Taylor Swift Returns With Reputation
by Sophie Lee
Despite her highly publicized fall from public favor last year, Taylor Swift’s Nov. 10 release of her sixth studio album, “Reputation,” has reportedly sold 1.28 million copies in its first week, setting it up to be the best selling album of the year. These numbers have put any doubts that Swift would come back from her hiatus with a vengeance to rest.
Her first single was titled “Look What You Made Me Do,” and it not so subtly offered Swift’s view on her public feuds and criticisms. This over-the-top persona has become a staple in recent years, as Swift has shown a love for embodying the madness that surrounds her public image. On her last album, a song titled “Blank Space” was accompanied by a video that showed Swift murdering her lovers, a clear analogy for her vengeful media persona. That character made a strong comeback in this album, perhaps most clearly in a song called “I Did Something Bad” in which she asks, “They say I did something bad, then why’s it feel so good?” “Reputation” does mark a departure for Swift from her traditional narrative in that it no longer seems like she’s entirely joking. This version of her appears on nearly every song, and she blends it flawlessly with the romantic, girl-next-door persona that fans have come to know so well. Swift, who used to embody the American sweetheart a few years ago, has become a fully grown adult who sings about stumbling home drunk and making bad decisions just because she wants to.
On her first albums, Swift mourned over boyfriends that left her for another girl or lied about their devotion to her. On “Reputation,” she sings a song titled “Getaway Car,” in which she describes her apathy towards a boyfriend, saying “I wanted to leave him, I needed a reason,” and ends the song admitting that she “left [him] in a motel bar.” This willingness to admit her own faults in her relationships is a transformation for the singer who has faced heavy loads of criticism for consistently playing the victim. In “Call It What You Want,” Swift even reveals, “I know I make the same mistakes every time, bridges burn, I never learn.” While there are still plenty of jabs at Kimye and boyfriends of the past, the days of Swift brushing off her criticisms as nothing more than rumours or media speculation are clearly over. The message she wants listeners to take away from this album is that she is finally allowing herself to be multi-faceted. Without giving up the narrative she has been pushing for years, Swift is finally accepting the storylines that have been created for her as a part of her persona.
In order to match the new and improved Swift, the sound of her music has evolved significantly. Although Swift’s last official country album was “Red,” which came out in 2012, she began transitioning into pop as early as her second or third album. On “Reputation,” she fully commits to the moody pop that dominates the radio. Only two songs into the tracklist, Future comes in for a feature on “End Game,” marking Swift’s first foray into rap. The rest of the album is similarly synth-heavy, a style that she had only dabbled in previously, choosing to maintain her ballad-roots up through “1989” in 2014. “Reputation” was produced by Max Martin and Jack Antonoff, who have both collaborated with Swift in the past and played a significant role in helping her update her sound. So far, her approach seems to rely on taking the edgier sounds of her contemporaries, like that of her close friend, Selena Gomez, and smoothing them over enough so that they work for her softer voice and vulnerable song lyrics. Now Swift is going for a slightly harder edge in her music, but has made sure to maintain the hyper-personalized messages and storytelling that made her famous. At this point in her career, that aspect of her songs seems to be the only thing that extends across her entire discography. However, if fans are looking for any throwbacks on this album, Swift did make sure to include one piano ballad as the last number, titled “New Year’s Day.” As she sings about settling into her relationship with current beau Joe Alwyn, it is the only track that could be mistaken for a song off one of her first albums. Swift didn’t want to leave any doubts, she is still a romantic at heart.