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Review: ‘Reputation’

Felix Kalvesmaki, Editor-in-chief

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After hearing “Look What You Made Me Do,” I wasn’t looking forward to Taylor Swift’s sixth studio effort “Reputation.” The single felt more bombastic and theatrical than Taylor Swift could ever realistically be, and the drama of it all is slightly subdued when you keep in mind that the song is about a couple of Snapchats that Kim Kardashian posted over a year ago; “Look” is largely representative of the album: decent, catchy, but not stellar.

“Reputation” has its peaks. There are plenty of breath-taking, heart-stopping moments throughout these 15 songs. There’s no way I can say I hate this LP. However, the cringe-worthy disappointments on this record stop me from loving it, too.

“Reputation” is obviously meant to biograph Swift’s life since her 2016 falling outs with Kanye West, Katy Perry, Calvin Harris and just about everyone on the planet. This is the first divergence from her past releases; a great amount of these songs detail her thoughts on fame and its impacts on her. “I Did Something Bad” offers a line that best summarizes Swift’s view of her cultural stature: “They’re burning all the witches / Even if you aren’t one.” Part of me wants to fall in love with this spiteful, vengeful Taylor who shrugs off the general public’s criticism without a care in the world, but another part of me just wants to roll my eyes. Taylor Swift is an adult, and she’s been famous for over a decade at this point. She knows her actions have repercussions. Why does she refuse to take responsibility for the crisis that she helped to incite?

There are a couple of instances of the “old Taylor”that Swift claims to have killed on “Look” (“The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now….’cause she’s dead!”) that appear throughout this album. “Getaway Car” sounds like a single straight from Swift’s ‘80s pop-kissed “1989,” and it’s undoubtedly the best song on “Reputation.” It’s a slow jam, a nice breather after the melodrama of the album’s previous tracks, and the key change morphs this sparkly ballad into an instant tearjerker. Cuts like this, along with the warm and romantic “Dress,” mark the maturity that the more histrionic tracks try to achieve. It speaks to what Swift can do when she’s not so caught up with her public image. She writes about love, but she finds optimism where she historically found pessimism. “Reputation’s” triumph is not this “new Taylor” vs. “old Taylor” that she’s crafted with unprompted showmanship. It’s her trademark authenticity flourishing despite the tabloid drama that surrounds her.

Overall, I want to like “Reputation” more than I actually did. I want to appreciate the showy ideas and the Broadway-villain edge she brings to “Look” and others preceding and following in its flair, but I can only truly find love without exception or addendum for the honesty buried underneath it. It deserves a B- for the obvious effort, even if it doesn’t really land anything remarkable.

 

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