"reputation"

The old Taylor is dead, and we’re all invited to the funeral.

Taylor Swift’s sixth studio album “reputation”dropped last Friday to the joy and excitement to her many long-time fans.

Swift has been teasing the album for months, first with a widely publicized social media blackout and then with teasers, photos and cryptic tweets that had her devoted fans scrambling to decode and figure out the mysterious messages. With fans digging into her website code looking for answers and analyzing track run times and brief puzzling clips of her music videos breaking millions of views and iTunes crashing the night of the album’s release, all of this excitement makes it obvious to say this was the most widely anticipated Swift album as of yet.

And I’m ecstatic to announce the excitement was not without reason.

While reminiscing about her past self, Swift manages to incorporate such a new futuristic electronic pop sound that helps establish her album as a delightful contradiction. Usually, Swift attempts a more subtle transition in her music--in the past, it took nearly two entire albums to fully transfer from her original genre of country to pop, with “1989” being her first completely pop album. But this album is an entirely new sound for Swift, and not an unwelcome one.

Gone are the days of Swift painting her nails while singing about boys and running through a field with her curly hair flowing out behind her. Like stated in the first single of her album “Look What You Made Me Do,” the old Taylor is dead. But despite Swift allegedly abandoning her old self, this album is absolutely overflowing with references to past songs and albums.

“Call It What You Want,” the 14th track, parallels her top 2009 hit “Love Story” when she sings, “You don’t need to save me / But will you run away with me / Yes.” Those who have heard the catchy 2009 hit have probably gotten the similar refrain and lyrics stuck in their heads for hours on end--I know I have. Other songs references in this track alone include “New Romantics,” “Blank Space” and “Innocent,” making this track a perfect example of Swift’s expert lyric writing.

Those deeply familiar with Swift’s past work are well aware of each album’s strengths and weaknesses. And this album, clocking in at 15 tracks, is a culmination of all the finest things of each. The lyrics of “Red,” the emotion of “Speak Now” and the sound of “1989” clearly influence this record in the best ways.  

This isn’t to say that “reputation” is without weakness, although it’s clearly the strongest of her albums yet. Not every song on this record is as incredibly meaningful or forceful as Swift’s devout fans might have hoped for. There are a few forgettable tracks--“King of my Heart” and “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” to give some examples--that don’t completely fulfill the vast expectations of the album. While they have decent sound and lyrics, both of them fail to leave any lasting impression other than a remaining bubblegum pop beat. Swift’s trademark lyricality is much too overshadowed by editing tricks and forced repetition in these songs in particular, leaving not much substance behind.

There’s no longer a perfect Prince Charming that Swift cries and laments over, but rather one she teases in “Gorgeous,” builds forts with in “Call It What You Want” and cleans with the morning after in “New Year’s Day.” She is, as she claims in the 14th track, doing better than she ever was.

“New Year’s Day,” the last song of “reputation,” is a strangely soft and romantic ending to such an aggressive and defensive album. Perhaps this is to signify a beginning--a new chapter of Swift’s life--as one would celebrate a new year. Maybe it’s there to show that from now on, Swift is facing the future.

This album, in one word, is what Swift has been reaching for since 2008--fearless.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.

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