The Reputation Era: Let the games begin

Don’t blame me, Taylor Nation. Spoilers up ahead.

Reputation is out now.  It is a razor-sharp crafted product with the drive of a sledgehammer. For some fans this could mean a crossroad. This is also the most distant album sonically speaking from her country roots, there’s no way she’s leaving pop when she’s literally defining it.

reputation
(Source: Big Machine Records)

Here’s where I think this album can make or break you as a fan. There’s a bit of a joyous sense of letting go, as if Taylor had been tasked with the heavy burden of carrying her own image and realizing this is not her anymore. Yes, the old Taylor is dead, but more important she has grown up and so has her songwriting.

Heavy production? Yes. Well spent? Incredibly so, even further more than 1989 and I dare say much more wisely than Red. You can see the emphasis on the rumble for Martin & Shellback and the symphony of feels for when Jack Antonoff brings it. Yet the transitions are almost seamless. I don’t know how I can explain it but once one song is over, the next track just comes in and links you back into the train.

There’s something a little wilder, a little more potent this time around. In both melody and lyrics, the album wants to be played loud. The material is also far more adult, not just because there’s a swear word in there, but because her references are rather varied. Don’t worry, I’m going to explain it further as we go into the track list. Here we go…

“…Ready For It” is the opening anthem. It’s bombastic, it’s got the party vibes flowing, it’s the band playing before the big game. But it’s an opening salvo. It’s tasty but it’s not the main dish. Still, it does pump you up for what’s coming. Notable lines: He can be my jailor. Burton to this Taylor.

“End Game” will please many fans as having a lot more bite. It also brings the talents of Ed Sheeran and Future, which makes it a rarety as the only collab of the album is put in second place. It fits and it doesn’t. It’s more heavy that it is sharp. Lyrically it also talks about reputation, big and bad. It’s good, great even, but if it becomes a favorite that’s because you haven’t heard the rest of the track list. Notable lines here: I swear I don’t love the drama – it loves me.

“I Did Something Bad” is really when we start getting serious. Hitting the chorus here is a revelation, it’s so freakin’ good and seductive that you can’t help but sing and dance by the second time it hits. THIS is when Reputation really starts cutting into flesh. The lyrics here have an edge, they have agency and bad intentions (and yeah, this is the one where Taylor says “shit” for the first time in a song). Notable lines here: They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one, so light me up. FAVORITE.

“Don’t Blame Me” has some amazing sounds and some amazing lyrics never before sang on a Taylor Swift song. That includes… Okey, you’re not going to believe this one. Let me start with the notable lines first: Don’t blame me love made me crazy if it doesn’t you ain’t doing it right. Lord save me, my drug is my baby. I’ll be using for the rest of my life. In case you missed that, that’s T-Swizzle using a drug reference in the freakin’ chorus. Now that will make some people’s heads turns, but here’s the bottom line. This song is downright amazing and blows most pop songs you’re hearing on the radio right now out of the water. It has a distinctive raw power that almost has a hint of gospel. Yes, I know that sounds like it makes no sense but hear it first and judge me later. FAVORITE.

“Delicate” has to take it easy. But it’s echo-y whispery voice is deceiving. There’s some edge that lends itself to a very percussion heavy performance. There’s a vibration effect that I’m sure will make naysayers scream auto-tune. However, almost in response you can also hear the next line being sung without any backing and almost muted instrumentation. I would like a little less production used on this one, but it doesn’t deter from the experience. I still like to listen to it. Notable lines: Do the girls back home touch you like I do.

“Look What You Made Me Do” comes right after, and the one thing I can say is that it starts really neatly after the previous one. The transitions between tracks feel seamless. Returning back to this track, well… It’s not my favorite and I often skip it. Sometimes I do let it play but it really doesn’t do a lot for me. Notable lines: Maybe I got mine, but you’ll all get yours.

“So It Goes…” is one of those songs that starts without telling you where it’s going and suddenly it’s sweeping off your feet. There’s a lot of lyrics here, and a little reverb effect that sometimes I love and sometimes would work better being more subtle. Although the chorus is identifiable the moment it hits, it has mini-chorus like in between the verses. Notable lines: I’m not a bad girl but I do bad things with you. Extra notable lines: You did a number on me but honestly baby who’s counting. FAVORITE

“Gorgeous” is a bit more dry. With a little less production, I should like this song more but it has this thing about starting and stopping the melody on every line. It kinda works better on some places better than others. I like the lines that prelude the chorus, but the chorus itself feels just the start of the next verse. Perhaps I need some sleep. Notable lines: I guess I’ll just stumble back home to my cats… Alone… Unless you want to come along…

“Getaway Car” feels like it’s going to be similar than previous song then suddenly the chorus hits and takes you away. I like how the lines right before the chorus feel like a runaway sentence. This is another lyrically rich song that it’s going to take a while to learn and master. Notable lines: It’s no surprise I turned you in cuz us traitors never win. FAVORITE.

“King of My Heart” goes once again heavy with production and almost rap-like verse that I’m willing to forgive because there’s another power chorus hidden inside. Still, it’s a little bit buried in production and heavy effects. I would love a little more words, less reverberation. It’s still pleasing to the ear but feels a little too repetitive.

“Dancing With Our Hands Tied” shares some of the flaws of “King of My Heart” but I’m not as willing to let it off easy because the chorus is not particularly remarkable. It’s a little more of a slow song. I don’t see this one as becoming a particular favorite in concerts unless Taylor can rework it into something more.

“Dress” is a rarity. Taylor almost goes into rap mode during verses and then has to go into her higher registers for the chorus. It’s not her usual trade, but she seems fine with it. This is also another song with references to drinking, which are sprinkled (pun intended) around the album’s track list. Notable lines: Say my name and everything just stops. I don’t want you like a best friend. Only bought this dress so you can take it off. FAVORITE.

“This Is Why Can’t Have Nice Things” is really when we hit the album’s highest and happiest note. This is a song is an anthem that will turn into a mass sing-along anyplace it plays. I really want a super long-version of this song. Notable lines: And here’s to you cuz forgiveness is a nice thing to do… HAHAHA I can’t even say it with a straight face! FAVORITE.

“Call It What You Want” turned out to be a very representative baseline of the album. It’s really more solid both sonically and lyrically. It’s not a party song, it’s not sassy, it’s a lot more grounded. This is really Taylor Swift in love and grown up in a professional sense. Notable lines: I want to wear his initial on a chain around my neck, chain around my neck. Not because he owns me. But cuz he really knows me. FAVORITE

“New Year’s Day” goes acoustic and takes a stab for your heart. It’s pure nostalgia and it’s a little gift from the old style Taylor in both lyric and style. It’s the song being played at closing time, and it’s the album goodbye. Notable lines: Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you. And I will hold on to you. FAVORITE

Sonically cohesive, lyrically evolved and impeccably sounding the album is a masterpiece. Any flaws? Well, I could do without “Look What You Made Me Do”. There’s a couple of tracks where less production would’ve made them shine a little more. But that’s just nitpicking a 15-track album where most of the songs are on a different level. I wholeheartedly would recommend this album to people, but then I remember not everyone is interested or open to listening to it because it’s Taylor Swift.

The truth is that Taylor Swift’s name has become so polarizing a figure that for some of fans she can’t do no wrong while for haters she can’t do nothing right. That means that some people will love this album before hearing it and some will hate it before hearing a single note. It’s too bad, because all they will hear then is probably the single that will play in the radio.

Just like the real thing, reputation has the Taylor you think you see from other people’s careless opinions and the Taylor you get when you listen for yourself. It’s the most honest and personal album, musically crafted with the utmost attention to detail and if you are a fan you owe it to yourself to experience it.

Coming up in the Calendar:

  • November 10: reputation, the new album by Taylor Swift is out now.
  • November 11: Taylor Swift will be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live.
  • November 12: Taylor’s nominated for the MTV EMA 2017. You can vote for Taylor Swift for Best Artist, Best Look, Best Pop, Biggest Fans, Best Video, and Best US Act.