reputation X taylor swift – album review

pop culture plug

Much ado has been said about Taylor Swift. Country’s pop chanteuse left the stable last year with 1989 and doubles down on the pop styling in her new offering “reputation“.

As a body of work, the word reputation gets thrown around a lot and it focuses heavily on her deep love for new boyfriend Joe Alwyn and his loyalty to her in the last few years of her life when the media turned on her after she was exposed as a liar by Kanye and Kim. As well documented on the single and subsequent video for “Look What You Made Me“, Taylor Swift is trying to flip the image she has cultivated of being a victim on its head. Multiple references to “they took my crown away” and losing her “kingdom” fill the pages of Swift’s latest work. So let’s review each song track by track!

Ready For It – 3/5

Taylor’s first foray into rapping peaks with “He don’t try at all though, younger than my exes but he acts like such a man so“. There is nothing really much to say after that. “In the middle of the night, you should see things we do baby“. It’s mediocre songwriting but the beat goes off.

End Game (ft. Future and Ed Sheeran)  – 3/5

The first song to directly reference “reputation” (“Reputation precedes me, they told you I’m crazy / I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me”). It reiterates that she wants Joe to be her endgame and not for he someone he forgets even with his love for the bad girls. I wanna think with the caliber of collaborators that this will end up as a single but I’d really hope not. It’s a bit childish but the beat and the production goes off. I mean, childish songs sell all the time and it’s sure to be a hit on the name alone.

I Did Something Bad – 5/5

This song goes OFF. I love it. It’s Swift as a classic mustache swirling villain. If the theme of reputation was to embrace being a villain this is the song that truly hits it. It’s Swift giving no fucks and having no regrets. The production from Max Martin and Shellback is electrifying. This was such a A+ class pop song, it would have been a stellar first single as opposed to the lame duck “Look What You Made Me Do“. The lyrics are unapologetic af.  (“I can feel the flames on my skin / Crimson red paint on my lips /If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing /I don’t regret it one bit, ’cause he had it coming”) and (“I never trust a narcissist / But they love me / So I play ’em like a violin / And I make it look oh so easy / ‘Cause for every lie I tell them / They tell me three”) ending it with a defiant verse about lighting her up like the witch they think she is but despite it all “I’d do it over and over again if I could, it felt so good”. This deserves the single treatment, issa BOP.

Don’t Blame Me – 4/5

This song sees Swift declaring Joe’s love is a drug that made her crazy. (“Don’t blame me, your love made me crazy / If it doesn’t, you ain’t doin’ it right / Lord, save me, my drug is my baby / I’d be usin’ for the rest of my life”). It’s your standard, ride or die for your man kinda track.

Delicate 5/5

The second song to reference Taylor Swift’s reputation is another declaration of love to Joe Alwyn.  (“My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me…”). It’s about those early stages of having a crush and liking someone where there is this literal delicate uncertainty of mutual feelings and how deep it goes for each party.

(“Is it cool that I said all that? / Is it chill that you’re in my head? / ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate (delicate) / Is it cool that I said all that / Is it too soon to do this yet? / ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate / Isn’t it? Isn’t it? Isn’t it? Isn’t it?”).  It peaks as the flirtation crosses the line into total intimacy (“Do the girls back home touch you like I do? / Long night, with your hands up in my hair / Echoes of your footsteps on the stairs / Stay here, honey, I don’t wanna share / ‘Cause I like you”) It’s vulnerable and set against the upbeat production by Max Martin and Shellback, it’s an honest account of the delicate tightrope of holding yourself back to someone you feel an instant attraction to. #relateable. Another awesome potential single.

Look What You Made Me Do – 2/5

Set against the body of work thus far, LWYMMD is ultimately filler but was put out as the face of this era to torch Taylor’s old image. It’s only serves as a place-mark in pop culture simply for  “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now / “Why? Oh, ’cause she’s dead!” 

So It Goes… – 3/5

Another love song about Joe. But this one gets a little more explicit. (“And our pieces fall / Right into place / Get caught up in the moments / Lipstick on your face / So it goes… / I’m yours to keep / And I’m yours to lose / You know / I’m  not a bad girl, but I / Do bad things with you / So it goes…”). It’s another ride or die for your man standard filler.

Gorgeous – 1/5

Another love song. This was released as a promo single in the lead-up to reputation’s release. It reads like a Lonely Island parody song. It has no depth, no heart and it’s utter gar-bage. The production is alright at best.

Getaway Car – 0/5

This song reminds me of Harry Styles and Out of The Woods (from previous album 1989). Maybe it’s the sing-talky style of the song. It sounds like leaving a dude for another guy. It’s honestly boring and should have been cut from the album. It has no impact.

King of My Heart – 1/5

This sounds like a follow-up to the much superior ‘Delicate’. The attraction is new and mutual, when everything feels fiery hot and nothing feels impossible. The themes are all the same, he’s everything she’s ever wanted and different from everyone else. It all sounds like filler to me and the production is loud and messy but this verse is quite nice – “Late in the night, the city’s asleep / Your love is a secret I’m hoping, dreaming, dying to keep / Change my priorities / The taste of your lips is my idea of luxury

Dancing With Our Hands Tied – 2/5

A love song about being scared of losing someone because of outside interference. I feel like this song is a grower that needs multiple listens to get into it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Taylor Swift song (on an album or unreleased) where she is genuinely scared of losing someone because of what people thought of her.  (“You said there was nothing in the world that could stop it / I had a bad feeling / And darling, you had turned my bed into a sacred oasis / People started talking, putting us through our paces / I knew there was no one in the world who could take it / I had a bad feeling”)

Dress – 5/5

Dress is probably my favorite song on the album. It reminds me of a follow-up to my favorite Taylor Swift song of all time – Enchanted. Whereas Enchanted is about the idealized emotional heights of  the initial meeting and attraction, Dress is the evolution of what happens when idealized emotional heights cross over into physical idealized heights. It’s the most outright sexual song Swift has ever recorded. While previous work (Treacherous, Sparks Fly, State of Grace and All Too Well – all standout tracks of her career) allude to physical intimacy in metaphors and clever asides, Dress is assertive and straightforward –  “Say my name and everything just stops / I don’t want you like a best friend / Only bought this dress so you could take it off / Take it off / Carve your name into my bedpost / ‘Cause I don’t want you like a best friend / Only bought this dress so you could take it off / Take it off“.This should definitely be a single. This is Taylor Swift at 27.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things – 0/5

Let’s keep it 100. This song is about Kim and Kanye. Even naming it after an internet meme is even more lame. Taylor has had a long list of specific burn book songs – Dear John (over 7 minutes long about John Mayer), Bad Blood (about Katy Perry fucking said John Mayer), Better than Revenge (about Camilla Belle for “stealing Joe Jonas” and basically calling her a whore) and Mean (which was about music critic Bob Lefsetz and won two Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance in 2012) but while those songs were fun for drama, ….Nice Things wasn’t really needed. She already did LWYMMD. Choose one of the two because no one cares about this stale beef to have two songs about it.

It was so nice being friends again / There I was giving you a second chance / But then you stabbed my back while shaking my hand / And therein lies the issue / Friends don’t try to trick you / Get you on the phone and mind-twist you /And so I took an axe to a mended fence“.

There is also a part where she stops singing because she can’t even be brought to sing about forgiving him again. “‘Cause forgiveness is a nice thing to do, Haha, I can’t even say it with a straight face”. It’s really stupid and it sucks that it follows an awesome some like Dress because it’s precisely the worst thing about Swift following the best: for fuck’s sake take the L and go home.

Call It What You Want – 4/5

Taylor really knew what she was doing sandwiching her worst song between two of her albums better songs. It’s a good palate cleanser. Call It…. clocks in as the album’s eighth ode of love to Joe Alwyn. I feel like Lena Dunham had a pass at these lyrics with this feminism era lyric: “I want to wear his initial on a chain round my neck / Chain round my neck / Not because he owns me / But ’cause he really knows me“. It’s not entirely impossible as Dunham’s longtime boyfriend and frequent Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff also produced the track. By now, you can already guess what the theme of the song is having someone love you despite the “castle crumbling” around you. The song’s production lends to the sincerity of the lyrics and it gets points for creating the sure to be go-to Facebook status quote of girls in love everywhere: “My baby’s fit like a daydream / Walking with his head down / I’m the one he’s walking to / (Call it what you want, call it what you want, call it) / So call it what you want, yeah / Call it what you want to / My baby’s fly like a jet stream / High above the whole scene /Loves me like I’m brand new”

However there is one thing a little off though, see if you can spot it – “And I know I make the same mistakes every time / Bridges burn, I never learn / At least I did one thing right / I did one thing right / I’m laughin’ with my lover, makin’ forts under covers / Trust him like a brother / Yeah, you know I did one thing right / Starry eyes sparkin’ up my darkest night”. Call It… was the best of the promo singles and despite that weird incesty remark was one of her better love songs on reputation.

New Year’s Day – 3/5

Taylor Swift has written better ballads but one lyric stands out to me “Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere”. I get it. It’s the attachment that feels so special you never want there to be a time where it ever ends. It has minimal production and is probably the most stripped down track of the track which sells the song’s vulnerability. It’s sincere but ultimately bland.

OVERALL: I think this album was should be called repetitive instead of reputation. A lot of the songs don’t stray too far from being about Joe saving her from people being mean. I think generally I love Taylor’s songs about love more than the ones about heartbreak and she did some really solid work on this album. Dress to me, is a landmark song for her because it’s a more mature theme as she approaches her 30s. Two songs about Kim and Kanye? No one has the time. As a body of work, it’s more interesting than 1989 but whereas 1989 had stellar songwriting on cuts like Style, Blank Space, Clean and Wildest Dreams, reputation doesn’t have that. Production wise, the album leans a lot into pop, more so than 1989. reputation is probably also her most transparent work. While it’s always fun to decode the liner notes and clues Taylor lines into her album artwork to secretly detail who her songs are about, this time around it was all pretty obvious.

I still think Red and Speak Now remain her strongest and most compelling albums to date. The songwriting on those two albums are miles better than this. The tracks on reputation that are really good hit hard but the ones that miss, miss the mark by a lot. One thing no one can deny though, she is a compelling figure of pop culture, one that can move album sales like mountains. I have no doubt in my mind this album will cross 1M in sales, even without being available on streaming. That’s just her reputation.

GRADE: B-

reputation is available on iTunes now and coming soon to streaming services worldwide.

 

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POP CULTURE PLUG: MILEY X SNL

pop culture plug

Miss Miley performed two stellar tracks off of her latest album “Younger Now” this weekend on SNL. Younger Now was Cyrus’ first entirely self written album. It was Cyrus embracing her country roots and the influences that have made her one of the biggest pop stars of this decade.

The one that I want to highlight today is Miley’s saccharine love song to Liam Hemsworth: “I Would Die For You”. Her first single “Malibu” was another stirring declaration of love lost and found again (“It’s a brand new start, a dream come true in Malibu”) but “I Would Die For You” is so sincere in its honesty and vulnerability (“I’d give up all I have in exchange for who I love more than anything”) and while watching Hemsworth off stage she adlibs “That’s you”. It’s a moving ode to love that has endured and grown stronger.

Harry Styles – Sign of the Times

pop culture plug

Over a year from the “hiatus” of One Direction, Harry Styles is the last member of the band to release solo material. Styles’ almost six minute long ballad laments the loss of a relationship that seems to be repetitive in its toxicity (as most ballads tend to do):

“We don’t talk enough / We should open up / Before it’s all too much / Will we ever learn? / We’ve been here before / It’s just what we know”

The ballad sounds like it could be on a One Direction album but also has a classic rock feel and it’s intentional as Styles has cited David Bowie as an influence for his yet untitled forthcoming debut album. The song has an easy breezy feel and will definitely make you wanna have it on replay.

(*Irrelevant Fact: Noted ex girlfriend Taylor Swift wrote the 7 minute song ballad “Dear John” on her album “Speak Now” about her toxic relationship with John Mayer. And her current album “1989” was full of songs with clear as day references to her relationship with Harry (Out of the Woods, Style), could this be Harry speaking to why he left Taylor Swift on a boat in the middle of their epic break up?

This picture will never not be funny)

Per BBC.com: “Harry’s co-conspirator on this track is Jeff Bhasker. You might not have heard of him but, since connecting with Kanye West on 2008’s moody 808s and Heartbreaks album, he’s become one of the industry’s most in-demand writers and producers.
He co-wrote Uptown Funk with Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, and his other credits include Jay-Z’s Run This Town, Fun’s We Are Young and Lana Del Rey’s National Anthem – itself a clear influence on Sign Of The Times.”

It’s also the stock track for your typical coming of age movie when the main characters realize something at the school dance. I like it but I do think it will need a radio version because no one got time for six minutes of ballads on the radio. I think this will do great with covers. I’m excited to hear a female voice belting out that last minute of the song. Demi Lovato or Adele would be great. Harry Styles will perform this for the first time on an upcoming episode of “Saturday Night Live”. If I’m not mistaken, it’ll be this week.

Click to listen to this week’s pop culture plug below:

Pop Culture Plug: @gilmoreguysshow

pop culture plug

Gilmore Guys is a podcast about, well, Gilmore Girls. Hosted by longtime fan @KevinTPorter and newcomer Demi (@electrolemon), the first episodes of the podcast are admittedly rough but hits its stride in the season two episodes. Aside from gabbing about each episode, there are also mailbag episodes where readers send in their questions that lead to some hilarious discussions; as well as Gilmore Gabs where they interview the cast and crew of the show. In fact, their first high profile Gab was with Scott Patterson where he first revealed the revival was in the negotiation stages. Other major Gabs included Milo Ventimiglia, Kelly Bishop, Keiko Agena, Liza Weil and Sean Gunn. Lauren Graham is also carded for a future Gab.

The podcast eventually evolved into live shows that usually involved a musical bit to begin the show. This is 100000% my favourite part of the show. Below is a compilation of live shows and musical bits. Other segments included “Pop Goes The Culture”, “F-f-f-fashion”, “Is this homophobic?”, the extremely hilarious “TWOP”, “Say Yes to the Jess”, “What are the final four words?” and Twitter Q&A.

This segment was actually inspired by the show, in the later seasons, each episode ended with asking each guest what they were enjoying in pop culture because Gilmore Girls was so rooted in pop culture itself. The earlier episodes of the podcast (pre-revival) are actually pretty hilarious to listen to now because of Kevin’s diehard prayers for a Season 8. They became so intertwined with the fandom of the series that they were given a cameo spot in the Dragonfly Inn for the revival series A Year in the Life.

The show had several MVP guests: most notably Patrick Walsh, Anthony Troli, Jamie Woodham, Alice Wetterland, Jason Manzoukas, Sarah Heyward and queen godmother Aisha Muharrar. The Aisha episodes are some of the best because she always brings a unique perspective to each episode.

The early episodes are a bit rough, so I’d recommend starting at Season 2 and then listen to Season 1 after you’ve fallen in love with this charming duo. Currently all of the Gilmore Girls episodes are over and they’re doing Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s follow-up series Bunheads as an epilogue. Genuinely love these dudes, they are hilarious and to be honest, by the end of the series I liked Gilmore Guys the podcast, more than Gilmore Girls the series.

Gilmore Guys can be found on iTunes and on Soundcloud and on Twitter @gilmoreguyshow.

Videos of all of the live episodes can be found on iTunes or on their Youtube/Vimeo

Copperboom.

(Skip to 13:45 for one of the best: a Gilmore Rap set to Golddigger – “Rory’s dating a Huntzberger”)