After three long years of waiting, Taylor Swift’s new album, reputation, amid all its own whirlwind of controversies, is out! It’s an exciting time, let me tell you. Now, after listening to the album about seven times, I have some thoughts.
Taylor’s previous albums have all been pretty fantastic, from the beautiful country ballads of Taylor Swift, to the fun country-pop tunes of Speak Now, and the pure pop 80s inspired beats of 1989. All her albums—subjectively—have been fantastic, with Taylor introducing something new in each one. But one constant has always been the love that she pours into her music, the handwritten words that she’s taken straight from her soul, and the kind, sweet disposition that Taylor has always claimed as her own.
Except that—if I’m quoting Taylor herself here—she’s dead.
reputation reminds me of an album-long Disney villain song, of a character who has struggled and is climbing into their darkest depths and embracing it, grabbing hold of their villainy and shouting it out into the world. Was that the point or not? I have no idea, but it’s what I’ve taken away from it.
Track 1, where Taylor asks, almost seductively as she sings this fast-paced ballad, “Are You Ready for It?” Because even if you’re not, it’s coming for you.
Track 2, “End Game”, features Future and Ed Sheeran, the latter of which I’m always excited to listen to—I love that man’s voice. But aside from that, Taylor is practically chanting, asking if you can take her reputation. Because it’s huge. And yeah, she does have a lot of people who don’t like her. A lot.
3 and 4.
Tracks 3 and 4, “I Did Something Bad and Don’t Blame Me” are two of my favourites in this album, filled with more fast-paced beats and darker tones. Her villainy feels like it really comes to the forefront in these songs, with their crashing choruses and raging lyrics. She’s done something bad, she’s gone too far. I don’t know about anyone else, but I always picture explosions in these songs, especially when Taylor hits the choruses on these respective songs.
Track 5, “Delicate,” is anything but. With Taylor singing in this sometimes sultry, soft-spoken song, asking if someone (probably Joe, let’s be real you guys) will love her despite her poor reputation, alternating with her confessions of love, and lines not-so-subtly-implying passionate nights together.
“Look What You Made Me Do” is track 6, and, in my personal opinion, reaches the pique of Taylor’s new Disney villain-esque album. I’m pretty sure it’s referred to as the snake song, and has a lot of controversy surrounding it. Personally, I find the verses and the chorus so tonally different it surprises me every time the song comes up. That may have been the point, but it still leaves me confused. But I think the bridge is hands down excellent.
Track 7, “So It Goes,” is definitely a more cohesive song than LWYMMD, with a fun, dark beat. And alluding again to Taylor’s passionate romance? I think yes. And it is a lot of fun to sing.
Track 8, “Gorgeous,” one of Taylor’s four singles released before the album, has a fun, cute beat to it. I like how it sounds, and it’s been compared to her previous album 1989. While I don’t personally find it as reminiscent of 1989, I do find the music itself fun. The actual lyrics, though? They scare me a little bit.
The opening to “Getaway Car,” track 9, sounds like it’s coming straight from a sci-fi movie, before promptly lowering into the bottom of Taylor’s vocal range as she begins singing. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve found a lot of the songs in the album so far to be hitting the lower points of Taylor’s range. Not necessarily a problem, but still an observation. Aside from that, Getaway Car has a Bonnie and Clyde feel to it, Taylor herself referencing the infamous pair. She sings about her own betrayal, and a doomed love. It feels raw, in how she sings about this romance that seems destined to fall apart, It’s no surprise I turned you in/ ‘Cause us traitors never win……. I was cryin’ in a getaway car/ I was dyin’ in a getaway car/ Said goodbye in a getaway car. Sound good? I promise you it is.
Taylor’s tenth track, “King of My Heart,” is a fun electro/synth/pop song simultaneously letting us know just how great her new beau is, while giving subtle jabs at her exes; ‘Cause all the boys and their expensive cars/ with their Range Rovers and the Jaguars/ Never took me quite where you do. Possibly referencing the cars of her last few boys? Probably. But it’s also letting us know just how much Taylor adores her new lover, which is adorable. And it strikes me as a great dance song. So it’s, like, a triple threat.
“Dancing With Our Hands Tied,” track 11, is another one of my personal favourites on this album. It’s got that great electronic/synth/dance feel, combined with a bit of a faster pace. Taylor seems to be singing of a doomed romance, but one that she desperately wanted to last. It’s heartfelt, almost heartbreaking, and yet woven through with an innocent longing in the lyrics, Yeah we were dancing/ Like it was the first time, first time……. Swaying as the room burned down/ I’d hold you as the water rushes in/ If I could dance with you again.
Arguably the most intimate song on this album, track 12, “Dress,” is the song that made Taylor’s own parents leave the room when she performed it. It’s beyond intimate, slow and sultry, with lyrics like “I only bought this dress so you could take it off.” But what really makes this song beautiful is when she hits the bridge; Even in my worst times, you could see the best of me/ Flash back to my mistakes/ My rebounds, my earthquakes/ Even in my worst lies, you saw the truth in me. Because she is so desperately in love with someone who sees the best in her, and it is raw and intimate, her love brought to the very forefront of the album.
Track 13, also Taylor’s lucky number, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” is one of the pettiest songs I have ever heard,and I love it. Taylor’s cackle when she talks about forgiving her enemies feels so justified, so righteously amused at the mere thought of forgiving these people who she sees as wronging her, makes me want to laugh right along with her. As someone who has, in fact, been a victim of bullying, I want this as my ringtone. If you could carve a laugh into a gravestone I’d want this one because it is amazing. I want to dedicate it to everyone who’s ever sneered at me.
The last song to be released before the official album, track 14, “Call It What You Want,” contrasts with the rest of the album in its gentler, quieter lyrics and pace. It sounds like Taylor’s at the point where she’s realized that she’s fallen, I brought a knife to a gunfight, but that it doesn’t even matter. She’s got someone who loves her despite everything, and she’s okay with it, someone who’s lighting up the darkness. She’s fallen, but she’s still happy, and that’s really all that’s important. “Call It What You Want” is, at least in my opinion, one of the best songs on this album.
The lyrics in this album are raw. Raw in an angry, wounded sort of way. From the dark tones of the opening songs to the acceptance that “yes, I am a villainess” of “Look What You Made Me Do,” to the pure emotion that seems to abound in the following songs, the words that Taylor poured into this album were raw. It feels almost intimate, in the way she rages in “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” to the way she quietly sings about how much she’s screwed up, but she’s okay with it, in “Call It What You Want.”
And I think, the final track, “New Year’s Day,” is probably one of the best Taylor Swift songs I’ve ever heard.
Compared to the crashing, raging tones of the rest of the album, this one feels almost subdued. Calm. Gentle. It rounds out the album’s high octane start, quieter than the other songs. It feels cathartic, like an acceptance. Like Taylor is saying to remember the past, because it’s a part of you. Like she’s saying that this is a new day, a new year, and it’s going to be long, but you’ll make it. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, even seeming to harken back to the Fearless/Speak Now eras.
Personally, I don’t know if the old Taylor is dead, but I can tell you that this album is fantastic in its rage and its raw emotion. But I think the end is the best part of it, because it’s promising something new, and something even more beautiful.