2/4 shells from Jay Reed
I felt nothing when I listened to Reputation. Taylor Swift's album is a feeble attempt to make her mundane narrative fit into themes of victimhood and vengeance.
In line with the album's title, she mentions her reputation a few times. In "Delicate," she lovingly sings about a man who can see past her self-described bad reputation, but she never questions why her reputation is bad, proving her album is void of true introspection. Swift may be trying to show her growth through empty measure — drinking, taking off her clothes and swearing — but Reputation still lacks actual maturity. For once, Swift's music is more out of touch than it is catchy.
Her massive and devoted fan base debunks the myth that Swift is hated by the majority, and makes her pettiest songs, "Look What You Made Me Do" and "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," seem like dramatic overreactions. The latter is probably the worst song on the album. Not only is it generic and gimmicky — perfect for a Kidz Bop remix — but it's petty af. She has proven herself incapable of being the bigger person and moving on from feuds with friends and lovers. If she wants to "excuse herself" from the Kanye narrative, then she should do so.
There are hints of her classic talent in the songs "Delicate" and "New Year's Day." Swift's best songs feature specific and honest lyrics. When she says, "You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi" in "New Year's Day," Swift shares a specific moment that is far more intimate than sharing that she "bought this dress so you could take it off" in "Dress." Swift's hyper-specific yet vague anecdotes are actually relatable, unlike her insecurities about her reputation and her high-profile feud with Kanye West.
Swift needs a reality check. She has a huge population of devoted fans who cherish her. The rest of the public either dislikes her or doesn't care about her. Her album subject matter is pretty irrelevant. She's a celebrity; some people like her, others don't.
Reputation is just OK. The production is great and the beats are well-done. If Taylor Swift wants to grow as an artist or person, she needs to stop feeding off the "drama" she claims to despise.
3/4 shells from Hannah Yasharoff
Taylor Swift is a goddamn genius, and I'm sorry for every bad thing I said when she released "Look What You Made Me Do." Certainly more club-y and techno-driven than anything else she's ever created (remember, this is technically only her second truly pop album), Reputation is a gradient that begins with a base so heavy it sounds like speakers blowing out but ends with the light trill of a piano, which Swift herself plays in live versions.
Swift's fourth album, Red, supposedly lost the Grammy for Album of the Year because it wasn't "sonically cohesive." That's something Swift clearly had in the back of her mind when making 1989, her fifth album, and she takes it a step further with this one — from start to finish, it's cohesive as a narrative. Songs get progressively less heavy, angry and electronic throughout, as though Swift is wiping away the edgy persona she had been trying to convince us is the real her until we're left with the "old Taylor" that was dramatically pronounced dead in "Look What You Made Me Do."
The electro-pop songs at the beginning are fun and different, but her true genius, as it always has been, is in her more slow, thoughtful pieces: That's where the best writing comes out. The lines "All the liars are calling me one/ Nobody's heard from me for months/ I'm doin' better than I ever was" in the penultimate song, "Call It What You Want," elicit chills even after multiple listens.
The "old Taylor" isn't dead, just sometimes hidden beneath layers of pretense and performance and perhaps the product of who society thinks she is — or who she thinks society thinks she is. It doesn't matter, really. Whatever qualms you have about Taylor Swift as a person — and there are many, many qualms to be had — you can't say she isn't talented.
1.5/4 shells from Patrick Basler
Taylor Swift is why we can't have nice things.
Reputation is not a good album. It's an album with more diss tracks than most rap records. It offers production equally inspired by trap music and Panic! At The Disco. It's an album where one of the better songs features both Future and Ed Sheeran, a nightmarish combination that even the VMAs couldn't dream up.
But the album's greatest issue isn't lack of talent; Swift is as versatile a vocalist as exists in traditional pop. From song to song, she ranges from near-rapping (blegh) to theatrical spoken-word interludes (double blegh). The issue here is really Taylor herself — after all, it's hard to transform yourself into pop's bad girl when you're still committed to selling millions to preteens.
So when she sings things like "Only bought this dress so you could take it off" in her sexiest voice, it's strangely out of character, like Peggy Olson smoking weed in that one Mad Men episode.
And, more to the point, who can relate to Taylor Swift? My reputation is probably fine, idk. Regardless, I'm not obsessing over it. And you're probably not either.
But Taylor is obsessing over hers — enough so that Kanye shots like "Look What You Made Me Do" and "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" feel shamelessly petty, a year late and not reputation-healing at all. And the Swift-staple breakup songs "Dancing With Our Hands Tied" and "So It Goes…" are strangely bland, making the weird reality of 2017 one in which Lil Uzi Vert is writing better songs about heartbreak than Taylor Swift.
Sonically, Reputation works — it's well-executed, although the new sound doesn't really suit Taylor. But no matter how much black eyeliner and faux-rage you put on Taylor Swift's face, she's still Taylor Swift.
And now, that feels like a problem.
3.5/4 shells from Allison O'Reilly
Taylor Swift's Reputation more than defied the shitty expectations she set for herself with "Look What You Made Me Do." In fact, I'm pretty sure she only included that song and released it as the initial single to get people talking and to throw shade at Kimye, because every other song on the album is 10 times better.
This album is edgy and daring. Swift shed the nice-girl persona she's always kept up with and instead opted to be honest and open about her real life, or so it seems. She surprisingly includes details about her sex life and drinking, which she doesn't do often.
"Getaway Car" shines on this album with a powerful chorus that makes you want to scream along to the relatable breakup lyrics Swift writes so well. It is a flawless bop.
The weirdest aspect of the album was how hard Swift tries to be a good vocalist but hilariously fails. Her high notes are often shaky and lacking oomph — particularly in "Gorgeous" where Swift tries to belt high notes AND kind-of-rap, failing miserably at both. But the song's beat is dope, and if anyone can get their hands on it to sample it for a better song, they should.
Swift actually did a good job on this album, and if it were somebody else's project I doubt I would be as skeptical of it.