Review: Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’

Taylor Swift whips up a frenzy of aggressive pop on Reputation, but in a groundbreaking year for pop music, this record could get lost.

Rising stars such as Lorde, Dua Lipa and Halsey have created faultless albums in 2017, spearheading a new pop movement. Swift has tried to jump on that trend with Reputation, but narrowly misses the train.

It’s a confusing listen. Fans were expecting a shade-throwing, head-bopping affair after singles ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ and ‘Ready For It’. These tracks are high-quality pop and insanely catchy. The music video for the former sees Swift shed her skin of past personas, whilst the latter’s video is a Ghost in the Shell-inspired re-birth. Those releases were misleading. It’s half a rebirth, stuck somewhere between a cutting-edge pop sound and the more stripped-back material of old.

That said – it’s far from a bad album. Hate or love Swift, there’s a reason she’s got to the top of the game (besides her high profile relationships) – she knows how to write a good pop song. However, more was expected than just ‘good’. Today, if an artist refuses to release their record on streaming services, it needs to be something special. As good as Reputation is, it isn’t anything special.

There are the same moments of the brilliance that we’ve come to expect from Taylor Swift. ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ is superb with condescending lines such as, “did you think I wouldn’t hear all the things you said about me?”, delivered with a wink and cackle. ‘Delicate’ could well be one of her best, and most vulnerable, efforts to date with the lyric, “my reputation has never been worse, so he must like me for me”. No doubt a nod to current boyfriend of a year, Joe Alwyn (queue break-up album in two-years time).

The record’s commercial success is incredible. Although, quite frankly, that is Swift’s name and not her new sound carrying it.

‘Getaway Car’ and ‘Call It What You Want’ are two other standouts which see a return to the sound heard on 1989. This isn’t so surprising when you see Jack Antonoff, the man behind much of 1989, has played a hand in both writing and producing the back and better end of Reputation.

Pop producer phenomenon Jack Antonoff helped out on Reputation.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Ed Sheeran and Future are roped in for ‘End Game’, which does open the album well after ‘Ready For It’. The three stars reflect on the nature of fame and its effect on their reputation in what is a pleasant collaboration. Really though, the two very biggest popstars on the planet on the same track should be stratospheric – ‘End Game’ isn’t.

Within days of release Reputation had shifted  over a million copies in the US alone and is now already confirmed as 2017’s top-selling album, taking the crown of Sheeran’s Divide. The record’s commercial success is incredible. Although, quite frankly, that is Swift’s name and not her new sound carrying it.

Two years ago, Reputation would have confirmed Swift’s status as Queen of Pop. In 2017, eyes and ears will instead be turning to the industry’s new faces.

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