Shortly after wiping out all of her social media to get a fresh start, Taylor Swift released “Look What You Made Me Do,” a song that left fans confused with where she was going artistically. After proclaiming that the old Taylor is dead, Swift confirms her new identity on “Reputation.”
Carefully crafted down to every piece of each track and music video, Swift presents the image she wants listeners to see, confronting her public persona and critics.
Three years ago, “1989” signalled the dismissal of her country roots and cemented Swift as a hit-maker, showing that she was capable of writing pop music and soaring to the top of the charts with her lyrical talent.
“Reputation” continues that trajectory. Swift’s sixth album is rooted in electronic and dance pop, making for a perfect successor to “1989.” With blaring bass and synthesizers, she takes control of her own narrative.
The opening song, “…Ready for It?” is a strong indicator of what’s to come: Instead of her “good girl” persona from “1989,” Swift sings that she’s “stealing hearts and running off and never saying sorry.” With Swift’s take on rap accompanied by a catchy chorus, the song is a strong start to the album.
“End Game,” featuring Ed Sheeran and rapper Future, may seem like an unusual combination, but they blend together effortlessly. It’s easily one of the most unapologetic songs on the album as Swift addresses her reputation as she coos, “I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me.” The tongue-in-cheek lyrics are laid over a pounding trap beat, and Swift stands out, even on a song that is stylistically risky for her.
With no shortage of ammunition from her very public relationships and bad blood with other celebrities, Swift fights back with her own powerful words. On “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” Swift takes a lyrical knife and stabs it into the backs of her enemies singing, “Friends don’t try to trick you, get you on the phone and mind twist you,” a possible reference to her public and well-documented feud with Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West.
Swift takes an especially risque approach with “I Did Something Bad,” singing “They got their pitchforks and proof, their receipts and reasons. They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one.” This song is a more mature and unfiltered version of “Blank Space,” and boldly shuts down her good-girl image.
“Dancing With Our Hands Tied” and “So It Goes…” are some of her greatest pop contributions on “Reputation.” They’re radio friendly, with a touch of industrial pop and trap, with some of the best, most complex lyrics on the album.
Swift famously uses her romantic relationships as inspiration for her music, which has been successful for her. Swift’s love life has been the subject of public scrutiny, but she sings unashamed about the night she met the king of her heart on “Dress,” a sultry love song detailing the excitement of her relationship with the lyrics, “Only bought this dress, so you could take it off.”
Not all songs on “Reputation” are Swift’s finest work. “Getaway Car” and “Gorgeous” are forgettable, failing to match the album’s earlier hype and reminding listeners that it’s not a true Swift album if it doesn’t throw in a few love songs. Her lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do” is lyrically weak, even with some of the best dance beats on the album, it still lacks the wit Swift delivers on the rest of the album.
The album concludes with “New Year’s Day,” a piano ballad on which Swift’s voice is layered, but doesn’t sound overproduced. The slow-paced track gives longtime fans a taste of her past work, a reminder of how far Swift has come since her debut.
While “1989” also featured frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff, “Reputation” surpasses her previous album and is more lyrically diverse, as Swift is candid about her critics and love life while incorporating sex, betrayal and insecurity.
“Reputation” is a mature turn for Swift, solidifying her as one of the pop masterminds of the decade. Swift is done explaining herself as she noted in her lyric booklet, “We think we know someone, but the truth is that we only know the version of them they have chosen to show us. There will be no further explanation, there will just be reputation.”
While the old Taylor may be dead, “Reputation” proves that Swift is still a force to be reckoned with, and her songwriting shows critics that there’s strength in being vulnerable.