As a preface, I’d like to state that my taste in music varies; I can go from listening to Kendrick Lamar to Hamilton within the same day. I am not someone who pretends to hate pop music because I’m not that strong willed—if a song bops, then it bops. This being said, I’ve followed Taylor Swift’s career growth. I enjoyed her experimentation with pop music in her album Red as well as when she decided to fully deluge herself into pop music with the album 1989. However, supporting Swift’s actions became questionable when she found herself in feuds with Kim and Kanye West; Taylor Swift ended her 1989 era as a somewhat shady figure, and then vanished.
In anticipation for her new album, Taylor released four promotional singles. When lead single Look What You Made Me Do came out, I wondered what this new era would entail for Swift. This lead single wasn’t particularly a nice song, though the chorus was catchy. Shortly after, second single “… Ready for it?” came out, and I found the song to be a little more tasteful, but I couldn’t get over how Swift was borderline rapping in it. The third single, “Gorgeous” was released as I did laundry, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t like the song – it wasn’t my style, I didn’t find it particularly catchy, and its lyrics seemed to only be relatable to a pre-teen girl. At this point, I thought I’d lost Taylor, an old Taylor who sang bubbly tunes about love. However, when all seemed lost, I was hit with the surprise release of the fourth and final promotional single “Call it What You Want.” This was a love song: one where she talks of losing her crown, being called a liar, her castle crumbling overnight…but later stating that it’s all fine, the one she loves making it all right. In “Call it What You Want,” Taylor talks about her actual experiences: going into hiding, losing her reputation. She does this with a sense of optimism—a sense of optimism that that was enough to restore my faith her, and my optimism in her new album.
After doing some research I found out two things regarding Taylor Swift and her album: 1.) Though promotional singles were available for streaming services to use, the album would not be streamable until one week later, which was a business move on Swift’s part to increase sales, and 2.) that, contrary to popular rumor, Swift found white supremacist groups to be repugnant. This made me feel comfortable in giving Taylor Swift my money, as I preordered her album and said “Taylor Allison Swift, look what you made me do.”
When the album arrived at midnight on November 10th, it automatically downloaded to my phone as I showered; I didn’t know if I actually was ready for it, a question posed by Taylor in her opening song.
As soon as the opening song, “…Ready for it?” ended, I was introduced to new song “End Game” featuring Ed Sheeran and rapper Future, which I thought was an interesting combination. I was used to pop singers including rappers in their songs to make them more appealing to a wider range of audiences. When this is done, the song usually feels awkward, and a rap verse that could’ve been its own thing is jumbled in with a pop song that could’ve also been its own thing. However, “End Game” does not feel like this. Future’s verse fits perfectly, and with the tempo of the song both Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran are borderline rapping. It’d be a song that would serve as a great third single to the album, with the pre-chorus “big reputation, big reputation, you and I, we got a big reputation” focusing on the whole idea of Taylor’s reputation, playing a big deal of the song.
Third song, “I Did Something Bad” has major “Look What You Made Me Do” vibes. In it, Taylor antagonizes herself, being the actress starring in a bad dream, if you will. In “I Did Something Bad,” Swift references the bad blood she has with both Kanye West and Calvin Harris. “If he drops my name, then I owe him nothing” she says, referencing West’s name drop of Taylor in his song “Famous” along with “and if he spends my change, then he had it coming” referring to writing Harris’ song “This is What You Came For.” And outing herself as the writer of the song post-relationship. Swift then states “They’re burning all of the witches even if you aren’t one, so light me up,” taking responsibility for her own actions, knowing she’ll face scrutiny for anything she does.
The fourth song, “Don’t Blame Me,” maintains the dark tone of its predecessor, as well as Swift’s satirized villain persona being the story teller. This song tells the story of love driving her insane, stating that she can’t be blamed for her actions because she did it all for love. It’s a dark catchy song that would serve well as a third single and probably will, as well as be paired with the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie, because I cannot imagine this song not being used to promote a movie that tries to be equally as edgy and dark.
The fifth song, “Delicate” brings back the idea of Swift’s reputation, when she states “My reputation has never been worse, so he must like me for me.” In a way, it’s the most vulnerable Taylor Swift has been in the album yet. It doesn’t seem to be told in Swift’s evil persona, but seems to be a more relaxed pop song about love.
Skipping the sixth song, “Look What You Made Me Do,” because it’s catchy tune simply served as the album’s lead single, the seventh song “So It Goes…” continues the trend of songs about love in the album. Though by the time this song comes around, Taylor seems to be in a better place “and all the pieces fall, right into place” – she no longer seems to be worried about reputation, and only worries about enjoying her time with her partner.
Skipping “Gorgeous” which is what I believe to be the weakest song in the album, the ninth song, “Getaway Car” is a bop. I really cannot see a universe where this song is not promoted as a single. The song tells the story of Swift ending her relationship with Harris to date Tom Hiddleston and then ending that relationship because it was doomed from the start. Swift compares ending her relationship to being in a getaway car, getting away from her ex. She then states, “should’ve known I’d be the first to leave, in a getaway car, no they never get far, nothing good starts in a getaway car.” Swift takes responsibility for ending the second relationship in this song, and does so with the perfect analogy and a catchy tune.
The 10th song, “King of my Heart,” talks of Swift’s current relationship. Though it’s a little too overproduced for my tastes it’s still enjoyable. Its lyrics aren’t bad, and Swift believe she’d finally found the one for her, which is relatively sweet after all this time. Get ready for the Instagram caption; “Is this the end of all the endings?”
11th song “Dancing with Our Hands Tied” doesn’t take itself too seriously. I could see it being a single. It tells the story of dancing with one’s love, though being cautious throughout all of it, hence dancing with one’s hands tied.
12th song “Dress” is another love song, and it’d the weird combination of being romantic yet sexual. I like it, and it can once again be another single. Swift sings of loving with no pull-backs. Swift sings of confessing her love to her best friend, what seems to be an innocent concept, however the chorus “I don’t want you like a best friend, only bought this dress so you could take it off, ah ah, ah, ahhhhh, carve your name into my bedpost”
13th (Swift’s lucky number) song reintroduces “Dark Taylor” but it’s dark Taylor with a fun twist. This song is unapologetically about Kanye and Kim Kardashian-West. “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” details the ups and downs of Taylors rocky friendship with Kanye, a story we’ve all heard. Swift makes it explicitly clear with the line “friends don’t try to trick you, get you on the phone and mind twist you.”
In a two for one deal, the last two songs “Call it What You Want” and “New Year’s Day” are both romantic love songs. Dark Taylor is gone, or at least deluded. Taylor sings of being happy in her current relationship. As I ended the album with “New Year’s Day” it took me a while to understand the covert message here. Until I realized how obvious it wants. Taylor wants to spend New Year after New Year with the same guy, cleaning up forevermore. A touching concept.
Overall, I welcome this era in Taylor’s public life. It was promoted as edgy and dark, and though it wasn’t too dark it was edgy, and that’s the point of being an artist, growing, doing something new but not too new. I enjoy the reoccurring theme of reputation in this album. I’d go as far as to argue that it’s a concept album detailing Swift’s life in public following her disappearing, to finding a guy she believes she can make it work with. This album is pure pop, and there are no fillers, each song has its own message and story. Perhaps with this album Swift will be able to join the ranks of Michael Jackson and Katy Perry, both artists who have 5 number one hits from the same album and are the only to do so. If that’s the case, Swift will have changed her reputation with reputation.