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We run the rule over new re­leases from Tay­lor Swift, Christy Moore and Pug­wash.




‘…Ready For It’


Where do we stand on Tay­lor Swift to­day? With her pre­vi­ous al­bum, 1989, it was easy to cheer the singer as she cast off her Nashville wun­derkind per­sona and rein­vented her­self as a con­fi­dent young woman seek­ing truth amid the es­capist swirl of ma­chine-tooled pop.

Then came ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. Rep­u­ta­tion’s lead sin­gle drea­rily re­cy­cled the trope of Swift – a gadzil­lionire rock star with a big­ger “squad” than that of the Dublin foot­ball team – as hard done by in­genue who, driven too far, had learned to love the ass-kicker within.

That isn’t to sug­gest she hasn’t been wronged – by Kanye, by in­nu­mer­able rub­bish boyfriends, pos­si­bly by Katy Perry (Katy would beg to dif­fer). With suc­cess, how­ever, comes an im­plicit re­spon­si­bil­ity to take the higher road – and it jarred that ‘Look

What You Made Me Do’ ar­rived so thor­oughly mari­naded in self­pi­ty­ing hubris. Swift has been a vic­tim and cor­rectly called out her an­tag­o­nists. Now she looms over pop mu­sic: a leviathan in a tank of sprats. Maybe it’s time she got around to ac­knowl­edg­ing – or at least pri­vately com­ing to terms with – the fact.

With its sleeve im­age of Swift look­ing peeved and framed by news-print, the ob­vi­ous worry was that Rep­u­ta­tion would con­tinue to plough the “woe-is-TayTay” fur­row. In ac­tu­al­ity, the LP is con­sid­er­ably more nu­anced than its name or cover shot – with the “good girl gone bad” at­ten­tion-seek­ing of ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ more or less side­lined for the rest of its 15 tracks.

There are love songs (of course) but steamier than be­fore, with ref­er­ences to “scratches down my back”, and on ‘Dress’, the line “I only bought this dress so you could take it off.” With Swift liv­ing her ro­man­tic life so pub­licly, the ob­vi­ous temp­ta­tion is to join the dots and au­to­tune stom­per ‘Getaway Car’, in par­tic­u­lar, seems to com­ment on her short-lived re­la­tion­ship with Tom Hid­dle­ston (“It was the best of times/The worst of crimes”).

Anger is a re­cur­ring emo­tion, even when she isn’t lean­ing into her Kanye feud on ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ (one bizarre the­ory has it that Tay­lor ar­ranged for Rep­u­ta­tion to be re­leased on the an­niver­sary of the death of West’s mother). She snorts fig­u­ra­tive smoke on elec­tro-rock­ing opener ‘…Ready For It’ and disses an un­named celebrity ex-pal on ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’, which paints a grip­ping pic­ture of com­pan­ion­ship soured be­yond re­demp­tion (“But I’m not the only friend you’ve lost lately/If only you weren’t so shady”).

As with 1989, Swift works ex­ten­sively with Max Martin and Shell­back. But she also hooks up with St Vin­cent/Lorde song­writer Jack Antonoff – a col­lab­o­ra­tion that en­cour­ages Swift to at­tempt greater sonic risks (their shared love of shiny trap pop glim­mers brightly). She cer­tainly pushes the en­ve­lope on ‘End Game’, a bonkers get to­gether with At­lanta rap­per Fu­ture and Ed Sheeran. Ob­vi­ously it’s a scream­ing mess – but ev­ery­one is hav­ing such fun that it gets a pass.

The big roof-raiser, mean­while, is closer ‘New Year’s Day’ – the only proper bal­lad and a fine ve­hi­cle for Swift’s ex­pres­sive pitch and ca­su­ally dev­as­tat­ingly lyrics (“There’s glit­ter on the floor after the party/Girls car­ry­ing their shoes down the lobby”). More than that, it’s a show­stop­ping con­clu­sion to Tay­lor Swift’s finest al­bum to date.



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