Taylor Swift once explained that, if you’re not careful, the perils of mega-fame can “make you bitter and make you not trust people, and become really secluded or rebellious against the whole system.” That was back in 2014, when she’d recently released her world-devouring album ‘1989’, which included the empowerment anthem ‘Shake It Off’, and everyone felt like Tay was their best mate.
‘Reputation’ is a very different album to ‘1989’. In the video for lead single ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, the musician took a bath filled with diamonds and settled countless scores against the media and celebs who’ve crossed her (“I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red underlined”) since she became one of the most powerful people in entertainment. To be honest: she looked and sounded kind of bitter, secluded and rebellious. What ensued was a slew of similarly unforgiving singles: the thwarted rage of ‘Gorgeous’; the steely electro stomp of ‘…Ready For It’; the weary ‘Call It What You Want’, on which she dismissed ”all the drama queens taking swings / All the jokers dressing up as kings.”
While ‘Reputation’ packs heavy artillery that was almost entirely absent from ‘1989’, it’s actually a helluva ride. Take the exhilarating and enjoyably self-aware ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’, a delirious waltz that depicts Tay slaying a snaky former friend. After she delivers a massive chorus custom-made for stadiums, there’s a laugh-out-loud spoken-word gag where she begins to express forgiveness but then catches herself and guffaws: ”HA! I can’t even say it with a straight face”. ‘Don’t Blame Me’ crashes like a cyborg in revolt and ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied’ courses coolly with synth and tightly coiled beats.
The reputation-obsessed ‘End Game’ boasts a killer feature from Future and, erm, a less killer rap from Ed Sheeran (someone please withhold the mic from the lad from Suffolk), while defensive lyrics and a warped vocal sample on ‘I Did Something Bad’ epitomise the album. Is this a relatable record? If you’ve ever wanted to exact revenge on someone, the answer is yes.