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

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)

“Taylor Swift”: A Professor Reviews Taylor Swift, Album #1

Yeah, I’m a 41-year-old male, and I listen to way too much Taylor Swift. And I’m also a social science professor, so that means I like to analyze things in the social world.

So, over the course of the past year, it only makes sense that I took some spare time to (a) rate all of TSwift’s songs on a 1 to 10 scale (for us quantitative types) and (b) to give due respect to qualitative forms of analysis, I also wrote a one-sentence review of each song.

(Can I put this on my annual report for the university? Probably not… *sigh*… although it would’ve been fun to include this in the packet when I went up for tenure… I’m sure that would’ve sealed the deal… good thing it turned out OK anyway…)

Now it’s time to share those reviews with the world, and no, I’m not putting them through peer review; just posting them on my blog! We start with the debut album (Taylor Swift), probably my least favorite of her albums, but the one that started it all (and with much to commend it).

Analysis notes: 1-4 = not very good; 5-6 = decent; 7-8 = good; 9-10 = great; 10s are reserved for true Taylor masterpieces. I did think about things like musical and lyrical quality, but ultimately the numbers represent how much I enjoy the song. So if you disagree, more power to you, and feel free to let me know why you think I’m wrong! Of course, we’ll also be looking at means and standard deviations for each album (how could we not???).

“Taylor Swift” (released 2006)
“Don’t know what’s down this road, I’m just walking,
Trying to see through the rain coming down.”

“Tim McGraw” (6/10): An acceptable ballad that establishes a floor for better ballads later on.

“Picture to Burn” (8/10): This song has great energy and the banjo injects a good dose of fun.

“Teardrops on My Guitar” (7/10): A classic Taylor song and a strong example of her country artistry, although I wish it built to a better climax.

“A Place in This World” (9/10): An underrated gem that always reminds me of its role in the 2010 Ramona and Beezus movie.

“Cold as You” (3/10): Yes, I know it’s the first of the much-lauded “Track 5” songs, but still, I find this one rather grating and I would skip it if it came on Pandora.

“The Outside” (5/10): A pleasant enough song that’s listenable, but also not particularly memorable.

“Tied Together with a Smile” (5/10): I never think about this one but when I listen to it, it’s OK enough.

“Stay Beautiful” (5.5/10): The lyrics on this one are uncharacteristically indistinct, particularly in comparison to later Taylor (something about a guy named Cory, and a radio? I dunno…), but overall it’s a forgettable song that’s maybe a bit more fun than the other forgettable songs on this album.

“Should’ve Said No” (7.5/10): A worthy hit single that aurally and lyrically echoes “Picture to Burn,” but for my money, I think “Picture” is the slightly stronger song.

“Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)” (8/10): In the debut album she hadn’t quite mastered the art of being epic, but in this forgotten treasure, she’s getting there.

“Our Song” (8.5/10): The song that ended the original version of the album is sweet, fun, and catchy, and I confess I enjoy songs that are self-referential (the song concludes with Taylor sitting down to write the song).

“I’m Only Me When I’m With You” (6/10): The beat, fast pace, and steel guitar make it a bit more memorable and energetic than much of this album’s other songs.

“Invisible” (3.5/10): I confess that young Taylor can sound whiny to my ear, at times, and she does here; the song is also so dull that halfway through I found my mind wandering.

“A Perfectly Good Heart” (5.5/10): It’s a decently OK song but not much more than that.

“Teardrops on My Guitar (pop version)” (7/10): Oh look, it’s a slightly different version of a song I’ve already heard on this album; but what “pop version” of a song still has steel guitar in the background?

Taylor Swift mean = 6.30 (standard deviation = 1.77)