The most interesting word to describe Taylor Swift’s 6th album, Reputation, is unexpected. The project is a shift from what fans would call the “old Taylor,” and is even unlike her most recent release. The album knows its audience and successfully delivers songs that will occupy space on the Top 40, as well as make Swift’s fan base happy.
However, problems that have plagued Swift’s music throughout her career are still present. Failed attempts at clever lyrics, overproduction and generic unimaginative subject matter have all but become staples in the mainstream pop music industry, and this record does not escape these problems. The record has a few bright spots that may catch critics off-guard, but also offers plentiful new problems that are unique to Taylor Swift.
The most positive note about this album is Swift’s attempt at something new. She goes for a new sound that includes trap beats at times, heavy synths and even more in-your-face sounds. Fans of Swift’s vocals will be pleased to hear that while the instrumentals have changed, Swift’s voice has not.
Another positive about the record is that Swift attempts to say something more than her typical breakup or relationship narrative. The record delves into her relationship with music rivals such as Kanye West, the public and the media. The album’s name, Reputation, alludes to the fact that she believes her reputation has been tarnished, and she explores this theme in a few tracks.
The first and most obvious mistake is the horrible production on this record. This is especially noticeable on the track “Ready For It.” The track has an awful section immediately following the chorus where the bass booms in a flat tone, making it almost difficult to listen to. The record also has other places where the sounds are simply obnoxious, the most heinous being the chorus of “Look What You Made Me Do.”
The biggest problem I have with the record is that it shows Taylor reaching back at past events in an attempt to stay relevant, while simultaneously showing that she cannot move forward. This begins with what is ultimately a diss track aimed at Kanye West in “Look What You Made Me Do,” then continues to rehash her past “beefs” with Kanye and other artists throughout. If things are as she claims in “Look What You Made Me Do,” and she is now attempting to become a new person, one would hope she would be growing, not rehashing old fights and taking petty jabs—the biggest being that the album was suspiciously released on the anniversary of Kanye West’s mother’s death.
A final failure of the record is to create a new sound for pop music. If Swift is a pop icon, her releases should bring something new to the table,.Instead she borrows beats from the increasingly popular hip-hop scene, mimics other pop stars, and continues to adhere to the classic pop song structure we have been listening to for years.