Magazine article Variety


Magazine article Variety


Article excerpt



Artist: Taylor Swift

Label: Big Machine

There are a couple of immediate lyrical takeaways from "Reputation," Taylor Swift's first album in three years, and 2017's most anticipated. One is that our narrator is madly, deeply, moonily in love, which isn't atypical for a pop album but is uncharacteristic for Swift, better known as the contemporary queen of postmortems. The other is that she's not so smitten with the rest of the planet. However much we might imagine that celebrities let backlashes roll offtheir backs, it's clear the public reaction to the Kim-and-Kanye "Famous" feud flare-up of 2016 really, really, really did a number on her.

That amour-misanthropy divide may seem like a recipe for an album with a split personality, but plenty of fans in humbler circumstances will be able to relate to Swift's us-against-the-world attitude - even if in her case, when she expresses "deep fears that the world would divide us," she means, you know, the world.

Defensiveness was a hallmark of the album's polarizing first single, "Look What You Made Me Do," which was as tense rhythmically as it was psychologically. The second single, "...Ready for It?," while ostensibly a love song, was also rigid enough in its programming to feel more like a call to arms than to clinches. Fortunately, these are the only tracks here aggressive enough to have long futures as bumper music on sports programs.

Although you might not guess it from the four songs that have been released prior to the album's launch, "Reputation" is, in whole, a lot more sensual than it is peeved. Nearly all the tracks are as unapologetically electronic as those first teasers, but they get looser, sultrier, hookier and more about the R&B than EDM influences.

Which is to say, not at all country. Last year's rumor about Swiftreturning to her Nashville roots couldn't feel more laughable now; "Reputation" is just urban enough to make the pure pop of "1989" sound like Flatt & Scruggs freestyling in the holler. She has made musical tour de force albums before - most notably the cornucopia of styles that was "Speak Now" - and this is not one of them. Swifthas narrowed her collaborators to Jack Antonoff(six tracks) and Max Martin and Shellback (who, along with a few Swedish protégés, are responsible for nine). For the first time in her six studio albums, Swifthas made a record that sounds all of a piece - and it's a piece that may break the camel's back for some old fans.

Speaking of old fans, the song most likely to stop Teen Tay partisans in their tracks is "Dress," in which Swiftswoops up into a nearly Prince-like falsetto to confess: "Carve my name into your bedpost / 'Cause I don't want you like a best friend / Only bought this dress so you could take it off."

Most of the other songs deal more with commitment issues than physical congress, moving from the secret latenight first date of "Delicate" ("Is it cool that I said all that?" she asks) to the lipstick- smearing firebrand of "So It Goes ..." ("I'm not a bad girl / But I do bad things with you") to, finally, the dreamy teen romantic we remember from her fantasy "Love Story," now grown up and ready to declare that she's in it for life in "King of My Heart" and "New Year's Day" ("Don't read the last page, but I stay").

These are what fans will understand to be the Joe Alwyn songs, to put it in baldly bloggerazzi terms, apparently written about real love in real time over the last year. …

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