KF: If you’re anything like me, you’re obsessed with Taylor Swift. That’s it. That’s your whole image to people: a Swiftie. But they aren’t wrong; you’ll defend her to the end of time. I have a personal relationship with Taylor. When I first heard her groundbreaking 2017 album reputation, I was sitting criss cross applesauce on her living room floor. She handpicked me for a secret session after discovering my Twitter, where I spend most of my time shouting about how much I love her—and now, how much I love this album. However, I know that Dani doesn’t like nice things, and I can really feel the flames on my skin in silence and anticipation of her roast to my champagne toast of this masterpiece. This album is the literal “Queen of My Heart”—and, while I won’t take an axe to our friendship, I do “bury hatchets but I keep maps of where I put ‘em.” Will I still be on staff next week? We’ll see.
DW: While I don’t dislike Taylor Swift, I do not like her two newest albums. I actively avoid them, and I will change the station if the songs come on the radio.
The first song on the album, “…Ready For It,” sounds like a car revving up and then spinning out. It gets off to a good start, but then it circles around too many times, repeating lyrics and drawing out a song that could have been forty seconds long. Despite this, it has a nice dreamy sound and the lyrics are compelling. They imply that this will be a concept album to remember, ending “Let the games begin/ Are you ready for it?”
This epic opening invocation is what made track two on the album, “End Game,” seem so wonky. It is an inarguably fun song, but the repetition of “big reputation, big reputation, ooh you and me we got big reputations” is a malignant earworm.
On this track, and others, I like when Swift shifts into her singing voice, rather than the chanting mode that she uses for most of reputation. While more of Swift’s melodic voice would have been nice to hear, “End Game” instead features both Future and Ed Sheeran, two incongruous artists who feel like they were shoved onto this track as an afterthought.
My major problem with this album is that it showcases no vulnerability or earnestness. It hints at vulnerability, but it doesn’t actually do the work of being vulnerable. Her approach to life within these songs is vengeful and counterproductive. “I never trust a narcissist/ But they love me,” sings Swift. “So I play ‘em like a violin…Cause for every lie I tell them/ They tell me three.”
This album has a mix of genuine love songs and themed songs about retaliation and retribution, and it’s hard to see where Swift draws the line between her shadow, reputation self and her real self, especially if you don’t buy into Swift’s lore, her public controversies or whirlwind romances.
Swift says that her album is about how her reputation has been completely destroyed, but was it really? Isn’t the album more of a combination of love songs and lust songs with a dash of reputation-talk? Shouldn’t these extrinsic ideas about public image be included in the published work more intrinsically? I don’t know. I am merely an Arts and Entertainment writer.
The songs that I liked on this album were all similar to “Don’t Blame Me.” Track five, “Delicate” is a more fun and intimate song than the rest. It is atmospheric and the rhythm is fun, but the lyrics are still boring, and she stays in a very small vocal range. Despite this, the instrumentation actually matches her voice rather than contrasting it, giving the song a nice, soft tonal quality with synthesis between the vocals and backing track, instead of coming across like the blaring noises that persist throughout the rest of the album.
In “Look What You Made Me Do,” Swift says “Sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now,” but the old Taylor appears all over this album. She’s in “Getaway Car” and the Hannah-Montana-esque “Gorgeous,” “King of My Heart, “New Year’s Day” and “Dress”(my favorite song on the record).
In short, I must conclude that reputation was not the true concept album it was marketed to be. There are many spiteful songs that could have been vented out in tweets instead of three minute songs that took a year to produce (see “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”). Additionally, I think Taylor Swift should work with different people, if she hasn’t already. This album was a mixed bag. I give it a 6/10 for its production and melodies, and a 4/10 for its lyrics.