Taylor Swift just can’t shake some things off in adventurous ‘Reputation’
I swear I don’t like the drama/ It loves me.”
That’s Taylor Swift’s controversial life and career in a nutshell, declared in “End Game,” which also mentions the album title, “Reputation,” in its typically self-aware lyrics. It seems there are things that the country sweetheart-turned-pop star can’t just “shake off,” as she tells of having “big enemies” in the song—a theme repeated in a few of the album’s catchy tunes.
“This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Look What You Made Me Do” are examples of Swift’s penchant for immortalizing feuds, this time with hip-hop artist Kanye West and wife Kim Kardashian, the conflict a “narrative” that she wished to be excluded from, a few years ago. Swift has claimed the “snake” symbol as her own, after being bombarded with emojis of the reptile by haters accusing her of being two-faced.
Well, she’s back with a vengeance. The singer-songwriter, with a new affinity for all things serpentine, still sears lyrically, precise with words that either hurt or affirm. This isn’t the same young woman who emerged from her genre transition with fresh optimism—she’s now a pop star through and through, exhibiting some jadedness, but also showing an entrancing confidence that was becoming apparent in her previous album, “1989.”
She bares her desire for someone she especially fancies in “King of My Heart,” and gushes even more in the light and bouncy “Gorgeous,” where she talks of liking a new guy, but reveals, “I got a boyfriend, he’s older than us/He’s in the club doing I don’t know what.”
Swift, currently dating actor Joe Alwyn, used to go out with EDM artist Calvin Harris, a few years older than her and the other guy. Whether that really refers to both men and a real incident, we can only guess. But there are references to Harris and another of her exes, actor Tom Hiddleston, in the album.
She gets more revealing in the hot and sensual “Dress,” where she sings, “I don’t want you like a best friend/ Only bought this dress so you could take it off.” At a listening party prior to “Reputation’s” release, Swift’s mom reportedly left the room, while her dad covered his ears, when it played.
The 28-year-old also discloses in the anthemic “So It Goes” that “You know I’m not a bad girl, but I do bad things with you.” Yes, some of the songs inspire imagery of sexuality and drinking.
Both infectious, “Delicate” and “End Game” talk of her reputation, the latter a collaboration with rapper Future and close friend Ed Sheeran, who has long been considered by fans as Swift’s ultimate romantic “endgame.”
“New Year’s Day,” meanwhile, is the sole heartfelt ballad reminiscent of her older, pre-“1989” mellow fare, snaring with just the perfect synthesis of words and light instrumentation.
“Reputation,” while not as thematically and sonically balanced as “1989,” still comes off as an honest and “reinventive” effort, enlivening with catty conflict and intimate confessions, while still traversing a more pop-entrenched soundscape.
Swift is older, a little wiser, if still not entirely mature enough to shake things off. But, she certainly is braver and, thankfully for her listeners, more adventurous.
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