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Album Review: Taylor Swift – Reputation

4 min read
Photo: Mert and Marcus

The end of 2017 is nigh, but in a year crammed full of high octane releases you would be a fool for thinking Ms Swift would let herself be left out. Reputation is the one time country sweetheart’s sixth album and easily her most controversial yet. A mastermind behind a well-oiled PR machine, Taylor returns to a world that are over her squad goals, but guess what – she’s not the least bit fussed.

Separate the record from the curated persona and Reputation would have been a disaster. But hold it up against the collective decision that hating on Taylor was as important as hating Coldplay, and the tracks become targeted bullets pointed firmly at the haters. Right from the off of Ready For It, it’s clear Taylor is on the offensive side – throwing all her toys out the pram just to get a moderate rise from us all. The aggressive and satirical take on her supposed long list of ex-boyfriends is just self-deprecating enough for a glimpse of true sentiment to stick out.

For all of the Reputation reviews put up so far, it appears none are discussing Taylor cashing in on her privilege as a white woman who is able to pick up and drop genres that belong to POC as and when she pleases. Yes there is scope for development within music & art but lest we not forget Taylor’s lack of voice throughout the continual white-washing of music award ceremonies where she has been more than complicit in talking over artists of colour.

No you haven’t been transported back to the days of Right Said Fred, Look What You Made Me Do really is an original. I could whine about how much of an obvious diss track it is against those who have called Taylor out for snakey behaviour, but the truth is it’s also a banger that will never fail to set nightclubs alive with sassy moves. The bravado on display is admirable, in a way that had people the world over suddenly never wanting to ever cross Taylor Swift. It will no doubt prove to be a pivotal career arch as she heads towards complete world domination.

Gorgeous bridges the gap between 1989 and Reputation, and gives a glimpse of what could have been on this record. Remember the days when Taylor and her squad were what we all wanted to be? A keen example of how much better something can be when females lift each other up to joint successes rather than wrestle each other into battle. The second half of the record continues to prove that the old Taylor actually isn’t dead at all. Getaway Car feels like the Taylor we were all hoping would make a reappearance rather than the stroppy teenager we’ve been lured in by.

The irony of having a track called This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things on this record is not lost on me, we could have had a rad album but instead we’ve been given a half of one. Taylor Swift built much of her early career around being nice and humble, so the more poisonously nuanced image on this record is a bit of a shock to the system. This track is heavily indebted to Lorde, a belated add on to what had the potential to be the indie kiss off for all the people who were mean to you in secondary school.

You can’t release an album in November with a track called New Year’s Day unless you’re Michael Buble – I don’t make the rules Taylor. Singing about glitter and squeezing hands in the backs of taxis is suddenly incredibly wholesome imagery that gets left out in the cold by the opening half of the record. It’s a reminder that Taylor has and will hopefully continue to make ballads capable of evoking fond feelings of the cosy kind of love that keeps you warm all through the winter time.

All in all, Reputation is a little bit all over the place. As individuals the tracks are all pretty great but together they lack the cohesion that Taylor has delivered in the past. It feels like the progression of an extended temper tantrum, one that is a delayed response from her enemies having struck the hottest blows quite some time ago. Taylor Swift has some of the best pop songs ever made, and so the standards she is held to are going to be higher for this. Reputation is a great deal better than anticipated – but Taylor needs to get herself together and work on a more well rounded narrative.