“Reputation”: A Professor Reviews Taylor Swift, Album #6

[Note: You can access my ranking, ratings, and reviews of all of Taylor’s songs here!]

Of all Taylor’s albums, I’ve had the most complex relationship with Reputation. At first, I didn’t much care for it, but over time, my opinion of it has greatly improved. It’s perhaps the most consistent and most cohesive of her albums (statistically demonstrated by the fact it has the lowest standard deviation! #statsnerd), even though throughout much of it her tongue seems firmly in her cheek. This isn’t so much “Taylor Swift” as it is “Taylor Swift’s reputation“; she plays the media caricature of herself here while “old Taylor” is dead. At at the end of this epic rock opera, the final track points unambiguously toward her ‘resurrection’ on a “New Year’s Day.”

Reputation (released 2017)
“Nothing good starts in a getaway car…

“… Ready For It?” (8.5/10): Let the games begin indeed, as Taylor throws down perhaps her strongest opening track on any of her albums.

“End Game” (9.5/10): I once derided this song, but I was wrong; somehow this epic combo of Future, Sheeran, Swift, rap, and pop really works (even though it seems it shouldn’t), foreshadowing the optimistic turn at the end of the album, but first…

“I Did Something Bad” (8/10): … Taylor begins her descent into madness in an energetic track that I suspect contains more than a bit of sarcasm.

“Don’t Blame Me” (8.5/10): The “crazy Taylor” of Reputation compares her lover to a narcotic, and the explosive chorus really lifts this track.

“Delicate” (9/10): In contrast to her (pre-Folklore) tendency for big, bombastic emotions, Taylor goes for understated and a bit coy, and it pays off in what seems like the most successful single from this album.

“Look What You Made Me Do” (7/10): Musically there’s about four different songs going on here, and they work well enough together in this vengeful tune, although it was probably a mistake to release this as the album’s lead single; that crazy music video, though, is easily a 10/10.

“So It Goes” (9/10): Maybe I’m in the minority, but I think this is a hidden gem that lyrically and musically expresses the overall tone and atmosphere of the album.

“Gorgeous” (8/10): One of my rules of music is that I don’t like to hear children speaking in a song; this fun song, which begins with Blake Lively’s kid saying “gorgeous!”, is the one exception I tolerate.

“Getaway Car” (10/10): This masterpiece provides a climax and plot twist for the whole album (signaled by a rare key change no less, I think the first main album one since “Love Story” all the way back on Fearless) as crazy Taylor steals the money and the keys and drives away.

“King of My Heart” (8.5/10): And after a brief but reflective pause, this song opens with Taylor perfectly fine and alone; then a new character, the king of her heart, shows up, with the chorus and bridge so powerfully expressing Taylor’s affection for him.

“Dancing With Our Hands Tied” (6.5/10): This song is listenable enough, but never seems to achieve full liftoff; I like the light/fire/water imagery in the bridge, though.

“Dress” (6/10): This and the prior track are, in my opinion, the OKish songs on the album; they’re fine enough and fit thematically, but when I put in Reputation, it isn’t because I want to listen to these songs.

“This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” (8.5/10): Taylor strikes back at Kanye in a raucous number that was surely a crowd-pleaser as the closing song on the Reputation tour.

“Call It What You Want” (9/10): As Reputation draws to a close, Taylor lays down her weapons and her armor, seeming to turn away from relational drama and toward a quieter and stronger expression of romantic affection.

“New Year’s Day” (9.5/10): It’s mostly Taylor and a piano in this brilliant final track, a song that is both totally like and totally unlike “Long Live” that closed Speak Now; her synthesis of both songs in the Reputation tour serves as a powerful illustration of her musical genius.

Reputation mean = 8.37 (standard deviation = 1.13)

“1989”: A Professor Reviews Taylor Swift, Album #5

[Note: You can access my ranking, ratings, and reviews of all of Taylor’s songs here!]

Ah, 1989… a much-loved and groundbreaking album that, to my ear at least, has stood the test of time thus far. But I confess I have a strong weakness for this album… I love 80s pop, and I love Taylor Swift music, so put them together… yeah. Shut up and take my money.

1989 (released 2014)
“Remember when you hit the brakes too soon? Twenty stitches in the hospital room…

“Welcome to New York” (5.5/10): It’s strange that such a strong album puts such a weak first track forward; the chorus works OK, but I don’t know what she was thinking with the music for the verses.

“Blank Space” (7.5/10): I know, I can feel Taylor Swift fans picking up rocks to throw at me, and this track has grown on me over the years, but I’m still left with the feeling that it doesn’t do enough of the emotional build-and-release that characterizes Taylor’s best work.

“Style” (10/10): If I think “Blank Space” is overrated, “Style” is underrated, but perhaps I like this one because of its strong 80s sensibilities that are like musical catnip to me, kind of like…

“Out of the Woods” (10/10): … which is a powerful, encompassing song that would’ve been right at home in the year 1986, and the video full of elemental imagery is pretty cool too; to my ear, one of her best songs ever.

“All You Had to Do Was Stay” (9/10): Taylor’s fifth tracks have a reputation for vulnerable lyrics, and no, this isn’t another “All Too Well,” but in an album crowded with popular songs, it would be a mistake to overlook this one.

“Shake It Off” (9/10): It’s quite deservedly her most iconic song after “Love Story” and therefore one destined for airplay in American culture for the next 40 years, but for me personally, it was so overplayed at its height that it’s the one Taylor track that gives me a “yeah, been there, done that” feeling.

“I Wish You Would” (10/10): Again, maybe it’s my appreciation for 80s ballads, but I adore this hidden gem that I don’t ever hear anyone talk about.

“Bad Blood” (5.5/10): “Welcome to New York” suffers from a decent chorus with underbaked verses, and “Bad Blood” has the opposite problem.

“Wildest Dreams” (6.5/10): I know this is a favorite of many, but it doesn’t do much for me; I wonder if perhaps it’s just a song that resonates more powerfully with female listeners.

“How You Get the Girl” (8.5/10): This carefully-paced track might win the award for the most pure fun on the album.

“This Love” (7.5/10): It’s amazing how this song is both sedate and epic at the same time, and hello water imagery!

“I Know Places” (9.5/10): This song exudes the sense of being on the run in the dead of night, and the click of the tape recorder at the beginning and end provides great auditory framing.

“Clean” (8.5/10): More water imagery (that I think calls back to the Fearless album in at least a couple of ways) appears in this strong conclusion to a deep, creative album.

1989 mean = 8.23 (standard deviation = 1.62)


I’m going to try to post the remaining album reviews in the coming days… because I’m also planning to post a ranked list of all her songs. The list is nearly done, and it includes songs beyond the main albums (e.g., since we’re in 1989 here, let me just say that “Wonderland” from the deluxe album is one of my favorites). So, I guess both of you reading this can look forward to that soon!