If you haven’t been living under a rock your entire life, you’ve probably heard of Taylor Swift. County princess who rose to fame with “You Belong With Me” and “Mean” now turned pop diva with hits like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “Shake it Off.” If you’re a Swiftie like me, you’ve been anxiously counting down the days and weeks for reputation to drop. We’ve been through alot together while we were patiently waiting for TS6 to arrive. We’ve seen Taylor with chin length hair, bleached hair, and back to her country-girl curls. We’ve seen Tom Hiddleston and now Joe Alwyn. Watched her remain relatively out of the public eye and even delete all her Instagram posts. Then in August, she posted the ominous and glitching video of a spiked tail. This was the beginning of the reputation era. November 10th has passed and if you haven’t listened to “New Year’s Day”, what are you doing with your life? Here’s a look at how reputation is in my opinion and how I’d rank it against her other albums.
…Ready For It?
The second single we heard off the album. We haven’t heard this kind of talking/singing from Taylor. The lyrics are packed with imagery of her falling hard for a guy. The lines “younger than my exes but he acts like such a man so” has called for confusion among listeners. While many believe (and has been confirmed by Swift herself) the songs on this album are all about her current boyfriend (Alwyn), he is not the youngest guy she’s dated. That label would fall on Harry Styles, who was 18 during the time they spent together. There is a hard sound in the verses but it is paralleled by the soft chorus. As she sings “In the middle of the night, in my dreams/ You should see the things we do, baby,” there is confusion as to whether she is singing to an ex to gloat about her current affair or if she is looking back on fond memories with a past love.
The bass drops but we aren’t met with the chorus, some beats and Taylor asking “Are you ready for it?” We then hit the second verse with the same setup but at the end of Swift’s question, you hear her chanting “Baby let the games begin.” This could be interpreted as games people play when they like someone or as if they are players in the game of fame and celebrity that Swift is apart of. But it’s as if she’s promising her lover that no matter what, they’ll be okay. “I see how this is gonna go/ Touch me and you’ll never be alone/Island breeze and lights down low/ No one has to know.” Then the bass drops completely here, Swift lets out her high notes and we are met with the same chanting and asking one last time to her lover, her enemies, and even her fans, “Are you ready for it?”
End Game (feat. Ed Sheeran & Future)
Before even listening, I was skeptical as to how Taylor, Ed, and Future were going to sound together in a song. They each have very distinct sounds, I thought it wouldn’t work. The beginning opens with Swift singing the chorus and automatically gives a nod to her long friendship with Ed. “I wanna be your endgame/ I wanna be your first string/ I wanna be your A team/ I wanna be your endgame, endgame” Then we hear another chanting Taylor, “Big reputation, big reputation/ Oh you and me we got big reputations/Ah and you heard about me/Oh I’ve got some big enemies/Big reputation, big reputation/ Oh you and me we’d be a big conversation/ Ah and I heard about you/ Oh you like the bad ones too.” This leads in Future rapping a verse, Taylor singing the pre-chorus “I don’t wanna touch you, I don’t wanna be/ Just another ex love, you don’t wanna see/ I don’t wanna miss you, like the other girls do,” and then go back to the chorus. Ed joins to do his talking/singing verse and the same pattern, then the pre-chorus and chorus. The chant is brought back, where you can now hear Future join in the background. Taylor sings her own verse, which makes three verses for the 4 minute song. Then we go back to the chorus, with Future and Ed popping in to sing final words but the ending is all Taylor.
I Did Something Bad
The opening hits with the plucking of a violin and an in-the-face first lyric “I never trust a narcissist but they love me/So I play them like a violin and let them think they know me.” The combination of the plucking, the low bass in the back, and Taylor’s light voice being echoed offers the uneasy feeling that something is coming as she sings “If a man talks shit then I owe him nothing/I don’t regret it one bit cause he had it coming” A brief moment of silence before the automated beat comes in as Taylor sings “They say I did something bad,” with “bad” being echoed lightly in the back. But while Taylor knows what she did is wrong, she’s not here to apologize. “…Then why’s it feel so good?/Most fun I ever had and I’d do it over and over and over again if I could/It just felt so good.” We hear someone else’s voice singing with the beat that’s reminiscent of a noise Kanye West makes in his songs. This continues for the song till we get to the bridge and sings with obvious autotuned distortion, “They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one/ They got their pitchforks and their proof, their receipts and their reasons/They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one/ So light me up (light me up).” Again, brief silence before the chorus drops and the unapologetic, no f**ks to give. The ending almost takes leisurely sound as asks “Then why’s it feel so good?”
Don’t Blame Me
First thing I thought of when I heard this song was “Take Me To Church” by Hozier and the Fifty Shades of Grey version of “Crazy in Love.” You start by hearing Taylor humming the the back with a huge gospel influence. She starts with the chorus with only her humming and a piano to sing, “Don’t blame me, love made me crazy/ If it doesn’t, you ain’t doin’ it right/ Lord, save me, my drug is my baby/ I’ll be usin’ for the rest of my life.” The beat and a slow tamborine add to her humming as she sings the sultry first verse. Swift admits to her heartbreaker reputation she’s received over the years, “I’ve been breakin’ hearts a long time/ And toyin/ with them older guys/ Just playthings for me to use.” The second time we hear the chorus, there is more upbeat and multiple Taylor’s echo in the back with heavier gospel sounding. In the bridge, we hear Swift comparing addiction to her infatuation with her new love in sexually charged lyrics like, “I get so high, oh!/ Every time, yeah, every time you’re lovin’ me/ You’re lovin’ me/ Trip of my life, oh!/ Every time, yeah, every time you’re touchin’ me.” Then for the final chorus, we hear an isolated voice of the multiple harmonizing Taylor hit home the idea that this new love is something she never wants to quit.
Turning from the slow song, we hear the harmonized auto tunes of Taylor and more echoes. We hear an upbeat tempo and Swift’s dreamy, romantic voice as she sings the chorus “This ain’t for the best/ My reputation’s never been worse, so/ You must like me for me/ We can’t make/ Any promises now, can we, babe?/ But you can pour me a drink.” We are given the scene of a “dive bar on the east side” and her lover wearing “dark jeans and (your) Nikes” as Taylor hints to him “Just think of the fun things we could do.” Embedded in chorus, we hear Taylor almost sighing as she sings “‘Cause I like you/ Yeah, I want you.” Then Taylor asks the guy if it’s okay that all of this is happening because either the relationship or her emotions are delicate. We hear snaps in the back, as the same beat and tune plays in the back and the tune is as if we are taking a step back with Taylor, after her and this guy had their initial fast falling for each other, now it’s time to make the tough decision about what comes next. Are we just friends or could we be something more? But we have to be careful because the entire situation and Swift’s own life is delicate.
Look What You Made Me Do
The single that started it all. Even before you listen to the song, you know that it’s gonna be a major diss track. Before we knew much about reputation, we were all wondering who the song was going to be about. There was Kanye and Kim, Katy Perry, Calvin Harris, and probably more. The first sounds we hear are violins and more plucking with some other sound effects tossed in to give a spooky feeling before it all turns to a sour note and you hear Taylor sing “I don’t like your little games” with a heavy beat to back her up. Everything about this song screams danger and angst, this is Taylor calling out everyone that wrong her as she says “I don’t like your perfect crime/ How you laugh when you lie/ You said the gun was mine/ Isn’t cool, no i don’t like you.”
Then we hear the tempo pick up in the pre chorus and Taylor almost sounding anxious as she leads up to the chorus, it’s got a calculate sound as if she’s figuring out her next move. “But I got smart, I got harder in the nick of time/ Honey I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time.” Then the chorus goes for a heavy bass and Taylor sounding very slick as she replicates the famous Right Said Fred single, “I’m Too Sexy.” Swift then gives the imagery of someone using her kindness to deceive and turn on her “I don’t like your kingdom keys/ They once belonged to me/ You asked me for a place to sleep/ Locked me out, then threw a feast.” The lyrics are vague enough that the argument can go for many people regarding who this song is about. Then we hear a sound similar to a siren and Taylor does more a speaking/singing verse where she almost admits fault but couples it with the idea that she is not the one to blame, “And then the world moves on but one thing’s for sure/ Maybe I got mine but you’ll all get yours.” The pre chorus and chorus repeat leading to the slowed down bridge with the same sound at the beginning of the song. Taylor repeats the lines “I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me/ I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams” with the ironic melodic sound of her voice against the scary, almost threatening lyrics.
Then the most tweeted about lyrics appear as a distorted, telephone version of Taylor’s voice says, “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now/ Why? Oh, cause she’s dead.” Depending on whether you’re a fan of Swift or not, this was either the most iconic or ridiculous thing she’s ever said in a song. The chorus then repeats till the end, with the same beat and siren sounds. This was definitely not the strongest song, lyrically, on reputation but it was an exciting starting point as to what we should expect from the new Taylor. When the music video came out late August, it was jam packed with clues and Easter eggs only true fans of Swift would spot (but that’s for another article).
So It Goes…
A total slow down from LWYMMD, everything she sings is echoed and almost sounds as if she’s singing in a tunnel. The image she gives us is super vague, it’s a very blurry look at her and her lover. “And all the pieces fall/ Right into place/ Get caught up in the moment/ Lipstick on your face.” This is definitely another example of Taylor’s more mature, sexual sound as she sings “You know I’m not a bad girl/ But I do bad things with you” and “Come here, dressed in black now/ Scratches down your back now.” Not really one of Taylor’s standout songs, it almost seems as if this song was a huge bridge to connect one darker side of Taylor back to the lighter side. The whole song has a slow beat and is very simplistic, focuses on Taylor’s voice and alternating in distortions.
The third single we heard, everyone was already buzzing about who “…Ready for It?” was but this song seems to clear the air. The song starts off with a child saying the title, now confirmed to be the voice of James Reynolds (daughter of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, close friends of Swift). This song is a total pop song, with the beginning sound reminding of an electro-pop version of a xylophone. Then we hear Taylor singing “You should take it as a compliment/ That I got drunk and made fun of the way you talk.” A lot of fans used this line to narrow down the list of who this song could be about, decided Taylor probably would’ve made fun of the British accent a few of her boyfriends share. But the real answer to who the song is about comes from Taylor as she sings “And I got a boyfriend he’s older than us/ He’s in the club doing I don’t know what.” This gives us the clue that the song and person she’s singing about takes place during the time Swift dated Calvin Harris.
This eliminates Tom Hiddleston, who’s three years older than Harris. Which leaves Alwyn as the answer (though some fans speculated the song to be about Harry Styles, whom Swift dated in 2012 years before she met Harris). Swift goes on to sing about how good looking this person is and how she’s unable to say anything to them because of how good looking they are. This song is the grown up version of Swift’s songs like “Enchanted” and “Sparks Fly.” The song has an almost overdramatic feel as she sings “You make me so happy it turns back to sad? There’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have?/ You are so gorgeous it makes me so mad.” Probably the most scandalous thing about this song is the fact that Swift has always portrayed herself as the one who gets left behind behind the guy. But now she’s the one who’s doing the leaving as she’s falling for someone besides her boyfriend at the time.
This song proves that old Taylor was still in there. The song starts off with a techno robot Taylor singing a warning, “No nothing good starts in a getaway car.” You get a loop of the same keyboard tune and a quick beat in the back. We hear the lyrics, “I wanted to leave him/ I needed a reason” which gives us the impression that this relationship isn’t purely from attraction but Swift is definitely looking for a rebound. We also get the notion that this love Taylor is singing about isn’t one that was meant to last as she sings in the pre-chorus, “X marks the spot where we fell apart/ He poisoned the well, I was lying to myself/ I knew it from the first Old Fashioned we were cursed/ We never had a shot gun shot in the dark.” Then snaps and the chorus breaks into a throwback.
The same 80’s sound from 1989 is back in full force, no surprise that this is one of the songs in which Swift collaborated with producer Jack Antonoff. Taylor sings in the chorus about being in a getaway car, comparing the excitement and thrill to her relationship. Many speculate this song is about Tom Hiddleston, being the short lived romance to follow quickly after Taylor broke up with Calvin Harris, “But with the three of honey, it’s a sideshow/ And a circus ain’t a love story/ And now we’re both sorry.” The song continues with the idea of a whirlwind romance gone wrong as Taylor is the one to betray Tom. “We were jet set Bonnie and Clyde/ Until I switched to the other side/ It’s no surprise I turned you in/ Cause us traitors never win.” The getaway car is used a symbol of freedom but also regret, Taylor used it to begin her short affair but also to leave behind her lover.
King of My Heart
The beginning is another slow down with easy snaps and Taylor singing, “I’m perfectly fine, I live on my own/ I made up my mind I’m better off bein’ alone.” After the crazy romance from Getaway Car, she’s taken a step back and reevaluated her relationship status. That is, until, the guy she has written about in all her other songs calls her up. The pre-chorus is harder than the verses as she sings “Salute to me, I’m your American queen/ And you move to me like I’m a motown beat/ And we rule the kingdom inside my room.” Then for the chorus she slows down again and we get another choppy remix of her chorus. “And all at once you are the one I have been waiting for/ King of my heart, body and soul.” This is the song where Swift has come to the full realization of who she loves and she’s ready to start a new relationship. The next verse, pre-chorus, and chorus flow the same until we get to the bridge where Taylor tries singing/rapping “Is this the end of endings/ My broken bones are mending/ With all these nights we’re spending.” The last chorus starts off with robot Taylor’s voice then goes again with the strong, real Taylor’s voice leaving the song off on a hopeful note.
Dancing With Our Hands Tied
Beginning with a distorted piano and a faster beat, Taylor starts to sing of the struggles as she starts dating a new person, bringing her past and insecurities with her. “My, my love I’ve been frozen/ Deep blue but you painted me golden/ Oh, and you held me close/ Oh, how was I to know?” The pre-chorus talks about Taylor and her new love having smooth sailing so far but she keeps singing about having a bad feeling since her life is in full display. “And darling you had turned our bed into a sacred oasis/People started talking putting us through our paces/I knew there was no one in the world who could take it/I had a bad feeling.” Then the bass drops in the chorus and the song’s mood changes from wary to fearless as she sings that even though she had a bad feeling throughout the beginning of their relationship, they were still enjoying themselves.
The song continues the same with the next verse, saying how she’s had fears about the world dividing them and how, “I’m a mess, but a mess that you wanted.” With the same pre-chorus and chorus until the bridge slows down and uses only a distorted keyboard and Swift’s lone voice. She sings the same lines twice which show that even if storms and fire were surrounding them, she’d only focus on the two of them dancing. “I’d kiss you as the lights went out/Swaying as the room burned down/Hold you as the water rushes in/If I could dance with you again.” But the song overall has a very pop and catchy sound. Definitely one you could imagine dancing to at the club with your friends. It still holds the deep meaning of Swift and the celebrity world seeming like a terrifying storm but she’s so in love that she can block it out when she’s with him.
This whole song is basically about sexual tension. We really only hear the keyboard and Taylor as she sings the first verse and pre-chorus,“All of this silence and patience, pining and anticipation/ My hands are shaking from holding back from you.” She also does breathy, sexual sighs as she sings in the chorus, “Carve your name into my bedpost/ Cause I don’t want you like a best friend/ Only bought this dress so you could take it off, take it off.” She sings about how this relationship is one in which they are the only people who really understand what it’s like, “Everyone thinks that they know us/But they know nothing about.” We can definitely tell that this song is about Joe Alwyn when Taylor sings in the bridge, “Flash back when you met me/ Your buzzcut and my hair bleached.” And Taylor sings about how grateful she is to have this new guy in her life being able to look past all the tabloids and magazines writing false narratives of her. “Even in my worst times, you could see the best of me/Flash back to my mistakes/ My rebounds, my earthquakes/Even in my worst light, you saw the truth in me” This song, similar to many of the other songs on this album, marks a huge step toward the new Taylor. A very sex positive, mature romance in which Swift is now participating in. Swift is willing to let us into her life and grow with her, from crying on her guitar about her schoolmate, Drew, to Taylor waking up with her love next to her in bed.
This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
This songs proves to be Taylor’s always going to have the last word. This is one last song to callout all the problematic people that were in her life. In the beginning you hear kind of a light tapping sound and an emergency alarm sounding off. Then the hard beat and Taylor’s voice comes in with snapping in the background. She sets the scene by picturing a massive party, “It was so nice throwing big parties/Jumping to the pool from the balcony/ Everyone swimming in a champagne sea/ And there are rules when you show up here/ Bass be rattling the chandelier/ Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year.” There’s the feeling of uncertainty, Taylor leads us up to the impending doom in the pre-chorus by singing, “So why’d you have rain on my parade?/I’m shaking my head and locking the gates.”
She dives straight into the powerful chorus by singing with a chant sound and a childlike tune to it. It almost sounds like a nursery piano playing in the back and her tone of voice is very motherly. Even the subject she’s singing about is similar to a mother taking away toys from a child throwing a temper tantrum, “This is why we can’t have nice things, darling/ Because you break them/I had to take them away.” But the metaphor doesn’t last long as we come to see that this song is more so about someone talking behind Taylor’s back as she sings, “Did you think I wouldn’t hear all the things you said about me?” We go back to the same minimal sound in the second verse and if you were confused on who the song is about, this verse and pre-chorus clears it up. “It was so nice being friends again/There I was, giving you a second chance/ But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand/And therein lies the issues/Friends don’t try to trick you/Get you on the phone and mind-twist you/So I took an axe to a mended fence/But I’m not the only friend you’ve lost lately/If only you weren’t so shady.”
If you didn’t get it by now, it’s about Kimye. Especially the totally extra way she sings “shady” totally reminded me of how the Kardashians talk. She repeats the chorus and the bridge interrupts. With the child’s piano in the back and a very call and response chant. Taylor gives a shout out to those who have been loyal to her, “Here’s a toast to my real friends/They don’t care about the he-said she-said/ And here’s to my baby/ He ain’t reading what they call me lately/ And here’s to my mama/Had to listen to all this drama.” Then Taylor slows down and we hear strings in the back as she sounds angelic and forgiving, “And here’s to you/Cause forgiveness is a nice thing to do.” But Swift isn’t likely to be fooled a third time as she cuts off into her regular voice and laughs, “Haha! I can’t even say it with a straight face” and we go back to the chorus. The ending chorus sounds like an army with multiples of Taylor’s voice singing different parts and harmonies and chants. But it totally belong as this songs is Taylor standing up for herself and being her own defense.
Call It What You Want
We hear a light beat and voice loop in the back fading in as Taylor sings in a calming voice. She starts off by letting us know that some unfortunate things have happened to her but she’s doing okay. “My castle crumbled overnight/I brought a knife to a gunfight/ They took the crown but it’s alright/ All the liars are calling me one/Nobody’s heard from me for months/I’m doing better than I ever was.” We skip to the chorus as she sings about her new love, who we’ve deduced is the same guy she’s been singing about the whole album (Alwyn) about how she’s falling in love with a man who is mature and their love is something she’s never experienced before because it’s mature and not surrounded by a media circus. “My baby’s fit like a daydream/Walking with his head down/I’m the one he’s walking to/So call it what you, yeah/Call it what you want to/My baby’s fly like a jet stream/High above the whole scene/Love’s me like I’m brand new/So call it what you want, yeah/Call it what you want to.”
Taylor goes on to sing the similar sounding second verse and then adds a pre chorus. She sings about how she knows she makes mistakes but their relationship is one thing she’s done right, “I’m laughin’ with my lover, makin’ forts under covers/Trust him like a brother/Yeah, you know I did one thing right,” with snapping added and it all fades as she echoes “Starry eyes sparkin’ up my darkest night.” Repeat the chorus and in the bridge she sings about how she wants to wear a necklace with his initial on it (which she actually does wear a necklace with “J” on it), “not because he owns me/But ‘cause he really knows me/Which is more than they can say.” Taylor also gives us a starting date of when she and Joe first dated and how she asked him to join her as she stayed out of the spotlight for a while. “I recall late November/’ my breath, slowly I say/’You don’t need to save me/ But would you run away with me?’/Yes.” And the chorus kicks in again and she sings in the background and gives us a very easy going and soft fade out before she says one last time, “Call it what you want to.”
New Year’s Day
We only hear the piano for the majority of the song, a very light and simple tune with Swift’s voice coming after the few notes. She sets the scene, “There’s glitter on the floor after the party/Girls carrying their shoes down in the lobby/ Candle wax and Polaroids on the hardwood floor/You and me from the night before, but,” which leads into the chorus, “Don’t read the last page/Cause I stay, when you’re lost and I’m scared/And you’re turning away/ I want your midnights/But I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day.” Swift continues to the next verse with the same setup and she sings about her love squeezing her hand three times in the back of a taxi and saying she’ll be there for him through good and bad. “I’ll be there is you’re the toast of the town, babe/Or if you strikeout and you’re crawling home.” For the second chorus, the only added sound is echoing and lightly playing on the guitar. The post chorus loses the guitar and echo and adds more piano and quiet strings as Taylor repeats to her and her lover, “Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you.”
It finishes with her singing “And I will hold on to you” and then met with more piano. Then for the bridge she sings “Please don’t ever become a stranger/Whose laugh I can recognize anywhere” two times with harmonies building up till the third verse repeats the first verse except for now she sings the last line, “You and me forevermore.” She ends the song with singing the chorus and the post chorus layered with the bridge. Her voice fades out as she sings the last, promising line “And I will hold on to you.” This is Swift’s final song, a huge maturity in how she normally ends her albums with deep realizations or sudden bursts of confidence. The new Taylor, who strikingly still sounds like the old Taylor in this song, comes to a quiet ending with minimal effects and instruments to get her point across. She’s singing about New Year’s Day, the aftermath of a party and having quiet little moments with your true love. This is the ending that Taylor wants and she is truly in love with the right guy, who’s kind enough to stay back and help her cleanup after a party and able to see the true her and love her for her. This is what the whole album has lead up to, Taylor taking a step back to see her reputation but having someone in her life who doesn’t care about it and fully respects and loves her.