Taylor Swift is easily the biggest pop star in the world. She is the only artist this decade to release four albums in a row which sold over one million copies in the first week of release (‘reputation’ sold 1.238 million copies in its first seven days of release in the United States alone). The promotion of the album has been flawless and after Swift’s incredible ‘1989’ record, she’s proved that she can tackle pop just as well as country music.
Unlike the ‘1989’ era, the album’s two lead singles ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ and ‘… Ready For It’ had a slow start. Sure, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ was at number one for three weeks but failed to become the massive single that ‘Shake It Off’ became. However, like ‘Shake It Off’, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ showed off Swift’s new sonic direction. ‘reputation’ sees Swift explore a darker approach to pop. The lyrical content on ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ and ‘…Ready For It’ shows Swift’s stronger and more badass side and proves that she’ll stand up for herself. In fact, most of the album has refernces to the star’s famous feuds with Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Katy Perry. While this content does get exhausting at times, Swift’s best content has always come from personal experiences and it’s lovely to hear an album that isn’t filled with predictable love songs.
However, what is a Taylor Swift album without those mushy love songs, right? Naturally, this album has some romantic gems which Swift reportedly sings about her new boyfriend Joe Alwyn. Taylor has a beautiful way with words and effortlessly puts her new life into song in the most beautiful way. “I’m doin’ better than I ever was” she sings on ‘Call It What You Want’. The star keeps things personal on her new music but it’s still incredibly relatable which is something that has always been her selling point. Sure, she’s a multi-millionaire, a massive celebrity and lives an incredibly luxurious lifestyle – but she’s open about her happiness and her sadness. She explores topics of love, hurt, betrayal and more – something a teenager in South Africa can identify with – and it’s the main reason the star has become so successful.
Sonically, the singer definitely pushes boundaries. ‘reputation’ is unlike anything on ‘1989’ which was unlike anything on ‘Red’. There are heavy dark undertones and moody instrumentals on this pop record. The singer also sings in a lower register on many of the songs and uses more vocal effects than ever before – all adding to the overall theme of the album. Truthfully, the album is overwhelming on first listen and it’s only after a few spins where you’re able to understand just how brilliant this record is. It’s a heavy album and it’s filled with unexpected twists and turns. The star has grown a lot and it shows a lot. From the confidence in ‘I Did Something Bad’ to the sexual undertones on ‘Dress’, the star has pushed boundaries and, most of the time, the risks paid off. Luckily, ‘Call It What You Want’ and ‘Gorgeous’ hint at the old Taylor Swift pop sound and it really is a place where she shines.
But, the album isn’t perfect. Vocally, Taylor has never been the strongest performer and the star keeps her vocal incredibly controlled on this record – making it sound rather monotonous at times. The restrain stops her from belting out and let go which is disappointing. There are also moments where Taylor tries too hard to be the ‘bad girl’ and it does get uncomfortable at times.
However, ‘reputation’ is exactly the album Taylor needed to release. It’s edgy, it’s different and the new mature sound is exciting. It makes people want to hear what she’s cooked up and the hype couldn’t be greater. The material is personal and gives us a glimpse into Taylor’s life since ‘1989’ which, as we’ve seen, has been filled with ups and downs. ‘reputation’ will forever be a career-defining album for Taylor.
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