By Jason Fontelieu
Few names evoke stronger opinions, whether positive or negative, than the name Taylor Swift. With the recent release of her sixth studio album, “reputation,” Swift furthers the destruction of her former squeaky clean country image and descends deeper into the conformity of mainstream pop.
This release comes three years after her previous record, “1989,” which was her first official pop venture. Still, with much of the music from her previous albums flirting with the boundary between country and pop, “1989” did not feel as extreme a deviation from her previous work as “reputation” now does.
Since “1989,” Swift has been embroiled in a number of controversies with multiple celebrities, like Katy Perry, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West, as well some very public break-ups with Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston, but don’t fret, hints of all of these events make their appearance on the record.
What struck me as most perplexing about this album was the way Swift tries to drastically mature her image, finally at the age of 27, while still addressing many of her conflicts from a childish point-of-view. She sings about sex and alcohol for the first time over many songs, but her controversies are seen through the lens that nothing is her own fault, most explicitly seen in the song titles, “Don’t Blame Me” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”
Don’t get me wrong, this album still achieves what Swift does best: producing catchy earworms that thrive on mainstream radio. Say what you want about the quality of the songs, but you cannot deny Swift’s ability to create songs that get stuck in your head for days at a time.
Opening song “…Ready For It” is a thunderous start to the album, with Swift’s bold war cry, “Baby, let the games begin,” as she battles against everyone who has tried to attack her reputation. While the verses feel slightly uncomfortable when her singing borders on rapping, the song begrudgingly grows on you after multiple listens.
Two of the catchiest songs on the album are the ones addressing her controversy with the Wests, “Look What You Made Me Do” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” “This” is a gleeful scolding to her enemies, almost as if she’s talking to a child, which is extremely satisfying to sing along to relating to. “Look,” the leadoff single, is an eery anthem that introduces the new era of Swift music, with its deep synth beats complementing Swift’s soft vocals.
Tracks in the middle of the album seem unable to stand out on their own. “So It Goes…” and “King of My Heart” are slathered with so much excessive autotune that you can barely hear Swift singing. “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” and “Delicate” are marinated in such generic metaphors that it’s hard to find believable the things she claims happened to her. “Gorgeous,” the low point of the album, has a beat that would better belong in the background of a Mario video game.
The most toned-down, minimalist songs on the album are the final two, and frankly two of the best on the album: “Call It What You Want” and “New Year’s Day.” Swift sheds the pressure of drowning her voice in autotune and lets her emotion shine through on “New Year’s Day,” the sole ballad. “Call” is an airy kiss-off song to anyone who’s wronged her, a great song to place toward the end of the track list because Swift sounds truly convincing.
An entire album for Swift to lean into accusations against her and her character that have floated around for years, “reputation” feels like one big messy journal entry. There are many catchy songs, but others sound too over-produced or too similar to everything else on the radio. There’s a lot of anger and frustration here, not always serving the same purpose. However, this album feels like the outlet for Swift to finally put these controversies behind her once and for all.
“reputation” is available to purchase in stores and online, but is currently only being streamed through iHeart Radio.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of user Ronald Woan via Flickr.
Jason Fontelieu is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org