At the 2:50 mark of track six on Taylor Swift’s newest album, a distorted (and seemingly distraught) Swift answers a call, but declares the “old Taylor” is dead.
Nine tracks later, the old Swift resurrects to deliver what I believe is the album’s best track.
And with that, this review — if you want to call it that — of Swift’s “Reputation” album was born.
The album is not bad. It doesn’t have any misguided tracks and doesn’t run long. The singles are worthy of repeat status, but aren’t quite peak Swift.
On the other hand, the album is not great … but that was to be expected after she crafted the perfect pop album in “1989.”
What we have in “Reputation” is a Swift who steps out with an unexpected sound that needs a few listens to totally comprehend, let alone appreciate.
If you’ve listed to Swift for any length of time, it would be understandable if you thought she’d revert to old tropes grieving failed relationships, yearning for old flames to rekindle, and lamenting life in the limelight. Instead, Swift goes after it all head on — for better or worse.
You want to buy Taylor Swift some kind of pseudo-villain as she pours into the album in an unexpected way, but you can’t really do it. You’ll try, fail, and realize the lesson was to have never tried in the first place.
“Reputation” is to Taylor Swift’s album collection what LeBron James joining the Miami Heat and masquerading as the bad guy was to the NBA. Or what Hulk Hogan at Bash at the Beach dropping a leg on a helpless Randy Savage was to sports entertainment.
The kicker here is that “Reputation” pretty much jacked the concepts of her mortal enemy Kanye West’s “Yeezus” and “808s” albums to do it.
It’s as if Vince McMahon himself instructed Swift to use West’s own finishing move on him to end the match.
(Bonus: If you’re a Kanye West fan who also likes Taylor Swift, there are a handful of Kanye-related Easter Eggs. There’s some stuff that’s obvious, while others are deep cuts. I won’t spoil them. Just know they’re there.)
And for the sake of this “review” we won’t dive into how the synths were colder and the content was more emotionally charged than Swift’s attempt at creating her own “Yeezus.” That’s for another blog post to be shared at a later date.
So if you’re looking for something to gripe about in the album, it’s that she doesn’t go all the way there with her intentions. Taylor teases bad-girl Swift by showing just the right amount of ankle. She wants to be your “End Game” … but she also wants to let you know the only reason she’s wearing this “Dress” is because she wants you to take it off and leave it hanging from the ceiling fan or something. She’s basically Sandy at the end of Grease.
And at the end of all this posturing, the old Taylor re-emerges in the album-closing “New Year’s Day” that paints a familiar picture of Swift dreaming on a perfect relationship. Go figure.