Virgin EMI (label)
10 November 2017 (released)
11 November 2017
Despite all the critiques, complaints and condemnations Swift has received whilst in the public eye, she is still one of the biggest and most successful artists today.
Her mixture of, real-life reflection, good old drama, and an ear for a good hook, have ensured a lofty position on the pop pyramid. There has always been enough freshness to keep things interesting, but the fundamentals have remained.
In that spirit Swift’s sixth studio offering is quick to deliver. ‘I Did Something Bad’ is an early contender for best song on the album, with the 27-year-old, devilishly reprising her heel persona. Swift coolly sings:
“never trust a narcissist, but they love me
So I play 'em like a violin
And I make it look oh-so-easy
'Cause for every lie I tell them, they tell me three
This is how the world works
Now all he thinks about is me.”
The tale about using then losing Beau’s, feels like Blank Space, with a bad attitude, as the songwriter revels in playing wicked. In a nod to her ‘Ready for It?’ Video, “They’re burning all the witches, even if you aren’t one”, Taylor laments. The lyric serves as a clever little narrative shift that, both sarcastically picks at the media’s overblown perceptions, and simultaneously puts her innocence on record.
Although some expected Reputation to be the case for the defence following several controversies, it isn’t quite that. Sure, one of the best tracks ('This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things') is an enjoyably bullish jab at (presumably) Kanye West and, yes it will be easy to spot when Taylor is feeling aggrieved, but that is far from the only thing on her mind.
Despite trying to completely avoid the spotlight in 2016, the songstress kept herself busy enjoying life and love with her secret man.
A common theme throughout most of the 15 tracks is that clandestine love is very much in the air.
‘Gorgeous’, knowingly drowns in infatuation, ‘Dress’ lusts uncontrollably, ‘Dancing with Our Hands Tied’, frets for the pair in the face of an oncoming media storm, and ‘King of My Heart”, proves that he is the one.
As shown in single releases, ‘Ready for It?’, and ‘Call It What You Want’, the Grammy winner is desperate to build on the foundations of her love. The latter song brings with it a cuddly autobiographical feel, while ‘Ready for It?’ Wants to whisk you away on a lovers’ escape.
Like never before, the majority of love songs feel connected to each other. It’s less about heartbreak, pain, and redemption and more about taking on the thrills and spills of a single relationship. The protagonist has her challenges and triumphs to face and the listener is along for the ride.
Ever since debuting back in 2006, Swift has always been relied upon to provide a sense of believability. The old four chords might have long since been replaced by, synths, computerised beats, and vocal enhancements, but her sharp lyrical skill has remained intact.
‘Gorgeous’, cleverly bursts the melodramatic infatuation bubble with a cheekily charming reference to Swift’s cats, while ‘King of My Heart’ deftly notes the subtle romantic distinction “Say you fancy me, not fancy stuff.”
The gentle piano led book end, ‘New Year’s Day’ sweetly promises:
“I'll be there if you're the toast of the town, babe
Or if you strike out and you're crawling home”.
Whether, hamming it up on ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, or fretfully pondering the promise of a new relationship on ‘Delicate’, the musician rises to meet the occasion.
Swift’s writings are confident and assured. Even when in a moment of vulnerability, the storyteller never feels like a damsel in distress.
As the artist herself puts it on, ‘Call It What You Want’:
“You don't need to save me But would you run away with me?" A woman looking for an exciting partnership through the tough times, not rescue.
Even when songs suffer the occasional misstep redemption can usually be found just a few lines later.
Sonically speaking the album is unashamedly based upon hits radio. If you listen to modern-day pop, then you know the tropes all too well.
There’s the loud computerised club beats, electronic sounding drums, plenty of vocal effects, and a good hook to boot. That may sound cliché, but with Messrs, Max Martin, Shellback, and Jack Antonoff helping to produce the LP it all comes off without a hitch. With the pair behind We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and the man that brought you Out Of the Woods, it won’t come as much of a surprise that the compositions are irrepressible.
‘Ready for It?’s, base sound gets the blood pumping in the early going, ‘Dress’s mash of low humming synth and bright keyboard, conveys the steamy sexual tension, and ‘I Did Something Bad’, should feel euphoric to anyone with a pulse.
Only the finale, truly strays away from the well-established set up, instead getting a melodic piano performance.
The return of Taylor Swift has been a long time coming for fans, but it turns out that it was worth the wait.