“Reputation” is an apt title for an album that sees Taylor Swift taking ownership of her history of breakup anthems and thinly-veiled disses and emerging with a new sense of wisdom. The new album is a more grown up Swift, but does it truly show she’s taking control of her narrative?
Take the opener “…Ready for It?” that immediately hits the listener with an in-your-face barrage of synths and modern pop production, a-la The Weeknd and or Demi Lovato. Swift playfully intertwines sexuality with an awareness of her usual lovesickness and the media’s obsession with her (“I see how this is gonna go/touch me and you’ll never be alone”).
Lyrically, it’s clear Swift has taken a step back and has emerged more self-aware. But this confidence often feels unearned and at odds with the music. Many of the songs from “Reputation” suffer from their reverence for the trends of modern hip-hop and R&B.
Swift seemingly takes the rumbling 808’s and the subdued talk singing in lead single “Look What You Made Me Do” to be the quickest path to “bad girl,” but it seems more like she’s just throwing a fit when the meanest thing she says is “I don’t like you.”
With songs like this one, it can often feel like the two sides of Swift, the old and the new, are fighting for control in this LP. In the first half of the record, this disparity is reflected in its overall more angry tone. The back half handles this balancing act much more effectively, due in part to the album’s near down-the-middle split between producers Max Martin and Jack Antonoff, respectively.
“Nothing good starts in a getaway car” opens the song “Getaway Car,” where Swift candidly, albeit rather romantically, talks about cheating to get out of a relationship. In a rare move, Swift sings as the heartbreaker (“Don’t pretend it’s such a mystery/ Think about the place where you first met me”).
The big 80’s-influenced production skyrockets this track into movie end-credits level bliss, owing a lot to previous album’s “Out of the Woods.”
Despite claims that the old Taylor is dead, by the time closer “New Year’s Day” rolls around, one knows that isn’t quite true. The only acoustic number talks about holding onto your past and saying thank you to those that stick around to help clean up after the party is over.
This album feels like a catharsis for Swift. The energy steadily drops from the angry and high energy beginning to something far more introspective on the later tracks. The production is trendy and likely to feel dated sooner than later, but one can’t deny Swift has delivered her most mature crop of songs to date.