By Alexis Ancel // Editor in Chief
The old Taylor Swift is dead. She even said so herself. We’ve known quite a few Taylor Swifts over the years, but they’re all gone. Say goodbye to the hopeless romantic with an addiction to sparkles. It’s time to mourn the dewy eyed blonde in sundresses and cowboy boots we met 12 years ago. So what are we left with? The real Taylor Swift.
Don’t get me wrong. She’s been in there all along, but it’s taken some prodding to get her out—prodding in the form of media slander and defamation of character. The entire “Reputation” era feels markedly different from all the rest. Breaking from her usual bi-annual album release pattern, “Reputation” came three years after the release of “1989.” After sliding under the radar for almost two years, she came back with a bang—a bang in the form of complete silence. No talk show appearances, no performances, and no real word from Swift at all from the time “Look What You Made Me Do” was released until the album dropped on Nov. 10.
What we got instead was a type of authenticity that she has never quite been able to achieve without the media’s perception of her clouding everyone else’s. Her songwriting has always remained honest no matter how high her fame skyrocketed, but this time around, the only words anyone heard from her came in lyric form. For the first time, Swift let her music speak for itself.
And it did. This album speaks louder and stronger than any of Swift’s previous bodies of work. Four songs were released prior to the actual album, and each one sent a very clear message. “Look What You Made Me Do” made it clear that she was taking control of her own life, “…Ready For It?” showed that there would be more to this album than rage and revenge, “Gorgeous” reminded everyone that she’ll always be a hopeless romantic, and “Call It What You Want” sent perhaps the best message of all—that she’s happier now than she’s ever been.
Every song simultaneously stands on its own and fits into the larger story of the album. It’s diverse, bold and raw, ranging from bops like “Endgame” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” to more vulnerable tracks like “Delicate” and “New Year’s Day.”
Swift has never made the same album twice. Each one stands on its own as a unique body of work, but something about “Reputation” is categorically different from anything we have seen or heard from her before. Since the start of her career, writing songs about ex-boyfriends quickly became Swift’s trademark. But while she has created six albums and an entire career on songs about love ending, what she has never before been able to do is write about being in love. Until now, that is.
But perhaps the most remarkable thing about this album is that Swift still remains relatable in spite of the drastic shift in content, one of the many qualities that drew millions of teen girls to her in the first place 11 years ago. While media slander isn’t something the majority of her listeners have experienced, she writes in a way that they don’t necessarily have to in order to understand the feeling behind it. It’s only the rare few that have been interrupted in the middle of an acceptance speech or had another pop star try to destroy their tour, but everyone knows what it’s like to feel cheated, manipulated and helpless.
This isn’t to say that everything has been sunshine and rainbows for Swift or her fans just because she’s back at the top of the charts. Concert ticket prices are higher than ever, so much so that she has yet to sell out a single stadium. She undoubtedly will, but many fans aren’t happy about the money they’ll need to shell out in order to see their idol on tour. Her virtually nonexistent presence in the public eye has made it hard to connect with her in any way other than through her music.
Perhaps that’s the point, though. Though she has made no formal announcement, it’s unlikely that she will be making a seventh album. This is her last run and she knows it, so she’s leaving the spotlight on her own terms. She’s no longer letting interviewers twist her words, and she’s not giving the media any material to report on. Swift has always intended for her music to speak for itself, and that may finally be possible.
This was certainly a smart move for her personal life and mental health, but as a devoted fan of 11 years, I miss seeing her on talk shows and posting photos with her friends on social media. If cutting off the entire public is what she needs to do for herself, then more power to her, but it does give this era a notably more impersonal feel than previous ones. We miss her.
Only time will tell what this tour will be like, but “Reputation” has given us a very clear picture of what her life has been like in the past year. In the end, all her fans really want is for her to be happy, and she is. She’s in love, she’s doing better than she ever was, and she’s living her life the way she wants to. It’s about time.