Let me preface this album review by letting you all know my mother just bought me a $75 Taylor Swift sweatshirt as part of her “Reputation” merchandise. I am a 22-year-old college student and my mother just bought this for me because of one, my love for T-Swift, and two, my college budget would not allow it.
I have been anxiously awaiting the release of “Reputation” since I learned all of the words to “1989” — two days after it was released on Oct. 27, 2014. So, yeah, it’s been a long time coming for me and many of Swift’s other fans (I refuse to call myself a “Swifty”).
Swift made public five songs before the release of “Reputation” on Friday: “… Ready For It?” “Look What You Made Me Do,” “Gorgeous,” “Call It What You Want” and “New Year’s Day.”
Do not let these releases stop you from buying the album. I will forever be confused why the decision to release these — at least in the order it was released with “Look What You Made Me Do” out first — was made; but per Swift’s style, pre-album releases aren’t the best. They never are.
After swallowing the pill that was admitting to friends and colleagues the songs weren’t up to the Swift standard of perfection the world is used to, I gave myself a pump-up speech Thursday and listened to the album the next morning with an open mind.
Swift has said this album is the most linear when it comes to her life, and my analysis concludes she was over the reputation garnered in years of media attention and public spats with figures like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry and Swift’s ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris. The album’s order goes something like this: giving into the wicked persona of a famed woman scorned, accepting her title as such, falling out of love and falling back in love — all within 15 songs.
I was nervous for “End Game” initially. After all, it’s a song featuring both Ed Sheeran and Future. When I saw the collaboration announced online I gasped out loud and profusely sweat — more so than usual when a Swift announcement is made. You can’t really cross “The A Team” with “Mask Off” and form a cohesive sound –– seriously aspiring DJs, don’t try.
Luckily, all of the artists molded a mix that is pop gold.
“End Game” is the second song on the album, and it helps start the first third off with a bang. It confidently states Swift’s knowledge of her persona with lines like “Big reputation, big reputation / Ooh, you and me, we got big reputations / Aah, and you heard about me / Ooh, I got some big enemies (yeah).” The mix between Future’s rapping with Swift and Sheeran’s fast-wording (not rap) allows for a punch that sets the album up for the next five tracks.
Songs from this section of the album definitely show the old Swift is dead: They are sensual, surprising and all-around bada**.
“I Did Something Bad” explores her domination in relationships from the past. The lyrics “I never trust a narcissist, but they love me / So I play ’em like a violin / And I make it look oh-so-easy” start the song off with a confident and jarring tone. After all, Swift is America’s sweetheart, or once was, right?
The bass builds up to the chorus and the song’s peak: “They say I did something bad / Then why’s it feel so good?” Swift taunts at whomever the song is aimed at: the media, the enemies or perhaps her fans, showing them that not every American sweetheart needs to play by the rules.
The first third of the album takes listeners through an era of combativeness and questioning of both a relationship and a reputation.
Then the eighth song, “Gorgeous,” switches the mood. It’s the song Swift said is about her current boyfriend, British actor Joe Alwyn, and the first time she met him. The song is relatable; it focuses on the transfixion that comes with a new crush and the thoughts that accompany it: “If you got a girlfriend I’m jealous of her / But if you’re single that’s honestly worse.”
Swift also takes listeners through her abrupt end to a relationship which she formed originally to get over an ex, Harris, by dating actor Tom Hiddleston with “Getaway Car.” The song comes with apologetic vibes akin to “Back to December” and “Speak Now,” but also a realization that the end of a relationship can be a man’s fault, too. “Don’t pretend it’s such a mystery / Think about the place where you first met me” she touts.
The mood of the album changes once again to a more mellowed-out sound with track 11, “Dancing With Our Hands Tied.” Its piano melodies begin a “1989”-like song relying on synths and a consistent beat, exploring the beginning of a secret romance. This song is the perfect transition to “Dress,” a song exploring *gasp* Swift’s sexual desires. It’s a slow jam directed at a possible friendship-turned-romance. “Say my name and everything just stops / I don’t want you like a best friend / Only bought this dress so you could take it off, take it off” she breathily sings.
“Reputation” ends with “New Year’s Day,” a soon-to-be wedding song for many about wanting a life partner who will be there not just during a New Year’s Eve celebration, but also the day after for the cleanup.
Overall, “Reputation” cohesively encapsulates the complexity that is Taylor Swift. She is a woman viewed as a monster, but her songs — and album sales— prove otherwise. It’s been less than a week and “Reputation” has already sold 1 million copies, making it Swift’s fourth consecutive album to do so. Oh, it’s also her largest sales week ever and her label has projected 2 million total sales coming her way, according to Billboard.
In actuality, the woman so many seem to despise is finding her footing, accepting her role as a powerhouse who will be criticized forevermore, confident in singing of not just her many relationships, but her many reputations.