Taylor Swift returns with her latest studio album Reputation with a bold new sound and direction, but does it live up to the massive success of her previous works? Read one to find out…
Taylor Swift has been on an ever upward career trajectory since her 2006 debut released when she was just 16. She came from a modern country/Nashville background and has slowly but surely edged towards the pop mainstream. Her last two albums, 2012’s Red and 2014’s 1989 have seen her fully envelop this and here she is, at 27 on her sixth full album which arrives with a greater sense of anticipation than any record of her career thus far.
Her ever increasing success has seen her also become a tabloid target, everything from her love life, politics and the clothes she wears is a matter of public interest in this world. And that’s where Reputation arrives from, in full on Michael Jackson “leave me alone/let me be” mode. Full of modern pop and EDM sensibilities, this is as far removed from the Taylor of old (whom we’re reliably informed ‘is dead’) as it could be.
The problem with this approach is that it’s quite dehumanising, and I’d like to think that under the shiny exterior Taylor is quite a humane human. The album is prefaced (in its lyric booklet) by a well written and thought out mini-essay from the star explaining where the album comes from, giving a sense of direction and offering the humanity I’d like to find in the record; but from there it’s machine beats in largely self-defence.
Sex, fame, love and changing persona are recurring themes. There are some great lyrical couplets ‘and he can be my jailor/Burton to this Taylor’. Thankfully, there aren’t too many guest appearances of ‘featuring’ credits on this album, a move which in my opinion waters down an artist’s vision but is so ubiquitous is this day and age. And when it does happen we get Ed Sheeran rapping, which is the sort of sound that God would send into Hell to punish the fallen angels. That track ,”End Game” is ironically followed by “I Did Something Bad”. You kid us not, Taylor.
But for the large part the album delivers, with huge choruses, great pop hooks and enough lyrical word games to keep the world turning around Taylor for a while. There have been some great huge budget videos, the machine is rolling and will continue to do so as she tours and sells this product. It is a little one paced and there are too few truly tender moments, but when they do occur they are the album’s most affecting moments (“New Year’s Day”).
I’d love to see Taylor echo where she’s come from musically, bring the old and the new together. Taylor’s most obvious peer, Miley Cyrus, has already done the whole electro-pop thing and come out the other side with her most complete, stunning and human album with this year’s Younger Now, and the truth is that Taylor is a developing and engaging artist, and the future will bring further change and reviews of her musical voice. While it’s not awful, this is the first album she’s delivered that doesn’t quite live up to the expectation or hype of a new Taylor Swift record. It’s not bad, and even the best art has flaws, but behind all the “look what you made me do” bravado, it’s not as good as it should have been.
Author: Ian, Romford store