I’ll start by saying that I am a big Taylor Swift fan and that’s why I’m so disappointed by Reputation. She is obsessed with her public image, and - while this isn’t a new phenomenon - Swift completely misses the mark here. During the 1989-era she fought against her public perception to critical acclaim, but this time round it comes across as embarrassing and bitter - and to top it off the album is her weakest musically.
Look What You Made Me Do, the lead single for the album, is shamefully bad (and for some reason samples I’m Too Sexy - no, I’m not sure why either). In my eyes the sign that Swift has let her musically abilities fall to the wayside is the absolute shambles that is End Game, which features not only Future but also Ed Sheeran. Following this I Did Something Bad is, you guessed it, bad. Similarly, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things lacks any of the nuance of the earlier Swift. Clearly a song about the now infamous Kanye drama the song simultaneously sounds like a poor man’s Royals and It’s A Hard Knock Life from Annie, which is odd. However, the album does contain some gems - Getaway Car is a solid pop song that wouldn’t sound out of place on 1989. Closing the album is New Year’s Day, a completely beautiful track hailing back to the Red-era. What is perhaps most infuriating is that Taylor can make songs of this calibre but appears to choose not to. One of my favourite characteristics of Swift’s music was her lyricism which just isn’t present at all in this album, and after a 3 year wait it simply isn’t up to standard (however, I’ll probably still be listening to it on repeat).
Picks: Getaway Car, Gorgeous, New Year’s Day
Disclaimer from the offset: I am a massive Taylor Swift fan. I have all of the albums (deluxe versions as well) and know pretty much all the lyrics etc. Normally I wouldn’t pick to review one of my favourite artists, but I wasn’t sure about the new direction Taylor was taking so thought I’d give it a go. The album is better than the singles made it sound - Look What You Made Me Do is one of her worst songs ever - but it’s still very different to her other albums. As a female pop album it’s fine, but it loses some of her distinctiveness. Her old sound only breaks through in patches; Getaway Car is an excellent reminder of the 1989 Taylor as it is lyrically clever, softer and more centred round her voice. Her songwriting skills shine through less in this album, and on a number of tracks the trademark girl with a guitar has been completely replaced with electronic and R&B type backing.
The album is quite haphazard generally, varying from a recognisable but darker Taylor on So It Goes, to the old Taylor who breaks through on New Years Day. I don’t believe the old Taylor is dead – there are still glimpses of the country girl who sings about “stumbling home to my cats” - but I am concerned that she is fading away. Every Taylor Swift album has been different, but this is the first one that has lost something that makes it essentially a Taylor Swift album (and the first one I don’t love). It’s not a bad album, but as a Taylor Swift fan I hoped for something better.
Picks: Delicate, Call It What You Want, New Year’s Day, Getaway Car
The old Taylor may be dead but it doesn’t mean we’ve lost Taylor completely. Lyrically there are hints she’s still there somewhere, just with a lot more production help from the best in the business. Of course, the topic is still boys and heartbreak but this time she takes a different approach. This differs from revenge on the ones who hurt her to complete fascination about entering into a new relationship. There’s definitely some room for her to be a bit more creative and have an opinion on something else, but love songs will always work for her. I never imagined a rap song with Ed Sheeran and Future would be on the cards but somehow she pulls it off. It fits in well with the tone of the album, and with the involvement of these big names she clearly wants this to be a stand out song. However, for me it was overshadowed by the powerful lyrics and genius production that has gone into Call It What You Want and Don’t Blame Me for example. The gospel chorus is reminiscent of Hozier, evidently showing that a strength she has mastered is taking what works for other artists and making it her own.
If you’re grieving the old Taylor then a miraculous resurrection in the form of the end song, New Year’s Day, is definitely for you. The only song that she dares to strip everything back to emotive lyrics and a simple piano melody is one of the most compelling moments on the album where the embellishments all fade away into a perfect song about falling in love.
Picks: New Year’s Day, Call It What You Want, Don’t Blame Me
To be honest, I didn’t really know what to make of Taylor Swift’s new album Reputation when I first listened to it. I had been eagerly waiting for the album since her previous release 1989; I was so curious to hear what she would come out with next. 1989 was the first Taylor Swift album I listened to in full; it marked her transition from country-singer to full on pop-star. 1989 was a feat for Swift, acclaimed both by fans and critics alike. So, when she released Look What You Made Me Do, the first single off of Reputation, the stakes were high… and the response was mixed. Look What You Made Me Do set the tone for what was to come, a new Taylor Swift (is it cliché if I make the ‘old Taylor is dead joke’?). Reputation is nothing like anything Swift has ever released before. It is loud, it is big, and it sounds like it came straight from the club. Hearing Taylor Swift sing club music was off-putting at first, but the more I listen to the album, the more I like it. Sure, End Game (featuring Ed Sheeran, PearShaped’s own inside joke) isn’t a product of musical genius. But, scattered amongst songs where Taylor rap-sings are New Year’s Day and Call It What You Want, honest and enjoyable additions to pop. The album does what we’ve all been waiting for; it tells us Swift’s side of the story, and what a story it is.
Picks: New Year’s Day, Call It What You Want, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things