific person in her life, with the most memorable and unambiguous target being John Mayer, whose tumultuous relationship with Swift allegedly inspired her slow-burning, seven-minute opus “Dear John.” In 2013, Swift broke up with One Direction star Harry Styles, and a year later her album 1989 was chock full of songs like “I Wish You Would” that fans picked apart for possible Styles references.
Taylor Swift is currently touring in support of 2017’s Reputation, an album that represents the apex of both her move toward punchy modern pop and her penchant for coded shots at other celebs. “All the liars are calling me one,” she sniffs on “Call It What You Want,” in one of the album’s many thinly veiled nods to a feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian-West that boiled over in 2016. Shedding the doe-eyed innocence of her early public image, Swift relishes playing the femme fatale on moody tracks like “So It Goes…” (which is probably not a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut’s famous saying from Slaughterhouse-Five—but who knows, really).
You probably won’t hear much from Swift’s early Music Row era on the Reputation tour outside of a couple of major hits like “You Belong with Me.” You may, however, hear the Speak Now cut “Long Live,” which has been performed on this tour as a medley with the recent single “New Year’s Day.” And if Swift has a sense of how many underappreciated power pop gems are in her discography, she’ll pick her guitar up this weekend and put “Forever & Always” or “The Outside” in the setlist.