Taylor Swift’s 'Reputation': Are we ready for it?
Adam Flores | Senior Writer
“Reputation” – Taylor Swift
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It was back on Aug. 24 that Taylor Swift made headlines on the internet and incited a firestorm across social media. “Look What You Made Me Do” roared with insinuation and retribution making Emily Thorne seem like an overly-dramatic crybaby. Gone is America’s sweetheart. What we now have is a feminist force to be reckoned with who has come of age in full control of her destiny, perhaps even ours. May the odds be ever in our favor.
Swift’s “Reputation” is her sixth studio album and follow-up to 2014’s “1989.” The new album is a clear indication of her fall from grace. Her alleged disappearance and silence, especially in the new Trump era when many music artists have voiced their stance on and off stage on American politics, left many to wonder why her voice wasn’t even in that conversation.
Swift was formulating and carefully calculating her return, taking full advantage of her social silence. “Reputation’s” album cover was a foreshadowing of things to come in its black and white, sound and silence, take it or leave it stance further defined within her expository lead single chock full of various issues that supposedly built her reputation.
“Reputation’s” album form plays out like a Petrarchan sonnet. There are two sides to Swift that are presented: retribution and redemption. The volta resides in “Look What You Made Me Do” and its momentous line, “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now / ‘Why? Oh, ‘cause she’s dead!’ (Oh),” signifying the turning point in her coming-of-age narrative.
As “1989” marked a transitional period within Swift’s music from country to pop, “Reputation” is in many ways a mirror image of “1989” and most importantly, the completion of her transitional phase from country girl innocence to pop diva ‘force de femme.’
Lead track “…Ready for It?” is our warning signal from Swift with its three-note, bass drone emblematic of a big-screen, cinematic alien invasion. Her voice on the new record is foreign, perhaps alien to what has preceded it. Her confidence that “In the middle of the night, in my dreams / I know I’m gonna be with you / So I take my time” clearly voices command and control of her destiny. Regardless of what her reputation may be, Swift employs her battle strategy.
Let the games begin.
“End Game” enlists the vocal talents of Future and Ed Sheeran as Swift presents a new sonic shift, lyrical and stylistically, alternating between singing and rapping. This shows two sides as she raps with wreckless bad girl precision yet leans on her softer, feminine side singing, “I don’t wanna hurt you, I just wanna be / Drinking on a beach with you all over me.” It’s not only her reputation she is conflicted with, but also considers her partner’s as well.
Musically, “Reputation” is rich in beats, textures and synth soundscapes possessing an eclectic mix of pop hues from the ‘80s through today’s EDM production. No track overbears or confuses the ear unless intentional as is the case within “I Did Something Bad’s” chorus sections that borrow from the Jane Child monster synth soundset. Ironically, Swift also borrows Child’s urgent vocal approach as heard in the line, “Most fun I ever had / And I’d do it over and over and over again if I could.”
Aside from “Reputation’s” four singles (“Look What You Made Me Do,” “…Ready for It?,” “End Game” and “New Year’s Day”) that were released prior to the new album’s Nov. 10 drop date, there are other gems to consider. “Dancing with Our Hands Tied” is reminiscent of A-ha’s “Take On Me” frenetic pace. “King of My Heart’s” chorus sections feature Swift heard through vocoder effects along with the occasional strum of an acoustic guitar. Again, two sides that appear in conflict coexisting with one another while looking for some sort of resolution.
Lyrically, Swift has not lost her ability to invoke a comprehensive story within her songs. Each track syntactically paints a detailed picture for the listener. Her narrative is one based on her own life experiences which are not that much different from our own, thereby making each song’s story relatable.
Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” is groundbreaking not just for Swift but also for the pop music spectrum. A new voice has emerged from one we thought we were already familiar with in terms of ‘girl power.’ Musically bridging the old with the new, “Reputation” sets a new standard while preserving the story of a woman whose worldly reputation will never overshadow her redemptive powers.
💿 – Face palm.
💿 💿 – Eh…
💿 💿 💿 – We’re getting there.
💿 💿 💿 💿 – I’ll listen to it twice, even.
💿 💿 💿 💿 💿 – Hell yes!