In the past three years, I've bought three physical albums - 1989, Hamilton, and now reputation. Real talk, I was not at all impressed with the pre-album singles, but as soon as the CD came out, I started to hear rumblings around the internet. And I couldn't help myself. I went to Target and bought the thing. Also, Taylor, when is it going to be available on Spotify? Google Music? Amazon Music? Girl has an Android and needs to listen to this on my run!
But the CD has been my background music, my car music, and will be my running music as soon as I can get the thing on my phone. And I have serious thoughts and opinions on each song. But before I get to the individual songs, some overall thoughts on the CD. She really picked the worst songs for the singles so far. What was her marketing team thinking - were they that invested in the phrase 'the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now because she's dead?' And the videos haven't been great either, with the video for '...Ready For It' an expensive mess and the one for 'Look What You Made Me Do' only salvaged by the final ten seconds. The pre-release made it hard to be a fan. I found myself defending her, not a great situation when you you expect to be in an excited, anticipatory bubble. And it's hard to talk about Taylor without talking about her politics, or lack thereof, as her feminism embrace seems more about her brand than anything meaningful. When Breitbart is quoting you, time to speak up.
But hey, we're just here to blindingly talk about songs. One thing that surprised me in this era - how much she talks about sex and drinking and actually curses. She says 'shit' at one point! Multiple songs references drinks and wine and getting drunk. Wow, we've come a long way. And while previous albums flirted with sex, thinking especially of those breathy pieces in 'Wildest Dreams,' the album is at its most obvious here. I want to say something about Taylor growing up, but girl is 27 years old (almost 28). That ship has sailed but nice to see she's finally getting around to acknowledging it.
Finally, in addition to her videos, Youtube has some fun 'making of' videos (I was going to link to her Youtube user account but not all are listed under her) for some of the songs. It's an insightful peak to the behind the scenes stuff of making a song. I wish more artists did this, to be honest.
And now for the songs. I'm ranking them here, best to worst. Vulture did her whole catalog. I didn't really jump on the Taylor bandwagon until Red and don't have as opinions of the bulk of her country songs, but, sure, Vulture, sounds good!
1. This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things. Parts of this song are obviously about Kanye. Others maybe an ex-boyfriend or Katy Perry or Karlie Kloss. Who cares, as long as we have the song! This is the song 'Look What You Made Me Do' was trying to be. It's nice to see her occasionally embrace the vindictive, petty persona, especially when it's so fun. And she embraces the childishness of her famous feuds here, with the silly title and the condescending tone she takes throughout. The ridiculous rhymes in the fake toasts, the Gatsby references, the faux-friendliness to the frenemy at the heart of the song with the sarcastic affection, I'm here for all of it.
2. I Did Something Bad. Here it is, her first on-record use of the word 'shit.' So grown up! But seriously, why wasn't this the first single? The 'witch' references are clunky but the rest of it is such a great pop song. It belongs on the radio (if I listened to the radio).
3. Don't Blame Me. Vulture compares this song to Hozier's Take Me To Church. I get it, at a stretch, though I probably prefer the latter? That being said, it's still my number three on the album and the lyrics 'love made my crazy / if it doesn't, you ain't doin' it right' have made me reconsider my own personal love life. Taylor maybe isn't the chick to take advice from but she can write a tune.
4. Delicate. I do enjoy this song. There's something relaxed and casual about it. I'm going to listen to it one rainy afternoon while drinking wine and watching a fire and it's going to be lovely. On quibble - where did Taylor's confidence go? She asks him 'if it's okay if she says all that' and assumes he must actually, truly really like her for her because her reputation is so shitty and he still lowers himself to be with her. Girl, where's the firebrand from "I Did Something Bad?" Get some of the gumption back, you're Taylor Swift! This does have my favorite lyric of the entire album: 'Can't make any promises now, can we babe, but you can make me a drink'. Damn, that's a lifestyle.
5. Getaway Car. This is, to me, the odd man out. Something of a story song, her take at Bonny and Clyde, 'New Romantics'-adjacent. I don't know much about Bleachers (though I like fun.) but the internet tells me this is a very Bleachers-song. I may not like his girlfriend, but sometimes Jack Antonoff can put together a tune. Maybe Lena Dunam can do the screenplay.
There's a clear break here - the first five songs I really enjoy. And they're songs I'll seek out, purposefully skip to. The ones I really need on my phone. The next couple of songs I'll allow if the CD randomly ends up on them. They're not my favorite but they're listenable.
6. So It Goes. This is predictable and fine, as casual as the romance it's about. Quick aside - I think this is the first album primarily written about an ongoing romance? In general, revenge and broken hearts are more her strong suit. There's not a 'Blank Space' or 'Never Getting Back Together' here.
7. New Year's Day. Okay, sure. It's no "All Too Well" but, then, what is? Again, it's the mid-romance song versus the pangs of regret and heartbreak.
8. Call It What You Want. This one is clearly the best of the pre-releases. As always, some of the lyrics are very clunky while also displaying some questionable romantic choices (trust you like a brother? chain around your neck because he really knows you?) and a few odd deviations (personally, I like the nods to some disappearance from society where she can be truly happy but it doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the love song), but overall I like the mood and tone, the vibe, of the song. There's something effortless and cool about it. Not the best, not the worst.
9. Dress. Please don't be about Ed Sheeran, please don't be about Ed Sheeran.
10. King Of My Heart. Before listening to the album, I heard some shit about this song and was ready to not like it. But really? It's not the worst! There's something easy and light-hearted but also inevitable about it. How did this song not already exist in the world? Some of the lyrics are cringey (the way she pronounces Jaguar alone...) but when it comes on, I'm not mad.
11. Gorgeous. The next-to-least-worst of the pre-releases in Gorgeous. I've seen pictures of her new boyfriend and I don't know that I would write this particular song about him, but I'm happy she's happy! There is a bit 'everything and the kitchen sink' to this song, starting with the baby intro. I'm going to assume they enjoyed making it as much as Taylor enjoys her new boyfriend's face.
12. Dancing With Our Hands Tied. This song is here because I have no real opinion on it but I don't actively dislike it like the next three. This song is the equivalent of those Hallmark Christmas movies. It's something to put my eyeballs on (or in this case, ears) for a period of time but as soon as it's over, I can't tell you a single detail about it, but I can probably guess at the main points.
Now we're to the next part of the CD. These are the ones I almost always skip, unless I'm driving and the highway traffic is precarious or I'm holding a Starbucks cup in one hand. Really not your best work, Taylor.
13. Look What You Made Me Do. The last ten seconds of the music video and the 'Cause she's dead' bit keep it above numbers 14 and 15. But seriously, this was the first single? Vulture had this as the worst Taylor Swift song ever in their list. And honestly, when I heard it the first time, the day after it's release while brushing my teeth, I would agree. But since then, it's grown on me. In part because of my incessant listening for the first few weeks because hey, new Taylor is still new Taylor. Now I can mostly just skip it when it comes on and move on with my life.
14. ... Ready For It. Ew. Just ew. The rapping is terrible. I cringe every time she says 'so this is how it's gonna go.' And somehow the bloated, meaningless music video just makes it worse.
15. End Game. Ed Sheeran raps on this one. That's all you need to know. And it's the second song on the CD! I'm not well-versed enough in Swift's entire catalog to say if this is her worst song ever. But of the one's I'm familiar with? Yes. Very, very much yes.