When Taylor Swift announced in 2019 that she would be re-recording her first six albums in an effort to reclaim her original music, fans began eagerly anticipating the opportunity to revisit the past—and hear beloved songs in a new light. But Swift provided even more than that: In addition to re-releasing the tracks off the albums, she also included songs that almost made the cut. The songs, referred to as “From the Vault,” feature collaborations with artists Swift has long admired, like Keith Urban, Chris Stapleton, and Phoebe Bridgers.
So far, Swift has re-released four albums: Fearless, Red, Speak Now, and 1989. There are 26 “From the Vault” songs between them, including the 10-minute version of her heartbreak anthem “All Too Well.” These are songs about love and longing, regret and revenge, and the thrill of meeting someone who might just change your life. They all offer a new window into who Swift was at the time she was working on them. But some standout more than others.
To determine which “From the Vault” song is the very best, TIME decided to rank them all, with the exception of the 10-minute version of “All Too Well”—its scope is just too large. To create this ranking, we each compiled our own individual rankings, and then averaged those results.
25. Run (feat. Ed Sheeran)
Of Swift’s three collaborations with Ed Sheeran, “Run,” from the Red vault, is the weakest (controversially, I’d rank “End Game,” which also features Future, as the best of the bunch). The bare melody and lyrics like “Run like you'd run from the law” make the song just a bit too basic given the caliber of Swift’s songwriting skills.—Sam Cooney
24. Don't You
Off the Fearless vault, “Don’t You” attempts to capture the messiness of being flooded with conflicting feelings when you unexpectedly run into an ex. While those are all hallmarks of a great Taylor Swift song, “Don’t You” is missing the cutting specificities of the anger, longing, and pretending that come up in those moments that she’s so well-known for. “So I walk outta here tonight, try to go on with my life. And you can say we’re still friends” comes pretty close, but is just a few drafts away from being totally devastating.—Annabel Gutterman
23. You All Over Me (feat. Maren Morris)
True Swifties know this track was leaked in 2017, but now they can rejoice in the official version, off the Fearless vault, featuring country-pop starlet Maren Morris. The solemn ballad meditates on the lingering effects of a messy past relationship—and appears to include several references to many of Swift’s old tracks, including, most prominently, “Clean.” “But no amount of freedom gets you clean. I’ve still got you all over me,” she sings in the chorus, a nod to the 2014 song, in which she sings, “You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore.”—Moises Mendez II
22. We Were Happy
The plucky, stripped down “We Were Happy” looks at the ruins of a seemingly troubled relationship with rose-colored glasses: “When it was good, baby, it was good, baby, we showed ‘em all up/ No one could touch the way we laughed in the dark, talkin’ bout your daddy’s farm.” It’s unclear whether the relationship is failing or has failed, but the song’s melancholy tone makes either possibility equally sad. Was this one too much of a downer to make the cut for Fearless? Potentially.—A.G.
“Timeless” is borderline saccharine, a ballad about finding a love so pure that it could exist in any moment in history. Swift tells a story about walking into an antique shop where she saw old photos of a 1930s bride, singing about the “kinda love that you only find once in a lifetime” and how those photos reminded her of the love she feels for her partner. “I know that you and I would've found each other in another life, you still would've turned my head even if wе'd met,” she sings. The track nearly veers into cheesy territory but manages to stay the course, by keeping the historical references at a minimum.—M.M.
20. Castles Crumbling (feat. Hayley Williams)
There are unfounded rumors propagated by the Swifities that the title track, “Speak Now” was inspired by Paramore’s front-woman Hayley Williams, who is said to have attended the wedding of her ex-bandmate and ex-boyfriend, Josh Farro in 2010. Taylor Swift and Williams have both spoken about their friendship at length over the years and Paramore is serving as an opening act for more shows of the Eras Tour in 2024, so it was high time the pair find a reason to blend their voices together on a song. The lyrics of the song can be interpreted to be about the failing of relationships, burning those bridges and the metaphorical castle of a partnership being destroyed. Or, it could be about the undoing of a seemingly-perfect reputation—which Swift dealt with after her falling out with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, and Williams after Paramore’s bassist Jeremy Davis sued the band and left.—M.M.
19. Forever Winter
Swift writes a song about supporting a friend through a difficult time. Like most of the best songs on Red, you can hear the emotions in Swift’s voice. The trumpets at the beginning of the song add nice texture, too.—S.C.
18. Electric Touch (feat. Fall Out Boy)
“Got a feelin’ your electric touch could fill this ghost town up with life”—that’s a line that belongs on the soundtracks of nearly every early 2010s YA novel turned film adaptation. This is Taylor Swift bringing the drama and describing, in earnest, what it’s like to really need someone, and need them right now. Sure, the idea of an “electric touch” is kind of silly, but this song is a bop!—A.G.
17. Foolish One
Who among us hasn’t pined after a person who has left us on read and waited desperately for them to text back, only to find out they are with someone else? Just me? The way Swift describes this feeling in the bridge of the song—“I will get your longing glances but she’ll get your ring. You will say you had the best of intentions, and maybe I will finally learn my lesson”—shows she might get it, too. Love (or what we perceive to be love) will make us foolish, but no matter what, there’s always a lesson at the end of the road—some of them are easier to learn than others.—M.M.
16. The Very First Night
A pop track about missing the beginning of a relationship after it’s over, this song is mostly fine. You can see why Swift cut it from Red—the lyrics are somewhat derivative of her other, greater works. Lyrics like "But don't forget about the night out in L.A. Danced in the kitchen, chased me down through the hallway” just don’t make the same impact after you’ve heard "All Too Well"’s “'Cause there we are again in the middle of the night. We're dancing 'round the kitchen in the refrigerator light.”—S.C.
15. Say Don’t Go
The second vault track from 1989 (Taylor’s Version) depicts yet another bruising heartbreak, this time focusing on the pain of watching someone you love walk away, and still wanting them even when they didn’t choose you. And while the lyrics are devastating, the emotional core of the song comes from a fleeting moment of anger in the bridge when Swift screams: “I said I love you. You say nothin’ back.” More of that rage, please!—A.G.
14. Bye Bye Baby
This song arrives in the middle of our ranking because it is just that: mid-tier. “Bye Bye Baby” is a slow track about moving on after a heartbreak. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but there aren’t any standout lyrics, either.—A.G.
13. Message in a Bottle
The upbeat, punchy song invites you to dance around and shout lyrics about having a crush on someone who you can’t stop thinking about. In some ways, it’s the precursor to Red’s “Treacherous,” which acknowledges that the flip side of falling in love is risking being hurt (“Nothing safe is worth the drive”). “Message in a Bottle” is not concerned with the realities of such heartbreak. And that’s what makes it so fun!—A.G.
12. Now That We Don’t Talk
“Now That We Don’t Talk” kind of sounds like a b-side of “All You Had To Do Was Stay.” (For you Swiftie sleuths, consider that the motif of “paying the price” is present in the lyrics or the former and the liner note of the latter.) Perhaps the most 1989-sounding of all the vault tracks, this airy tune is all about the push-and-pull of a new break up. Maybe you want them back—but also, maybe you don’t. “I don’t have to pretend I like acid rock, or that I’d like to be on a mega yacht,” Swift croons over a synth-laden beat. Relatable!—R.S.
11. That’s When (feat. Keith Urban)
“That’s When” contemplates whether it’s worth picking up the pieces of a damaged relationship, and trying again. In wistful and remorseful turns, Swift acutely describes feeling caught between your heart and your head. The song also features Keith Urban, her second collaboration with the country artist after appearing on Tim McGraw's single “Highway Don’t Care.”—A.G.
This empowering song sees Swift reclaiming a word that has been hurled at her for years. In a letter accompanying the physical copies of 1989 (Taylor’s Version), Swift writes that she had become a “target for slut shaming” and it started to take a toll on her. To get through it, she turned to writing—and this shimmering feminist anthem was born.–M.M.
After cutting it from 2012’s Red, Swift sold this track—about breaking up with a cheating partner—to country duo Sugarland. But Babe has all of the hallmarks of one of Swift’s greatest breakup songs: it balances her pitch-perfect pettiness (You really blew this, babe) with her pain (I hate that because of you, I can't love you, babe). While Sugarland’s version leans into the anguish, Swift turns her version into a pure pop diss track. It’s his fault, okay?—S.C.
8. Suburban Legends
Though “Suburban Legends” may sound more like its off Midnights than 1989 (cue the “Mastermind” similarities), there’s no question that it’s still a total bop. Swift is at her best when she’s nostalgic and here she details a relationship between two lovers navigating a small town and a big romance, imagining what it would be like to show up at their high school reunion together. She’s sentimental, but ruthless: “When you hold me, it holds me together. And you kiss me in a way that’s gonna screw me up forever.”—A.G.
7. When Emma Falls in Love
I love when Taylor Swift writes songs about other girls, particularly her friends. Ever the great observer, here, Swift sings about a girl named Emma as she grows head over heels for someone. “When Emma falls in love, it's all on her face, hangs in the air like stars in outer space,” Swift croons over a wistful melody both in amazement and yearning. One can only hope to have as much main character energy as Emma. Plus, it’s oddly reminiscent of my favorite karaoke song “Drops of Jupiter.” What more could anyone ask for?—Rachel Sonis
6. Better Man
"Better Man" isn’t just one of the best vault tracks—it’s one of Taylor Swift’s best songs. Swift perfectly captures the nuance, confusion, and heartache of loving someone even when you know they’re bad for you. The bridge (“I hold onto this pride because, these days, it's all I have. And I gave to you my best. And we both know you can't say that”) stings. Swift doesn’t deviate much from Little Big Town’s 2016 version, but her grown-up vocals help her stick the landing. The only downside is that this was left off Red in the first place.—S.C.
5. Is It Over Now?
Swift’s rumored relationship with Harry Styles resulted in one of the most expertly-produced pop songs ever, “Style.” With “Is It Over Now?” Swift retreads old territory, reflecting on a former love through memories they shared. In a 2014 Rolling Stone cover story, Swift said that she was in a snowmobile accident with an ex (who many assumed to be Styles since the accident was referenced in “Style”). The is referenced in this vault track when she sings, “When you lost control. Red blood, white snow,” then adding a dig at her ex, saying he searches “in every model’s bed for something greater” and that every new girl he dates is “her clone.” It’s a blistering takedown that sees Swift trying to lift herself up and move on.–M.M.
4. I Bet You Think About Me (feat. Chris Stapleton)
No one captures the pain ofa woman scorned better than Taylor Swift. But this song is the perfect example of missing that person you once had and knowing that you deserve better because your differences are too big. Add in Chris Stapleton’s gruff, billowing vocals and you have a masterpiece dedicated to moving on. Swift knows how to pick a collaborator whose emotionality doesn’t overpower hers and the duo create a song that’s not about revenge, but is rather a stinging ditty dedicated to not compromising oneself for a partner.–M.M.
3. I Can See You
Forbidden love is electrifying and scary at the same time and Swift was able to capture those feelings perfectly in this vault track. The plucky guitars along with the production helped form a mysterious sonic landscape, complemented by a music video that starred Joey King, Taylor Lautner, Presley Cash, and Swift in a heist scenario. It’s a fun pop song that would have done well if it had made its way onto the original tracklist, but we’re still grateful to have gotten it over a decade later.–M.M.
2. Mr. Perfectly Fine
No one can write a break-up song like Taylor Swift, and “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” which should have been on Fearless, proves it. This is Swift at her best, enraged, snarky, and not for a moment taking herself too seriously: “And I never got past what you put me through, but it’s wonderful to see that it never phased you!” Rumored to be about her ex Joe Jonas, the track encapsulates the album it was almost on—it’s a fearless takedown of a man who did his woman very wrong. Plus, there’s the mention of “casually cruel,” which Swift pockets to use later on “All Too Well.”—A.G.
1. Nothing New (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)
“Lord, what will become of me once I've lost my novelty?” With mellow acoustic guitars, sparse piano, and a haunting assist from indie rock darling Phoebe Bridgers, Swift perfectly captures an eternal thought that many people (particularly women) have on constant replay: How does getting older affect us? How much possibility—and the sweet taste of being young, infinite, and alive—do we have left once we’ve made our choices? How do we continue to reinvent ourselves within a culture marred by its obsession with youth? Especially for two women that are consistently in the spotlight, it’s no easy thing; for youth is fickle—but so is celebrity, fame, and Hollywood.
It's interesting, if a little sad, that Swift was plagued with this thought at only 22 when she wrote this song, knowing where she is now. Having reinvented herself a million times over, Swift has dealt with plenty of setbacks, but even more triumphs. I wonder what she thinks of this song these days, and if the quest for being an ingénue has been replaced with something even more promising: wisdom.—R.S.
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