We run the rule over new releases from Taylor Swift, Christy Moore and Pugwash.
‘…Ready For It’
SWIFT SWINGS HIGH AND LOW ON CAREER BEST ALBUM
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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