Taylor Swift’s long-awaited sixth studio album reputation arrived on November 10. After years of drama between herself, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West, Ms. Swift had a lot to address on her latest work. With three of her previous albums (Speak Now, Red, 1989) selling over a million copies in their first week, the sales expectations were high for reputation.
The opening track from reputation, “…Ready for It?” begins with an aggressive, heavy bass. On this song, Swift both rapped and sang, which made for an awkward-flowing opener. Met with harsh feedback from music critics, the promotional single quickly got bashed in the media after its release on September 3. However, the concept for this song was smart; Swift introduced a crime and punishment metaphor that is seen throughout the album.
“End Game” is simply too big to fail. As if a stunning guest rap verse by hip-hop superstar Future wasn’t enough to make this song a smash success, pop sensation (and Swift’s friend) Ed Sheeran delivers a fantastic verse to complete the song. Looking into a hopeful future with her current boyfriend British-actor actor Joe Alwyn, Swift professes her love and commitment to him on this perfect addition to the album.
Swift’s darker personality comes out for the first time in this standout track “I Did Something Bad.” A far way from her country roots, Swift embraces modern pop in this song by combining elements of trap music with heavy bass drops and dramatic choruses. (There’s even a curse word in here.) Accepting her actions and not backing away from the drama of the past few years, Taylor boldly claims that she would do everything over and over again if she had a second chance.
A haunting song that adds to the dark narrative of the album, “Don’t Blame Me” is a synthpop track that consists of Swift comparing her boyfriend’s love to a drug. Although the dark tone has not changed from the previous song, the subject matter is much more positive. This dramatic song is the result of masterful producing with a mix of electronic synths and powerful vocals by Swedish producers Max Martin and Johan Shellback.
For the first time on the album, Swift shows her vulnerability on “Delicate.” While discussing the beginning of a relationship, Swift explores her doubts about the future and how her poor reputation will ultimately shape the relationship. Finally reducing the aggressive nature of the album thus far, Swift delivers this song in a soft manner that changes the attitude of the album. In the iHeartRadio Album Release Party on November 10 that featured exclusive audio from Swift, she described the meaning behind the song: “It’s like what happens when you meet someone who you really want in your life and then you start worrying about what they’ve heard before they met you? You start to wonder like, ‘Could something fake, like your reputation, affect something real like someone getting to know you?’”
Where to start on “Look What You Made Me Do.” Released back in August, this chart-topping song draws a wide-range of opinions from listeners. Classified as a power ballad, this track is clearly a response to the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty hosted by Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in July 2016. This song is fantastic on paper, but an odd and repetitive chorus completely throws off the dynamic of the song. The most important part of the song is Taylor Swift claiming that the “old Taylor” is dead.
Although it has a catchy chorus, “So It Goes…” is a very generic song—more specifically a very generic Taylor Swift song. It’s a stereotypical pop song in which Swift sings about her relationship again, which makes it easy for this song to get lost in this album full of hits.
“Gorgeous” presents an interesting narrative never explored by Swift before. She’s attracted to a gorgeous man, even though she is in a relationship with a man in the club doin’ I don’t know what. Later claiming that this song is about meeting her boyfriend, Alwyn, Swift shut down rumors that this song confirmed that she had cheated in a past relationship. The content paired with an intriguing beat and a good flow makes for this song to be contagious.
Continuing with a lighter sound shown in “Delicate” and “Gorgeous,” “Getaway Car” is about a doomed rebound relationship (presumably with Tom Hiddleston—RIP Hiddleswift) that compares criminals escaping the scene of their crime. Hidden beneath the surface of the clever lines and captivating chorus, this song is the most heart wrenching of all 15 tracks that ends with Swift acting as both the heartbreaker and the heartbroken. This song is destined to join the ranks of other Taylor Swift mega-hits.
Swift continues to sing about love, or in this case, a lack-thereof on “King of My Heart.” A low light of the album, it is a very forgettable song. She is continuing to tell the saga of Joe Alwyn, but this song lacks the musical values that Swifties associate with Taylor, allowing it to be looked over on this album.
“Dancing With Our Hands Tied” returns to the sound of the first songs on the album, powered by a strong beat and a trap-like drop on the chorus. Eleven songs into the album, Taylor failed to alter her content, leading to a bored audience at this time. This is another example of a song that will get forgotten because of genericness.
“Dress” is a very sexual song where Swift reveals a new side of herself. While musically, this song may not stand out, the content makes it an interesting listen. In addition, conspiracy theories have flown around about who this song is written to…Ed Sheeran???
Oh, the shade. The shade. Taylor Swift is not here for the haters on “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” This song is a three and a half minute (rightful) assault on Kanye West and the media. She makes fun of whatever she can, even throwing a reference to Jay-Z in there. A comedic, upbeat track that also references F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, this song is certainly a stand out on the album.
Another highlight, “Call It What You Want” shows that Taylor Swift is having no problem shaking the haters off and showing off her boyfriend. The infectious chorus and bridge show that this song is a musical standout with a positive message.
Returning to her simplistic roots, Taylor Swift strips down her production on “New Year’s Day”. A musical masterpiece, this song explains life as a New Year’s party, celebrating old memories and getting ready to make new ones. This perfectly closes out the album, showing that the new Taylor that we see is ready to move on.
Overall, reputation is exactly what Taylor needed to release right now. A great body of work, this album focuses on her past drama and the future she has with her boyfreind Joe Alwyn. This will be the highest selling album of 2017, and deservedly so.
Final Grade: A-
Highlights: “End Game,” “I Did Something Bad,” “Don’t Blame Me,” “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” “New Year’s Day”