Album Review: Taylor Swift – reputation (track by track)

Taylor Swift reputation

Taylor Swift drops long awaited much discussed reputation album
Three years ago the world was at Taylor Swift’s feet and she literally could do no wrong. Her perfect pop record 1989 became a humongous success with a long string of hit singles and a big tour, but of course this immense popularity could not last forever. Last year, Swift’s image of the cute girl next door started to crumble during the Kim Kardashian exposes Taylor party, the Snake-gate if you will. Taylor disappeared from the public eye for a few months and came back breaking some records with the single ‘Look What You Made Me Do’.

She can’t seem to shake off negative publicity at the moment, be it her love life, alt-right movements using her as an icon which she did not denounce yet or the ‘playing the victim’ reputation she has now, but her music still sells like almost nobody else in this day and age does. Will reputation be another imperial phase for Taylor or is this record a step down from its predecessor? A Bit of Pop Music helps you make sense of the meaning behind the tunes with a track by track review! Are you ready for it!?

01. …Ready For It?

Album opener ‘…Ready For It?’ was released as the first promo single, just weeks after the big launch of ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. The production is off the chain with a heavily electronic vibe and thick beats and Taylor’s delivery in the verses almost (yeah, almost) sounds like rapping. In terms of attitude she pulls it off and the chorus is bright and shiny.

02. End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran & Future)
When pop stars like Taylor and Ed Sheeran come together, I think it is fair to expect something more than what we get with ‘End Game’. It is not a bad track, the chorus and even the verses are decent, but it is just a bit, uneventful. The inclusion of a rap by Future does not change this in the slightest. Lyrically, the track is about Taylor wanting to be her love interest’s nr. 1, while all three of artists involved talk about their reputation as well. If this will get the single treatment, it sure will be a hit (like everything Sheeran does), but I can’t help but feel it is slightly underwhelming.

03. I Did Something Bad
On numerous tracks on reputation, Taylor seems to be talking about her drama with Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Katy Perry and ex-lover Calvin Harris. ‘I Did Something Bad’ does have some of the most obvious references, but that does not necessarily make it into an interesting track. The chorus is quite monotonous while the production by Max Martin and Shellback, with whom she worked for most of the album, is on point. It totally fits the theme and the overall sound of the album, but does not stand out.

04. Don’t Blame Me
‘Don’t Blame Me’ easily has one of the most explosive choruses on this record and it does settle in your mind easily. For all the people who doubted Taylor’s melodic brilliance after the rather repetitive ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, she proves here she still has got ‘it’. In terms of production ‘Don’t Blame Me’ somehow feels a bit 2012 with a vibe that vaguely resembles the dubstep trend. Still a bop though!

05. Delicate
I’m glad to report that when Taylor does get it right, she still writes absolute A+ tunes. What a stunning understated bop this is. The meaning behind the song about falling in love, but at the same time being careful you are not taking things too fast with your new lover, is so relatable! “My reputation’s never been worse so you must like me for me” is a heartfelt lyric and easily the best use of the album’s title. The production is just as delicate as the lyrical content and Taylor sounds gorgeous throughout.

06. Look What You Made Me Do
A lot has been written and said about this track and although it is not nearly the strongest tune on the record, it was extremely effective in what it needed to do. Everybody was talking about Taylor’s come back and it was the ideal single choice for a music video that did break with everything we were used to from Taylor. Both the song and video broke records in terms of streaming, so consider its job done!

07. So It Goes…
In terms of production, ‘So It Goes…’ is quite similar to ‘I Did Something Bad’ with a thickly produced chorus. The middle-eight however is the big star of this song, produced by OZGO, Shellback and Martin. “You did a number on me, but honestly baby, who’s counting? I did a number on you, but honestly baby, who’s counting?”, is one of the absolute best pop moments of the whole record.

08. Gorgeous
And from one of the best moments, we go to one of the weakest tracks on reputation. Admitted, the “There’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have, guess I’ll just stumble on home to my cats… Unless you wanna come along?” is kind of brilliant, but other than that, the lyrics fall flat, especially in the chorus. Production wise ‘Gorgeous’ is catchy as hell, but that is not enough to take things to a higher level.

09. Getaway Car
‘Getaway Car’ is the first of a handful of tracks Swift wrote and produced together with Jack Antonoff and it is one of the absolute highlights of reputation. The soaring chorus is beautiful and wait until the last one hits, where she belts out: “Driving a getaway car, I was crying in a getaway car, I was dying in a getaway car, said goodbye in a getaway car.” The metaphor of a doomed relationship turned into two lovers fleeing a crime scene in a getaway car totally works. In terms of sound this might be the closest she gets to 1989 as well. Stunning!

10. King Of My Heart
‘King Of My Heart’ is a song about finding a love she wants to keep secret from the world, a desire to be with her partner without everyone watching over her shoulder and talking about it. On first listen, it certainly is not one of the most striking songs, but it does unfold beautifully after a few spins.

11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied
For everyone who is after a straightforward uptempo pop tune by Taylor, ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied’ probably is the one they want to stick with. It’s catchy and has got some nice changes in pace to keep the listener at the edge of their seat. The verses are actually more interesting than the chorus, which is a bit repetitive. I would not pick this as a single, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she (and her team) would.

12. Dress
Ooh la la Taylor! This is probably the sexiest she has ever sounded and she does it well. “Only bought this dress so you could take it off”, she sings in a sultry tone. This Antonoff collaboration is not miles away from her Zayn duet for the Fifty Shades soundtrack, which might say something about its chances of becoming a hit!

13. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
And from sultry and understated we go to loud and bratty. Way to ruin the vibe, Taylor! This might be the weakest tune of the whole record, again addressing her feud with Kardashian and West, this time literally talking about the recorded phone conversation and the drama that unfolded after. By the time this song comes around you wish she would just give it a rest instead of writing another not so strong song about it.

14. Call It What You Want
Taylor released ‘Call It What You Want’ as the third promo single, one week before the official release of the album. It offers a nice change of pace with a laidback vibe and a warm message for the lover that helped her through a tough period. The wordings are a bit too obvious at times, but he vocal production is perfect. Could have worked as an album closer as well!

15. New Year’s Day
The album closer is the only acoustic track on the album and therefore doesn’t really fit the tone, but at the same time works nicely as some sort of bonus track. It is a little nod to the old Taylor (you know, the one declared dead in ‘Look What You Made Me Do’) that the fans will surely appreciate. Lyrically it uses the aftermath of a party to describe the desire for a relationship with endurance. Swift ends the album on a sweet note!

reputation is not nearly as consistent as 1989, but following up one of the strongest pop albums in recent years was going to be hard anyway. I’d say the album is stronger than the promo singles made it out to be and we at least have two more potential Taylor classics; ‘Delicate’ and ‘Getaway Car’. Judging by the first reviews and iTunes charting, Taylor certainly isn’t done ruling the pop world just yet!

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