After three years of near radio silence, Taylor Swift burst back onto the scene with her sixth studio album, “reputation,” celebrating love and new beginnings while slamming the door in every hater’s face.
In just under three months, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter has released four singles, two music videos, two lyric videos and tons of new merchandise, with details of a world tour likely soon to follow. According to initial sales reports by Nielsen Music, “reputation” sold over 700,000 copies on its first release day. Buzz Angle Music predicts sales will hit 1.5 million in just the first week, making it Swift’s largest sales week and fourth-straight album to sell over a million copies in a week. It is also on track to be the biggest-selling album of the year.
Swift served as executive producer on the album and co-wrote and produced nine songs with Swedish artists and longtime collaborators Max Martin and Johan Shellback and six songs with Jack Antonoff, another frequent partner.
While “1989” still kept a line tethered to country (“Stay”), Swift effectively severs all ties to her roots. The first track, “…Ready For It?” gives the album a bold start. Swift’s “rapping” on her second single “…Ready For It?” is strange, although clever lyrics kind of make up for it (“He can be my jailer/Burton to this Taylor.”) And say what you will about her lead single “Look What You Made Me Do,” which interestingly samples Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” for the chorus, but it got people talking, haters and fans alike.
Lyrically, Swift’s songs are still full of visual symbolism. Swift often focuses on colors, clothes and cars with lyrics like “I make all your gray days clear” (“So It Goes…”), “All the boys in their expensive cars with/Their Range Rovers and their Jaguars” (“King of My Heart”) and “My love had been frozen/Deep blue, but you painted me golden” (“Dancing With Our Hands Tied”). Her signature red lips also get a few mentions.
Compared to past albums, “reputation” is darker and involves more mature themes. Many of the songs mention drinking, and Swift curses for the first time in a song in “I Did Something Bad.” “Dress,” her most sensual song, features the line “Only bought this dress/So you could take it off” and “Don’t Blame Me” will probably be featured on a Shondaland show soon.
The most surprising track on the album is “End Game,” a collaboration with singer Ed Sheeran and rapper Future, where Swift acknowledges her “big reputation.” The song doesn’t quite hit home and even Sheeran’s part isn’t as memorable, but like all fifteen tracks is still infuriatingly catchy, and Sheeran fans will get a kick out of the “A-Team” reference.
Of course, no Taylor Swift album is complete without throwing some shade (who can forget “Better Than Revenge”), and if “Look What You Made Me Do” wasn’t enough, “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is a little more on the nose. The song seems to reference the Kanye/Kim ordeal, with Swift literally cackling then saying, “I can’t even say it with a straight face!”
New avenues are being explored here, but if you thought the old Taylor was dead, look closer. “Delicate” and “Getaway Car,” are both slower, more intimate songs in the same vein as “1989” favorites “Style” and “Out of the Woods.” Swift maintains a vulnerability, especially with “Delicate” (“Is it cool that I said all that?/Is it chill that you’re in my head?”) that her fans always seem to gravitate towards. “Gorgeous” is Swift feeling totally awkward about facing her crush, which she’s admitted is about current boyfriend Joe Alwyn, and contemplating whether she should “just stumble on home to [her] cats.” The fact that James Reynolds, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ two-year-old daughter, provides the baby intro voice makes it even more fun.
The last two tracks, “Call It What You Want” and “New Year’s Day,” are the perfect ending to the album’s narrative. The former is a hopeful love song that’s also 1989-esque. “Nobody’s heard from me for months/I’m doing better than I ever was.” It’s the type of song to listen to in the car on a long windy road with the windows down. “New Year’s Day,” Swift’s only acoustic ballad on the album, is the calm after a chaotic journey. “Hold on to the memories/They will hold onto you,” she sings.
No matter how you feel about this new side of Taylor, there’s no doubt that she is here to stay. With “reputation,” Taylor Swift is reclaiming her narrative, taking every negative thing people have said about her and throwing it back in their faces.