Taylor Swift Eras lead photo

Taylor Swift performing at a "Speak Now" show. 

Following the release of Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album, “Midnights,” the 11-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter announced that she will be going on tour. However, she will not just be touring “Midnights.” Named “The Eras Tour,” Swift will be singing a medley of the music of her past and present.

From style to sound to season, one of the many reasons Swift remains a persistent and unique force in the music industry is her self-admitted capability to constantly reinvent and reimagine herself. Thus, the different “eras” of her music career have become iconic to superfans and long-time Swifties.

Swift will be occupying three nights in Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, sure to be in the company of many Vols. Here is all you need to know about the many eras that will be celebrated in your journey with Taylor Swift on “The Eras Tour.”

Taylor Swift album cover

Taylor Swift (2006)

Swift began her music career in 2006 at just 16 years old with her self-titled album debuting 15 songs of pop-country hits. As a teenage girl, Swift was an unexpected presence to say the least – her youth contrasted both the audience and talent in the country scene, but with her emotional influence, story-telling abilities and the pure catchiness of her songs, the music spoke for itself. Her lead single “Tim McGraw” solidified her presence, talent and merit.

“Taylor Swift” sold millions of copies, and the young new artist was becoming a gem in the genre. However, she was also drawing eyes from more than just the traditional country fans of Nashville where she started her career.

Swift’s self-prophetic lyrics in “A Place in this World” just about sum up the aesthetic and overall listening experience of this album: “I’m just a girl / Trying to find a place in this world / Got the radio on, my old blue jeans / And I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve / Feeling lucky today.”

In this era, we celebrate all things adjacent to sparkly eyeshadow and cowboy boots. Swift practically trademarked curly hair and the color blue in 2006 as well. This is a summery, colorful and innocent era where Chevy trucks with the windows rolled down, blue jeans and backroads are what’s in.

Cult classics from the debut record include “Picture To Burn,” “Teardrops On My Guitar, “Should’ve Said No” and “Our Song.” Hardcore Swifties will refer to “Mary’s Song,” “Tied Together with a Smile” and “A Place in this World” as the dark horse contenders.

On “The Eras Tour,” get ready for some banjo-playing, acoustic guitar-jamming and harmonica filled classics.

Fearless Taylor's Version album cover

Fearless (2008)

Two years after her debut, Taylor Swift released her second studio album, “Fearless.”

Sticking to her country-pop guns, this album marked a pivotal moment in her career when Swift used her uniqueness and fresh perspective in the industry to capture the hearts of millions and garner massive commercial success. Writing about love, heartbreak, hope and sadness – yet capturing it with astute maturity — she created an evergreen, award-winning and record-breaking track. “Fearless” became the most awarded country album in history.

Leaning heavier into the pop side of her album and foreshadowing her future success in the genre with a high-school-prom feel, Swift kept the cowboy boots and acoustic guitar of her debut album but upped the ante. Another staple for the summer with jump-around-in-your-room and scream-in-your-car songs, this era is as it was named: fearless.

If one refers to themselves as “in their Fearless era,” it seems to have less of the fashion or aesthetic sentiment that eras like “Taylor Swift,” “1989” or “Red” might have. The “Fearless” era is a mindset.

Through its lyrics, the central theme of this album seems to represent belief in the future regarding love, personal success, happiness or whatever meaning the Swifties themselves put behind the lyrics.

The mainstream favorites from the album include “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story,” as well as “Fearless,” “Fifteen” and “White Horse.” Die-hard Swifties will recognize her song off the “Hannah Montana: The Movie” soundtrack, “Crazier,” to be another highlight of the Fearless era. “Hey Stephen,” “The Way I Loved You” and “Forever & Always” would also be feathers in the caps of the Swifties who have been fans of the record since they had to listen to it on a CD.

In 2021, Swift re-recorded and re-released the original album with an additional six unreleased songs she named “From the Vault.” “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” marked the first step in her journey of re-releasing her first six studio albums after the masters to her songs published while she was signed to Big Machine Records were sold to Scooter Braun, a talent manager, without her consent.

In the re-release with the addition of vault tracks, Swift shared with her fans a collection of songs that didn’t make the cut the first time around. Fan-favorites include “Mr. Perfectly Fine” and “You All Over Me."

Speak Now album cover

Speak Now (2010)

On her way to becoming a household name, “Speak Now” is one of the most dramatic, theatrical and impressive projects Swift has produced. All 17 songs off of “Speak Now” were written solely by Taylor Swift.

Building off of the momentum of “Love Story,” Swift continued on with her fairy tales in music. “Speak Now” was an extension of her country-girl brand with the addition of glitter. Here, Swift kept the banjo and acoustic guitar but ditched the cowboy boots. The aesthetic of this album is flowery and romantic, with her signature long, curly hair and flowy dresses. No longer referencing trucks and dirt roads, in her “Speak Now” era, Swift took on a more enchanted image. This is an end-of-winter kind of album with cold imagery throughout, but still with hints of life and healing.

This was also when Swift emerged a character in the industry, and so here begins the fun of Taylor Swift-lore (or Tay-lore). Fans were now able to guess which songs were about which celebrities. “John Mayer, Joe Jonas or Taylor Lautner?” seemed to be the questions surrounding this era.

Some assumptions were more concrete than others, as the star-studded track off of “Speak Now,” titled “Dear John,” further showcased her ability to capture and put into words the feelings that so few can. It was as though listeners were reading her diary, and “Dear John” was effectively one of the most hard-hitting borderline diss tracks during the time of its release. It is safe to assume that if you are attending “The Eras Tour” you should come with all six minutes of “Dear John” memorized and in your repertoire.

If someone tells you they are in their “Speak Now” era, know that this means they are just a few steps away from their “reputation” era. In an era where Swift took more creative risks, diving deeper into her journey to becoming a pop star, “Speak Now” is one of her most chaotic and exciting eras. Here, Swift name drops ex-boyfriends, sings about crashing weddings and exacting revenge, but she does so over a melody that demands you see her side of things.

Still, as her mainstream popularity grew, so did doubt and cynicism regarding her work and persona. Here, Swift began to be classified in the media as someone who only wrote about her ex-boyfriends, or “not a real country artist.” She had more to prove.

Aside from the relationships, “Speak Now” featured coming of age stories in “Mean,” “Never Grow Up” and “Long Live,” maintaining that feeling that fans often felt of growing up along with the artist.

During her “Speak Now” tour in 2011, Taylor Swift made her way over to Knoxville to perform at UT’s very own Thompson-Boling Arena.

red taylor's version album cover

Red (2012)

By Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album, she was a certified super star, but she was still not done growing. On “Red,” Swift expanded her palette further and embraced her natural affinity towards pop stardom while still keeping hints of the country story-telling longtime fans loved. Taylor Swift effectively owned the color red in 2012.

With her debut single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Swift sent shockwaves through the world. Where her debut album and the three that followed were all fairly cohesive with one another, the first singles off of “Red” marked the first major turning point and reinvention in her career. So long to the curls and flowing dresses.

Despite only being 22, Swift had been in the industry for some time by this point and began to develop a more mature feel in both her artistry and presentation. Straight hair, bangs, a fall aesthetic, preppy influence and red lipstick are all signatures of this absolutely timeless era.

If a Swiftie is in their “Red” era, they are “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time,” as stated in the song “22.” They might even be feeling both “miserable and magical.”

This dichotomy present in “Red” — embracing youth and independence, having fun with friends but also experiencing deep, profound hurt and loneliness — maintained the trance of Swift’s music.

The resurgence of the “Red (Taylor’s Version)” era in late 2021 was something to behold. In her second step in the journey of owning her songs, the vault tracks featured a ten minute long version of the fan-favored song “All Too Well” and a short film to go along with it.

Other gems of the re-record were a remixed version of “Girl At Home,” the return of the country accent and harmonica in “I Bet You Think About Me,” and a Phoebe Bridgers feature in “Nothing New,” in which Swift opens up about how her constant need for reinvention is due to her fear of losing novelty in the eyes of the public.

There is truly nothing quite like the “Red” era. Embracing all things fall, the autumn leaves were in fact “falling down like pieces into place,” as Swift writes in “All Too Well.” If someone was listening to music in November 2021, it was safe to assume they were listening to “Red (Taylor’s Version).”

1989 album cover

1989 (2014)

Taking another 180-degree turn in her presentation and art with the release of “1989,” Swift began a new story with another change in hair, style and, most notably, sound. This summertime album welcomes high-waisted everything, short hair, parties and freedom. If Swift was dipping her toes in the pop genre during “Red,” in “1989” she jumped fully into the deep end.

After beginning her career singing about her dreams of being in the big city one day and making it big, in her fifth studio album, Swift begins the record with “Welcome to New York.” “1989” achieved massive commercial and critical acclaim. Taylor Swift became an utterly dominant force.

If someone is in their “1989” era, then life is just good. Between “Blank Space,” “New Romantics” and “Shake It Off,” this album’s central themes seem to be about having fun with your life and being with friends. Even her breakup songs like “Style,” “Out Of The Woods,” and “All You Had To Do Was Stay” have a vibrant and exciting feel to them. Still, despite the fun of “1989,” Swifties will be sure to point out that it was at no consequence of her trademark song-writing brilliance, which is evident through songs like “Clean,” “This Love” and “You Are In Love.”

reputation album cover

reputation (2017)

During one of her most iconic eras ever, it is only the true Swifties that appreciated all the cunningness, love and villainousness that this period in Tay-lore had to offer in real time. Following her controversy with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West over lyrics West wrote about Swift in his song “Famous,” Taylor Swift’s carefully crafted public image fell. When the fall came, it came fast – nearly overnight. Then, Taylor Swift went radio silent, having disappeared from the public eye between 2016 and 2017.

Swift returned with music and music only. She did not editorialize her sixth studio album and hardly did any promotion whatsoever outside of her own sparse social media presence. She even wrote on her Instagram before the album’s release to say “There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation.”

The “reputation” era is fascinating and ruthless.

Here, with the new power of edginess under her belt, Swift expanded her musical sphere even further with hip-hop and electro influences. The album “reputation” was dark in presentation, style and symbol. Having taken inspiration from her song “Blank Space” off of “1989,” where she played the character of the crazy ex-girlfriend media outlets made her out as, in her “reputation” era, Taylor Swift not only took on the role of the villain, but made it enticing. Assuming this fraudulent identity bestowed upon her by those that loathed her, she leaned into the absurdity of the blame they casted. Through her music, Swift invalidated what the haters had to say.

Swift both literally and metaphorically killed the carefully crafted persona she had developed over the years and embraced her true colors. The drama and scrutiny Swift endured was hardly the focal point in the contents of “reputation.” In this album, she wrote mainly about love and the way her experience in being ridiculed by the world affected her mentally and emotionally. Swift’s “reputation” is admirable in the way it displays both bite and vulnerability.

In “Look What You Made Me Do,” the lead single for “reputation,” Swift fakes a phone call, saying “I’m sorry, but the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, ‘cause she’s dead.”

In “The Eras Tour,” it would seem Swift has risen from the dead and it is fair to say all Swifties are thankful for that.

If one is in their “reputation” era, you will not know, as they have most likely already left in a “Getaway Car.”

lover album cover

Lover (2019)

The soft pinks and blues of this album represent the more toned back aesthetic, which are a bit of a contrast to the two leading singles from the record, “ME!” and “I Forgot That You Existed.” Still, this album has a summertime feel of both pining and singing in the car.

Swift wrote on her Instagram that her seventh album is about “love, its complexity, its coziness and its chaos.” She writes about all the love that surrounds her and explores the complicated relationship she has with it – almost reflective of the themes in the grand story of her career up to that point.

Following the whirlwind of “reputation,” in her seventh studio album, “Lover,” Swift was willing to strip back significantly. With a blissful yet still introspective and dynamic album, “Lover” is one of the more underrated eras in Swift’s career due to its short run in the spotlight due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently the quick release of “folklore.” Similar to the “Fearless” era, the “Lover” era is more of a mindset, spoken through the lyrics and up to interpretation. It is a testament again to the vividness and compelling nature of what Swift writes.

Folklore

"folklore"

folklore/evermore (2020)

The folklore/evermore eras demand to be combined, as Swift says she views them to be sister albums. Written, produced and released during the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor Swift used the isolation to let her creativity chart its own course.

Stripped back even further from “Lover,” her eighth and ninth indie-folk albums were announced the morning before their midnight releases.

From the style to the sound to even the font she used while promoting the albums, these eras are elegant, mystical and beautiful. With an ethereal, dream-like feel, Swift returns in many ways to her roots and the start of her career.

Both eras have a witchy, cottage-core aesthetic — fantastical as well and a callback to Swift's true roots built upon her country background in storytelling. This time, instead of the cowboy boots and Chevy trucks, Swift dons the iconic cardigan — though she does bring back the harmonica and fairy tales. This era has the kind of sound that makes you want to skip through a field.

Swift said that “folklore” was her way of “escaping into fantasy, history and memory.” She told the stories “with all the love, wonder and whimsy they deserve,” then left it up to fans to pass down her folklore. Following the release of “folklore,” Swift was unable to leave the enchantment behind her and thus released “evermore” just five months later.

Midnights cover

Midnights (2022)

What is interesting about Taylor Swift’s many eras is that they are only really able to be identified while looking back. It perhaps has something to do with that feeling many Swifties have of growing up with the artist. So, yes, we are currently in the “Midnights” era. Still, it is difficult to say what that means just yet. 

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