November 10th was the day Taylor Swift debuted her highly anticipated pop album, Reputation. As an album, Reputation embodies Taylor Swift’s typical artful musical composition, creative lyricism and use of narrative mystery. Yet, Taylor’s swift breakaway album suffers at the cost of experimentation, but deserves plenty of credit.
There’s no arguing it, the old Taylor Swift is dead. In an attempt to push forward a new image, Taylor drives forward songs drowning in creative complexity and sharpened satire, while producing music brimming with emotional vulnerability.
“Reputation starts off in a strong, loud stance”
While it may not be my favourite song off the record, opening track, “…Ready For It?” is an aggressive display, and warning, of Taylor’s new sound and steeled self. Finishing on a prevailing, yet polished, electro-pop sound, Reputation starts off in a strong, loud stance. Next up is “End Game” featuring Ed Sheeran and Future, I’ll keep it short – it’s not the albums finest moment.
Continuing down the track list, “I Did Something Bad” offers more creative authority than the previous songs, presenting a more enjoyable side of Taylor’s reinvented work. Despite being borderline tedious in repetitiveness, the song finally offers lyrics of meaning and on which draws Reputation’s concept aspect alluding to Taylor’s damaged public image; “they’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one / they got their pitchforks and proof, their receipts and reasons”. Call it self-pity, or call it what you want, “I Did Something Bad” works.
“It’s drenched in 1989 nostalgia and emotion”
The next two songs; “Don’t Blame Me” and “Delicate” are strikingly different. “Don’t Blame Me” brings a more sombre Hozier-like sound, the darker lyrics and more composed rhythm has to be a highlight of the album. What was an attempt at a subtle shift to a softer toned song, succeeds with an awkward arrangement. Put simply, “Delicate” is an easy favourite. It’s drenched in 1989 nostalgia and emotion. “Delicate” is compelling, eloquent, and shows Taylor’s storytelling technique at its finest.
Just when Reputation starts to present itself, the album’s progress is stifled by the next three songs; hit single “Look What You Made Me Do”, newbie “So It Goes…”, and popular single “Gorgeous”. If I’m honest, the album could do without the songs, or have them set as bonus songs in the Reputation deluxe release. While they all reflect a personal dimension to Taylor, they offer nothing but an example of Taylor’s adapting sound.
From the carefree sound of “Gorgeous”, to one of the best songs off the album, “Getaway Car”. Again, the track list composition stumbles here, but “Getaway Car” almost makes you forget. Similar to “Delicate”, “Getaway Car” is refined and catchy. Smoothly followed up by “King Of My Heart”, Reputation really starts to build. Next up is “Dancing With Our Hands Tied”. While I’m not too sold on the song, it’s not the worst and sits quite well on the album.
“Weaponised pop is not a good look on Taylor”
Track 12, brings us to “Dress”. “Dress” is now my kryptonite. At first, I hated it, but “Dress” hooks you with a slow mystical rhythm and catchy lyrics like “I only bought this dress so you could take it off”, and before I knew it the song was stuck in my head. From a pleasant surprise to a song I despise. “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” almost ruined Reputation for me. Simply put, it is meant to be fun, but comes across forced, catchy and petty. Weaponised pop is not a good look on Taylor. With this said, Reputation redeems itself with “Call It What You Want” and final track “New Year’s Day”. Both songs push aside the unpleasant picture of the previous song with music similar to the Red era, and the album closes on a pleasant optimistic note. You could say; New Year, New Taylor.
As a whole, Reputation is worth the listen. While disjointed and rushed in places, I would say the album is pleasantly audacious. It’s no surprise Reputation sits at the top of Billboard’s charts, but it’s not the clean-cut album I had been waiting for either. That said, I look forward to seeing how Taylor Swift’s music continues to evolve.
Image Courtesy of Billboard.com.