Taylor Swift lives up to her “Reputation” on new album

Universal Media

By Eljohn Macaranas

This past August, Taylor Swift declared that the “old Taylor” was dead on her chart-topping single “Look What You Made Me Do” to the surprise of fans and the collective eyerolls of everyone else.

However, with the release of her latest LP, “reputation”, that bold claim is disproved. If anything, Swift doubles-down on her usual brand of clever heartbreaking lyrics and snarky celebrity takedowns over slick and polished productions, and for the most part, it works.

This is Swift’s sixth record, second pop album, and the first where she genuinely seems to not care what people think of her. Gone are the tired cliches and worn-down horns of “Shake it Off” and out come the claws of a pop star whose “Reputation” as a nightmare dressed like a daydream precedes her.

She begins her record with her best Rihanna impression in “… Ready for it?” with a chorus that evokes her iconic “Wildest Dreams.”  In “End Game,” a collaboration with Ed Sheeran and Future (yes, that Future), she not only demands her lover make her his one and only, she raps, “I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me.”

Not even a second after, she delivers a bombastic EDM slammer in “I Did Something Bad.” She declares in the bridge that “they’re burning up all the witches even if you aren’t one” before calling on the media to “light her up.” Then she segues to what is sure to be a wine mom anthem in “Don’t Blame Me.”

It seems like she’s completely changed her tune and that the “old Taylor is dead,” but it starts to become clear that she’s still very much alive.

“Delicate,” a trop-pop ode to a lover who loves her in spite of her reputation never being worse, serves a fresh sound, but the heavy emotionality Swift built her discography on.

Lyrics like “is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate” call back to teenage Swift pining over a love albeit with the sensibilities of her 27-year-old self-afraid of pushing a relationship too far, too soon.

This is even more evident in “Gorgeous” which comes off as a tipsier rendition of fan favorite Speak Now track, “Enchanted.” Instead of wishing her crush wasn’t taken, she gets drunk, makes fun of the way he talks, and stumbles on home to her cats alone… unless he wants to come along.

The standout track of the album though is “Getaway Car.” Produced by Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff, this absolute rollercoaster of a record frames Swift at her most mature and nuanced.

Swift recalls a deadly love triangle in which she uses someone she won’t name as a getaway car from a toxic relationship. “It’s no surprise that I turned you in, ‘cause us traitors never win,” she lays out on the bridge.

Those looking for her response diss track to Kanye West will find a sure-to-be chart-topping kiss-off in “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” The bridge features an earworm end-capped with the closest thing to straight-up evil laughter we’ll get from Ms. Swift.

The latter half of the album further confirms that Taylor is not necessarily abandoning her old self,  but rather evolving it.

Fans of 1989” will appreciate “King of My Heart,” a track that would fit better on that record. “Dancing with Our Hands Tied” has a bass drop in the chorus that recalls “I Knew You Were Trouble,” but slicker. “Dress” reads as a superior Zayn-less version of “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” but more risque. “Call It What You Want” is “You Are in Love” part two.

The only real issue with this record is that it meets its lofty expectations, but seldom ever exceeds them. It is only on the final track, “New Year’s Day” that Swift finally delivers the emotional gut punches she’s built her “Reputation” as a gifted songwriter on.

She satiates the hopeless romantics who’ve been with her with day one on the bridge, “please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.”

With these simple words over the most modest production on the record, she reminds us all of her greatest talent: taking the smallest moments in life and making them cinematic and everlasting. She reminds us that when the scores are settled and the party is over, we are just looking for the same thing: love, contentment, and memories.

Long live the old Taylor, she’s still alive and I’m living for it.
Reputation” is out in stores and will be available for streaming services one week after its release (a score Swift has yet to settle with Spotify).

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