Taylor Swift owns her bad “Reputation”
Ugh, Taylor. Look what you made us do: Buy your new album “Reputation” rather than stream it on the day of its release. In fact, according to your Twitter stans, I hear that we will not have the option of streaming the album for at least one week. A great business move for you, sure, but was the album actually worth the $13.99 charged to my mother’s iTunes account? Eh. I’m not sure.
Prior to Taylor Swift’s return to her Instagram account three months ago, where she fully embraced the snake title given to her by Kim Kardashian West, Swift had fallen off of the face of the earth. For about a year, Swift disappeared from the public eye. The paparazzi couldn’t keep track of her. She deleted all of her social media posts. She was even rumored to be travelling inside of suitcases! And so, the parties celebrating her demise commenced.
Unbeknownst to us, she was spending that year painting (as those rediscovering themselves often do), travelling with her English boyfriend Joe Alwyn, and writing songs about the very narrative she “never asked to be a part of.” What resulted was an album centering around fame, finding herself and of course, her new love interest Joe.
Prematurely judging the album by the first two singles, “Look What You Made Me Do” (LWYMMD) and “…Ready for It? ,” one would believe that Swift’s album is full of petty bops, promising to unleash her wrath on Kanye West and the rest of her haters. And that’s partially true.
The first half of the 15 track album is the better half. “… Ready For It?”, “End Game” and “I Did Something Bad” make the listener feel like the old Taylor can’t come to the phone (or sound booth) because she really is dead. We’re meant to believe that new Taylor is an intense and spiteful badass who can curse and rap alongside Ed Sheeran and Future as heard in “End Game,” the only song with featured artists on the album. Shockingly, the song is not as awkward with the trio as one might guess.
In “End Game,” I can’t tell if Swift is mocking the nosy media or if she is really concerned about the inevitable increase in attention that comes with a new lover, but I like it.
The lines “Big reputation, big reputation/Ooh, you and me would be a big conversation,” show Swift’s reservations and awareness about stepping into a new relationship, but as we all know, she ends up disregarding that in the end, which one can also tell from later songs.
My favorite song on the album “I Did Something Bad,” where gun shots can be heard sporadically throughout as Swift sings about how she has been the player in all of her relationships. This song is for the girl who is bouncing back from a bad relationship who wants to play the field (with liars, narcissists and playboys in Swift’s case) with the understanding that “you gotta leave before you get left.” Take notes, ladies.
After that, the album gets pretty boring, especially a second and third time. Instead of keeping the momentum that the first three songs achieved, the album begins to slow down with “Don’t Blame Me” and “Delicate” where she raves about how enamored she is with her latest crush. They’re the predictable, catchy love songs we expect of Swift.
After “Delicate” finally comes “LWYMMD,” Swift’s comeback anthem and also a favorite of mine. However, it’s out of place considering that the songs directly before and after it are much softer.
The more exciting love songs on the album come much later, beginning with track 11 “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” where Swift reveals her secret romances have involved lots of drinking and dare I say it, sex!
The few sex references aren’t gross, but they are shocking coming from Swift. It is in these moments that we remember that she is a 27-year-old woman. Her willingness to mention her sexual instincts shows how comfortable and unashamed she is with the more mature, intimate parts of her life. Swift is definitely behind compared to the rest of pop artists today in this aspect, but from Swift, we get the idea that perhaps this is the first time in her life where she has felt like sex has a greater meaning and is worthy of mention.
Randomly, the mood turns playful with “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” The song is obviously aimed at West with lyrics like “And therein lies the issue. Friends don’t try to trick you, get you on the phone and try to mind trick you,” referring to when West recorded her agreeance to being mentioned in his song “Famous.” It’s catchy, but childish. It’s “you’re not invited to my birthday party,” in song form.
Lastly, “Call It What You Want” should’ve ended the album because it was arguably the most beautiful. Here, she bids the cattiness that comes with fame goodbye thanks to her boyfriend Alwyn. It’s a simple slow song that describes her new outlook on life, where she puts her happiness first and vows to choose partners who respect her for who she is. The song inspires me to run away from Hattiesburg, log out of my social media accounts and have a secret rendezvous until I decide to make my glow up Instagram official months later. You can’t help but to be happy for her.
Overall, the album is good with a few standout tracks. The main subject matters of love, fame and falling from grace will always be relevant in American music, and the album succeeds in telling the story of her disappearance. However, critics have argued that it is too self-centered.
To quote one “Reputation” album review from Business Insider’s Jacob Shamsian “It’s culturally irrelevant. We live in an age of anxiety and political turmoil. Swift just wants to talk about herself.”
I can’t defend her. Shamsian is 100 percent correct, and for the reasons he listed, I will probably always be ashamed to call myself a fan of hers. I am not asking her to write or dedicate a song to any social movement (although it would be nice); however, I would love to see her be more publicly proactive in the movements that many of her fans belong to.
She refuses to use her platform for political good. The latest example would be her legal team threatening to sue the creator of an article who mentioned how much Nazis love Swift rather than denouncing the Nazis in a single tweet. In conclusion, I like her music, but for the many reasons her reputation has turned sour, I can’t respect her.