Last Friday, the world stood still for Taylor Swift fans as she released her highly anticipated album “Reputation.” Upon first listening to the album, it’s clear that “Reputation” is a vengeful masterpiece and a vast difference from her earlier work on albums like “1989” and “Fearless.” While her songs’ subject matters haven’t really changed, Swift finds ways to innovate her sound while remaining true to herself.
“Reputation’s” release marks the end of a year of negative headlines, public feuds and two very public breakups for Swift. This included a Colorado trial where Swift countersued a radio DJ for sexual assault after he claimed defamation against her (she won).
After the opening single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” many expected Swift to write an album airing her grievances. However, she actually does the opposite. She acknowledges what has been said about her, but does not complain about it. Rather, she embraces her drama queen image and writes from that perspective — a genius move that pulls the listener in and creates some of the album’s best songs such as “I Did Something Bad” and “Don’t Blame Me.”
While many will still interpret this album as Swift griping and playing the victim, the listener must look deeper to find its true meaning. Swift embraces her public image and tells the listener that she is proud of herself and the music she has created. This album very much feels like Swift is writing music for herself, and not trying to prove her skill or talent to anyone. Swift explains to the listener that you cannot impress those who do not support you, and that you must instead find your own confidence and surround yourself with those who have your best interests in mind.
Her pure joy and confidence is evident in her music, and has been in “Reputation’s” promotion as well. She hasn’t done any press for this album, but has chosen to promote the music herself and let the fans decide what they think. This is a risky move for Swift, but one that allows her to control the narrative with this album.
While there are many messages in this album about her public image, like any Taylor Swift album there are still love songs. Unlike previous albums, Swift’s love songs on “Reputation” are more adult, as she broaches topics like sex and drinking.
Swift also appears to sing about the same man throughout the album, and many speculate she is singing about her current boyfriend Joe Alwyn. In songs such as “Gorgeous” and “New Year’s Day,” she speaks about him more lovingly than anyone else she has dated. This is most clearly evident in the latter, a song about cleaning her house with her lover the day after a massive party.
On “Reputation,” Swift again collaborates with songwriters Max Martin, Shellback and Jack Antonoff. Martin and Shellback help create the edgy first half of the album, while Antonoff helps her on the more emotional and reflective second half. As the listener moves from the first half of the album into the second half, it goes from chaotic and action packed to softer and more emotional.
However, this style does have a few setbacks as it makes some songs on the album sound repetitive and unnecessary. Swift could have easily cut out certain songs such as “King of my Heart,” and “So it Goes . . .” or have placed on them a deluxe edition of the album for her super fans to buy.
Despite its setbacks, “Reputation” is a sonically ambitious album for Swift and an honest depiction of her personal life and fame. Swift fans will adore it and critics will debate its subjects for months to come. As for Swift, she will likely continue to do little press for this album and let the music speak for itself. As she writes in the introduction, “There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation.”