The 5 Best Taylor Swift Songs You've Never Heard
I first got into Taylor Swift when "Love Story" started getting a ton of airplay everywhere in the fall of 2008. I had heard of her before, but only peripherally. I was vaguely familiar with the song about Drew and dripping tears on her guitar, and I remember being confused about who this "Drew" character was. Around the same time as Love Story's release, I happened upon a New York Times article about Taylor, in which the author gave her a glowing review and talked about how she uses people's real names in her songs and isn't afraid to go into raw autobiographical detail. The author also painted a picture of someone who was truly down-to-earth, gracious and thankful for all the success that had come her way-- the article ended with a quote from Swift at the close of a sold-out concert. “I am so proud to live in Nashville, Tennessee,” she said, “and I hope to run into you at the grocery store.”
Anyhow, onto the music. The more I listen to Taylor and want to learn her songs myself (I play guitar), the more I come across great songs that aren't on any of her albums. I thought I'd make a short list for those of you who are curious about unreleased songs floating around on YouTube and the like.
"Run" Live at George Strait All Star Concert
"Breathless," Hope for Haiti 2010
1. "I'd Lie"- Taylor wrote this song about a guy friend that she had a crush on in high school. The title derives from the lyric, "If you asked me if I love him...I'd lie." I was digging around on YouTube one day to watch a couple of live performances of this song, and at one show she even introduced it by saying, "This song isn't on the first album, but it'll be on the next one!" It seems it didn't fit into the overall scope of Fearless, but nonetheless it's become a fan favorite online and features a classic Taylor hook and great storytelling. Listen here.
2. "I Heart ?"- This song was actually featured on a limited edition EP at Walmart that was released in the summer before Fearless came out. Taylor had been receiving so many requests from fans that she decided to put out a few songs to tide them over until her second album was released. The result was Beautiful Eyes, featuring the title track of the same name along with alternate versions of "Should've Said No," "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "Picture to Burn." The real gem here is "I Heart ?" (otherwise written as "I Heart Question Mark"), a fun, uptempo track that details the breakup between her and a boyfriend, the consequence of which leads to her writing "I <3 ?" on her hand. Some of the best lyrics: "Wake up and smell the break up/Fix my heart, put on my makeup." Listen here!
3. "Permanent Marker"- This song is catchy and clever, and shows how Taylor isn't afraid to be catty and vengeful when the situation calls for it. At one of her earliest shows, she introduced this song by saying, "You know that ex-girlfriend who doesn't understand that she's the EX-girlfriend?" The song embodies her classic take on pop-country with a fun chorus that goes, "X is the shape I drew through your face in permanent marker." Since there's a professional studio version floating around, it seems she definitely recorded it with the intention to release it at some point. Guess it just didn't make the final cut. Listen here!
4. "Run"- This song, to me, is Taylor's best-ever live performance. I'm cheating a little bit here because it's not her song, but it's still excellent and definitely something worth checking out if you like her music. "Run" is a George Strait song, and Taylor performed it at the George Strait All-Star Tribute Concert back in mid-2009. It's a gorgeous song with a powerful, soaring chorus and sweet lyrics that she tackles with grace and ease. I've included the video up above.
5. "Breathless"- This one's also not a Taylor Swift song but I wanted to include it because she really made it her own and the result is beautiful. Taylor sang this at the Hope for Haiti Now concert after the devastating earthquake. It's a cover of a Better Than Ezra song (a band I've never listened to, admittedly) and sounds like something she easily could have written herself. I've included the video for this one too.
Since I sort of cheated a little with a couple of these, I also want to include other songs worth checking out if you feel so inclined. "Lucky You," written/recorded when Swift was only 13 or 14, is a fun and catchy tune that epitomizes her ability to write a powerful hook from a young age. "Brought Up That Way," a bittersweet song about a father's protective relationship with his daughter as she grows up, surfaced fairly recently. While it's not her best song, melodically speaking, it's a stunning example of her penchant for storytelling and her ability to set the scene.
As for her more recent work, "Superman" is a bonus song on the exclusive version of Speak Now that was released at Target. Of the three extra songs on this version of the album, "Superman" is the catchiest one and perfectly describes her relationship with someone older whom she half loves, half admires to the point of adulation. Although it might be a bit beside the point, my best guess is that this song is about John Mayer. Why? Swift sings, "I loved you from the very first day" several times throughout the song-- the same message encoded in the lyrics for "Dear John" (the song purported to be about Mayer) in her CD booklet. Additionally, she has always been a huge John Mayer fan and alludes to some of his own lyrics from his song "83," where he sings, "Oh make me a red cape/I wanna be Superman."
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this list. Let me know if you have any suggestions or know of any other songs that I left out. I think Taylor Swift is one of the most fascinating artists today-- who knew you could grow up on a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania and become the world's biggest country-pop crossover act in just a few years?