And if someone can help me figure out what that is, we’ll move this along. Here at the Swift Agency, just a guy like any other fan that is willing to sit through a late show just to catch a glimpse of Taylor Swift, we know that not all live skits work. Nevertheless, Tiffany Haddish was wonderful and we did get to see two performances from Taylor.
“…Ready For It” felt a little underwhelming in my opinion. It’s a big booming track and SNL is a very small stage. I think that backing track is better suited for a larger venue. However, we got our first look at what could be the choreography for a future tour, and chances are it will built on what we saw tonight.
The following clip only plays on the US (region locks why do you exist?):
“Call It What You Want” worked a lot better on such an intimate setting. She also broke out the guitar, which we’re so glad to see again. It was full on acoustic with Paul Sidoti on second guitar and Mike Meadows on cello. This was an amazing performance, more quieted and yet it felt like it filled the room. For a small venue, this style fits so much better.
Again, we got a region-locked clip, hopefully you can play it:
I do hope Taylor comes back one day to play a part in a skit. However, I also understand how important it was for Tiffany Haddish to shine as the first female african-american comic to host Saturday Night Live. Tiffany did great.
I am not cleaning all this glitter by myself, Taylor Nation.
The Queen of Your Heart (new nickname, do you like?) played nine of her songs for iHeartRadio last night. Here at the Swift Agency, just a guy who didn’t get to listen, we still think regional locks suck.
But at least iHeartRadio did compile all the quotes from our favorite Getaway Car Driver (ohh another one) giving us some very much needed context and insight into these tracks. I’m going to leave some out because otherwise it’s a full copy but since they’re quotes I can’t rewrite them. I do like to keep most of what she says for posterity after all.
…Ready For It?
“Basically, ‘…Ready For it’ is, it kind of introduces a metaphor you may hear more of throughout the rest album, which is like this kind of Crime and Punishment metaphor, where it talks about robbers, and thieves, and heists, and all that. And I found that to be a really interesting metaphor, but twisted in different ways throughout the album. The way that’s presented in ‘…Ready For It’ is basically, finding your partner in crime, and it’s like ‘Oh my god we’re the same, we’re the same, oh my god! Let’s rob banks together, this is great!’ And we’ll hear that theme carried on throughout the rest of the record, but not exactly in the same way as you heard it in ‘…Ready For It.'”
I Did Something Bad
“I wrote this song on piano … it’s not going to sound like it, though. You’re not gonna say that after you hear it, it’s not that kind of song. So, I brought it into them, and I was trying to explain the production. I had had a weird dream, and I had woken up with this. I had woken up with this sound in my head. It was a sound that was so hooky and so catchy, that I knew it had to be in a song, because it was that annoying, it wouldn’t stop going around in my head. Like after the chorus, that’s what I wanna hear, but I don’t want it to be my voice, I want it to be an instrument. What instrument is that? So I was playing the voice memo to Max, and he’s like ‘Oh, no, there’s not an instrument that can do that. But what we can do is, we can take your voice doing it, and pitch it down, so that it sounds like an enchantress/a dude.’ So, that’s what you’re hearing after the chorus.”
“There’s an effect that you may hear on the vocals throughout the vocals on the rest of the album that is recurring, and it’s a vocoder. It’s a vocal effect where you sing, and the vocoder splits your voice into chords, and you can play your voice on a keyboard, in chords. So basically, if you’re singing the notes of a piano, and you could play your own voice. So that’s what you’ll hear in the beginning, and throughout the song, and then you’ll hear it several times. We tried it in the studio, and I thought it sounded really emotional, and really vulnerable, and really kind of, like, sad but beautiful. The idea of your reputation is definitely something that I play on for the entire album, but when the album starts off it’s much more bombastic. It’s more like, ‘Oh, I don’t care what you say about me, I don’t care what you say about my reputation, it doesn’t matter.’ But then it hits this point, on track five, where it’s like, oh god, what happens when you meet somebody that you really want in your life and then you start worrying about what they’ve heard before they met you. And you start to wonder, could something fake, like your reputation, affect something real, like somebody getting to know you? And you start to wonder, how much does all that matter? And this is the first point of vulnerability in the record where you’re like, oh maybe this does actually matter a little bit. And how does that factor in, kind of questioning the reality and the perception of a reputation, and how much weight it actually has.”
King of My Heart
“I think it’s really interesting when people talk about their love stories. Like when you guys blog about like, ‘me and my husband, me and my boyfriend,’ or just anybody talking about how they fell in love. There seems to be these definitive phases, and it doesn’t matter how long that phase lasts, there seems to be a moment when you knew it transitioned into the next phase. People will be like, ‘Oh my god, we were friends for six years, and there was this moment, and we knew, and then it changed. Then there was a moment and it got deeper, and then there was a moment and we knew. Or, like, I saw this person and there was this moment, and we knew. Everybody has a different story with how they connect with someone else. And what I find interesting are the moments where it switches, because you always hope that that switch is going to move you forward and not backward. Because, it can happen both ways. It can happen either way.”
I’ve always wanted to structure a song where each individual section of the song sounded like a move forward in the relationship, but still be listenable. So, I wanted the verse to seem like its own phase of a relationship, the pre-chorus to sound like its own phase of a relationship, and the chorus to sound like its own phase of a relationship. And I wanted them to have their own identity, but seem like they were getting deeper and more fast-paced as the song went on. So finally, I was able to achieve that in a song.”
“This song was one of those things where almost every line is something that I came up with like a year before, and then when I was writing the song, I just cherry picked, and I was like, ‘Like that, like that, like that, like that.’ And I was really proud of the hook of this because it sounds like a pickup line, and yet it is a love song about deep and tender feelings.”
This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
“It’s about when people take nice things for granted. Like friendship, or trusting people, or being open or whatever. Letting people in on your life, trusting people, respect — those are all really nice things.” And so this is a song called ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.'”
Call It What You Want
“The way I feel the album is, as far as a storyline, is I feel like it starts with just getting out any kind of rebellion, or anger, or angst, or whatever. And then, like, falling in love, and realizing that you kind of settle into what your priorities are, and your life changes, but you welcome it because it’s something that matters to you. And this last part of the album feels like settling into where I am now. So it started with where I was when I started making the album, and ends with kind of my emotional state now. And this song, I think, really reflects that probably the best on the album, and it’s called ‘Call It What You Want.'”
New Year’s Day
“We threw a big New Year’s Eve party in London this year, and I was thinking about how everybody talks and thinks about who you kiss at midnight. Like it’s this big romantic idea of like, ‘Who are you gonna kiss at midnight, like ring in the New Year.’ And I think that is very romantic. But I think there’s something even more romantic about who’s gonna deal with you on New Year’s Day. Who’s willing to give you Advil and clean up the house. I think that states more of a permanence. So I was thinking about that, and I wrote this song called ‘New Year’s Day.'”
There are two lines in this song that I had been saving for a long time, for the right moment, and I had picked them for this song, and I’m really excited about them. The first one is, ‘Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.’ And the other one is, ‘Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you.'”
Yes, I left “Look What You Made Me Do” out… I’m not really crazy about that song. I can listen to it if I’m playing the full album, but it’s really not in my favorites list. Go get reputation, now in stores everywhere.
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.
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.