Eight Taylor Swift Lyrics as Good as Any in Country Music

Categories: Strum & Twang

2. "She wears short skirts/ I wear T-shirts/ She's cheer-captain/ And I'm on the bleachers"
From "You Belong With Me"

There's irony, perhaps, in this irresistible line being sung by a young woman who always looks like she just got made over for a Vanity Fair cover shoot. But country music listeners understand that in songs their stars play characters -- often, un-glam versions of their pre-fame selves. In bad songs, like Billy Currington's "Pretty Good at Drinkin' Beer," that insistence upon averageness can come across as pandering, especially since the characters lack the fascinating hunger and ambition that once boiled over in the star. Some good songs, like Miranda Lambert's "Only Prettier," honor both the character (relatable!) and the star (relatable yet awesome!).

"You Belong With Me" -- a great song, one hard to resist screaming along with -- goes one step further. When Swift shouts "She wears short skirts/ I wear T-shirts," she's not just offering a succinct -- and relatable! -- comparison between a bright everyday sort of girl and that girl's hottie rival. Because Swift herself seems to have started as one and wound up the other, she demonstrates that you, the everyday sort of listener, might one day, too. As Swift notes in another song that should be on this list, the teen years are "life before you know who you're gonna be."

1. "You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter"
From "Mine"

A bubblegum masterpiece, "Mine" demonstrates that Taylor Swift (who wrote it) is at times a lyricist of great power -- and that, like Dolly before her, she's pure country, no matter how pop the backing track. Here, she balls together all three types of Taylor Swift love song into one, creating something rich and singular and more like life than any pop-music genre usually gets. She captures that first wild rush of love, the despair when that first rush doesn't last, and then something rare for a big radio hit: the hard work it takes for couples to keep that initial thrill alive -- and to find it again in each other when it threatens to ebb.

The lived-in detail of her writing here stands tall against anything country has ever produced. In one urgent, standout line -- "You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter" -- she thumbnails these characters, their relationship, a full family history, and the way young people who set out to avoid the mistakes of their parents wind up making a whole new set of mistakes -- reactionary ones.

It even hints at the generational conflict that might explain the loud-guitar ethos of country songs like this one: The boomers' rock music went too far, got too hedonistic, so young Nashville's will always be safer, more studied, and restrained -- the careful daughter of a careless man. But that careful daughter still feels the passions that made her father rebel, so nothing's going to sound like "Tim McGraw" again.

Not even Tim McGraw.

Runners up from "Mine":
"Braced myself for the goodbye/ 'Cause that's all I've ever known"
"We got bills to pay/ We got nothin' figured out"
"There's a drawer of my things at your place"
"You learn my secrets/ And you figure out why I'm guarded/You say we'll never make my parents' mistakes."

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Taylor Swift is one of the best country music star... i must say that taylor swift need a bit more time to be as a mature lady in music... a bit more time ... 

Yanlove
Yanlove

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Ofalaska
Ofalaska

Taylor is growing faster than most people can keep track or imagine. The 'pure country' crowd is as ossified as a petrified tree, the Means have already lost, (she's too big to hurt now) and her passion for history is a mystery to the ignorant of it. Meanwhile she's a refuge for millions of girls struggling with their own identities and the finest young woman this country has produced. Keep it up Taylor!

nyrangers
nyrangers

Too many pop songs chosen here. She has plenty of music that will never make it on the radio but is some of her best stuff. Cold as you and Tim Mcgraw deserve recognition but there are better lines in those songs to be praised. The reason people feel that she is all pop is because of articles like this, recognizing her upbeat pop songs and letting the good ballads fall by the way side. 

I would name lyrics that should be mentioned but I don't have all day to do that.

tired of the kids
tired of the kids

'Generation Awkward.' This. Why is it no young woman these days can even make eye contact with a grown up?

Alan Scherstuhl
Alan Scherstuhl

Wait, is Caitlin Flanagan leaving anonymous web comments now?

Nm4dbfuid
Nm4dbfuid

I like this post! :)

But as Taylor's fan, I love some other lyrics instead of these:1) "please don't be in love with someone else, please don't have somebody waiting on you" - enchanted2) "I go back in time and change it but I can't, but if we love again, I swear I'd love you right" back to December3) "I'll be waiting for you ever since you've been gone, I just want it back the way it was before, I just want to see you back at my front door" - if this was a movie4) "and I stare at the phone, he still hasn't call, and then you feel so low, you can't do nothing at all and you flash back to when he said forever and always" - forever and always5) "love like a sinner, lose like a winner, nothing shatters proof" - sweet tea and god's graces

I love Taylor Swift!!

Haggie
Haggie

pop crap.

how about listening to jamey johnson'my sweet wife was my best friend but i traded that for cocaine and a whore'that is a real country music lyric

Alan Scherstuhl
Alan Scherstuhl

Johnson's "Playing the Part" and "Can't Cash My Checks" are about as good as modern country gets. But dismissing Swift as "pop crap" shows you worry too much about marketing categories and not enough about the actual music.

Jjskck
Jjskck

I find it annoying that music gets to be as vapid as it wants to be as long as it is labeled as "POP". I think it's because hipper-than-thou types can pretend to enjoy it ironically. Hit it with any other genre's stamp and people act like it has to carry some burden of depth or authenticity. What does that shit even mean, anyway? Do you really think NWA's lyrics were autobiographical? Does Thom Yorke repeating gibberish phrases over and over again make that music deeper than something literal and heartfelt? (Seriously - I love Radiohead, and some of their lyrics are downright profound...but some of it's nonsense. Admit it.)

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