First Impressions: Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’

Written By the interns on 11/10/2017

It’s here. Taylor Swift‘s Reputation, sure to be the most divisive record of the year, is here. Whether you care about her or not, you’re going to find you’ve got an opinion so we’ve jumped in with ours first in a special edition of ‘First Impressions’.

…Ready For It?

Jackson: It’s as strong upon my 100th listen as it was the first time. While LWYMMD was the spark that ignited this new era for Swift, ‘…Ready For It?’ is what keeps that fire burning. It’s a blazing onslaught of dark sounds that the old Taylor wouldn’t have dared touch. Plus, sexually-frank Taylor is a rebrand I, for one, welcome. 4.5

Bianca: Strong introduction to the album, probably my favourite of the songs released before the album drop. Like Jackson, I’ve spun it roughly 100 times and the bridges still give me chills. I also still stand by my revelation that Tay Tay samples ‘This Is What You Came For’ (for which she has writing credits on) at 2:03. 4.75

Sam: This was the single that gave me hope that Swifty could return to her 1989 pop glory days. This chorus still gets me every time I hear it, it’s so sweet and crystalline that it may as well be a see-through lolly. And phwoar, it works so well as an opener on Reputation. 4

End Game

Jackson: How much money did they pay to get Future on this thing? Like, seriously, how much? No wonder Swift is such a stickler for cash. And, like most things, this would be far better without Ed Sheeran. 1

Bianca: Future’s fast-paced rap gives this extra oomph. I don’t even mind Ed’s bit. The features are actually probably the best parts of the song. 3.5

Sam: Yep, we get it Taylor, you’re edgy now ‘cos you got a rapper on your album. The Future verse on this is actually really incredible and doesn’t sound phoned it so they must’ve paid him handsomely. The bad part is he completely drowns out Taylor and Ed who end up sounding about as edgy as Modern Family’s Phil and Claire. 3

I Did Something Bad

Jackson: The only bad thing she’s done here is not release this as the first single. This is some of the most unique, interesting and provocative production I’ve heard in pop in recent years. This is the first time in this ~era~ that Taylor is really reclaiming her reputation. She’s well and truly lost all fucks to give. Also, she swears. That’s a thing. 5

Bianca: Once you look past the cringey-ness of the song titles, you can really start to enjoy the album. The build-ups to the choruses are amazing but the choruses fall a little flat, even though they’re high in intensity. 3

Sam: When I was a kid and did something wrong and had to tell my parents I’d always imagine that I was a bit of a schoolyard badass. I wish I’d known this song then because it would’ve been a perfect soundtrack. Now it just sounds pathetic. This is the direction I feared Reputation would go in and I couldn’t hate this more. 1

Don’t Blame Me

Jackson: This sounds like some sort of weird interpretation of Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church’ and I really don’t know how to feel. 2

Bianca: Okay, Jackson is so spot on here that I can’t even comment. 2.5

Sam: This is the dark Taylor I want to hear. She’s tapping into the religious iconography and taking it to church over a haunting, wobbly beat. It’s all a bit melodramatic but what’s a Swift album is she can’t magnify situations by 100. 3.5

Delicate

Jackson: After that absolute assault of big sounds and bigger production, ‘Delicate’ is the perfect palate cleanser. There’s something beautifully endearing about “We can’t make any promises now, can we, babe? But you can make me a drink” – it’s those sort of Hollywood romantic lyrics that is her specialty. This is a song made for 3am glasses of pinot noir and frankly some of Swift’s best work to date. 4.5

Bianca: I strongly welcome an auto-tuned Taylor Swift every now and then. The bassline of this is so subtle and, um…delicate, which makes it really stand out from the rest of the songs on the album. Definitely one of my favourites. 5 Bianca’s Pick

Sam: Taylor is best when she’s either delicately subtle or brilliantly over-the-top. This is an example of the former. This is so beautifully finessed and manages to pull out many of Taylor’s sweet spots. I’m also going to give it points for being my favourite song that uses the word “reputation”. Bravo Taylor, Max Martin and Shellback, this is a brilliant piece of pop music. 5

Look What You Made Me Do

Jackson: Arguably the most polarising pop song of the year, Look What You Made Me Do is the song that spawned a thousand think pieces. Is it satire or is it stupid? Is it about Kanye? Is it about Kim? Is it about Katy? The anti-chorus was despised by many, but in my opinion it’s one of the most effective and infectious choruses I’ve heard in months. Not to mention, this song represents the first time Taylor recognised that her once squeaky-clean armour had some pretty serious chinks. She doesn’t trust anyone, and no-one trusts her, but it doesn’t matter when you’re making pop music that’s this talked about. 5

Bianca: You can’t deny this is a good song. It’s got everything we wanted: pettiness, not-so-subtle digs, Tay Tay’s signature fairytale-like production, a Right Said Fred sample (wait, did we want that?) and a cringe-worthy spoken word bit to top it off. 4

Sam: It’s very hard to judge this in the context of the album because it feels like such a juggernaut but I’m still a fan. If the whole album was like this I would’ve needed to be picked up off the floor after it so I’m glad it’s not but there’s nothing wrong with sinking into a bit of drama midway. And yep, “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone” line is still a LOL. 3.5

So It Goes…

Jackson: By this point, it’s clear that reputation is the most pop Taylor has ever gone, but she’s still doing it by her times. ‘So It Goes…’ has a melody that is both catchy and unexpected; a completely dark underworld from the wonderland of 1989. It’s a song that doesn’t try too hard but still feels miles ahead of what she’s done beforehand. It’s a brave head-first dive into a dark, brooding pop and she’s pulled it off near flawlessly. 5

Bianca: And here we go with the ellipses… I’m finding this song a bit forgettable. Every time I hit play and go to write about it, I accidentally stop listening and only realise once I’m halfway through Gorgeous. 2

Sam: This one’s fine for me. My least favourite Taylor songs are the ones where they produce her voice within an inch of its life and this one just feels way too dense and overthought. It works us up to a chorus that promises to be Bad Blood and delivers a clunky Katy Perry mid-tempo. 2

Gorgeous

Jackson: Have you ever pressed ‘skip’ so hard that you broke your keyboard? 0

Bianca: The lyrics are very lame but I love it. It’s classic Taylor and the way she pronounces ‘Gorgeous’ at times is quite humourous. “‘Cos you’re so GWORGEOUS it actually hurts.” I hated the bit about her cats at first but now I’m very much for it. 4

Sam: This is one of those songs where I just have to buy into the ridiculousness of Taylor Swift. She’s basically scribbling in her diary (which would definitely be furry pink) and laughing by rhyming face with face. Unbelievably, it works really bloody well and I’m furious that I’ve said that about a song that features the line, “guess I’ll just stumble home to my cats”. Ugh. 3.5

Getaway Car

Jackson: We’ve returned to 1989-level, stadium ready, anthemic pop. This is the content I signed up for. 4

Bianca: LIVING for the key change. If you’re not digging it at first, hold on until about 2:16 because that’s where things really get going. I was skeptical at first, mainly because of its name, but it’s quickly becoming another one of my faves. 4

Sam: I agree with Jackson, this is back to 1989 and it’s such a moment on the album. Jack Antonoff and Taylor’s drama meet each other and make a spectacular baby. The choruses are warm and dim and then they explode into this chorus that’s so anthemic it may as well be out national anthem. And when that key change hits, it’s almost like she’s having reaching for the stratosphere. One of the best moments on the album. 4.5

King Of My Heart

Jackson: One thing I’ve learned this deep into reputation is that just when you think you know where a song’s gonna go, she completely takes it off-road and forces you on a journey. Never is this more true than in ‘King Of My Heart’. This song heads in so many different directions, it feels like a pastiche of songs that were left on the editing room floor and Frankensteined into something glorious. 4

Bianca: Love this one. The vocoder effects and the  quick-paced drums take this home for me. 4

Sam: The instrumental under the verses on this are so nice and again give her voice more texture than it actually has. I love how she then flips the vocal tempo in the bridge taking us towards this classic Tay Tay chorus that could compete with ….Ready For It? for chorus of the album. I’m really enjoying how she’s playing with the production of her voice on this album so far. 4

Dancing With My Hands Tied

Jackson: Flume’s impact has officially hit Swifty Shores™. 3.5

Bianca: Not sure I’m into the trappy chorus but I’m into everything else. 3

Sam: Anytime I see ‘Dancing’ as the first word of a song I compare it to Robyn’s Dancing On My Own which is a battle that no one can ever win. This isn’t far off though (I mean, it is, but it’s relatively close). I’d usually turn my nose up at a trap chorus but that melody just grabs my heart and pumps it for me. I’ve also never heard her really succeed on a chorus that’s this dense and slow but she nails it. Goddamn, this back half of the album is really great. 4

Dress

Jackson: She said “I’m spilling wine in the bathroom” and I thought she said “I’m doing lines in the bathroom” and I had to take a moment. Taylor Swift has spoken more about sex this album more than she ever has in her life, probably, and it’s nice to feel like there’s complex humanity behind the woman who refused to crack for so many years. 3.5

Bianca: This is a more intimate Swift than we’ve ever seen. Nice to see she’s actually a human. 3.5

Sam: Again, subtle Taylor is the best. The melodies in the verse on this are pop gold. So expertly constructed with the assistance of Antonoff who has just done some incredible work this year. I’m also weirdly enjoying Taylor letting us into her bedroom on this album. She never usually lets us see past the PG text messages. Such a necessary moment of bliss before the onslaught that follows. 4

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Jackson: Indeed, Taylor. Indeed.

(On a serious note: this track is well and truly the Kanye diss track we were waiting for. It’s a shame it melodically sounds like a weak musical number from a Nick Jr. show no-one asked for). 1

Bianca: First and foremost, I’m just not into using meme-speak in songs. Tay Tay first did it in Shake It Off (“haters gonna hate”) and now she’s done it again with This Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. It’s just very lazy. Moving forward, there’s some very fun elements to this song but as far as diss songs go, I don’t think Kanye’s going to be left shaking in his Yeezy boots. Also, jury’s still out on how I feel about the fake laugh accompanied by “I can’t even say it with a straight face” bit. 3

Sam: I love Kanye and I honestly couldn’t care less who is right in this whole thing. But this is everything I wanted from Reputation and more. The juxtaposition between the parties and closing the gates post-Kanye drama is so hyperbolic and brilliant. Up until now, the lyrical content of Reputation has been safe but this turns the drama to 11 and I’m living for it. It’s petty, mean and immature but you try and tell me you’re a Taylor Swift fan because she’s honest, well-measured and private. Nah. 4

Call It What You Want

Jackson: Out of all the songs post-LWYMMD and pre-reputation that Taylor dropped, ‘Call It What You Want’ was by far the most intriguing. Out of everything she’s ever released, this song feels like the real Taylor – whatever the fuck that is. It’s the understanding that humanity is not this binary, black-and-white, easily understandable thing. The human experience is the most multi-faceted thing on the universe, and Taylor seems like she’s finally accepting the fact that she is not flawless. Her reputation doesn’t really matter to her anymore, and it shouldn’t matter to us either. 5 Jackson’s Pick

Bianca: This is one of the best songs on the album. It’s sweet and honest, and it’s a nice relief after the intense TIWWCHNT. 4.5

Sam: Jackson and I have disagreed on nearly every song on this record but this is also my favourite. From All Too Well to Back To December, Swift’s most emotionally honest moments are always best when she pairs back the production and allows for the lyrics to take centrestage. “My castle crumbled overnight,” is such a strong opening and the imagery of her whole public image going to shit only to have this guy there (it’s Calvin yeah? Please say it’s Calvin) is teen drama shit but it works so well. 5 Sam’s Pick

New Year’s Day

Jackson: Despite her earlier qualms, the last song on reputation, the most anticipated pop album of the year, proves that the old Taylor isn’t dead quite yet. This is classic Taylor songwriting. After a rambunctious album that’s explosive the whole way through, ‘New Year’s Day’ acts as the hangover that, in retrospect, was so worth it. 4

Bianca: I definitely wasn’t expecting something like this, especially as the last song. It’s a really nice finish to the album; it’s reflective and evokes the feeling on New Year’s Day when you look back on all the trials and tribulations of the past year. Can anyone else see balloons and confetti cascading down in slow motion? 4

Sam: Apart from the fact there is zero chance Taylor Swift would be cleaning up bottles on New Year’s Day, this is a sweet closer. I’m not going to play it on its own but I like her taking it back to basics to close what is, let’s face it, a bloody heavy record to get through. The Mums are gonna love this one. 3

You can buy Reputation here because Swift, who has appeared in Apple Music adverts, has not added it to streaming yet.

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