Since the very beginning of her career,
But since she first burst onto the scene with the one-two tandem of "Tim McGraw" and "Teardrops on my Guitar," Swift has also grown as an artist ... and her videos have mirrored that maturation. "Mine" tackled the complexities of a relationship as viewed through the prism of Swift's past, and "Mean" saw her taking a stand for the bullied and the beaten; it was, in a sense, her own little Outcast Anthem.
And her latest video — "The Story of Us," which premieres Tuesday night (May 24) at 7:53 p.m. ET on MTV and MTV.com — continues the themes of both her early days and her more recent work. It is, of course, a love story, but there's a complexity to it too. (Oh, and once again, she's wearing glasses.) So in the spirit of the clip, we've decided to take a look back at some of Swift's most iconic video moments. ... It's her Music Video Evolution, a voyage that's taken her from wide-eyed country girl to equally wide-eyed international sensation and, fittingly, back again. She is, of course, always the ingenue.
In Swift's debut video, we see the formation of several archetypes that would subsequently define her as an artist: The purity and innocence of a white sundress, the cruel boy who didn't love her back, the dusty country roads, dented pick-up trucks, the scenes of young romance that seem lifted from a "Lifetime" movie (star-gazing from the bed of a truck, frolicking in a field, slow-dancing beneath the moon). It all begins here, in more ways than one.
"Teardrops on My Guitar"
Hey, it's her first video set in high school! In it, Swift plays a girl desperately trying to win the affections of a guy... said guy, of course, only has eyes for another. Heartbreak ensues. "Teardrops" was her first true crossover hit, and it's a fitting introduction to the Swift most of the world has grown to love: the sad-eyed pretty girl, gently strumming her guitar, just wanting to be loved.
"Picture to Burn"
The video in which Swift unveils another side of her personality: the jilted ex. It's a character she'd revisit on subsequent albums (with deliciously venomous results), but she's still learning here, so the best she and her bandmates can do to her former boyfriend is a rather thorough T.P.-ing of his house. Which, come to think of it, is nearly as mean-spirited as writing a song about him.
"You Belong With Me"
A genuine Cinderella story set (of course) in high school, with Taylor pulling double duty as both the ugly duckling (see, cuz she's wearing those glasses) and the cold-hearted beauty queen. In a rare twist, she actually gets the guy this time around, showing up at prom in a virginal white gown to prove that the duckling can also be a beautiful swan.
Another fable, this one with Swift as a plaintive princess searching for her prince. It also doubles as a rather glossy high school fantasy and, in the end, she finds her soul mate in a shady, sullen outsider. Of course they fall in love — the song's called "Love Story" after all.
Swift's first (and so far, only) special-effects heavy clip, she wanders through a CGI-assembled high school hallway that transforms into a butterfly-strewn field. It's a dream-like tale of Freshman-year love, a story that Swift is all too happy to reveal doesn't always come with a happy ending.
Swift falls in love — and finds her future — with a toothsome waiter, and then is forced to come to terms with the fact that she may very well be following in the footsteps of her own mother. Her first video to step into maturity, and one where Swift seems to acknowledge that not all of life can be a fairy tale.
An earnest tale of inspiration directed at all those who feel like they don't belong — it's sort of her "It Gets Better" moment — and also a kiss-off to her critics (the "grumbling about how I can't sing" line). It's Swift embracing her status as an icon, one who, believe it or not, also must suffer the slings and arrows.
Share with us your favorite Taylor Swift video in the comments below!
Don't miss the premiere of Taylor Swift's "The Story of Us" video, tonight at 7:53 p.m. ET on MTV, followed by our live "MTV First" interview with Taylor Swift on MTV.com!