In her 2020 documentary Miss Americana, Taylor Swift notes that every successful singer has something unique that they do, and in her case, it’s storytelling. Her ten albums contain many examples; but she has also created a number of stand-alone songs that showcase her storytelling skills.
Five of these were written for movie soundtracks and demonstrate Taylor’s ability to help listeners enter a fictional world. Three of them are theme songs. I Don’t Want to Live Forever, which Taylor recorded together with the English singer Zayn Malik, creates an intense atmosphere that is perfect as the theme for romantic drama Fifty Shades Darker. Carolina evokes the haunting sense of mystery that is central to Where the Crawdads Sing. (Author’s note: We both really love this one!) Finally, Sweeter Than Fiction, for which Taylor won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, is an uplifting theme for One Chance, a movie starring James Cordon about an amateur singer who finds success.
Two other songs were written for films in which Taylor also had a role. In the teen comedy Hannah Montana, Taylor played herself in a cameo role performing Crazier, a country song that may remind listeners of Taylor’s “Sparks Fly” from her Speak Now album. In the musical film Cats, Taylor played the character Bombalurina. She also co-wrote with Andrew Lloyd Webber the film’s signature song, Beautiful Ghosts, which features her singing in a musical theatre “belting” style most people have never heard from Taylor.
Taylor has also written two Christmas songs. Christmas Tree Farm, which is well-known because she has done a video about the process of making it, talks about the holiday in terms of memories and family. The other song, Christmas Must Be Something More, takes an explicitly religious approach. Another standalone song is I’d Lie, an outtake of her debut album which was written when she was only sixteen and which she first performed at her high school. She also wrote You Don’t Have to Call Me, a very short song originally designed for release as a ring tone, around that same time.
Finally, in Miss Americana, Taylor sings Only the Young, which is only available as an outtake from that soundtrack. Designed to encourage young people who are working for social justice even when the odds seem stacked against them, it has a very catchy chorus and upbeat tempo. It also has an inspiring verse that says: “Don’t say you’re too tired to fight / it’s just a matter of time / up there’s the finish line / so run.”
Fans of Taylor’s albums know that her music has been very varied. She is able to write and sing in different styles, to collaborate with many people and to reach different audiences. These singles show that her range is even greater than the albums reflect.