Taylor Swift's Best Visuals (Pt. 1)
Here are 13 of Taylor's best music videos and the meaning behind them.
Taylor Swift has a vast amount of creativity. This is not only reflected in her amazing songwriting skills but also in her input of ideas in her music videos. As Joseph Khan (one of the directors of her music videos) said, "Taylor has input in almost everything." From the story to the costumes to the way the scenes should be depicted, Taylor is involved in almost everything. And this, of course, translates to a wonderful collection of beautiful music videos.
Her music videos cover various topics, including romantic relationships, friendships, motivation, her reputation and many more. It is this vast array of videos which show Taylor's prowess in songwriting. In this list, I am writing about Taylor's 13 best music videos and hopefully will be able to explain the meaning behind these videos.
Disclaimer: This list is entirely my opinion and is not in any way professional. It may differ vastly to most of the lists curated by professional critics as this list is mainly curated from a standpoint of a "Swiftie" (Taylor's fan).
Okay, here we go!
In the 13th spot, we have the music video for "Ours."
"Ours" has a sweet music video with a simple story. Taylor's lover was away and she missed him. Although things were not going well in her working place, her memories with him kept her moving and motivated.
"People throw rocks at things that shine, And life makes love look hard." Using the office scenes (guy disturbing her during work, strangers being judgmental about her in the lift, colleagues talking about her behind her back), the video symbolizes a relationship which others frowned upon. As the song suggests, there were constantly judgements from others about the relationship but she was truly in love with her partner and so she didn't care what others thought. With simple metaphors in the video, the theme of the song is portrayed clearly.
The music video for "Ours" is from one of her early eras and you could see the same method of storytelling in her other early videos like "Teardrops on My Guitar," "Love Story," and "Mine." However, this particular video stands out because of its simplicity and how well it goes with the song's light-heartedness. The number 13 spot, "Ours" very well deserves it.
November 25, 2018: 74 million views
Although the song was inspired by a critic being too harsh on Taylor, the video generalises the theme of "Mean" by including a few other characters besides Taylor.
Taylor, being the main character, could be seen performing as a country singer on a small stage at first. However, in the end, she makes it to New York and is performing in the big leagues. Two other characters, a boy and a girl, were bullied and mocked by their peers in the beginning, but they later become successful in different fields in the future. There is another interesting character, the little girl (played by Joey King) who could be seen watching Taylor's performance in the end. She was also being made fun of by her peers but unlike all other characters, we did not get to see what her future turned out to be. However, it is not difficult to guess as it is foreshadowed by all the other characters in the video.
The inclusion of other characters and more than one storyline is rarely done in her videos and this one is a gem. The theme of the song is reinforced by this and the message of anti-bullying is all in all clear.
Inspired by Taylor's performance at the 46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, director Story Gilmore wanted the video to be "adorable" and indeed it is. With Taylor playing the banjo and her band members having fun at the back, this video is truly fun to watch. Plus, the fact that Taylor is now living in New York just like she does the end of the video makes the video somewhat special.
November 25, 2018: 180 million views
The video for "White Horse" deals with infidelity, but with a different storyline and in a much different tone than "Picture to Burn." This time instead of Taylor being the one whose relationship was ruined, she was actually involved in ruining a relationship without knowing about it.
Taylor could be seen crying in a corner for most of the video, recalling memories of her relationship. The most important part of the video is the phone call made by the guy in the relationship (portrayed by Stephen Colletti). "Will you give me another chance?" Stephen asked. When the conversation is played at the beginning of the video, Taylor has not answered Stephen's question. As the video progresses and flashbacks are shown to us, it is clear that Stephen is not who you thought him to be. Finally, near the end of the video, Taylor gives Stephen her reply and it is a no. You could tell from her expressions that it is heart-breaking to do so, but ultimately that is the right thing to do.
The revelations about the guy's unfaithfulness are done in a subtle way in the video. With the muted tones and gloomy colours during those scenes, it conjures up the disbelief in the viewers effectively. Taylor also had to cry a lot in this video. However, despite having quite a number of people around her while they were shooting the scene, she was able to pull it off perfectly. Trey Fanjoy, the director of the video, also praised her as an exceptional actress!
All in all, just like most of her videos, the storyline is simple and easy to follow. The story-telling is very well done too. And with that, it definitely deserves the 11th spot in the list.
November 25, 2018: 140 million views
"Back to December" has one of the saddest music videos by Taylor. The tone is rather gloomy and the colours are sombre. With hauntingly beautiful scenes throughout the entire video, it is very melancholic and heart-breaking to watch.
The song is about Taylor apologising to her former lover and regretting the love she has never returned. The video captures the essence of the tune and paints a rather metaphorical scenario. Throughout the video, Taylor is roaming morosely in her house and her former lover (played by Guntars Asmanis) is wandering around in the streets. There is no interaction between Taylor and Guntars. We are, however, filled in the story with the consistent alternating cuts between them. The snowy landscape and the falling snow in Taylor's house, the matching shots of their faces and gazes, and the same sadness in their eyes are all we need to have a glimpse on their relationship and what happened after.
One of the reasons this video is so heart-rending is that it reflects what actually happened in real life. Taylor wrote this song as an apology letter to her former lover, hoping that he would receive it and reply, just like what she does in the video when she writes a letter and puts it in Guntars' jacket. However, her former lover was silent the whole time. This is portrayed in the video as Guntars walking quietly in the snow without doing anything else. Near the end of the video, as he read the letter, he lets out a sigh and simply walks away, just like Taylor's former lover did in real life. And with that, this video earns the 10th spot in the list.
Fun fact: This is her 13th Vevo Certified video and every Swiftie knows the significance of the number to Taylor.
November 25, 2018: 185 million views
This music video is a unique piece among her videos as it is her only video to be shot in one continuous take. There are 5 sets and Taylor has five different costumes, so there are quite a number of transitions to make in that one take. The one continuous shot is truly a solid effort from Taylor and her team, despite some transitions being unnatural.
To summarize the video, the guy (played by Noah Mills) is very persistent about getting back with Taylor, and Taylor is very persistent about never ever getting back with him. It is a rather straightforward story yet with the unique filming method, the video is interesting to watch. Part of that is due to the animal costumes her band members were wearing, the pop-up book style transitions and the knittings. These make the video almost as quirky as the song, just like Taylor wanted it to be.
During the bridge of the song, there is an interesting detail in the video. The tone of the background could be seen changing from vibrant as she is singing "We were forever ever," to gloomy as she is about to utter the spoken-word interlude. The trees go from blossoming to fully covered with snow as the bridge progresses. That is really a plus-one for the video.
People often speculate about the subject matter of most of her songs and this one is no exception. In fact, as if to tease us, clues are sprinkled throughout the entire video about the guy whom this song is actually about!
November 25, 2018: 547 M views
This is definitely one of my favourite music videos by her as it matches the song perfectly in terms of the story-telling, and the tone. With a rather similar colour palette to "Back to December," it, however, conveys a completely opposite story.
Shot in Paris, the video gives us plenty of beautiful sceneries including the famous Eiffel Tower and the romantic Bridge of Love. Taylor could be seen roaming the streets of Paris in the beginning until she ends up in a cafe before the first chorus hits. That is when the story takes a turn, as a charming guy (played by Vladimir Perrin) greets her in the cafe.
As the song progresses, you could see the chemistry between Taylor and the guy improve and Taylor's face lightens up every time he talks. The scenes are shot beautifully, alternating between scenes of the couple and scenes of Taylor singing happily. When the line "And for the first time, what's past is past" ends, you could literally see Taylor smiling like she never did and the hope in love in her eyes is clear. It is just heart-warming to watch and difficult to not feel the same way.
As one of the videos which portray the song's mood and theme perfectly, "Begin Again" definitely stands out and the number eight spot is very well-deserved.
November 25, 2018: 160 M views
And...this concludes the first part of my list! Taylor has over 30 music videos and all of them are amazing. It is very difficult to choose only 13 of them and rank them. I tried my best to consider them from as many aspects as I could. I hope you guys enjoyed it.
Stay tuned for part two!