The country-pop ingenue values a perfectly turned lyric—even if it's in Icelandic.
At 21, Taylor Swift has four Grammys, two platinum records, a new apartment (her first) in Nashville, and a tuneful knack for getting things off her chest, to judge from her new album, Speak Now. "The record is like a collection of open letters, telling people what I wish I'd said when the moment was right there in front of me," she says. Its expressive powers also make music the perfect gift, according to Swift. "When I want to give something that people will really appreciate, I put together a playlist that caters to whatever situation they're in. It's comforting to know there's always a song out there that says what you feel." Here, Swift shares a few of her eloquent favorites.
For mending a bruised heart "I've created a lot of breakup playlists for friends. One of my standbys is 'You Wanted It,' by MoZella. I first heard it in an airport bathroom when I was going through a situation with a guy—I'd thought he was in, but he was just chasing me for the sake of the chase. This song sounds like she can empathize."
For making yourself at home "I'm a big fan of 'A Little Opera Goes a Long Way,' by Sky Sailing: [sings] Pretend you're not alone / Like you are center stage on Broadway / 'Cause when you are on your own / A little opera goes a long way. That was my theme song for the first few days of living solo."
For feeling creative "My 18-year-old brother turned me on to the Icelandic band Sigur Rós—they make me happy and take me away to dreamland. I love trying to memorize the words, even though they're singing in their own language. Sometimes I'll make up some lyrics. It gets pretty interesting."
For pondering a certain four-letter word "I have a playlist called Happily Ever that's 30 songs deep, all about love: 'Until You,' by Dave Barnes, 'Rain,' by Patty Griffin, 'Easy Silence,' by the Dixie Chicks. When I listen to 'Naked as We Came,' by Iron and Wine, I hang on every word and dissect every metaphor; I'm completely absorbed."