So It Goes… | Kyle Kim
Album rollouts are a fickle thing. As the marketing masterminds of the music industry put their heads together in an effort to most effectively promote a musical project, it’s incredibly difficult to strike the intricate balance between attention-grabbing and annoying. And yet, some album rollouts stand the test of time in my mind, leaving an incredibly significant impression even years later. The album worth mentioning here, in honor of its five-year anniversary, is Taylor Swift’s reputation.
reputation’s rollout transcended cultural divides, making expert use of social media to produce a series of events so iconic, so attention-grabbing, and so culturally-relevant that even I, a Fortnite-obsessed middle schooler with no interest in music, remembers it vividly. But does the album hold up to its one-of-a-kind lead up? To find out, here’s a review from probably the last person on staff you would expect to cover a Taylor Swift project.
On the production end, I loved the distortion of songs like “... Ready For It?” which remind me of “Igor’s Theme” and similarly crackly, almost-angry sounding songs. The apparent hip-hop roots and rythmic backing drums of songs like “End Game” were also a pleasant surprise, leaning heavily into a genre of melodic rap that seems artistically unprecedented for Swift. Finally, the loud, punchy production choices are really enjoyable throughout the album as well, complimented well by moments of smooth calmness. But, of course, with Jack Antonoff, Max Martin, and Shellback on the production, it’s no surprise that everything sounds great.
Vocally, Swift’s melodies serve as a nice contrast to the energetic production, with her delivery ranging between balladry to hip-hop inspired bars at a moment’s notice. I also really like how some of these songs maintain a sharp contrast between muted, calm verses and the grandiose hooks, with “Don’t Blame Me” exemplifying the idea. Otherwise, there’s not a lot to talk about — Swift’s voice is great as usual, and the mixing and mastering are all impeccable.
In terms of theme, the title sets an interesting precedent about what’s to come. The way Swift addresses her own reputation, her portrayal in the media, and her experiences in tumultuous love are all interesting and nuanced, although perhaps not as multifaceted as one might hope. There’s also a clear focus from start to finish, with much of the lyricism relating directly to the theme. One of my personal favorite lines is from “I Did Something Bad,” which essentially summarizes the point Swift is trying to make throughout the album’s 56-minute runtime: “They’re burning all the witches, even if you aren’t one/So light me up.”
However, one thing that has always confused me about the album is its features. For such a personal album, Future and Ed Sheeran feel like strange choices on an otherwise solo project. Moreover, neither particularly seem to relate to the album’s overarching themes about media portrayal, and neither artist compliments Swift’s artistic vision (especially on this project) in an obvious way.
All in all, reputation surprised me, shattering preconceived notions about Swift’s range and artistic abilities. The trap-heavy, bombastic production choices were particularly enjoyable, and the thematic cohesiveness was nice as well. And, for something that’s now five years old, none of the main aspects of the album feel dated in the slightest — an impressive feat in its own right.