As a stan of Taylor Swift, I was expecting the worst and hoping for the best with the release of Reputation. After all, Look What You Made Me Do only helped to cement the narrative that she was becoming a little too vengeful, a whole lot petty and so full of herself.
Yet, as how 1989 managed to break out in spite of the career-defining Red, Reputation shattered any doubt I was beginning to have. It is a reminder that before we fell in love with how shady she can get in dissing her counterparts, or how unapologetic she can be in her take down of the DJ who sexually harassed her, or the crazy stories surrounding her exes, we met an artist who was not afraid to bare her insecurities through music, who let a character no matter how flawed visible to the public for them to relate to or criticize, and whose lyrics never fail to capture the magic and tragedy of human experience.
But before we go any further, besides Look What You Made Me Do, the album also has This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things and I Did Something Bad. For all the doses of maturity that she needs to be injected with, it cannot be denied that all are catchy (and divisive) and are odes to our dark side which gives in to useless fights and stupid arguments. Trust me, it can only go uphill from Bad Blood. And these are real bangers for clubs to play and people to dance to. It even has trap music infused!
And the Old Taylor dying doesn’t just speak of her going berserk. She has also let her inhibitions go and let her guard down. She embraces her sexual side, letting a decade of innocence go. So It Goes… reveals it so casually, and yet with class and sophistication we have come to expect of a world-class lyricist. Nothing reeks of gimmick and the transition seems intuitive. Had any other artist delivered the line “Only bought this dress so you could take it off”, we would be cringing right now. And that’s the magic of her songwriting.
Typically, we would be hearing about her dissing ex lovers and dodging any accountability she might have. But Taylor Swift is responsible for the game and sings about her part in the demise of her recent love affairs. Many speculate Getaway Car to be about Tom Hiddleston, the title being a reference to their short lived romance intended be an escape from Calvin Harris. As conventional wisdom would tell us, nothing good can come from something that started for the wrong reasons. And while we can never know for certain, it’s these stories that make us admire her ownership of a tale destined to end badly.
And Dancing with Our Hands Tied sheds light on the struggle of breaking away, being bound by a relationship that’s clearly constraining a new spark she’s found. It is said to be literally related to a dance she had with Tom Hiddleston at the Met Gala while still with Calvin Harris, or maybe to her new beau Joe Alwyn who she met at the same party. In both these songs, she bares her soul and gives us a glimpse of what makes her imperfect, and at the same time, human.
And despite all the drama surrounding her professional and personal life, we unearth a woman in love and still full of ideals. While not evident at the surface, this sentimental character is majority of what makes up the album. Yes, there is a darker and experimental sound, influenced by her own experiences and the music she’s becoming more exposed to. Don’t Blame Me and ...Ready for It are both dark and explore facets of EDM music that would be generic for any other artist but is addictive when it is Swift. But the underlying desire to love and be loved is apparent in the journey she is now in with Joe Alwyn.
The theme of reputation doesn’t just speak of her retaking the narrative. It also speaks of how much of the press she’s gotten managed to seep into her personal life. While we praise her for self-awareness, we would be crazy to think it none of it affects her. And Joe Alwyn being her beau today, makes us believe all is right in her world, him throwing all those accounts out the door. Delicate is an apt description of how it all started, yet makes us relive in their romance that is luscious and alluring. Call It What You Want is not only Taylor Swift going vulnerable but us being sucked into the same fragility we experience every time her music is stripped down and honest. Even the weird combination of Taylor, Future and Ed Sheeran would see her reputation as a potential road block in achieving their End Game.
But at its core is the Old Taylor. Georgeous proves her crossover to the pop genre is long-lasting, an artist capable of churning out treats for the general public to consume. New Year’s Day takes out all the trap and EDM we have encountered for the first fourteen tracks and brings us to a Taylor singing over only guitar and piano – all settled, content and happy.
I may never get to understand why people hate on her so much. If you don’t get her music, or what she represents, why not just be indifferent? But album after album, Reputation included, she continues to prove why many people do respect her work and I’m proud to be one of them.