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A Year After Reputation

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Nov 13, 2018.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    One year ago, Taylor Swift’s somewhat infamous LP Reputation hit the shelves and digital libraries of 700,000 listeners. It would go on to sell 1.26 million copies in that first week, making it a member of an elite club of albums to have broken a million copies (at all, let alone that first week) in the last decade… a club that is mostly comprised of Swift’s other records. It was an auspicious achievement in the pop star’s increasingly controversial career – every album she’s released since 2008’s Fearless has broken a million records sold in its first week.

    Swift has become a polarizing figure in the pop culture sphere. Between the ongoing Kimye saga, 100% valid conversation and critiques about the downfalls of white feminism, her own personal #MeToo moment and the usual, misogyny-fueled obsession with her love life that’s been prominent since that first record broke a million all those years ago. (She has arguably used that obsession to her advantage in the years since, but… wouldn’t you?) The stage was certainly set for Reputation to be as polarizing as the woman herself – it was the first Swift record that broke her every-other-year-pattern ever, and followed a nearly year-long (and highly advisable) social media hiatus/blackout on Swift’s part. It’s safe to say, nobody knew what to expect; uncommonly for an artist whose unflinchingly loyal following was built on the closeness she shares with her fanbase, “nobody” included the vast majority of her fans.

    It’s safe to say I’m never going to forget the first time I heard “Look What You Made Me Do.” It was late at night, and I was driving alone on I-15 to join my bandmate at our producer’s studio in Boulder City, Nevada. My bandmate texted me to tell me that it was streaming, so I immediately queued up Apple Music and pressed play. The next three minutes and thirty-one seconds of my life consisted largely of complete silence (other than the car stereo) and my jaw tersely hitting the floor.

    When the song ended, my silence didn’t. I put the song on again, trying to understand what had just happened. This was… Taylor Swift? The girl whose “country” (pop) 2012 masterpiece Red had wrecked and remade me in the wake of the abusive relationship I was in when it came out? The woman whose 2014 effort “1989” saw me through escaping that relationship? The same person whose albums always seemed to mirror what I was going through as they hit the shelves, and had since I was 15 years old trying to figure out why a scene-kid Latina from California felt so connected to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed country singer from the other side of the country?

    I’ll be honest: I have never considered Swift’s debut singles to be high points on any of her records. They always seem to bury the talent lede and to serve as poor examples of the brilliance in each vinyl ridge (or sound file, which is more commonly accurate but just sounds a lot less romantic. Give me this). In this sense, “Look What You Made Me Do” was an appropriate first track off of Reputation – because, on that first lesson, I was left feeling unsettled, confused, and completely unsure of how I felt about the song. I sifted through hot takes on Twitter, seeing if anyone else had managed to encapsulate how I felt in 280 characters or less so I wouldn’t have to figure it out, but it hadn’t happened so far. I was on my own on that dark interstate.

    I’ve since come around on the song. It was a single that needed the context of the album in a way that few (if any) other Swift singles had before. “Look What You Made Me Do” buries the lede, and then some; it paints Reputation as an album about revenge, about pettiness, about being a Kimye-entangled snake. In reality, the record is a swinging pendulum between two extremes; Swift being angrier than she ever has been and softer than we’ve ever seen her.

    A year later, the pit of apprehension that settled in my stomach upon first hearing that combative single feels like a distant memory. The reclamation of the phrase “look what you made me do” was indeed the thesis of the record – but it wasn’t what that first track (and music video) would’ve lead us to believe. That was a red herring and just a small part of the story. What we made her do wasn’t about revenge, or anger, or anything that simplistic.

    We made her unplug.

    Reputation is the story of a young woman finding her way back to herself, and learning to really own the entire gamut of her own experiences and emotions – the good (“Call It What You Want”), the bad (“Dancing With Our Hands Tied”) and the ugly (“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”). Whether it’s the stunning self-reflection of “Getaway Car”, the snarky confrontation of “I Did Something Bad”, the sultry come-hither tones of “Dress” or the heartbreaking honesty of “New Years Day”, one year later this album feels like Taylor Swift at her most raw; and yet, most at peace. This is a young woman who has grown up in front of the world, made plenty of mistakes, been hurt just as many times, and is finally ready to talk about it… but only on her terms.

    Throughout the record, I recognize shades of my own experience; I feel vindicated about standing up for myself on “I Did Something Bad” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” I look back at the boy who didn’t hear me when I said I wasn’t ready on “Getaway Car.” I fall in love during the fall right alongside her on “Delicate” and “Call It What You Want.” I feel that blush of pure desire through “So It Goes” and “Dress.” And more than anything, I cry with her to “Dancing with Our Hands Tied” and “New Years Day,” both over what wasn’t meant to be and for what still is to come.

    Because of this, despite my initial apprehension, TS6 turned out to once again be the soundtrack to my own personal evolution from a young woman who has been perpetually two years ahead of me, despite our cultural, socioeconomic and myriad other differences; I don’t think I’ll ever hear the line “Please don’t ever become a stranger/whose laugh I would recognize anywhere” without tearing up.

    With Reputation, Swift created something that captures both the grief of nostalgia and an unwavering optimism – an optimism that is simultaneously painfully honest and completely endearing, and that isn’t easy to do. Between her distinctive style of storytelling and some very risky sonic choices – choices that largely paid off – it is all at once the most and least quintessentially Taylor Swift album she could possibly have released.

    It’s impossible to say what’s next for Taylor Swift. For the first time in her decades-plus long career, she is an incredibly lucrative free agent and has already confirmed that her next album will be out before her 30th birthday in December 2019. The sonic evolution between Red, 1989 and Reputation paired with her prowess as a songwriter and storyteller means there are a lot of different directions we could see her take with TS7. At the very least, it will be the first record we’ve had from her where there are no fresh breakups to sift through, nor a new romance to introduce her listeners to – in fact, in a lot of ways it seems that we’ll be getting the first TS record that will be created from the previously uncharted territory of fulfillment (or at least, contentment) for Swift.

    Happy birthday, Reputation. A year later, I’m still not sure I was ready for it, but I’m sure glad we made her do it.

    Mary V likes this.
  2. Kiana Nov 13, 2018
    (Last edited: Nov 13, 2018)

    Goddamn, man child Prestigious

    I didn't click with reputation. It took my least fave direction of her music and doubled down on them, with a few exceptions I rly like. But every album is so different that I'm not rly worried about it. She's lost me a bit since 1989 but I think she's just not interested in making the kinda music I want from her rn and I'll be patient until it's my turn!

    I think she will continue to be this polarizing for a while. People love to build up a popstar and tear them down, and despite what Taylor might think, she's never actually had that torn down flop phase that most popstars have. Every record shows that the ppl who try to tear her down are a loud minority and she's still p beloved. I think that makes people hungrier and hungrier to see her fail because we're so used to those falls from grace and she just keeps maintaining and building on her success. People love to see women fail and all but sis isn't giving them the satisfaction. She is v aware and intelligent about her place in the industry and how she's viewed. Every time the tides start to turn against her a bit she has the ability to redirect it in the direction she wants. I cant think of another popstar with such good intuition in that sense.
  3. heymattrick

    Pool Boy at the Vampire Mansion

    Album still holds up for me a year later. For the sake of comparing, I still think 1989 is my favorite record by her, but I really enjoy Reputation quite a bit.

    I listened to "Look What You Made Me Do" as soon as it was released, on the L train in Chicago on my way back to my hotel from seeing Green Day at Wrigley Field (what a stark contrast in genres). I didn't immediately love it but it definitely grew on me. I really felt the "I don't trust nobody and nobody trusts me" bridge. I've always been in Taylor's court 100%, especially during the 2016 Kanye bullshit (once again, for the record, no matter what the truth is - no female should ever have even had to "approve" that kind of lyric in the first place). This was the album she needed to make after all that, and I think it turned out better for her than anyone expected.

    "Don't Blame Me" is easily one of my favorite TS songs of all time. "I Did Something Bad" and "So It Goes..." are probably my other extreme favorites from this album. The Reputation Tour was phenomenal. What an insane production. Probably one of the best productions of a live show I've ever seen out of the 300+ concerts I've been to in my life. Was able to snag tickets during presale which ended up being great because we were right by one of the B stages.

    I was also really happy to hear Jack Antonoff had a big hand in this album. I actually got to meet him in Kansas City last year, the night before Reputation was released.
    SEMUSIC, ilikedesigning and JRGComedy like this.
  4. On that same wavelength though, she seems to be completely UNAWARE of the fact that while a lot of her fans LOVE the new pop direction (though clearly not everyone), she could 100% just do an arena tour tomorrow in just sweatpants and her acoustic guitar and we'd still show up. She knows her fans love her but I don't think she understands *why* they love her or she wouldn't have been so afraid of things like taking political stances or Kanye's general messiness for all these years. Seems like the anxiety went beyond "but I'll lose money" to a general anxiety about being universally loved. But... that's just my spicy take on the subject. I'm excited to see what she does next!

    That part. :ok:
  5. Kiana

    Goddamn, man child Prestigious

    Ha yeah I was gonna say she seems simultaneously very self aware and also not aware at all. Def aware when it comes to marketing herself but maybe not in some other aspects. I think she's made comments about how she's an irl Monica from Friends so I wouldn't be surprised if she had an uncontrollable need to please people, espesh as a woman where we're already socialized to please, and one who started out with an aw shucks lovable country image where a lot of her image did revolve around being an americas sweetheart. I think she has ideas of what a popstar looks like and acts like on stage so she is doing that for her poppier eras, and clearly it's working for her, but I'd def prefer a sweatpants and acoustic guitar show from her!
  6. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Good read @Anna Acosta! I listened to this today for the first time in awhile and it's definitely grown on me a lot since my first listens. I remember actively disliking most of it on day 1. I've come around on all but two tracks, I think: "End Game," which I straight up deleted, and "King of My Heart," which I just think is pretty dull writing. But you hit the nail on the head with the bit about the themes/narrative of the record and how they're a lot different from what got teased with "Look What You Made Me Do." The second half of this album especially is super intimate and personal, and I like those bits a lot more than the more bombastic first half.

    What I'm hoping for with the follow up is that she'll work with some new people, in terms of writing and production. I'm ready for the Max Martin and Jack Antonoff partnerships to end, I think, at least for awhile. Above all I'd love a return to something closer to the country vein, but I'm not sure if that's in the cards just yet. Eventually.
    Jason Tate, Kiana and Anna Acosta like this.
  7. I didn't mention those two tracks because while I don't hate either one of them (even though I initially despised "End Game", I have far too much respect for the lyric "I bury hatchets but I keep maps of where I put 'em" to turn my back on it completely), they didn't need to be on the record at all. Alas, here we are.

    Honestly, I wouldn't be at all upset if she returned to her roots a bit. (Shocking no one, I think, since I'm a diehard Red apologist/stan.) The fact that she's publicly and openly written for (or at least, sold songs to) two major country artists in the past couple of years is just fanning the flames.
    Jason Tate likes this.
  8. Garrett

    you're not a ghost Moderator

    This album. This review. Was hoping for a bit more concert reaction interspersed in, but loved what you brought to us here.
    Jason Tate and Anna Acosta like this.
  9. I thought about it, but I wanted to make this specifically about the record! Maybe in May I'll do a "year after Reputation tour" post. :crylaugh:
    Garrett L. likes this.
  10. Kiana

    Goddamn, man child Prestigious

    It'd be cute if she wrote an album on her own again to see where is now with it vs Speak Now
    Brent, Jason Tate and Garrett L. like this.
  11. Garrett

    you're not a ghost Moderator

    I'd be here for it. I debated for a long time writing a comparison piece between my two experiences at OTRII and Reputation tour, but work got in the way. Continuous awe, really, also, doesn't quite translate to the page.
    Jason Tate likes this.
  12. theredline

    Trusted Supporter

    I haven’t been a TSwift fan since the beginning. I’m an old dude so it just wasn’t my thing. In fact, I was the opposite until 1989. And that’s mostly because of my now 10 year old daughter’s obsession with a few of the songs back when they were her favorites. But once I gave it a spin on my own I loved it. So when Reputation came out it didn’t have the polarization effect on me that it had for some. I didn’t have the connection to the country Taylor that some have so the pop is what I always enjoyed. I like Reputation but wish it had been edited a bit since there’s a few songs I could do without. But when she’s on, she’s definitely on.
    I also got a chance to go to the show a few months ago and while as I said earlier, I’m not a fan of the older tunes, seeing her perform then and seeing her fans reaction, I can definitely appreciate people’s love for that version of Taylor. She killed it on every tune and it was amazing to watch! I still prefer 1989 and I like spinning some tunes from Reputation. But there was nothing like experiencing thousands of people singing along to those songs together in once place. It was amazing!
    Anna Acosta likes this.
  13. Reputation didn’t click with me. This is such a wonderful piece, though, that I think I was in the wrong in only giving it a few listens. I’ll have another listen today!
    wrenleslie likes this.
  14. Even if you end up feeling differently about the record than I do after another listen, this is pretty much the highest praise music writing can get - so thank you!
    Mary V likes this.
  15. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I do like the "hatchets" line, actually! I forgot about that. I just didn't like anything about that song musically.

    I think we're both big Red stans, so I'd love to hear something along those lines again. Very short list of albums this decade that I like more than that one.

    That would be really cool. That album has some growing pains, but also some of her absolute best writing. I feel like she could put together something even more impressive now.
  16. Neon Light

    rage and love

    I really love this album and have done since my second listen. I'm interested why there haven't been any big unmissable singles aside from Look What You Made Me Do. 1989 and Red both had heaps but nothing really seemed to stick from this one in terms of radio play. I'm not sure whether it was to do with the songs themselves or simply lack of promotion.
  17. The Lucky Moose

    I'm Emotional, I Hug the Block Prestigious

    Heard Look What You Made Me Do on TV again yesterday. What an absolute train wreck, even worse than Shake It Off.
  18. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Delicate went number 1 on Top 40 radio.
  19. heymattrick

    Pool Boy at the Vampire Mansion

    One of the songs I least expected to be able to do that
  20. personalmaps

    citrus & cinnamon Prestigious

    Great piece, Anna. I always love reading your Taylor thoughts.

    I wasn't a fan until 1989 because of really dumb reasons. I think I held a lot of internalized misogyny against Taylor and what I perceived that she stood for. "Blank Space" kind of made me do a double take on her- like, oh, is she in on this joke actually? And from there I became a totally invested fan.

    I'm willing to say that I like Reputation more than 1989, simple because it feels a bit less safe. There are a lot of lyrics and themes throughout this album that make me feel like she is really ready to be done living in the box she created for herself. I don't love every single song, but I think at almost 30, she's done catering to people and trying to be #1 on top always. I also applaud the bait and switch of releasing LWYMMD and then putting out an album that's actually full of songs about love, the anxiety of public perception on love, and contending with your own massive image coming before you as an actual person.

    Overall, I think she's the smartest in the game, but she got caught up in her own hubris. The past year has really felt like a self-examination and coming to peace with herself. I'm really glad she's started to speak out about politics, though I don't think she ever was obligated to. I'm really excited to see what the next chapter brings.
  21. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Same, I was surprised it was a single. Then again, I do not understand pop radio at all right now, haha
    heymattrick likes this.
  22. kielhauck @kielhauck

    Gosh, this is such a great write-up. Your idea of Reputation being "the most and least quintessentially Taylor Swift album she could possibly have released" is spot on, I think.

    This probably sounds extremely cliche, but seeing her on the Reputation Tour this fall suddenly made this album click for me. I don't really know how to explain it, other than seeing her command the stage and perform these songs just seemed perfect in a way that I couldn't gather from the album when it dropped last year.
    Mary V and Anna Acosta like this.
  23. Thank you! And even though I loved the album well before seeing her on the tour in May, I actually 100% get what you mean. Seeing it live is what made the songs I was iffy about (KOMH and End Game come to mind) make sense to me. Although, with End Game that very well could've been because it was JUST Taylor's parts and I'm still confused about why she chose the features she did for that particular track.
  24. Kiana

    Goddamn, man child Prestigious

    Not surprised Delicate smashed cause it's one of the best on the album and felt v genuinely Taylor and not the snake ice queen image thing that didn't feel super sincere she was doing with some other stuff on Reputation. Had a nice blend of "old" Taylor with the sound she's doing currently and what I'd enjoy seeing her do more of going forward.
  25. The snake ice queen thing never felt insincere to me because I always interpreted it as being sarcastic or frustrated as opposed to her genuinely saying "I'm a snake ice queen". If I'd felt otherwise I doubt I would've loved this record the way I do. It's interesting.