By Scott T. Sterling
Taylor Swift’s wildly anticipated new album, Reputation, has dropped like a bomb and the fallout is spreading around the world like a nuclear winter of speculation, dissection and innuendo. What does it all mean?
Obsessing over the 15-track full-length since it arrived at midnight, we’ve combed through the lyrics to discern exactly what Miss Taylor has her on her mind, which is clearly a lot.
She’s Still All Kinds of Mad at Kanye West
No need to review the extensive history between Taylor Swift and Kanye West. But Swift is not really to let it go. After taking a quick swipe on West with the “your titled stage” shot on “Look What You Made Me Do,” she takes on West and his wife directly with the aptly titled “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” Riding a massive, shout-along chorus sure to reverberate through packed stadiums around the world, Swift calls West out for hijacking her moment at the 2009 MTV Music Awards in the first verse. Throwback! She exposes him for stabbing her in the back after they made amends, and then twists the knife by mentioning other friends he’s lost recently (cough cough JAY-Z cough). Kim Kardashian catches a stray for her role in the phone-call fiasco around West’s “Famous” track. Point taken, Taylor.
She’s Been to the Club and She Liked It (Also Ed Sheeran Raps)
Reputation only boasts two features, and they’re both on the same track: “End Game.” Swift rolls out heavyweights Ed Sheeran and Future for the occasion, and the results are ready for prime-time down at the club. She sounds out Sheeran’s “A Team” straight away before the drums drop and Swift starts chanting and singing over a nice beat so melancholy you can’t help but wait for Drake to arrive. Instead, it’s Future, hitting the beat with a cool staccato flow and you’ll swear you’re on the dance floor with your squad on a Saturday night. That’s when it gets really interesting and Sheeran grabs the mic to drop a rap. Like, an actual rap. Yes, Ed Sheeran spits bars. Taylor, look what you made him do.
Does the Final Track Hint at Taylor Next Step?
With Reputation, Swift comes across like a kid in the pop music playground, eagerly grabbing at the sounds and textures currently permeating the radio and club dance floors. Thick with electronics and multi-tracked vocals, the album sounds massive, a larger-than-life totem to this transitional stage in the pop star’s life and career. She’s got diss records, club tracks, looked back the past foibles of her public life and set it all on fire. For the album’s last track, “New Year’s Day,” however, she sets a warm, morning-after vibe with a simple piano melody and her voice that ends the proceedings on a sweet, intimate note. It’s a lovely moment that points to Swift’s true strength: songwriting. Following Reputation with a stripped-down collection of songs focusing on her melodic gifts without the contemporary “pop” trappings could be the next and very fruitful artistic evolution in the Taylor Swift legacy.