REVIEW: REPUTATION BY TAYLOR SWIFT
When Taylor Swift’s social media vanished in August, I got texts and messages from friends, family, and acquaintances asking me what I thought about what was going on or the new music. People I haven't spoken to in years, yes actual years reached out to me about hew new music. I guess, I have somewhat of a reputation of being a Taylor Swift super-fan.
I absolutely love that when people think of Taylor Swift they think of me. However, when this album came out I wasn’t sure what to think. My feelings were mixed, and not as positive as people expected. I didn’t love it and struggled to put it into words when asked.
So now, months and countless listens later, I have written my full review of the album. I try to be somewhat objective and have decided to rate each song individually. This is my least favorite of all her albums, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain tracks that I love. I remain, a fiercely loyal fan of Taylor as both an artist and a person, and will be, forever and always.
(please note: these are just my opinions. I know precious little about music and am overall completely unqualified to make judgements about this album. I am not an expert on writing lyrics, producing music, or creating catchy tunes, nor am I truly a Taylor Swift expert. I am just fan with strong opinions and access to both a target deluxe edition of the album and the internet. Enjoy.)
The Ratings: are on a scale from Change (fearless) to All Too Well (red), also known as one to ten, respectively.
Old Taylor vs. New Taylor: I am only judging her against herself. Lord knows I would rather listen to a two star taylor song than anything on pop radio.
Favorite Track: New Years Day 8.2
Least Favorite Track: End Game 1.5
Album Average: 5.4
- Dress 8
- Getaway Car 7.7
- This is why we can’t have nice things 7
- I Did Something Bad 6.8
- Look What You Make Me Do 6.5
- Gorgeous 6.4
- Don’t Blame Me 6.2
- Delicate 6
- Dancing With Our Hands Tied 4.3
- So It Goes.... 4
- King of my Heart 3.5
- Call It What You Want 3
- Ready For it? 2.4
(one) ...Ready For It?
Rating: 2.4 island breezes / 10
Best Lyric: I know I'm gonna be with you, so I take my time
This song was the second single released, and when I heard it I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was another step right in line with LWYMMD and I hated it. There is little to nothing I like about the verses of this song. Let’s be honest, I am here for the heart wrenching, love ballads and the girly-pop dance songs, which this strays far from. I just wish the chorus was supported by some equally as frothy verses. But also, the chorus just wildest dreams with more breathe, right?
(two) End Game
Rating: 1.5 chips on both my shoulders / 10
Best Lyric: I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me.
The only thing more boring than the lyrics is the melody. And a major let down for a track with Ed’s name on it. No thanks.
(three) I Did Something Bad
Rating: 6.8 violins / 10
Best Lyric: If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing, I don't regret it one bit, 'cause he had it coming
Lyrically, this song is one of the strongest on the album, and that matters a lot to me. One of the things that has made Taylor into to powerhouse star that she is today is her honesty. Back when I was calling into the local country station to request “Tim McGraw” on a daily basis, that was what I loved about her. I felt like she was actually telling the truth and putting herself into her songs. That element is missing, or heavily disguised, in most of this album, but, to me, this song is the kind of honesty and vulnerability that I think is “classic taylor” Call me crazy, but I want a piano version of this; it could be Reputation’s “Forever and Always” Read the lyrics.
(four) Don’t Blame Me
Rating: 6.2 echos of your name / 10
Best Lyric: I once was poison ivy, but now I'm your daisy
What a jam. I love the ferocity of this song and will always dance at least a little when it comes on. Taylor’s voice on the chorus is stronger than usual and I think this song is a great balance of restraint and intensity.
Rating: 6 east side dive bars / 10
Best Lyric: Do the girls back home touch you like I do?
To me, this song is Treacherous’ slightly older, slightly wiser sister, slightly tipsy sister. It isn't a song I could ever listen to on repeat, partly because it is so repetitive itself, but it’s definitely in the top half of this album. I also really enjoyed the music video. Before the video came out I didn’t have much patience for these lyrics, but the video gave this song a new energy.
(six) Look What You Made Me Do
Rating: 6.3 tilted stages / 10
Best Lyric: I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams
When this song was first released, I loved it. I was so excited that Taylor was coming back (from the dead) and felt like this was a great entrance for her to make. I expected it to be the Blank Space of this album, more of an anomaly than thesis statement. The problem is, that is exactly what it is, her thesis for Reputation. Rather than being the single witty, clever, and stealthily self-aware song I was expecting, the themes (bitter, vengeful, with-holding) of LWYMMD are a thread through out the album. Of course, put this song on any time and I will absolutely be dancing before Taylor can say "I rose up from the dead"
(seven) So It Goes…
Rating: 4 gold cages / 10
Best Lyric: I'm not a bad girl, but I do bad things with you
Another ellipsis, another chorus that deviates from the verses, another relatively middle of the road song from Taylor. Nothing about this song is outstanding to me. The ideas, the lyrics, the sound are all just a little meh. It’s like the I wish you would (1989) or I almost do (Red) of this album. Those songs happen to also be the 7th track of their albums. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe Taylor purposely buries her boring songs right in the middle-between two jamming songs that she will release as singles? (22, Shake it Off, Look what You Made Me Do and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Bad Blood, Gorgeous)
Rating: 6.4 whiskies on ice / 10
Best Lyric: Guess I'll just stumble on home to my cats...alone, unless you wanna come along?
I recognize this Taylor. This is the Taylor who brought us 22 and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. This is a slumber party dance anthem and a glimmer of hope.
(nine) Getaway Car
Rating: 7.7 motel bars / 10
Best Lyric: I knew it from the first Old Fashioned, we were cursed.
Smart. Narrative. Interesting. Excellent lyrics. I could jam to this any day of the week. The hook (nothing good starts in a getaway car) is genius and exactly what I love about Taylor’s music. She creates these brilliant, yet somehow simple, one liners that generate a song packed with great lyrics and can also spark the listener’s imagination.
(ten) King of My Heart
Rating: 3.5 jaguars / 10
Best Lyric: Up on the roof with a school girl crush, drinking beer out of plastic cups. Say you fancy me, not fancy stuff, baby, all at once, this is enough.
I have a love-hate relationship with this song. While some lyrics are clever and cute, others feel rather vanilla. The bridge is excellent, and and is a pleasant surprise everytime I listen to the song. It is fun, unexpected, and basically the song’s savior.
(eleven) Dancing With Our Hands Tied
Rating: 4.3 invisible lockets / 10
Best Lyrics: I loved you in spite of deep fears that the world would divide us
I find this song to be...fine. When listening to it, I find myself not feeling it, not experiencing it. Writing a song that hinges on a metaphor can be glorious, but it can also be really easy to lose ground with the listeners. There are plenty of song relating a relationship to dancing (one of Taylor’s ex-boyfriends has perhaps the best) sooo, I feel like, if you are going to write one it better be really solid. Unfortunately, the lyrics don’t really support or develop the metaphor enough. Additionally, she plays with several hot and cold words (burned, avalanche, frozen), which are interesting, but muddle the meaning or message of the song rather than enhance it.
Rating: 8 golden tattoos / 10
Best lyrics: And if I get burned, at least we were electrified.
This is absolutely my second favorite song on this album. It’s got a killer hook and is lyrically electric. There is a vulnerability and genuineness in this track that, while being a signature of Taylor’s, is lacking in the majority of this album. I think they made some excellent choices with the sound of this song; I love the fluttering heart sounds in the background, the snapping, and the use of Taylor’s breathy voice almost as its own instrument.
(thirteen) This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Thing
Rating: 7 champagne seas / 10
Best Lyric: And there are no rules when you show up here, bass beat rattling the chandelier, feeling so Gatsby for that whole year.
This. Song. Is. So. Good. Every album has a someone-pissed-me-off-and-im-scream-singing-alone-in-my-car song, and I am so glad this album does as well. (Picture to Burn/Tell Me Why/Better than Revenge/WANEGBT/Bad Blood). The lyrics and sounds of this track are cohesive and both make each other better. Lyrics like "he said she said" would not be as effervescent if not delivered and encased in the music as it is and this beat wouldn't be nearly as fun if the lyrics were any less punchy.
(fourteen) Call It What You Want
Rating: 3 forts under covers / 10
Best Lyric: All the drama queens taking swings. All the jokers dressing up as kings.
The title and hook for this song has so much promise but, again, I get lost in the verses. “Call it What You Want” is the whole song. For me, this central idea is not expanded upon enough. A lot of the lyrics feel like reworded repeats of things she has already said in other songs. I wish I could swap the lyrics and melody of this song with King of My Heart.
(fifteen) New Year’s Day
Rating: 8.2 polaroids on the floor / 10
Best Lyric: Hold on to the memories they will hold on to you.
To me this song could be re-named: “don’t worry long time fans, Taylor is alive she is just still deciding whether or not the public deserves her, so you’ll have to wait a few more years.” When nearly all hope was lost this song came bursting in, full of dreamy piano, romantic ideals, and an earnest voice. The woman who wrote Enchanted when she was 20 would absolutely write this song at 27. I think it shows her growth emotionally, lyrically, and relationally. Taylor has always been good at writing about romantic moments. She takes the cliches and elevates them just enough to make it feel astonishing relatable and inspiring. She does that with this song as well as ever. It feels so absolutely Taylor while also feeling new, fresh, and hopeful. And damn the lyrics are beautiful.
I know my view of this album has also been tainted by the absence of two of my favorite things about new Taylor Swift music: the hidden messages in the lyrics and the target bonus tracks. A magazine, no matter how beautiful, does not make up for those things. Over all, this album is more disappointing than exciting, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about Taylor, nor does it diminish the real excellence of my favorite tracks. I am not sure how much longer Taylor will be putting out music, but I am hopeful for the future, and that maybe we will get more from the woman who wrote New Years Day.