Some love her, others hate her, but nobody can deny that Taylor Swift is one of the most influential singer-songwriters and pop stars of the 21st century. With all of her previous five albums having over four million sales each in the U.S. alone, and with over 104 million and 85 million followers on Instagram and Twitter respectively, Swift has a huge presence around the globe. So when the content on all her social media accounts was removed in mid-August, people were in a frenzy trying to find out why. The answer was simple: Reputation.
Last Friday, Swift’s sixth album, Reputation, came out. While I initially had no plans of picking it up, curiosity won out over my cynicism, and I was not ready for what Reputation had in store. Although she claims in her new track “End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran and Future),” that “I don’t love the drama, it loves me,” throughout the years many have questioned Swift’s true intentions and thought she merely donned a good girl persona for her own gain. While I’m not going to go into that debate, she is still one of the most well known and popular music artists, and the messages she sends through her actions, words, and lyrics matter, especially with an audience predominantly comprised of adolescent females.
In her new album, Swift reinvents herself and her music. She has always been pretty experimental with each new album, especially with Red and 1989 finally transitioning her fully out of country and into the pop genre. However, Reputation is by far the most extreme and drastic change, not only to her sound but her image and whole persona. She has in some ways embraced her dark and less innocent side, and it seems to have worked out in her favor.
Swift’s first track on the album is “…Ready for It?” Although I initially hated it, after listening several more times, I have grown to appreciate the creative blend of sounds and musical styles throughout the song. However, Swift’s rapping will never cease to be cringe worthy for me. She seems to be trying too hard to make it work, and it just doesn’t. The lyrics are good, but the execution is subpar. Although the flow of her rap is a bit questionable, it does manage to balance out with the lyrics and beautiful vocals in the chorus, and she surprisingly weaved them in well throughout the electronic and rap elements to produce a pretty decent song.
This blend of genres continues in many of the other tracks in the album, including “King of My Heart” and the mildly underwhelming collaboration with Ed Sheeran and Future, “End Game.” She not only blends genres and stretches her musical limits in the album, but also evokes other popular artists in her songs as well, such as Halsey. Her versatility in the album does not stop with genre, however. The themes of her songs in this album encompass many different fields, including the obvious topic of reputation, but also the struggles of dealing with crushes and new loves, all the different stages of romantic relationships, backstabbing, and making mistakes. Swift in Reputation is by far the most multi-faceted Taylor Swift yet.
While “End Game” was not stylistically a favorite from the album, the message is clear. Despite having a horrible record and reputation with romance, Swift sings about wanting long-term love and no drama. Due to her position in the spotlight, though, it is much harder to overcome mistakes and form those lasting relationships. This theme continues in “Dress,” with Swift singing about not only a physically intimate relationship, but also an emotional one where “even in [her] worst times, [he] could see the best of [her]” and “even in [her] worst lies, [he] saw the truth in [her],” as well as her final, most soulful track on the album, “New Year’s Day,” a sweet ballad where she expresses similar sentiments about being there at her love’s highest of highs and lowest of lows.
Swift also covers other areas in the romance department in her songs, not only covering lasting love but also doomed love in the emotional story in “Getaway Car” that is reminiscent of songs from Swift’s previous albums, Red and 1989, as well as the beginning stages of romance in “Delicate” and “Gorgeous.” Both “Delicate” and “Gorgeous” consist of very simplistic lyrics, but the words ring true and are relatable to anyone who has met someone but has no idea how to handle the situation, either due to awkwardness or uncertainty when it comes to pace, or because of other variables like pre-existing relationships or being too attractive. “Gorgeous” in particular is super bouncy and fun, with the perfect sound effects and background music with the vocals, throwing back a bit to the “old Taylor” that Swift claims died, reminding me a tiny bit of her Fearless classic “You Belong with Me” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2012 hit, “Call Me Maybe.”
Although there are a couple songs about Swift’s backstabbers, such as “Look What You Made Me Do” and “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” both songs are catchy and take very different approaches to dealing with the same problem, likely Kanye West. In “Look What You Made Me Do,” she uses her past experiences to strengthen herself and move up, while “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is an extremely fun track that twists something seemingly sweet and innocent into something complex and somewhat vengeful. This complexity and an almost oxymoronic contrast between lyrics and style make “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” one of my favorite tracks from Reputation.
Despite still being skeptical after my first run through of the songs, the more I listened to the songs from Reputation, the better they got. Although the choruses of most of the songs were overly repetitive and took away from the songs’ fullest potential, Swift showed a new side of herself in Reputation. It may take some getting used to, but should be welcomed and appreciated for what it’s worth.