It’s been exactly one month since Taylor Swift released her new album, “Reputation,” and over a week since she has made the album available on all streaming platforms. Given her pop culture presence over the past several years, it’s pretty safe to say that the release of this album has been long anticipated, whether you stand on the side of excitement or apathy. Now that I’ve had the album in my possession for a month (and has since been on repeat in my car), I feel now is the appropriate time to finally share my thoughts and feelings on this album.
Prior to the release of this record, I was extremely hesitant about its outcome. For one thing, as the vast public has seen, she hasn’t been painted the most flattering shade in the media recently, and I have been straddling the line between being a dedicated fan and being someone who has had it with her “woe is me” attitude. As she started releasing singles leading up to the release of the album, my hesitation was magnified, since I felt like the songs weren’t lyrically as strong as her previous releases, nor were they anything notable sonically. With all of that being said, none of these reservations kept me from giving her another chance, and going out and buying the album anyway.
The morning of the album release date came, which happened to fall on Veterans Day, a holiday for almost every working professional and young adult in Taylor Swift’s fan base. I has every intention to wake up early on that day (my day off!!!!!) to get to Target right when it opened so I could avoid the crowds of the day and grab myself a copy of the long-anticipated Reputation album. One thing to know about the release of this record is that Taylor launched a Target exclusive deluxe edition of the album, releasing two different “magazines” that featured behind the scenes facts and photos from the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video, photos from the album photoshoot, hand-written lyrics, and a special message from Taylor. I thought that I would just be able to buy the album and one copy of each volume of the magazine. What I didn’t realize was that each magazine already came with their own copy of the album, so if you wanted to own both volumes of the magazine, you would essentially have to purchase two copies of the album. I will say that the marketing strategy for this album in order to increase sales was pretty genius, and I am both proud and incredibly ashamed that I bought into this strategy in order to help Taylor sell more records. In any case, let’s get into the actual music of the record.
For those who didn’t already know, Taylor has been the center of many ongoing feuds with celebrity powerhouses, the most notable in recent pop news being Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West. Given the ugliness of each of these feuds, and her overall “it’s me against the world” attitude, I was prepared for the album to be one long diss track. This preconception was further validated upon the release of the first single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” and its subsequent music video release, containing easter eggs from all of the feuds she’s had, as well as the image the media has thrust upon her in recent years. I will say, though, that I was pleasantly surprised upon first listen of this album that majority of the tracks of this album turned out to be love songs, and not the public calling out of her Hollywood counterparts that everyone was expecting. It turns out that the only petty songs that came from this album were the aforementioned lead single, and another song called “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” Given the fact that there are sixteen total tracks on this album, only having two remotely spiteful tracks is pretty good for Taylor, especially with the reputation she currently has in the media.
After giving the rest of the album a listen, I realized that “Look What You Made Me Do” wasn’t at all a jab at anyone in particular, no matter how much people want to frame it that way, but instead a continuation of “Blank Space” from her previous album. Both songs are incredibly self-aware, and Taylor successfully takes the images that the media has forced upon her and throw it back in their faces as a way of poking fun at both herself and the media for formulating such an outrageous character for her. “Look What You Made Me Do,” was isntead the final nail in the coffin that holds Taylor’s tarnished reputation, and the songs released afterwards, as well as the rest of the songs on the album, are footsteps into a new, and hopefully cleaner, reputation.
Lyrically, the songs show a new level of honesty, genuineness, and effortlessness behind Taylor Swift’s creativity and songwriting capability. With each song, she paints vivid scenes of the different stages of being in a romantic relationship. In the fifth track, “Delicate,” Taylor addresses the fragility of a relationship in its very beginning stages. In “Getaway Car,” she uses the analogy of a story about fugitives to describe the tumult of being involved in a love triangle before realizing that none of the drama was worth any of the struggle. “King Of My Heart” describes the feeling of finally finding “the one” among a revolving door of charmless frogs. To tie a bow around the entire album, Taylor once again shows her innocence and vulnerability in “New Years Day,” which compares the level of commitment she has for her current relationship to helping a significant other clean up after a big party. In this song, she also compares the level of optimism anyone has at the beginning of a relationship to the excitement one feels every New Year’s Day.
Just as she has in the past, Taylor manages to draw people back in under her wing just as they’re about to walk away. With every album, she manages to accomplish something new and different, and truthfully, after the release of her previous album, I had my doubts as to whether or not she could do the same thing with this one. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was able to create something new and exciting for this record, just as she always has. While the sound of the album is vastly different than anything else she has previously released, the lyrics were a callback to her previous songwriting, dating back to her first album. As she continues to rise within the pop music genre, Taylor will also continue to reclaim her reputation and finally show the side of her that has been buried underneath scandal and pettiness for far too long.