“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, ‘cause she’s dead!” I, like many others, could not help but physically cringe the first time I heard Taylor Swift utter those words in her first solo song in almost three years, “Look What You Made Me Do,” in August. But after the release of “Reputation,” Swift’s sixth studio album, on Friday, November 10, the words have proven to be true. For the most part, Swift ditched her country style for bubbly pop music with “1989” in 2014, but “Reputation,” with its electronic edginess, is sonically and stylistically unlike anything she has ever done.
This is not to say that “Reputation” is 100 percent good. The first three singles, “Look What You Made Me Do,” “…Ready For It?” and “Gorgeous” are lyrically dismal in comparison to her previous work, even if they are catchy enough to get stuck in your head for days on end. Luckily, a week before the release of “Reputation” came “Call It What You Want,” a sort of revival of the “old Taylor,” a song about how much she loves her latest beau, coated in metaphors about her personal life. This set the somewhat confusing stage for “Reputation” to arrive.
“Reputation” is far from being Swift’s best work, but I was pleasantly surprised with most of the album. Sure, a few songs followed the same pattern as the original singles: catchy but not up to par with her other songs. “End Game,” the only collaboration on the album, which features Future and Ed Sheeran, is frankly a little bit weird. “Delicate” has a decent idea behind it, but is overly autotuned, even for a pop song, and gets boring after the first chorus. “So It Goes…” and “King Of My Heart” are fine, but not worth adding to any playlists or listening to more than once or twice. And finally for the lesser songs of the album, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is the culmination of what has felt like decades of Swift feuding with Katy Perry or the Kardashian-Wests or whoever she’s angry with at this time. Yes, it’s a really catchy, kind of funny song. But it’s also pretty bratty and honestly, I can’t bring myself to care about whatever feud she’s in right now. What happened to shaking it off, Taylor?
But about half of the album is surprisingly really good. The title of “I Did Something Bad,” had me feeling wary before the first listen, but even if she is capitalizing on her reputation for playing the victim (as pointed out in the “LWYMMD” music video), the song has such a good beat and a take-no-crap attitude that I don’t even care. Many might dismiss this one as another song about the Kanye feud, but I think it is also about the backlash she received for taking credit for her work on “This Is What You Came For” with her ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris. Speaking of the DJ she dated for over a year, “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” is Swift’s first interesting and successful foray into EDM since “Red’s” “I Knew You Were Trouble.” “Don’t Blame Me,” another one with a misleading title, is an impassioned and soulful love song, and “Dress” begins reminiscent of Swift’s older love songs until the chorus hits and reveals that she’s not just singing about love anymore, but also lust. “Getaway Car,” the explanation for her quick relationship turnover from Harris to actor Tom Hiddleston last year, is the best song on “Reputation,” in my opinion. The biting, self-aware lyrics and powerful pop beat make it the perfect song to belt out in your own car. The album ends with the only acoustic song, “New Year’s Day.” Just like “1989’s” closer “Clean,” it feels less like the end of the album, and more like the beginning of something new for Swift.
Still, there have been better recent pop comebacks (see Miley Cyrus’ “Younger Now” and Kesha’s “Rainbow”). But with about half of “Reputation” being a surprising success, I am hopeful that Taylor Swift was able to get anger and revenge out of her system and can move forward to focus on her reputation for making good music.