Friday 1 December 2017

Review of 'Reputation' by Taylor Swift

Look what you made me write.

Taylor Swift probably isn’t as much of a bitch as people make her out to be. She’s had a long succession of failed relationships – at this point finding guys to break up with may be a routine part of her songwriting process. If she was in a stable relationship, what the hell would she sing about? The way I see it, each breakup is a career move and not the result of her being a terrible person.  

After all, as Reputation shows, coming mean doesn’t come naturally to Swift. The singer has decided to try the whole good-girl-turned-bad reinvention straight out the ending of Grease. Gone are the breezy country-pop singles with innocent sex-free lyrics. She’s now singing racy hooks like ‘only bought this dress so you could take it off’ over urban beats weaved out of synths and trap rap 808s as if she were Rihanna.

But unlike Rihanna, who probably is a mean bitch in real life, Swift doesn’t quite have the conviction to always pull it off. Clickbaity-titled opener ‘…Ready For It’ has a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on Yeezus and semi-rapped lyrics about dating a psycho, but then it segues into some mushy chorus about yearning for the guy in her dreams. Similarly, ‘Getaway Car’ tries to opt for a Bonnie and Clyde theme but ends up sounding like a cheap teen romance novel.

Soppy breakup ballads and teen crush tunes are still Taylor’s comfort zone. She does do a good job of sometimes relating these songs to her fame as on ‘Gorgeous’ – on the surface it’s a song about Swift getting jealous over another girl’s good looks, but in reality it’s a dig at Swift’s haters who despise her purely for her prettiness. But then there are tracks like ‘King Of My Heart’ that are as close to the template as a generic pop song can get in 2017.

I didn’t want to dislike this album – I half-enjoyed Taylor's previous dance-y record 1989 and felt there were a few infectious guilty pleasures on it (AKA ‘Shake It Off’). But on Reputation, the fun cheekiness seems to have been replaced by a try-hard bad girl image that’s just awkward. Sometimes she succeeds in sounding like a sexy femme fatale as on ‘Dress’, but then there are moments in which she still sounds like an edgy teen spilling out her life on Tumblr, such as the already infamous line: ‘I’m sorry, the old Taylor Swift can’t some to the phone right now. Why? Cause she’s dead’. Add on top the fact that many of the instrumentals are just watered-down Weeknd beats and you’re left with an album that really isn’t very interesting beneath its veil of hype.