Review: Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’

On this album, Swift’s goal is to prove she doesn’t care about her bad reputation, and juvenile lyrics make her case perfectly.

Courtesy of Big Machine Records

Courtesy of Big Machine Records

Haley Bennett

The album title might have made sense years ago, but today, Taylor Swift’s reputation as either celebrity or musician is painfully irrelevant. And if it’s meant to be ironic, it should at least be worth listening to.

The lyrics to the songs in “Reputation” sound like something scribbled in a glitter-covered, spiral-bound journal on the bus home from seventh grade.

Upon leafing through that same journal at the end of middle school, any sane person would cringe over those lyrics with embarrassment.

“I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me,” rings during the bridge in “Look What You Made Me Do.”

That statement is certainly true. But why do we continue to discuss her as though she provides any remotely original material to our cultural landscape?

10 years ago, leaning over an old acoustic guitar and warbling about the jock who mishandled her heart was a cute schtick for Taylor Swift.

With “Reputation,” however, she’s back to prove… what? That she can make an attention shot by regurgitating Kanye’s arrogant persona, one no one really cares about anymore?

Blame and ownership play important roles in Swift’s lyrics. They always have, since “You Belong With Me” came out on “Fearless” in 2008. 

In the stories her music tells, people own one another and therefore owe each other favors and attention, measured by a scale she controls. Any misfortune that befalls other girls is their own fault, as in “Fifteen.”

The trend continues in “Reputation.” On the eighth track of the album, “Gorgeous,” the chorus reminds the object of her frantic affections that her feelings are his fault — “I’m so furious / At you for making me feel this way,” she cries.

And, I mean, “Look What You Made Me Do”? Really?

The melody to “Delicate” edges close to catchy. But then she sings and ruins everything.

If pop music is a Big Mac, in “Reputation,” Swift gives us nothing but the bun.

Her decision to take comeback cues from hip-hop themes — “I’m doing better than I ever was,” according to “Call It What You Want,” saying she’d like to wear her lover’s initial on a chain around her neck — makes our skin crawl like we’re watching her dance to a Salt – N – Pepa video.

The overblown egotistical Kanye mimicry might have made for a cool artist comeback angle. But given that a 27-year-old woman relies on high school antics to sustain public attention she feels is rightfully hers, and can’t even be bothered to make up new games, it seems her reign is outplayed. 

Really, how many times can you declare your old self dead?

Some say music’s been dead for decades. Others would argue that we’ve done new things since 1989. With “Reputation,” it appears that lyrics are out the window, too. 

After this latest album, the public needs a break from Swift’s music, self-absorbed drama and black lip-sticked headshot that has been travelling around the country on UPS trucks. She spoke for us on “Gorgeous” when she sang, “I can’t say anything to your face. ‘Cause look at your face.’”

Grade: D (I wish I could give it an E for embarrassing)