The drama is alive and well on Taylor Swift’s sixth studio album, Reputation. Like Dark Betty on Riverdale, Dark Taylor is so fun when she’s being rebellious. But while there are moments of personal drama (a song dedicated to Kim and Kanye, jabs at ex boyfriends), the record is Taylor Swift’s declaration to the world that she's not the good girl you think she is.
Though some of Reputation has it’s allusions to gossip and scandal in the Swift realm, the way that it was marketed through the vengeful “Look What You Made Me Do” was misleading—a curveball that quite effectively drummed up interest. In reality, the album’s overarching theme is all-encompassing love and lust; fans of the singer should be familiar with the former, but the latter is new territory.
Where Red chronicled her many heartbreaks and dating escapades, Reputation seems to focus entirely on a singular romance: her current boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, presumably. And this isn’t juvenile love—like sending messages through bedroom windows and the like; it’s more passionate than that, and she spends the entirety of the album making sure you know it.
On “Dress,” she croons, “I’m spilling wine in the bathtub / You kiss my face and we're both drunk…Only bought this dress so you could take it off.” On “Delicate,” she wonders, “Do the girls back home touch you like I do? / Long night, with your hands up in my hair.” On “So It Goes…” she talks of back scratches and claims “You know I'm not a bad girl, but I do bad things with you.” On “…Ready For It?,” she sings “In the middle of the night, in my dreams / You should see the things we do” and talks further of turning her bedroom into a “sacred oasis” on “Dancing with Our Hands Tied.”
For fans looking for the old Taylor, ones who crave the acoustic balladry and airy pop gems of Fearless or 1989, They’re few and far-between on Reputation. Although, 1989 fans will certainly find “Getaway Car” as a complementary piece to the woozy, magical, Imogen Heap-produced “Clean.”
On the production side, Taylor further sheds her country roots, opting to play with R&B, EDM, and rap, which, with listening, becomes excessive—her collaboration with Future and Ed Sheeran, “End Game,” is one of those moments. And while the new Taylor is alive and well on the record, there is an exception: the stripped-down final track “New Year’s Day,” which within the context of the entire album feels out of place. In fact, it feels more like a track a person would send a lover—a referenced memory that those two may only know.
In all, Reputation breaks down the two worlds that Taylor straddles: the private, deeply in love young woman and the public pop star who believes drama follows her at every turn. What this album offers fans is a glimpse into both—the bite-sized memories of her personal life and her take on the headlines that precede her. While Swift is still, as always, incredibly in control of the narrative, these shared anecdotes feel sincere.
Eleven years into her career, Taylor still remains the master of blurring the lines between reality with fantasy, leaving her fans to parse through the lyrics for something deeper, more explosive. With Reputation, she lets them in just a little closer.
Reputation is available only for purchase on Apple Music here.