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Album Review

Album Review: The Definitive Track-by-Track Ranking of Taylor Swift's 'reputation' Nobody Asked For

By  November 20, 2017

As part of the build-up towards the inevitable event that was Taylor Swift releasing her sixth studio album, Rolling Stones’ Robert Sheffield ranked all 115 of her songs, (correctly) crowning All Too Well as the crème de la crème. Vulture followed suit with an updated list, taking into account the recent reputation and #124 Will Shock No One!  

But seriously though, is anyone surprised that the LP that sold 1.05 million copies within four days is unfortunately the songstress’ most commercial i.e. generic output to date. Sure, the record is Swift at her most sonically cohesive in recent years but it also sees her striking the same contemporarily homogenous chords that tend to blunt her Midas Touch of crafting emotionally resonant pop songs. Rather than pander to the sounds of the moment (808 snares, everywhere!) shouldn't she be comfortable at this point in her career to rise above the din and craft a record that is truly signature Swift?

reputation is unnecessarily awkward in its predestined ascent to the top of the charts. Despite the fake news it perpetuates, the clickbait-y Consequence of Sound does bring up a valid point – are we supposed to immediately be cool with Swift rapping? It might be a nit-pick but should anyone ask me about my favourite TSwift hip-hop moment, the answer will forever be her iconic (and ironic) collaboration with T-Pain. Discomfort at some level should be a natural reaction to the verses she drawls unrecognisably and begs the question, "Why?" No offense, Ed Sheeran. 

If 1989 was the quasi-nostalgic, metropolitan embrace of her independence, reputation is a muddled and dated acknowledgement of her celebrity and/or infamy. By dedicating a majority of the record to her maligned public persona, Swift unwittingly distances herself at times and the dubious fashion she chooses to clothe her tracks doesn’t help either. Instead of the bulletproof comeback that could have been, reputation’s over-the-top gaudiness at the cost of relatability and immersion betrays an insecurity that’s quite misplaced. In the very era of oversharing it would be a pity that the mixed bag presented is merely a reaction and nothing much else.

Thankfully, we’ve sifted through the debris and neatly arranged all 15 tracks from worst to best for your perusal.


15. This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Clearly Swift has a thing or two to say to her perceived opponents and on any other day, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It does become inescapably tiresome when a full-fledged 3-minute song or more accurately, a tedious bulk of reputation is devoted to silly barbs which more often than not, fall flat. Would it not be a more fulfilling endeavour to prove her mettle by writing good songs first and foremost? Asking as a fan. Worst of all, "I can't even keep a straight face" doesn't even make a good meme and her insistence on juvenile cattiness represents everything wrong with this record.

14. End Game (ft. Ed Sheeran & Future)

How exactly did we as a society get here? Were we enablers of some sort when we innocently embraced her celebratory Backseat Freestyle and lauded the subsequent Kendrick Lamar feature in spite of its grossly underwhelming music video? If so, sorry. The lines Swift spit aren't terrible but next to nothing could ever redeem the very existence of this transactionary conception.            

13. Look What You Made Me Do

Believe it or not, I’m all for salty, extra, petty Swift, snake symbolism and all. I enjoy that glint of malice when she scowls, “Maybe I got mine, but you'll all get yours,” whatever she’s going off about and the Mean Girls deep cut is, in all honesty, genius. Still doesn’t qualify as anything more than a guilty pleasure, though.       

12. So It Goes...

Genius user taylorrolyat would have us believe that the refrain is used as a Vonnegut-inspired narrative tool of transition marking Swift’s metamorphosis from Old to New. That hypothesis is a stretch which could never accommodate the arid, uninspired soundscapes and flimsy rethreads of her dating dynamics. 

11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied

Imagine you were Joe Alwyn. While there has never been a Taylor Swift album more centred around a single, secretive relationship, the longevity of those songs (this throwaway one included) is, to put it generously, up in the air. Quality over quantity I say.     

10. …Ready For It?

reputation’s opening anthem functions as a spoiler warning and it’s ultimately a grower but just to give you an idea of how much I was not ready for it, I texted anyone who would listen this: “Taylor's a rapper now :(”

9. I Did Something Bad

It is highly unlikely that 2017 will be remembered as the year in which Swift finally came out openly relishing the purported singer-songwriter crime of penning diatribes against exes but you know what? She shouldn’t and doesn’t give a shit so that’s refreshing and hopefully, cathartic. 

8. Gorgeous

This isn’t a song that takes itself too seriously and neither should you. Only someone so smitten could let such an objectively weak chorus slide but the sentiment expressed is… not wrong.  

7. Don’t Blame Me

“Yeah but can she really sing though,” is by far the laziest excuse I’ve heard from casuals who somehow always happen to be vocal connoisseurs. Track 4’s blaring synths are drowned out by Swift’s fiery delivery of a bridge so lit it burns bright to high heaven.

6. Call It What You Want

Admit it, the whole “My baby's fly like a jet stream / High above the whole scene” is pretty darn catchy right up to the point where Swift frets about – you guessed it, her reputation.

5. Delicate

As one of those songs that could be described as (and contains the actual word) “chill”, reputation’s rare moment of frailty and self-doubt is interspersed with hip Tinder lexicon alluding to the anxieties of meeting someone new the only way Taylor Swift could.

4. King of My Heart

The auto tune works well here – Swift seems to be consumed quite thoroughly by the coronation of her new king who enchants her “heart, body, and soul” so much so that there is a shift in the very core of her being. Flitting around a series of dizzying beats, it’s thrilling to imagine a live drum circle HAIM-style hammering it out.

3. Getaway Car

Swift shines the most when she sounds like she could be on the edge of screaming her lyrics from the rooftops or in this case, while riding off into the sunset, possibly in a convertible. With Jack Antonoff’s imprint practically imbued in its DNA, that sweet 1989 aesthetic is ramped up to 13 for good measure.  

2. New Year’s Day

There she is. Vintage Swift – warmest when stripped down and your favourite story teller who kills it with lines like “Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognise anywhere." Isn’t it nice to actually feel things? Just ask Jimmy Fallon.

1. Dress

Sex, sex, sex in the form of a ballad no less. This is peak New Taylor. Alcohol reference? Check. Flow without interference from unnatural cadences? Check. An accessible narrative with enough juicy details and the utility of silence as the embodiment of tense restraint? Very good. 


Photo credit: Big Machine Records

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