The A Game: Taylor Swift lives up to her own ‘reputation’ as the queen of pop


Allen Pham | Daily Trojan

Taylor Swift’s reputation may precede her, but the songstress’ musical aptitude has never been more evident. Reputation, Swift’s sixth LP, may be her biggest release yet; with over 700,000 first-day sales, it is on track to sell well over 1 million units in one week, breaking her own record and making Swift the only artist to sell a million copies each of four different albums. In addition, reputation is Swift’s most explicit work yet — it’s an album that successfully tells an introspective story, one about letting life run its course in the aftermath of a reputational crisis.

Reputation follows a linear progression in its storytelling. From “…Ready For It?” to “Don’t Blame Me,” the first four tracks deal with a more bombastic, outspoken Swift following the public criticism she endured over the past few years. “End Game,” the only collaboration on the LP, includes polished verses from Future and Ed Sheeran — a languid hybrid of pop and R&B that takes Swift in a new direction as she makes the chants about having a “big reputation.”

“I Did Something Bad” may be her most rebellious record yet — and my personal favorite — as she takes multiple jabs against her enemies and exes, with deep cuts like “If a man talks sh-t, then I owe him nothing” and “This is how the world works / You gotta leave before you get left.” Swift is more unapologetic and spiteful than ever on this record, serving up her best slice of revenge through masterful, punchy songwriting.

“Delicate,” as Swift noted in an interview with iHeartRadio, is the first moment of vulnerability in the album. This thread continues throughout the rest of the record, representing what happens when Swift starts letting go of her reputation and starts living life on her own terms, leading up to closing ballads “Call It What You Want” and “New Year’s Day.” Much of the second half of the album is about exploring adult romance, as well as the personal effects of being in the public eye.

“Getaway Car” and “New Year’s Day” are two highlights from the second half of the album, which swerves into much more intimate territory. “Dress,” however, is arguably Swift’s sexiest song to date, hitting a jarring climax with the lyrics, “Only bought this dress so you could take it off.”

Photo from Big Machine Records.

I admit — prior to its release, I was secretly skeptical of what reputation would be like. Judging from her singles “Look What You Made Me Do” and “… Ready For It?” (which were both great, don’t get me wrong), I was afraid that the album would be all punch but no knockout. But as a Swiftie of 11 years, I knew I had to be more hopeful — after all, everyone who attended the Reputation Secret Sessions said this would be Swift’s sharpest, most mature record yet.

And it is. After listening to the album on repeat the entire weekend, I can still stand by my belief that Taylor Swift is undoubtedly one of the best songwriters and artists of our generation. There’s not a single person who can do what Swift does: pen some of the most revealing lyrics about her own life but still make it relatable to her listeners. Swift has a style and flair that separates her from other artists — her penchant for narrative storytelling, catchy hooks and melodrama are still the same, yet she somehow never makes the same album twice.

Even though reputation and 1989 are both classified as pop albums, Swift took them in completely different directions. Reputation is a further deviation of pop, as Swift successfully explores harsher sounds, but still retains her songwriting prowess. If there’s anything Swift has proven thus far, it’s that she’s much wiser — and doing better than she ever was. With reputation, Swift wasn’t afraid to take risks: diving deep into R&B and electronic sounds with close collaborators Max Martin and Shellback in the first half, and going into softer, ’80s synth-pop influences with Jack Antonoff in the second half. And it works here, as Swift is as honest as ever in her songwriting.

Yes, Taylor Swift played me like a violin. But I have no regrets about buying four copies of her album, including the two special edition magazines at Target. She’s an artist who’s mastered her craft, and she’s the only one in the current music industry who can shatter both her own records and people’s expectations of who she is or should be. And yes, Swift does have a “big reputation,” but it’s really nobody else’s business but her own. And despite intense speculation over her songwriting subjects, Swift is making it a point that this time, her music will be the sole focus of the conversation: “There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation.”

Taylor Swift’s out in the spotlight again. This time, she’s reclaiming her own narrative in the most grandiose fashion possible. Make your statement, Taylor.

Allen Pham is a junior majoring in public relations. He is also the associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “The A Game,” runs every other Monday.

  • Nope

    She has mastered her craft, yes. Her craft of regurgitating music and remaining hot and relevant in the industry. She claims that “the old Taylor” is dead, yet has done nothing significantly different from her past eras. Her music is still very standard pop and very Taylor Swift. While I appreciate her dive into a few new areas, this record is by no means groundbreaking or experimental or even daring.

    She has also not shattered expectations of who she is–only said that she has, herself. And no, it’s not her music that’s the sole focus of the conversation. It’s the bling that surrounds Taylor Swift that has people going crazy right now. Case in point: LWYMMD’s rapid decline on the charts. It wasn’t the music but the bling and that’s why it didn’t have longevity.