October 24, 2006
Table of Contents
Background and Record Deal
Themes and Inspiration
Development and Music
For a while, Taylor thought she would name her debut album A Place In This World. But when the record was released, she had found her artistic identity, balancing diaristic purging with savvy pop craft, chaste romanticism with scolding wit, and amplifying small slights into high drama. She had many occasions to gently correct interviewers who tried to peg her narration as literal reportage.
When pressed about the scenario that inspired her first single, “Tim McGraw,” she redirected: “The song is not about a huge, intense relationship. It’s about an innocent one.” Invoking famous country musician Tim McGraw as the singer of a song that conjured nostalgia was also a very smart use of the contemporary country practice of referencing performers of earlier generations as a way of claiming connection to the genre’s lineage. Taylor wrote “Tim McGraw” in math class during her freshman year, knowing that she and her senior boyfriend, Brandon Borello, would break up at the end of the year when he left for college. Co-writer Liz Rose said Taylor showed up at her job (writing songs for Sony/ATV) after school, “With the idea and the melody. She knew exactly what she wanted”. The nostalgic song describes a summer romance and Taylor’s hope that when Borello “think[s] Tim McGraw” he would “think [her] favorite song” – Tim McGraw’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothin” – and remember her.
For tween and teen girls, Taylor was a defender of feeling deeply and unapologetically. One of the album’s sharpest lines was from “Cold As You,” a parting shot at a callous former love interest: “You come away with a great little story of a mess of a dreamer with the nerve to adore you.”
Taylor penned the autobiographical song “The Outside” as an outlet at age twelve, the year she began writing her own songs. Like many of the other songs she wrote early on, the song describes the unhappiness and loneliness she felt when her love of country music alienated her from her peers.
In “Our Song,” Taylor animated her storytelling with frisky conversational phrasing. She wrote “Our Song” for her freshman year high school talent show with no intentions of including it on the album. She claimed she, “Just knew there was something about it” and chose to include it on “Taylor Swift”. “I wrote it about this guy I was dating, and how we didn’t have a song. So I went ahead and wrote us one.” That was among the album’s sunniest tracks. Beneath her singing, the bright acoustic picking and strumming was goosed by a lightweight, programmed loop, a prescient pop-country update that she achieved with her then-producer Nathan Chapman. “Our Song” is placed at the end of the standard edition of the album due to its closing lyrics, a clever request to “play it again”.
While recording her demo album, Taylor worked with demo producer Nathan Chapman, who she met in a little shed behind a publishing company she was at. She said: “I’d always go in there and play him some new songs, and the next week he would have this awesome track, on which he played every instrument, and it sounded like a record. We did this for a period of a year to two years before I got my record deal.”
To record Taylor Swift, she had to choose which album producer she would work with: “Then, all of a sudden, it was, ‘OK, we’re going to use this producer’ or, ‘We’re going to use that producer.'” After experimenting with different producers originating from Nashville, Taylor chose Chapman because of the unique sound he put into songs. Big Machine Records was skeptical about hiring Chapman because he had never done a studio album prior to Taylor Swift, only demos. Taylor described the songs he produced as “the right chemistry hit[ting]” and therefore, Big Machine Records accepted Chapman producing some of the album’s songs. In the end, Chapman produced all but one of the tracks on Taylor Swift. Recording was executed during a four month period in 2006.
Album Artwork and Release
Taylor Swift was released on October 24, 2006 with eleven tracks. Taylor was highly involved in the album packaging, designing doodle graphics herself. She also personally capitalized specific letters in the lyrics from each song to spell out hidden messages, a feat she would also execute for her succeeding four albums.
On November 6, 2007, the album was re-released under the title Taylor Swift (Deluxe Edition) for a limited time. The deluxe edition contained three new songs: “I’m Only Me When I’m with You“, “Invisible” and “A Perfectly Good Heart“, the radio edits for “Teardrops On My Guitar“, and “Our Song”, and Taylor’s first phone conversation with Tim McGraw. The re-release also bared new artwork and a bonus DVD with all of Taylor’s music videos at the time (“Tim McGraw”, “Teardrops On My Guitar”, and “Our Song”), behind-the-scenes footage of “Teardrops On My Guitar” and “Our Song” music videos, and a performance of “Picture to Burn“, among other material. Target released an exclusive version of Taylor Swift (Deluxe Edition), with performances of Taylor during McGraw and Faith Hill’s “Soul2Soul II Tour”.
A third and final re-release appeared on March 18, 2008 with the original album artwork, including the three new songs from the Taylor Swift (Deluxe Edition), as well as the radio edit of “Picture To Burn,” and an additional pop remix of “Teardrops On My Guitar”. This version of the album was also released on vinyl in 2016. A karaoke version of Taylor Swift was released on January 27, 2009, containing the first fourteen tracks from the album on both CD+G and DVD.
Commercial Performance and Critical Reception
Taylor Swift was received positively by contemporary critics, who praised Taylor’s talent at such a young age. The album enjoyed commercial success and launched Taylor’s career in country music. In the United States, it topped the Top Country Albums Chart for 24 non-consecutive weeks. The album was also successful outside of Taylor’s native country, especially in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Taylor Swift has sold over 9,3 million copies worldwide as of December 2018. It is the longest charting album released in the 2000s on the Billboard 200 chart.
10 Years Later
|Released||October 24, 2006|
The Castles Studios
|Label||Big Machine Records|
Robert Ellis Orrall