August 22, reputation by Taylor Swift
Genre: Synthpop, with a touch of rap/hip hop influence that doesn’t really belong here.
Total Number of Tracks: 15
Songs you might know:
– “…Ready For It?”
– “End Game” (ft. Future and Ed Sheeran)
– “Look What You Made Me Do”
My prior relationship with the album: The lead single of reputation was “Look What You Made Me Do” which did not make the best of first impressions. Part of that was because I simply did not think the song was good. But it also irked me how Swift released a song and video that seemed inextricably linked to her drama with other celebrities, while simultaneously complaining that people couldn’t see past her drama with other celebrities. She wanted to be “excluded from this narrative” (referring to her beef with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian) …but she also wanted to make songs and music videos about that narrative without attempting to hide who she was singing about. She wanted to make such a song the LEAD SINGLE for her new album. She wanted to leverage that narrative for attention and money, but then get mad when people talked about the narrative. When the following songs that were released were “…Ready For It?” and “Gorgeous” I kinda lost hope that this album could be good.
Eventually, I somewhat came around, albeit not until months after reputation came out. But given that initially Taylor didn’t make this album streamable and I sure as hell wasn’t going to pay for it based on the singles I’d heard, that’s not ENTIRELY my fault. Sure, “Delicate” had made it onto the playlist of the store where I worked and it was halfway decent background noise but that hardly counts. As I listened to the whole album, I realized there were actually far more hidden gems than I expected.
My impression this time around: Reputation is perhaps the most frustrating of Taylor’s albums. Not necessarily her worse, but her most frustrating. It’s one of those things that’s just good enough to show you all the potential it failed to reach. There are some really great tracks on it. I love “I Did Something Bad” and “Don’t Blame Me.” These two are great on their own, and they only get better when consumed as a cohesive duo, which I think was Taylor’s intent as they’re back to back on the album. “Getaway Car” is a bop, perfectly showcasing Taylor’s lyrical talent and Jack Antonoff’s distinctive production. “Delicate” took me a few listens to warm up to, but it actually does a great job of capturing the anxiety of starting a new relationship. “New Year’s Day” is a sweet, beautiful love song though it feels so disconnected from the rest of the album’s sound that it somehow is both a strength and weakness simultaneously. There’s enough good stuff going on that it feels like the album SHOULD be better.
But unfortunately, there’s also some real duds on reputation that seriously hold it back. Namely, “End Game” (ft. The Future and Ed Sheeran), “Look What You Made Me Do,” “Gorgeous,” and “Dress.” I’ve actually made a playlist of all the reputation songs in order omitting these four and it’s a far more pleasurable experience. It’s also particularly obnoxious how these songs are strategically placed at tracks 2, 6, 8, and 12, meaning that on a full album listen, I never get to hear more than three songs in a row without getting to one I find exceptionally irritating.
“Gorgeous” in particular gets on my nerves because frankly, it sounds like something written in an incel forum on 4chan (is that where the incels hangout?) It’s really not cute or funny to sing about how you are “furious” at someone simply because they aren’t your significant other. Telling someone that making fun of the way they talk or ignoring them completely should be taken as a compliment is something abusers would do. And yet, Taylor seems to genuinely believe this is a cute love song. Imagine how creepy and disgusting it would sound if a man sang lyrics like:
– “You should think about the consequence of your magnetic field being a little too strong.”
– “You should think about the consequence of you touching my hand in a darkened room.”
– “There’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have. You are so gorgeous, it makes me so mad.”
– “You’ve ruined my life by not being mine.”
It boggles my mind that Taylor seems to see herself as some kind of outspoken feminist, but sees LITERALLY NO PROBLEM IN THESE LYRICS. It’s still a creepy and disgusting song, and I get physically angry thinking about it.
That rant aside, let’s go back to discussing reputation as an album. One of the biggest problems that plagues this record is that it’s hard to tell just how genuine it is, which isn’t typically a problem for Taylor. Usually, her strength lies in her authenticity. Here, I can’t help but feel like she was just looking to other pop stars to see what was selling well, and tried to prove she could play the same game. In some cases this involves singing in a high range where I don’t think her voice sounds particularly good (“Dress”), in some cases it involves rapping (“End Game”). Even songs that I don’t necessarily HATE such as “…Ready For It?” “So It Goes…” and “King of My Heart” still have this problem. Are they really BAD? No. But they also feel like fairly generic pop songs that could’ve been released by anyone. It’s a real disappointment, since part of what made 1989 the success it was is the fact that it sounds like pop music only Taylor could’ve made.
Who would enjoy it? Despite the fact that some of the main singles used to promote the album are nowhere near the album’s best offerings, I would still say that most people who like fairly mainstream pop music would like enough of reputation for it to be worth a listen.
My other Taylor Swift reviews: