On November 10, Taylor Swift had the physical release for her 6th studio album, “reputation.” I remember the day for two reasons; one because I rushed out to buy the album (twice) in order to move up in the priority list for Reputation Tour tickets on Ticketmaster…and two, because it was released on the 10-year anniversary of the death of Kanye West’s mom, Donda!
Just a coincidence, I’m sure…🐍
Today, however, December 1st, marks the day that her album becomes available on all streaming services so that even the casual fans and those not desperate for front-row tickets can listen. So I held off on my official review until now!
The mainstream has been slowly shying away from Taylor Swift. The blond white female pop star motif is seem by some as problematic. The only way you’re allowed to be a blond pop sensation is if you’re already aged-out like Gwen Stefani & Christina Aguilera…or all your fans are gay, like Britney Spears.
Here, in the land of the living, Taylor Swift just put out the best pop album of the year; and quite possibly, the best of her career. But an album is only as good as the songs on it, right? So let’s go through each delicious track one by one…
1. …Ready For It?–The first track on this album pairs nicely with the recently released music video. It creates a powerful opening to the record, but also lets you know exactly what you’re going to get a mixture of catchy pop choruses and angsty rap-inspired tracks. Any single verse from this song beats a clumsy Eminem cypher hands down.
2. End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran & Future)–This may be one of my favorite tracks on the album. I can forgive the obligatory “let’s bring a notable rap-guy into a pop song” trope since it actually fits the song. Swift has done this before in a now conspicuously missing remix of Bad Blood with Kendrick Lamar.
3. I Did Something Bad–In an album themed entirely around Taylor Swift’s transformation into kayfabe pop princess to problematic alt-right queen (kidding…or am I?), this song encapsulates her flippant mood in the face of losing an integral part of her character.
The character of Taylor Swift, in pop kay fabe, is a serial dater who hangs out, parties, and travels with an elaborate who’s-who squad of celebs and models.
But something happened between last year and this year that turned all of that upside down. It seemingly began with a petty feud over lyrics with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. That’s when we first saw the “snake” come out.
But then, it moved on to Swift being constantly criticized for not speaking out publicly during politically hostile and fiery moments when it seemed like almost every one of her contemporaries couldn’t keep quiet.
We may never know what cost Taylor Swift her fake friends, fake relationships, and (sorry) reputation…but I have a theory.
4. Don’t Blame Me–Another album highlight, Don’t Blame Me sets a larger than life tone early on. There’s a very smooth and sultry feel in this track that perfectly puts Swift’s new “good girl gone bad” imagery on display.
5. Delicate–Tracks 4 & 5 blend together perfectly in a kind of digital harmony. This track almost serves as a break after the first several songs that Taylor hits her fans with. In Delicate, she essentially asks the listener if they’re still on this ride with her–do we believe her new persona, or are we suspicious?
And if we’re ready to go forward, we can get crazy again.
6. Look What You Made Me Do–Obviously if you ever listen to music you’ve heard this album single. This almost-irritating track quickly gets stuck in your head, and when you realize that it’s just a retooling of I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred, it all starts to make sense.
The oddly manic music video for this song caused many to speculate about Taylor Swift’s intentions and what story she was prepared to share. The music video is actually more intriguing and worthy of a vast pop culture discussion than the actual song, but that’s a story for another day.
The song also includes the very cringe line “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh–cause she’s dead!” but we can forgive her this once.
7. So It Goes…–After Look What You Made Me Do, the album begins to slow down into more traditional pop ballads. There’s nothing wrong with this, and the total shift in mood is actually pretty exciting given that most artists have been releasing albums that sound like one long song.
8. Gorgeous–If you were worried that this album wouldn’t sound anything like the Taylor Swift you used to know and love, you’re in luck. The entire second half of the album is more in line with what you’ve come to expect from the tha Tay. Gorgeous is self-referential, self-deprecating, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
It even contains an audible “Ugh…” in response to her own reference to her beloved cats.
9. Getaway Car–Every time I hear the beginning of this song (and it’s been many times), I can’t help but cringe a little. The opening lyric It was the best of times, the worst of crimes can’t escape giving me douche-chills and I keep expecting her to say:
10. King of My Heart–I’m pretty crazy about the heavy bass in this song. It’s a scattered type of song, but I think/hope that was intentional. It’s almost as if it doesn’t know what it wants to be–an acoustic ballad, or an unhinged jungle beat jam–and I’m happy with both, especially when thrown together. It conjures up an elite metropolitan romance, aggressively regal in some ways, youthful and defiant in others.
11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied–This track is a good example of a solid beat with fun drops, but a song that feels lyrically hollow. However, if you can tune out the words, it’s still a fun song to dance to.
12. Dress–The album is starting to wind to a close with some of the more provocative tracks on the whole record. My guess is that this will be a fan favorite both due to its inherent sexuality and its pop mastery. It includes one of the most evocative lyrics I’ve ever heard from Taylor Swift: I only bought this dress so you could take it off.
13. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things–Have you ever noticed, no matter how many times you listen to an album, there’s always a track that seems to come out of nowhere? A track you could swear you never heard before, even though it’s been there all along? I don’t think this song was on the album yesterday, I swear to god.
But now that I’ve discovered it, I can’t stop listening to it. It’s possible I’ll play it out and start to hate it, but as of now it’s my favorite track on the album and I’ll go crazy if I get to see it live. If you want a comparison, I’d say it’s the We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together of this album.
14. Call It What You Want–I believe this track was the third single released, and that was an appropriate choice. It acts as a finale to the album, even though it’s not the last track on the record. Call It What You Want perfectly sums up the mood of the album and it might be the track I’d most like to see covered by other artists. The song totally rules, and the lyrics are exceptional.
The whole feel of the album has this Tony Robbins aesthetic of “fuck everybody else, live for yourself” and I think that’s what makes it great.
15. New Year’s Day–I was going to write a whole thing about how Taylor Swift appeared in a movie called New Years Eve and that this could be a call back to that persona she played in that movie…but…then I realized that movie was called Valentine’s Day, so it shit on my entire point. Anywhooo–
While the lyrics are a bit more ‘adult’, you wouldn’t be able to tell this song apart from something she put out 4 albums ago. It’s a beautiful, melancholy pop song that likely would have been a bonus content track, but Swift decided to grace us with 15 songs this time; and I’m so glad for it.