After three long years of not hearing anything new from Taylor Swift, we can finally say that she’s officially back. It’s been a crazy three years and one where Swift has been under a constant periscope. Bullied and ridiculed for every move she’s made, the songstress hasn’t let what’s happened over the past few years tear her down. Her sixth studio album reputation is proof that you can’t break her.
Back in August, the pop star released her most diverse track yet, “Look What You Made Me Do” and there was nothing hush about it. But while critics shamed it, the track become one of the most popular songs of the year and broke record after record. Swift is a mastermind when it comes to creating tracks that her audience can relate to. “Look What You Made Me Do” is no different in that regard. If you’ve ever been hurt but have come out of that situation stronger, you will relate and not a single person can deny that.
In an instant, Swift was finally back on her throne and saving the music industry once again. With three chart-topping singles released after “Look What You Made Me Do,” (“Gorgeous,” “…Ready For It?” and “Call It What You Want”) Swift has taken back her narrative by letting the music speak for itself. With every album, the marketing strategies she comes up with are brilliant. This time around, it wasn’t doing interviews or speaking to the media, it was going directly to her fanbase, an audience who is in constant support of Swift and yes, they go out on release day and buy album(s). It works in her favor, yes, but it proves what her reputation is, and it’s not who the media portrays her to be.
Is Reputation a slap in the face to the media? In a way but not in the way you would think. It’s a statement that starts off chaotic, loud and dark but ends with the calm after the storm, tying it all together as a complete story. “…Ready For It?” is the perfect track that kicks off the narrative. If you want to hear the truth from Swift’s red lips, don’t skip around. You need to start from the very beginning. The heavy-bass, rap-like track is the perfect start to the noise that was the last three years. Following “…Ready For It?” is “End Game,” featuring Ed Sheeran and Future. It’s an interesting combination but somehow Swift pulls it off. R&B influences are laced throughout the track as Swift sings about her reputation, letting the media knows that she’s not a perfect person. Rumors are knee-deep Sheeran states in his voice but it’s also best if you avoid them. And Swift goes on to tell us that she doesn’t love the drama but it loves her and with that, we believe her.
“I Did Something Bad” is the ultimate kicker during the first half of the album. You would think that after “End Game” we would go into an album that is full of tracks that discuss the machine and how it tears others down, but it’s the opposite, especially in “I Did Something Bad.” The songstress has never sounded freer than she does here. She’s a villain in the media but she’s allowing their narrative to become her own and reclaiming it. The track alone showcases her narrative, letting the listener know that she’s only human and she’s made mistakes. While the media paints her as the person who always plays the victim, she switches that facade and plays the character who is pulling the strings.
The part where she is reclaiming her own narrative doesn’t end there. It becomes larger in life in the Hozier inspired track “Don’t Blame Me”. It’s the most soulful thing she’s ever recorded and vocally, one of the strongest on the album. Love is the one thing Swift is known for and the media blames her constantly, telling her she’s crazy, and well, she plays it off well in this biting and soulful song.
With biting and vengeful tracks at the forefront of the first four tracks, it slowly takes a turn to a slower, calmer and more delicate sound in track 5 “Delicate”. It’s the first track that showcases a sense of vulnerability that we haven’t really seen from Swift yet on the album. Indeed, it is vulnerability filled with uncertainty that makes it one of the most emotional ones on the LP. “My reputations never been worse / so you must like me for me,” she sings in the beginning. “Is it cool that I said all that?” she asks in the chorus. Perhaps the beginning showcases an “I don’t care” attitude but then, we see another side of her. Perhaps someone’s reputation effects other relationships and how that person views you, which shapes the second half of the album.
The rest of the album is a ping pong of emotion speaking about lust, regret, and heartbreak but finding love in the end of it all (“New Years Day,” “Call It What You Want”). Stylistically, the production of the album is stronger than ever and focuses on her sharp lyrics which have grown exceptionally. In fact, reputation is probably the strongest lyrically than her past albums and her storytelling hasn’t gone away (“Getaway Car,” “…So It Goes”). It’s luxurious, sonically adventurous and her most emotional LP in her catalog. She’s not afraid to play a character and then switch back to the artist we all know and love with relatable tracks about backstabbers, heartbreak, and pain and finding freedom in the midst of all. Reputation is strong, poised and courageous, leaving it open to several avenues that she could travel down.
Overall, it’s hard to find a flaw in Reputation because it really is just that good. While it’s modern day pop, it’s different at the same time, meaning you haven’t heard anything quite like it before. It’s a top-notch piece of art that is not only the best album of the year but could very well be the best album of the decade.