Taylor Swift turns 31 on December 13th, after over 14 years in the spotlight. She debuted in 2006 with her self-titled country album, and by 2014, she started taking over the pop airwaves with 1989. Some of the most memorable parts of any Taylor Swift album are the bridges, which exemplify her songwriting talent in its rawest form. Hardcore and casual fans alike are already well-acquainted with praise for the bridges on songs like 2012’s “All Too Well” and “State of Grace,” but with over 170 songs under her belt, there are countless tunes that don’t get the same recognition. In honor of Swift’s 31st birthday, here are 31 of her best, most underrated bridges, in order of release.
- “Tim McGraw” (2006)
I’m back for the first time since then / I’m standing on your street / And there’s a letter left on your doorstep / And the first thing that you’ll read / Is “when you think Tim McGraw, I hope you think my favorite song / “Someday you’ll turn your radio on, I hope it takes you back to that place”
Swift’s debut single is a message to a summer love who would be moving away at the end of the season. The song pays homage to Tim McGraw’s 2004 track “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” with a raw account of first love and heartbreak.
- “Stay Beautiful” (2006)
If you and I are a story that never gets told / If what you are is a daydream I’ll never get to hold / At least you know / You’re beautiful, every little piece love / And, don’t you know, you’re really gonna be someone
“Stay Beautiful” sees Swift describing her love for a boy who may or may not share her feelings. Even while facing a potential rejection, she handles the crush with grace and hopes he reaches his full potential in the future. Her hopeful outlook on love is a hallmark of her early work, making this bridge one of the defining moments of her debut album.
- “Fifteen” (2008)
When all you wanted was to be wanted / Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now / Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday, but I realized some bigger dreams of mine / And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind / And we both cried
An ode to Swift’s short time in public high school, “Fifteen” is based on her earliest memories with Abigail Anderson, one of her best friends to this day. She describes their romantic missteps before realizing that it would be better for her to pursue her dreams than waste time with an unreliable boy. Of course, those “bigger dreams” came true, allowing “Fifteen” to spend 19 weeks on the Billboard Hot 10.
- “Hey Stephen” (2008)
They’re dimming the streetlights / You’re perfect for me, why aren’t you here tonight? / Been waiting alone now / So come on and come out / And pull me near, and shine, shine, shine / Hey, Stephen, I could give you fifty reasons why I should be the one you choose / All those other girls, well, they’re beautiful / But would they write a song for you?
“Hey Stephen” is a quintessential teenage Swift song, seeing her admire fellow singer-songwriter Stephen Barker Liles from afar and daydreaming about the dates they could go on if he felt the same way. It turns out he returned her feelings – he wrote a song called “Try to Make It Anyway” about her, but the two never actually dated.
- “The Way I Loved You” (2008)
He can’t see the smile I’m faking / And my heart’s not breaking, ‘cause I’m not feeling anything at all / And you were wild and crazy / Just so frustrating, intoxicating, complicated / Got away by some mistake and now / I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain / And it’s 2AM and I’m cursing your name / I’m so in love that I acted insane / And that’s the way I loved you
On “The Way I Loved You,” Swift regretfully misses a passonate ex once she enters a new, more steady relationship. With a classic Swiftian twist, the second half of the bridge spins on a lyric from the chorus, “you’re so in love that you acted insane,” revealing her feelings haven’t dissipated just yet.
- “Back to December” (2010)
I miss your tan skin, your sweet smile / So good to me, so right / And how you held me in your arms that September night / The first time you ever saw me cry / Maybe this is wishful thinking / Probably mindless dreaming / But if we loved again, I swear I’d love you right / I’d go back in time and change it, but I can’t / So if the chain is on your door, I understand
“Back to December” sees Swift apologizing to an ex that she hurt, presumably referencing her 2009 romance with actor Taylor Lautner. The “September night” is her infamous first run-in with Kanye West, when he stormed the stage to tell her she didn’t deserve the award she won. Lautner was presenting the award for Best Female Video – Swift beat out the likes of Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson with her iconic music video for “You Belong With Me.”
- “Dear John” (2010)
You are an expert at “sorry” and keeping lines blurry / Never impressed by me acing your tests / All the girls that you run dry have tired, lifeless eyes ‘cause you burned them out / But I took your matches before fire could catch me / So don’t look now / I’m shining like fireworks over your sad, empty town
“Dear John” is a stinging message to an emotionally abusive partner, probably fellow singer-songwriter John Mayer. Swift and Mayer dated in 2009, when she was 19 and he was 32, and this song makes it apparent that he didn’t treat her properly. The main lyrical competition facing the bridge on this song is the final couplet: “The girl in the dress wrote you a song, you should’ve known.”
- “Enchanted” (2010)
This is me praying that this was the very first page, not where the storyline ends / My thoughts will echo your name until I see you again / These are the words I held back as I was leaving too soon / I was enchanted to meet you / Please don’t be in love with someone else / Please don’t have somebody waiting on you
Perhaps Swift’s most magical song, “Enchanted” describes the night she met Adam Young of Owl City. Young confirmed he returned her feelings by covering the song on Valentine’s Day in 2011, but Swift never addressed his response.
- “Last Kiss” (2010)
So I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep / And I’ll feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe / And I’ll keep up with our old friends just to ask them how you are / I hope it’s nice where you are / And I hope the sun shines and it’s a beautiful day / Then something reminds you, you wish you had stayed / You can plan for a change in the weather and time / But I never planned on you changing your mind
“Last Kiss” is brimming with details about a seemingly-perfect relationship and the breakup that succeeded it, and the bridge is a shining example of that. Swift’s well-wishes for her ex cement her heartbreak over the end of their romance, making these lyrics all the more tragic.
- “Treacherous” (2012)
Two headlights shine through the sleepless night / And I will get you, I’ll get you alone / Your name has echoed through my mind / And I just think you should, think you should know / That nothing safe is worth the drive / And I will follow you, follow you home / This hope is treacherous / This daydream is dangerous / This slope is treacherous / And I, I, I like it
The climactic bridge of “Treacherous” exemplifies the intensity of a seemingly forbidden romance, while layers of backing vocals and prominent bass guitar amplify the drama. The last few lyrics spin on the song’s chorus, illustrating Swift’s optimistic outlook on the relationship.
- “Sad Beautiful Tragic” (2012)
Distance, timing, breakdown, fighting / Silence, train runs off its tracks / Kiss me, try to fix it / Could you just try to listen? / Hang up, give up / For the life of us, we can’t get back
The rather minimalist bridge of “Sad Beautiful Tragic” reaffirms Swift’s status as one of the best songwriters of her generation. Even using so few words, the listener can picture exactly how the breakup described in the song went down, as well as sensing Swift’s desperation for a resolution before it ended. “Train runs off its tracks” is a clever callback to one of the earlier lyrics, “I stood right by the tracks,” detailing how their romance catastrophically went off the rails.
- “The Lucky One” (2012)
It was a few years later I showed up here / And they still tell the legend of how you disappeared / How you took the money and your dignity and got the hell out / They say you bought a bunch of land somewhere / Chose the rose garden over Madison Square / And it took some time, but I understand it now / ‘Cause now my name is up in lights / But I think you got it right
“The Lucky One” describes the melancholy life of a woman in the spotlight, rumored to be singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. Swift twists the story in the bridge like she does on her acclaimed 2020 track “the last great american dynasty,” but this song hasn’t accrued as much praise. It’s almost prophetic of her hiatus from the spotlight in 2016, which she described on her 2017 album, reputation.
- “Ronan” (2012)
What if I’m standing in your closet trying to talk to you? / What if I kept the hand-me-downs you won’t grow into? / And what if I really thought some miracle would see us through? / What if the miracle was even getting one moment with you?
Perhaps Swift’s saddest track to date, “Ronan” tells the story of Ronan Thompson, a young boy who died of neuroblastoma at the age of three. The song draws from his mother Maya’s perspective – Swift found out about the Thompson family through Maya’s Rockstar Ronan blog, which documents her grieving process. All proceeds from the song, which Swift performed at a 2012 Stand Up To Cancer benefit, went to cancer research.
- “I Wish You Would” (2014)
You always knew how to push my buttons / You gave me everything and nothing / This mad, mad love makes you come running to stand back where you stood / I wish you would, I wish you would / It’s 2AM, here we are / See your face, hear my voice in the dark / We’re a crooked love in a straight line down / Makes you wanna run and hide, but it made us turn right back around
“I Wish You Would” describes a man driving past his ex-girlfriend’s house and contemplating whether they should give their relationship another try. The electro-pop instrumental hides an apparent frustration and sadness, and the bridge refers to both their reasons for breaking up and their apparent reconciliation in the middle of the night.
- “This Love” (2014)
Your kiss, my cheek / I watched you leave / Your smile, my ghost / I fell to my knees / When you’re young, you just run / But you come back to what you need
Much like 2012’s “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” the bridge of “This Love” perfectly paints a picture of a relationship with minimal words. After a premature breakup, the two lovers reunite – a handwritten lyric page that Swift released alongside 2019’s Lover revealed that she originally added the lyric “you’re what I need” at the end, making their reunion feel even more like fate.
- “You Are In Love” (2014)
You two are dancing in a snowglobe ‘round and ‘round / And he keeps a picture of you in his office downtown / And you understand now why they lost their minds and fought the wars / And why I’ve spent my whole life trying to put it into words
Swift drew inspiration from a friend’s relationship to write “You Are In Love,” a cozily domestic account of lasting love. The “snowglobe” line inspired her 2019 “Lover” music video, which sees her living with a partner within a snowglobe.
- “I Did Something Bad” (2017)
They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one / They’ve got their pitchforks and proof / Their receipts and reasons / They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one / And it’s just for fun / They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one / They’ve got pitchforks and proof / They don’t need their reasons / They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one / So light me up, light me up, light me up / Go ahead and light me up
The triumphant bridge of “I Did Something Bad” addresses Swift’s wrongfully tarnished reputation, following the infamous Kanye West feud. The live version she performed on 2018’s reputation Stadium Tour and the American Music Awards (TW: flashing lights in the AMAs video), with the added lyrics in bold here, cements Swift’s frustration over being framed and attacked by millions worldwide.
- “Call It What You Want” (2017)
I want to wear his initial on a chain ‘round my neck / Not because he owns me, but ‘cause he really knows me / Which is more than they can say / I recall late November / Holding my breath, slowly I said / “You don’t need to save me, but would you run away with me?” / “Yes”
“Call It What You Want” describes the beginning of Swift’s relationship with Joe Alwyn, when she was still evading the public eye and uncertain whether she could maintain a healthy relationship while being famous. The “chain” she mentions here is her famous “J” necklace, which she has worn during several performances and appearances since 2016.
- “The Archer” (2019)
They see right through me, they see right through me, they see right through / Can you see right through me? / They see right through me, they see right through me / I see right through me, I see right through me / All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put me together again / ‘Cause all of my enemies started out friends / Help me hold on to you
“The Archer” addresses the everyday insecurities Swift feels in her relationship, as well as her general fears of betrayal and experience with imposter syndrome. It’s one of her most honest tracks to date, and quickly became a fan favorite after its release.
- “London Boy” (2019)
So please, show me Hackney / Doesn’t have to be Louis V up on Bond Street / Just wanna be with you, just wanna be with you / Stick with me, I’m your queen / Like a Tennessee Stella McCartney on the Heath / Just wanna be with you, just wanna be with you
“London Boy” is an ode to Joe Alwyn’s British heritage, and includes several nods to locations around England. The genius of this bridge is in the repetition of sounds: “please,” “me,” “Hackney,” “be,” “Louis V,” “Street,” “me,” “queen,” “Tennessee,” “McCartney,” “Heath.” Stella McCartney is a British fashion designer who Swift has worked with since 2019, even releasing a colorful, Lover-themed merchandise line.
- “Soon You’ll Get Better” (2019)
And I hate to make this all about me / But who am I supposed to talk to? / What am I supposed to do if there’s no you? / This won’t go back to normal, if it ever was / It’s been years of hoping and I keep saying it because / ‘Cause I have to / You’ll get better / Soon you’ll get better / You’ll get better soon
Swift’s mother Andrea was first diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer in 2015, and it came back as a brain tumor sometime between 2018 and 2019. “Soon You’ll Get Better” is her heart-wrenching tribute to her mother. The bridge is one of the most emotional parts of the song, documenting how hard it can be to stay hopeful while battling the illness.
- “Afterglow” (2019)
Tell me that you’re still mine / Tell me that we’ll be just fine / Even when I lose my mind / I need to say / Tell me that it’s not my fault / Tell me that I’m all you want / Even when I break your heart
“Afterglow” describes Swift’s anxiety after getting into a fight with a partner, and the bridge sees her seeking reassurance that their relationship will make it through difficulty. The bridges of both “Afterglow” and earlier Lover track “The Archer” use repetition to mimic anxious thinking patterns, inviting the listener into her train of thought and making the songs more engaging.
- “Daylight” (2019)
And I can still see it all in my mind / All of you, all of me, intertwined / I once believed love would be black and white, but it’s golden / And I can still see it all in my head / Back and forth from New York, sneaking in your bed / I once believed love would be burning red / But it’s golden like daylight
The bridge of “Daylight” notably references Swift’s 2012 song “Red,” specifically the lyric “he’s spinning ‘round in my head, comes back to me, burning red.” In the Red album foreword, she expresses her desire for a “real love [that] shines golden like starlight,” and she has evidently found that with Joe Alwyn.
- “mirrorball” (2020)
They called off the circus, burned the disco down / When they sent home the horses and the rodeo clowns / I’m still on that tightrope / I’m still trying everything to get you laughing at me / And I’m still a believer, but I don’t know why / I’ve never been a natural / All I do is try, try, try / But I’m still on that trapeze / I’m still trying everything to keep you looking at me
As Swift explained in folklore: the long pond studio sessions, the bridge of “mirrorball” touches on her desire to stay connected to fans despite COVID-19 lockdowns canceling her concerts for the foreseeable future. Her way of doing so has been creating folklore and evermore in isolation – she explained on Instagram, “I have no idea about a lot of things these days and so I’ve clung to the one thing that keeps me connected to you all. That thing always has and always will be music.”
- “illicit affairs” (2020)
And you wanna scream / “Don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby / “Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me / “You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else / “Don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby / “Look at this idiotic fool that you made me / “You taught me a secret language I can’t speak with anyone else” / And you know damn well / For you I would ruin myself a million little times
On “Illicit Affairs,” Swift imagines herself as a pioneer woman cheating on her husband. The climactic bridge shows her frustration when she realizes she may never feel that strongly about anyone aside from her forbidden lover. Most of the bridge is sung over a crescendo, apart from the final lyrics where she sets her anger aside and admits her dependence on this partner.
- “betty” (2020)
I was walking home on broken cobblestones / Just thinking of you when she pulled up like a figment of my worst intentions / She said, “James, get in, let’s drive” / Those days turned into nights / Slept next to her, but I dreamt of you all summer long / Betty, I’m here on your doorstep / And I’ve planned it out for weeks now, but it’s finally sinking in / Betty, right now is the last time I can dream about what happens when you see my face again / The only thing I wanna do is make it up to you / So I showed up at your party
The cinematic bridge of “betty” sees a teenage boy named James apologizing for cheating on his girlfriend – the folklore tracks “betty,” “cardigan,” and “august” tie together to tell the story of what Swift nicknamed the “Teenage Love Triangle.” It’s a return to her story-based country songwriting roots, and she even made her return to the Academy of Country Music Awards after seven years to perform it.
- “hoax” (2020)
You know I left a part of me back in New York / You knew the hero died, so what’s the movie for? / You knew it still hurts underneath my scars from when they pulled me apart / You knew the password so I let you in the door / You knew you won, so what’s the point of keeping score? / You knew it still hurts underneath my scars from when they pulled me apart / But what you did was just as dark / Darling, this was just as hard as when they pulled me apart
Swift explained in folklore: the long pond studio sessions that unlike most of her songs, “hoax” addresses several situations, including a romantic relationship and a business-related betrayal, most likely her fight against former mentor and friend Scott Borchetta to own her masters. The time that “they pulled [her] apart” seems to reference her highly-publicized fallout with Kanye West, which tainted the public’s opinion of her.
- “champagne problems” (2020)
Your Midas touch on the Chevy door / November flush and your flannel cure / “This dorm was once a madhouse” / I made a joke, “Well, it’s made for me” / How evergreen, our group of friends / Don’t think we’ll say that word again / And soon they’ll have the nerve to deck the halls / That we once walked through / One for the money, two for the show / I never was ready so I watch you go / Sometimes you just don’t know the answer / ’Til someone’s on their knees and asks you / ”She would’ve made such a lovely bride / What a shame she’s fucked in the head,” they said / But you’ll find the real thing instead / She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred
“champagne problems,” the second track of Swift’s newest album, evermore, describes a woman breaking her college sweetheart’s heart when she turns down his marriage proposal. The song also tackles the stigmatization of mental illness, as well as how this stigma affects those dealing with it and their relationships.
- “‘tis the damn season” (2020)
Sleep in half the day just for old times’ sake / I won’t ask you to wait if you don’t ask me to stay / So I’ll go back to L.A. and the so-called friends / Who’ll write books about me, if I ever make it / And wonder about the only soul / Who can tell which smiles I’m fakin’ / And the heart I know I’m breakin’ is my own / To leave the warmest bed I’ve ever known / We could call it even / Even though I’m leavin’ / And I’ll be yours for the weekend / ’Tis the damn season
“‘tis the damn season” tells the story of a woman trying to make amends with a former lover after finding success as an actress. The bridge describes the contrast between the genuine relationships in her hometown and insincere friendships in Hollywood, invoking a parallel to Swift’s own experiences with phony friends.
- “tolerate it” (2020)
While you were out building other worlds, where was I? / Where’s that man who’d throw blankets over my barbed wire? / I made you my temple, my mural, my sky / Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life / Drawing hearts in the byline / Always taking up too much space or time / You assume I’m fine, but what would you do if I break free and leave us in ruins?
On “tolerate it,” Swift describes a crumbling relationship where one partner shrugs off the other’s affection and effort. She illustrates the distance between the two lovers by detailing how loving their relationship used to be – “barbed wire” is a callback to July 2020’s “invisible string,” on which Swift explains that Joe Alwyn helped wrap “all [her] past mistakes in barbed wire” so she could move on and better herself.
- “marjorie” (2020)
The autumn chill that wakes me up / You loved the amber skies so much / Long limbs and frozen swims / You’d always go past where our feet could touch / And I complained the whole way there / The car ride back and up the stairs / I should’ve asked you questions / I should’ve asked you how to be / Asked you to write it down for me / Should’ve kept every grocery store receipt / ‘Cause every scrap of you would be taken from me / Watched as you signed your name: Marjorie / All your closets of backlogged dreams / And how you left them all to me
“marjorie” is a touching ode to Marjorie Finlay, Swift’s late grandmother who was an opera singer. Swift told Love Magazine in 2008 that she felt like her grandmother helped guide her to stardom, since she died shortly before she began pursuing her music career. While much of the song is very specific to her memories of her grandmother, the bridge is wondrously universal, perfectly describing how it feels to mourn someone you love.