Sexier and darker than her previous albums, Taylor Swift’s latest release, “Reputation,” sold about 700,000 albums on its first day, according to Billboard. This is Swift’s sixth studio album and it is vastly different from her previous efforts. As the only executive producer and lead songwriter for this album, Swift is ready to divulge what we have missed since her last one dropped over three years ago.
The album leads off with the blasting bass of “…Ready For It?” In this edgy song, Swift dances along a fine line between singing and rapping, with verses being split up by an almost tropical-feeling chorus. She sings, “In the middle of the night, in my dreams / You should see the things we do, baby.” The song ends with Swift crassly crooning: “Are you ready for it?” The song’s production makes the verses distinctly different from the chorus. The verses have more of a blasting bass with hip-hop essences, which keep the song interesting, even after multiple listens.
“End Game” follows, which has an unexpected pair of features from Ed Sheeran and Future. Swift, Sheeran and Future chant about how their “big reputation” affects their love lives, but they claim they still have hope that they will find it. The production has strong bones, but the song feels crowded with three vocalists.
Satire is at the forefront on the third track, “I Did Something Bad.” Swift mutters, “If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing.” This song’s attitude is similar to that of the hit “Blank Space” from “1989,” daring her listeners to believe the caricature of her that is drawn for the public. The bass drop for the chorus is part of the usual Taylor Swift pop-hit formula: catchy chorus, head-bopping beat, verses that cut glass and a tight production.
The next track, “Don’t Blame Me” has a slight rhythm-and-blues influence. The synth beats during the verses are there to complement the vocals, but on the chorus, the synth crescendos into a thrilling climax. At the bridge, the instruments cut out to give the choir-like vocals center stage. “Oh, Lord save me, my drug is my baby / I’ll be using for the rest of my life,” Swift belts.
Swift pokes fun at her reputation while also sharing the experiences that she’s had this year. She does so in a way that makes it hard to decipher what’s coming from her and what’s coming from her “haters” — which is the effect she seems to be looking for. In the context of the rest of the album, Swift’s lead single “Look What You Made Me Do” makes much more sense, and its spectacle and sarcasm don’t seem as searing as they did in August. The immediate impression that Swift gave with “Look What You Made Me Do” was that the upcoming album would lack the detailed lyricism that her fans loved, sacrificing it for a fast radio hit. Though it is an excellent radio song, it pales in comparison to its peers on “Reputation.”
At her secret sessions, where she invites fans to listen to an album pre-release, Swift said her songs “Call It What You Want” and “New Year’s Day” are the sweet ending to “Reputation.” She claimed that these tracks show her satisfaction with where she is today in her current relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn. These songs are more ballad-like, and their innocent lyrics about love are more in line with Swift’s previous discography. “New Year’s Day” is the album’s last song, and with lyrics like “But don’t read the last page / But I stay / When you’re lost and I’m scared / And you’re turning away,” it’s the most tender song on “Reputation” by far. These soft lyrics are complemented by Jack Antonoff’s piano playing and have a lullaby effect.
“Reputation” is a dark pop extravaganza that is filled to the brim with satire and synths. Though the album is lined with many layers of symbolism that demand attention, the message of “Reputation” is clear: Don’t assume things about people you don’t know. Swift has, once again, found a way to completely leave her previous albums behind and create a fresh, new work, without watering down the best thing about her songs: the Nashville-style storytelling.