I Didn’t Like Taylor Swift Until Reputation

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.

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11 Comments

  1. December 11, 2017 / 3:45 pm

    I have to say I love your blog and your writing style❤ I think you are such an interesting soul and I really enjoy reading your posts!! For me it’s like I’m reading in a magazine, not in a blog.
    I have a little blog myself and I’m doing Blogmas this month! If someone wants to give it a visit would that be amazing 😘
    https://ariabadger.blogspot.de/?m=1

  2. December 11, 2017 / 6:20 pm

    FINALLY ! I’ve been waiting for a blog post, Lucy !
    Anyway… I am a Taylor Swift fan for a long time, but with all the non-related music stuff her career has go through I’ve found myself less and less exited about her music, but then finding myself loving it anyway. I haven’t fully listened to reputation yet. I have the felling whether I love it or not, I’m going to learn all of the songs and liking them in some way. But I also feel it’s not the kind of music I actually like. It kinda sucks when your “favourite artist” doesn’t make the music you like. But I know it is what it is for a reason, people change, artist change their styles and I respect that.

  3. Jillian
    December 11, 2017 / 7:50 pm

    I’ve been a long-time fan of Taylor, and I was always (especially in the past few years) the person in my friend group to defend her when everyone called her a “snake” or whatever else. I didn’t think I would like Reputation as Red is my favourite of her albums and it’s a very different sound, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’m also a huge fan of anything resembling a concept album like you said, which I think is one reason why I like it. I’m glad that you listened to it with an open mind and were able to actually appreciate the music instead of being focused on how “different” from her other work it is, like a lot of other people are.

  4. December 12, 2017 / 11:51 am

    Definitely interesting as I’m not a huge Taylor Swift fan but the more I listen to Reputation the more I respect her for coming out and standing up for herself. She’s not my favourite artist but I definitely like her more than I used to.

  5. Takumi Wakahisa
    December 13, 2017 / 6:15 pm

    Dark Taylor Swift is a badass! I respect her new albums for that same reason. I always got the sense that she was withdrawn. As far as her critics I never took them seriously. They were just power hungry, authoritarian, hate mongers that wanted to pressure Taylor into endorsing their movement to further the movement’s appeal to impressionable youths. I find it disgusting that they shamelessly brainwash people and misguide them so much that anyone can copy their rhetoric and be considered a “modern day thinker” or “woke” as if being a forward thinker and enlightened person were that easy. I respect Taylor for standing her ground and not caving into the pressure from the wailing banshees at the huffington paint or everyday fuckmenism dot scum.

    However, I don’t see Taylor’s new songs as antagonistic. I see them as part satire, and part owning herself and earning her self-respect with a bit of Saggitarius fire added to the mix to really cook things up! She really sings from the heart and she has lost her reserves. I call her “Dark Taylor” because she’s like the more powerful, dark counterpart trope in comics, anime and video games. Your blog post mentions your own music, which, honestly I think is lovely! I was just listening to “Boarderline” over-and-over again yesterday because it’s such a beautiful tune.

  6. December 15, 2017 / 4:57 am

    YESSSS! This is exactly what I love about Reputation – it has this atmosphere of her seizing her life herself instead of being upset about what’s going on around her ! I have to say though, I’ve never understood the controversy around You Belong With Me – I always took it as her kind of saying ‘why would he want me, when she wears short skirts and is cheer captain’ type thing, like she was overshadowed by this other girl rather than throwing her under the bus? Regardless, it is a grade-A bop and so is Rep !

  7. December 30, 2017 / 5:41 pm

    I can’t stop listening to Call It What You Want, I don’t know why, I can’t seem to stop. I’ve got Reputation in my December playlist right after G-Eazy’s The Beautiful and the Damned and it definitely makes for an interesting listening experience. Really enjoyed this post! I love it when you talk about music! All the love x

  8. Erica Greene
    January 4, 2018 / 6:47 pm

    Interesting! I am kind of the opposite, I used to love her music, the country the passionate pretty songs like ‘Our Song’ and ‘Fearless’. I never really understood the backlash from ‘you belong with me’. They are both played by Taylor, they are characters. The main character compares them singing ‘she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers’. She isn’t shaming her, but singing about how the other girl is popular l whilst she herself is a loser. Whilst trying on clothes and singing into a hairbrush. And the other girl is mean to the boyfriend and looks down on the ‘uncool’ girl. What I love about Taylor music is her videos and how they tell a story. Each song has different characters and set ups, I love the university student feel of ‘Story of Us’ and the narrative in ‘Mine’. I still enjoyed her music when she first transitioned into pop, ‘Blank Space’ is brilliant, but none of her new songs captivate me, the lyrics are interesting and complex but the song just sound monotonous, and I think Country suits her voice much better. It lacks the sing and dance along choruses I dig. Whenever I try to listen to any of her post 2014 songs I just end up listening to Our Song.

  9. February 9, 2018 / 5:43 pm

    I really hope that you´ll write this though-streamy about Lorde someday. Reputation is really the more interesting album, but it kind of lost the dance floor vibe 1989 offered. Anyways, another 1989 wasn´t really what the world needed and everybody knows it. 😀

  10. August 8, 2018 / 7:39 pm

    So as someone who semi-accidentally became a Swiftie this year (still not sure HOW that happened, but we’re here now, I know six studio albums by heart, and I’m not complaining) I love a good conversation on reputation – including constructive criticism. Personally, while I can acknowledge various criticisms of the record and think they’re valid – like you saying it’s a bit (too) long – it is easily my favourite album of hers. I’m quite digging the new, “edgy” Taylor and I love the bold, brash sound of it. reputation feels so much less intentionally mainstream than, say, 1989 did. reputation doesn’t ask you to like it, it makes no apologies, and it doesn’t feel like it’s made for the general public – which I love. (Although I really do wish it was on the radio more. Germany, man.)

    Anyway, I could write a book about that record – but some people don’t care for it, and some have their reasons, and that’s fine by me.

    (Same thing goes for YBWM – quite like alexrose4 I always read it as the narrating Taylor being jealous and fearful of being overshadowed by the girlfriend, rather than throwing her under the bus, but I can see why people would read it that way – though Better Than Revenge is so much more blatantly guilty of that.)

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