Taylor Swift’s ‘ Reputation’ made from the heart
Her long- anticipated sixth album is largely a look at an artist in love.
Don’t let the album title fool you — Taylor Swift doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation.
Swift’s long- anticipated sixth album, Reputation ( ★★★), chronicles the most turbulent year and a half of the singer’s life, consisting of squads, suitors and one personal drama — her spat with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian — that resulted in Swift all- but- disappearing from public life.
But, as she inches back into the spotlight, her 15song chronicle of her year of reckoning doesn’t proceed anything like fans were led to believe from the album’s lead single, Look What You Made Me Do.
Instead, Reputation is largely a look at an artist in love, and not the kind of flash- in- the- pan romance or tragic heartbreak that populated previous releases. For the first time, Swift has written an album about a successful relationship while she’s still in it, finally sharing the story of the new relationship that she’s kept away from the cameras.
The man in question almost certainly is British actor Joe Alwyn, whose blue eyes are a recurring motif. The album follows a somewhat- linear narrative, starting with ... Ready For It’s taunting seduction and End
Game’s starry- eyed daydreaming, with the latter showing Swift trading chant- singing verses with Future and Ed Sheeran.
She falls deeper in love, coming clean with her feelings on the standout Delicate, then struggles through a rough patch, flirting with her fears of abandonment on Danc
ing With Our Hands Tied and her uncontrollable lust on Dress. Swift turns 28 next month, and Reputation sees her fully embracing a more adultsounding sexuality.
And at the end of the album, she’s fine again, with Call It What You
Want glimpsing at her well- adjusted new reality and newly valued privacy. The final track, New Year’s Day, provides a tearjerker of an epilogue and the most Swiftian refrain: “Hold on to the memories / They will hold onto you / And I will hold onto you.” Aside from the simple piano on
New Year’s Day, the album is all skittering beats and booming bass
choruses and vocoder- style harmonies, a sonically unified sheen of icy pop. Yet, while Reputation tightens up 1989’ s pop experiments into a more defined sound, the slower stretches may leave some fans nostalgic for her previous album’s more playful pop stylings or the twangy guitars of her earlier releases.
But Swift’s flair for storytelling shines through on the most engaging songs, such as the delightfully dishy
Getaway Car, which tells the story of her tabloid drama with Tom Hiddleston by portraying him as her hapless driver. Equally thrilling is This Is Why
We Can’t Have Nice Things, which winkingly memorializes the days she spent partying with her squad and, more pointedly, her former friendship with Kanye West. “And here’s to you, ’ cause forgiveness is a nice thing to do,” she sings to West, before breaking out in laughter, exclaiming, “I can’t even say it with a straight face!”
Yet, there’s a key difference between Swift clowning West on Nice
Things and her messaging on Look, which saw the singer regressing to the “playing the victim” role she’s been criticized for throughout her career. Over the course of Reputation, Swift takes ownership of her narrative. She’s the predator, the person holding all the control, the gatekeeper to her heart, flipping the script of one of her songs from herRed era, I Knew You Were Trouble.
This time, Swift is the troublemaker, and over the course of the album, finds someone who can handle her newfound power. And that private reputation, she proves, is more important to her than all the headlines in the world.
Taylor Swift is back with a new “Reputation,” out Friday. USA TODAY