The best songs of 2021, ranked
1. “All Too Good (10 minute version)” by Taylor Swift
I have a well-documented love affair with “All Too Well”, so I understand if that choice might seem cheap or easy. But even based on the verses that were originally cut and eventually released this year, Taylor Swift wrote the best song of 2021.
Like a fan on Twitter Noted, it is a testament to Swift’s peculiar and singular genius that “most songwriters can only dream of someday writing such good and poignant lyrics as” You kept me as a secret but I kept you as a oath, “but for Taylor, it’s just another – liner she casually kept in the safe for over a decade.”
And that’s just a taste of several jaw-dropping drops in the extended version of the song. The fourth line could be his own stand-alone novel. The outro, which begins with one of the deadliest verses in Swift’s vast catalog, is enough to land on its own at No.1 on this list.
These additions transform the song from a fragile portrait of love into a shattering epiphany about power, self-esteem, and lack of consciousness wrenching nostalgia. Realizing in retrospect that a situation was unhealthy doesn’t make it any less haunting. In fact, it can make the ghost stronger.
Reintroducing a beloved song is a very delicate matter. In her quest to regain control of her music, Swift has recreated her old hit notes note for note and strum for strum, barely changing a thing if she can help it. She has good reasons: fans are creatures of habit and comfort. To pretend that the new “All Too Well” is the “definitive” version, when the original is so deeply engraved in our brains, could have been ruinous.
And yet, aided by some of Jack Antonoff’s most successful productions to date, Swift made “All Too Well” even more alive and punchy than the original, which captivated fans and music critics for nine years. Now, when I listen to the five-minute version, I can’t help but long for every confession she hasn’t yet to give us.
Listen to Insider’s rankings, including 30 honorable mentions, on Spotify.