I wont lie, I’ve never been a fan of Taylor Swift. I’ve always fallen prey to her critics, feeling frustrated at the apparent crimes she’s committed against feminism and artistic integrity. I didn’t have the patience to lend my ear to every person I knew who thought she was a messiah of womanhood, to hear out their argument as to why she’s so iconic in contrast to the type of pop stars that push boundaries with every new project. I never jumped on the 🐍 bandwagon, I don’t like the trend of tearing every woman down because of something you read on the internet, but it didn’t stir me to jump up and defend her either. And while I acknowledge that 1989 was an important and influential album in many respects, I just can’t handle the chirpy, country influenced pop that intersperses the singles. I really, really can’t stand it.
However despite all of my preconceptions, I kind of like Reputation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Melodrama or Emotion, but it’s earned a place in my regular rotation of albums, avoiding the one-time-listen I usually give to projects that are designed to reach a mass audience. When I first heard Look What You Made Me Do, I did wonder what she was thinking, but the more I listened, the more I enjoyed it in contrast to the cheesy afrobeats ripoffs and Sean Paul Pop that’s dominated every Spotify chart for the past six months. Then …Ready For It? came out and I could not. stop. listening. to that song. I hate it and love it at the same time. I reminds me of 3oh!3 circa 2009, like I want to make up dance routines in my bedroom to it. I like how noisy it is. It’s confrontational. Finally, something confrontational from T Swift.
And this is the thing I like about Reputation: it comes with a fist ready to fight you if you’re going to be a dick to it. One of my nagging irritations with previous Taylor songs is that they seem to fall into a lyrical victimhood rhetoric – partially because I often accidentally write songs from this perspective too – I wanted assertiveness but instead there was passive aggression. The obvious example is You Belong With Me, which was, I know, written when she was a lot younger and arguably more naive, but it’s a story of throwing another girl under the bus because she’s dating the probably-not-very-nice boy Taylor fancied. I felt like this undercurrent continued into Bad Blood and beyond, but then on Reputation it changes. There are songs like I Did Something Bad that just shut that whole narrative down. It’s puts up a finger to all of the men who hurt her – she’ll be the one to leave, she’ll see it coming before they do. It’s a bubble bubble toil and trouble Taylor and I am all here for it.
There’s also a distinct sense of self-awareness in this project. When you watch the Look What You Made Me Do video, you realise that despite her frustration, she’s managed to portray the her press reputation for what it is – proper pop melodrama – with a tongue-in-cheek depiction of herself, warts exposed. There’s nothing like a bit of humour in a community that takes itself too seriously, and I love that she’s embracing that on this album, especially following the press she’s had in the interim from 1989 to now.
Sonically, it’s also more interesting and cohesive to me. I’ll be the first to admit that I know fuck all about production and just assume that the things I like are the best, but I’m a sucker for a concept album and something that feels like a cohesive project, and Reputation appeases that side of me. It’s not a conceptual masterpiece, and it’s a bit long, but everything sounds like it makes sense together. Does that make sense? I don’t even know. It feels like it’s been curated and isn’t just the product of putting an artist in a room with various on trend producers and trying to make the most singles they can in four months. Having Jack Antinoff as the key producer has made a project that’s interesting but cohesive. It might not be important to everyone, but for me it’s a key characteristic of the albums I enjoy and makes Reputation way more enjoyable than Red or 1989.
So yeah, I really like Reputation. It’s fun, angry and motivates me to get shit done. It makes me miss industrial new rave music in a way that’s like, “I’m glad I don’t listen to Hadouken any more but sometimes I just need to listen to something that sounds like a machine breaking.” She could have made an album that panders to her audience, but she didn’t. I respect that.