Taylor Swift embraces modern pop in conventional sixth album
For over a decade, most everyone agreed on Taylor Swift. Her exquisite love songs and breakup ballads combined with her elegant lyrics placed her in the national spotlight while she was still in her teens. Labeled “America’s sweetheart,” Swift personified the hopeless romantic.
Swift’s “got a long list of ex-lovers” and every time she and one of her beaus split, she played the victim and wrote tear-jerking songs about the breakup, a characteristic cycle spanning five albums.
How things have changed. As spoken in the lead single “Look What You Made Me Do,” “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? ‘Cus she’s dead.” The Swift that stands before us now is a new Taylor.
After multiple public feuds and a few more disastrous relationships, the former country star has completed her full transition to modern pop, a journey that started as soon as the bass dropped in “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
She dropped her sixth album Nov. 10. The 15 songs in Reputation makes the pure, uppity pop of 1989 sound like a Flatt & Scruggs freestyle in comparison.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 10, 2017
“My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me.” There’s the credo that sums up the Taylor Swift of Reputation. Her sixth and most intimate album goes to deeper, darker and more introspective places. Reputation is about how it feels when you let go, stop chasing romance and start letting your life happen.
Swift broke her silence by releasing “Look What You Made Me Do,” a petty, sad excuse for a single, which quickly jumped to No. 1 on the charts purely out of anticipation. Many feared how the full album would turn out after hearing this low point of the album. I thought Swift was wasting her talent but thankfully, the full album lacks anything like it.
Reputation as a whole is a very well done, uniform album. Swift’s vision of pop has been realized; dark, contemplative and grown up. It is bold and lascivious, but feels sadly conventional, as she has conformed to modern pop. — Alexander Rurik
Instead, we receive an album full of one-on-one adult love songs with deep, dark tones. Once a woman who sang about family-friendly romances, Swift now explores the darker side of things: passion, lust and jealousy. There is a surprising amount of sexuality, especially in songs like “Dress,” “So It Goes,” and “Dancing With Our Hands Tied.” She even records profanity for the first time.
In atypical Swift fashion, most of the songs are about the love she has currently, rather than falling out and the consequences of breaking up. It seems her newest relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn has broken her rhythm.
However, there are a few songs that point back to “Look What You Made Me Do.” Thankfully none of them sound similar, but they hint at dissing other celebrities; possibly her latest ex’s, but more likely Kanye West. Whereas “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is much more blatant in its purpose as she gives a toast to her “real friends” just before she weeps a fake apology.
Throughout the track cycle, Swift drops hints of her old self. Songs like “Call It What You Want” and “Delicate” recreate a feeling from the Red era. Both are slower and simplified.
Swift has fully embraced EDM, electronic percussion and deep synths, as well as further exploring R&B in songs like “End Game,” which features Ed Sheeran and Future. I easily noticed in my first listen through Reputation how all of the songs sound the same. In every track, the beat is awfully similar and the synth sound rarely changes. Still, this compilation shows Swift is talented enough to be successful in a variety of genres.
Swift’s production team was split between long-time collaborators Max Martin and Shellback (nine songs) and genius Jack Antonoff (six songs), respectively. Max Martin and Shellback have helped Swift reach her heights in pop music since Red with “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and “22.”
Meanwhile, Antonoff has worked with Swift a lot more recently, along with numerous other pop artists. One of my first thoughts upon hearing Reputation was how similar it sounded to the Lorde’s most recent album, Melodrama, which is another fantastic Antonoff production.
If this new Taylor is too much for you and you are missing her classic music, the last song is for you. “New Year’s Day” breaks it down to the Swift we know. This acoustic epilogue features only a piano and her voice, a nice change from the rest of the computerized album.
This song is Swift at her best. It expresses beautifully written lyrics, resembling those of past albums. But this is only one song out of 15. Reputation is not the same Swift, she even says so herself.
Reputation as a whole is a very well done, uniform album. Swift’s vision of pop has been realized; dark, contemplative and grown up. It is bold and lascivious, but feels sadly conventional, as she has conformed to modern pop.
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