Review: reputation


As the 1989 era comes to a close, a new dawn is upon us. After more than three years, Taylor Swift has released her sixth studio album, reputation. Taylor has come along way from riding shotgun with her hair undone and dancing in a storm in her best dress, fearless. reputation sheds a whole new light on Swift’s most intimate moments and shows a side of her that we’ve only caught glimpses of before.

When the first single off the album (“Look What You Made Me Do”) dropped, the world went crazy; the video accompanying the track is nothing short of iconic. Directed by Joseph Kahn, the video was overflowing with hidden messages - the most telling of which was the end scene, which gave us some insight as to what the layout of the track list would be. Lined up in front of an airplane (upon which stands what fans have assumed to be the new era version of Taylor), stand various iterations of Swift, including characters from her past and present. The variety of Taylors led fans to believe this new album would consist of a mixture of old sounds and new ones. While touring with her album 1989, Taylor spoke out many times to say that while she wanted to move forward on her musical journey, she also loves to pay homage to her old sound and that she would love to take concepts from previous albums and revamp them to match her current style. It appears that this is what reputation holds - a beautiful blend of the hopelessly romantic, and the fiercely empowered.

reputation begins with what everyone had hoped would be a badass intro - and no one was disappointed. “…Ready For It?” opens the album with a dramatic beat, and- wait for it- Taylor Swift rapping. The last time we saw Swift rap was as T-Swizzle for a track titled “Thug Story” feat. T-Pain. While that 2013 viral sensation was a joke, the intro verse to “…Ready For It?” is not - and fans are living for it. The track was released as the second single off the album, and it was the perfect follow up to “Look What You Made Me Do”. “…Ready For It?” sets the tone for the rest of the album; with lyrics like “touch me and you’ll never be alone” and “in the middle of the night…you should see the things we do”, it is made clear that this album will hold more overt sexual themes to it. This is not completely new to Swift, as she has hinted to more intimate moments in her past songs, such as “Wildest Dreams” and “Style”, off her previous album, 1989. However, this song introduces us in a dazzling way to the new, sexually empowered Taylor Swift, and yes, we are ready for it.

The second track on the album is titled “End Game”, and it features both Ed Sheeran and Future. While the song starts off with Swift singing in a way that reminds us of past albums, it transitions to be more in the style of R&B. Lyrics like “you and me, we got big reputations” give a nod to the album title, while lyrics like “I got some big enemies” and “I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me” most likely reference her famous and ongoing feud with Kanye and Kim. While the song does talk about having a bad reputation, it primarily focuses on being someone’s “end game”, with lyrics like “I don’t wanna be just another ex-love you don’t wanna see, I don’t wanna miss you like the other girls do”. This song tackles the idea of it being hard to find love when you have a reputation that precedes you, as Taylor does with all the rumours and headlines that have so prominently featured her over the past few years. While the Swift/Sheeran/Future team-up is not one we expected, it certainly is one that works. This song is a perfect combination of past Swift and new, and as the only collaboration, it seems to be one of the strongest tracks on the album.

reputation carries on as the eerie first notes of “I Did Something Bad” begin. Not only does this song contain Swift’s first recorded profanity (“if a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing”), it also fully embodies the theme of the album- that Taylor Swift is done giving a f***. This song is sexy and badass, and it’s all about Taylor embracing her “reputation”.  With lyrics like “They say I did something bad, then why’s it feel so good?” and “most fun I ever had, and I’d do it over…again if I could,” she makes it clear that this new her is not one to be messed with.

From there we move into “Don’t Blame Me”- the fourth track on the album. This song is almost the complete opposite of the previous, stating “don’t blame me, your love made me crazy”. In this incredible power ballad, we see a Taylor that almost reminds us of previous eras. The lyrics “my name is whatever you decide” and “I would fall from grace just to touch your face” hint to the more vulnerable side of her that we have seen before. While we love this new era filled with confidence and empowerment, it’s comforting to hear a more familiar version of Taylor singing once again about love. That being said, this song still has a moment showcasing her ability to reflect on her past self, saying “I’ve been breaking hearts a long time, toying with them older guys”, which of course references her reputation as the heartbreaker of Hollywood. While the lyrics in “Don’t Blame Me” are some of the most emotional on this album, the best part of this song is by far the haunting sound that comes with the choral-sounding effects of the vocals, as Swift ventures into the genre of Soul.  

As “Don’t Blame Me” fades out, the heavy synth of “Delicate” fades in as Swift sings the lyrics “This ain’t for the best, my reputation’s never been worse”. Right off the bat is a nod to the overarching theme of her reputation and the album’s title. This track has a sound very similar to 1989, specifically songs “This Love” and “Wildest Dreams”. The lyrics in this song take us on a journey detailing the delicate nature of a new relationship; with lines like “Is it cool that I said all that? Is it too soon to do this yet?”, she perfectly describes the uncertainty that comes with new love. As well, Swift has once again moved away from her country girl innocence with lines “phone lights up my nightstand in the black, come here, you can meet me in the back” and “do the girls back home touch you like I do? Long night, with your hands up in my hair”. This furthers the narrative in the song, as it is apparent she is talking about the complexity of being with someone physically and the difficulty of sharing new feelings.

This brings us to the sixth track on the album, and the single that started this entire era: “Look What You Made Me Do”. This song was, of course, Swift’s answer to every rumour and headline she has been involved with, specifically in the last three years. It is also made very clear that this song and it’s lyrics are directed at Kanye West, with the opening lines “I don’t like your little games, don’t like your tilted stage, the role you made me play of the fool”. The lyric “I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time” launched this era with a vengeance, with Taylor showing that she's back and better than ever.

The next few songs of reputation sound like they could be off of the Target exclusive extended edition of 1989. This isn’t a bad thing- it just isn’t what fans expected after the drama-packed punch of “Look What You Made Me Do”. Up until this point, the album has been chalk full of Swift experimenting with her new sound, and with track seven she seems to divert back to her old one. “So It Goes…” has a dream-sequence kind of sound that is comparable to “This Love”, while “Getaway Car” has a very familiar feel to it, and sounds almost like “Out of the Woods”. Other songs like “Gorgeous”, “King of My Heart”, and “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” make it sound like the old Taylor isn’t buried as deeply as we first expected.

reputation once again takes a turn with the twelfth track on the album: “Dress”. While this song still has a familiar sound to it, it features lyrics like “only bought this dress so you could take it off” and “carve your name into my bedpost”. Once again, we see a newly empowered Swift taking control of her sexuality through her music, and we love it.

“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is the perfect anthem song to include on this album. This song has the same tongue-in-cheek wit to it that predecessor “We Are Never Getting Back Together” did. Once again poking fun at the rumours about herself, we love her spoken commentary littered throughout the song. Her sickly-sweet trademark voice singing “If only you weren’t so shady” transitioning into the powerhouse chorus (obviously calling out everyone who has ever stabbed her in the back) is a wonderful blend of old Swift and new. Fans are desperately hoping that this song will be an upcoming single, as the video for this track would be incredible.

As reputation nears its end, we come to the second to last track on the album - “Call It What You Want”. Ringing in as the last single released before the album came out, this song seems to be a mashup of every classic Taylor Swift love song that we adore. While this song does talk about the theme of her reputation once again, it does so in a very different way. In previous songs, she has taken a more aggressive attitude towards the situation, while in “Call It What You Want” she starts the song off by saying “my castle crumbled overnight, I brought a knife to a gunfight”- potentially referencing her infamous scandal with Kim Kardashian. The song continues on to have a more nonchalant approach than we’ve seen before, saying “nobody’s heard from me for months, I’m doing better than I ever was” and “all the drama queens taking swings…they fade to nothing when I look at him”. Perhaps this song is not only her way of bringing the album to a close but also her way of saying she’s done with the drama and moving on. If you look at reputation as a whole, it begins very strong and dramatic, and as it continues on it gets softer and softer and returns to Taylor as we normally see her. While she may have stated in the past that she “would like to be excluded from this narrative”, it appears she has now written her own as a way to end the drama once and for all.

Of course, you can’t have a Taylor Swift album without a sappy ballad thrown in the mix. Played solely on the piano, “New Year’s Day” closes the album out. The melodic lilt of the pre-chorus sounds akin to “Never Grow Up” from her third studio album, Speak Now, while the lines of the chorus pleading “please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere” feel almost like a homage to “Enchanted” (as well from Speak Now). While this song does not seem to have any mention of her reputations or scandals, it beautifully completes this new narrative and ends on a happier note than the rest of the album.

On the day of its release, reputation sold over 700,000 copies in the U.S. alone, and is projected to sell over 1,000,000 copies within the first week; if it does, it will be Swift’s fourth album to do so. Regardless of her new, ever-changing image and style, fans are showing up all around the world to show their support. Even though the starlet has made it clear the album will not be available on any streaming sites anytime soon, reputation is doing exceptionally well and may be her most successful album to date. Whether you’re a fan of her new adventures into the realms of R&B and soul, or if you prefer her older, more romantic style, there’s something on this album for everyone. The reputation era is here, and Taylor Swift is ready to, once again, take over the world.

reputation is out now through Big Machine Records. The album is available for purchase on iTunes as well as on CD.