CAVEAT: This review doesn’t mention Taylor Swift’s celebrity, or the paparazzi, or her squad, or possible dodges of cultural appropriation, or the latest dude she’s dating because, c’mon, this is a music review. So let’s go.
Taylor Swift’s reputation is a perfectly constructed album. For now. So do I have some reservations it will age poorly? Of course! But also, not.
The biggest thing hindering reputation is its insistence on following the same formula through most of the songs. It’s the EDM pop version of quiet-loud-quiet, but hey, that worked for both The Pixies and Nirvana, so why shouldn’t it work now?
However, adhering to that construct does Swift a disservice for the whole first half of the disc. Because Swift’s superpower is not emotionally aging much beyond her junior year of high school. When THAT lyricist comes to the forefront, it’s powerful and emotional stuff. But we have to wait until the big one-punch of “Gorgeous” and “Getaway Car” for that payoff. Only then does she start to channel the actual heartache and longing of early, universal, love.
Technically, reputation is perfect, if a bit sonically wearying due to its propensity to hew to a single sonic construct. But Swift’s lyrics save the album. There s a “posters on my walls” authenticity that makes me believe that behind the perfectly constructed social faced Swift now carries. At the core she’s still just as confused as the rest of us. Only she is way better at figuring out how to convey that confusion.
To me this is Swift’s power—she is super famous but she is also just like us. To a point that is almost embarrassing. Like, is there a more perfect encapsulation of late night party longing than “You should take it as a compliment / That I got drunk and made fun of the way you talk / You should think about the consequence / Of your magnetic field being a little too strong.”? No. There isn’t. You feel the pain and frustration and longing because you have been there.
reputation will sell a bajillion copies. It was manufactured to do so. But, even though it takes a while, the thing that will make the album last, is Swift’s uncanny honesty. As long as young, confused, and confounded love exists, she will have relevance.
Taylor Swift plays the B96 Pepsi Jingle Bash at Allstate Arena on December 7 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available in various tiers.