Global stadium tours, 90 million Instagram followers, five albums: It feels like the bona fide pop star that is Taylor Swift has been with us forever, marking time with No. 1 singles and gossipy news stories.
But even though it’s hard to remember a time before Taylor Swift, the megastar is only a decade into what is sure to be a long career. Just 10 years ago, she was still a newcomer to the music scene; her self-titled first album came out on October 24, 2006.
In the context of today, that first album harks back to simpler time — before Kanye West interrupted her VMAs acceptance speech, before Katy Perry ever released an album, before Apple Music and Spotify, and way before Hiddleswift. It features several songs we all know and love: “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Tim McGraw,” and “Picture to Burn,” delivered in Swift’s then-customary country twang.
But “Our Song” was the album’s true breakout hit, landing Swift her first No. 1 slot on the country Billboard 100 chart. (The single made it to No. 16 on the Hot 100 chart too.)
The video for “Our Song” captures the essence of 2006 Taylor Swift, and looking back at it now shows just how far she’s come since then.
The song: a sugary country-pop tune with a jangly violin that Swift wrote about a boy for her ninth-grade talent show. The outfits: bubblegum pink lip gloss, layered tank tops with Soffe-like shorts, a baby blue prom dress, black elbow-length arm warmers. The sets: a “bedroom” with a green shag rug, a front porch, a pile of pink flowers, and a soundstage featuring Swift and a backing band dressed in black and white. The styling is perfectly mid-aughts, makeup and hair included.
Swift’s delivery in each scene is bubbly and sweet, all smiles as she sings. The video is simple: no plot, no greater point, no hidden messages. The camera stays trained on her as she stares directly into the lens. It’s just a joyful visual expression of a 16-year-old’s love song.
If you look at Swift’s more recent videos, you’ll see that they frequently look like mini films, produced by giant teams of people and edited within an inch of their life. For 1989 alone, Swift went to Africa to shoot a (much-critiqued) video for “Wildest Dreams,” ran around an enormous mansion for “Blank Space,” and starred in what amounted to an action movie with a cadre of her favorite famous girlfriends for “Bad Blood.” Her sets are dramatic, her hair and makeup even more so, and each video’s release is very much a big deal for her legions of fans.
We’re now accustomed to Swift’s highly manicured presentation — she meticulously curates everything she shares on social media, puts on a near-flawless arena show, and makes polished, flashy videos to match her catchy pop songs. But it’s nice to look back and remember a time when Taylor Swift was just a girl from Pennsylvania, writing a standard love song about an anonymous boy from high school and making a video to go with it.