Reputation reviews praise Taylor Swift's personal lyricism
Pop powerhouse Taylor Swift ended the longest studio-album drought of her career early Friday with the release of her sixth LP, reputation. Her first full-length since 2014’s commercial and critical juggernaut 1989 follows the string of polarizing, splashy singles she’s released since August.
“Look What You Made Me Do” divided fans, but still became Swift’s fifth No. 1 on the Hot 100. Meanwhile, “Gorgeous” received a more positive reception, in part thanks to its revival of some of Swift’s prior songwriting tropes. But listeners could agree that the tunes marked Swift’s doubling-down on the pop she honed with 1989; producers Max Martin and Jack Antonoff played significant roles in reputation, making Swift’s earlier phase as a country singer-songwriter seem like a distant memory.
Hours after reputation‘s release, reviews have started to trickle in — and, while perhaps not a slam-dunk like Swift’s previous LPs, the album as a whole seems stronger than its pre-release singles.
In her B-grade review, EW critic Leah Greenblatt notes reputation‘s role in the “no chutes, all ladders” arc of Swift’s career that turned her into one of the era’s most beloved pop stars. “America’s Sweetheart is also a heavy sash to bear,” Greenblatt writes, “and on her new sixth studio album, Swift seems determined to abdicated the throne, or at least retreat. reputation is an oddly bifurcated creation, half obsessed with grim score-settling and celebrity damage, half infuriated with a lover who takes her away from all that.”
Across its 15 songs, reputation offers plenty of intrigue for Swift fans. Beyond Martin and Antonoff, chart behemoths Ed Sheeran and Future — who’ve both scored No. 1 albums in 2017 — stop by on “End Game.” And the album contains plenty of lyrical allusions that’ll keep the internet buzzing for weeks.
Read some of the early reputation reviews below.
Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)
“On any past album, a song like [‘New Year’s Day’] or the blissfully smitten ‘Gorgeous’ might even feel like throwaways, sweet sketches to fill the spaces between monster singles. But they’re a reminder of how easily Swift shines when she’s true to her creative DNA —not the burn-it-down renegade she wants to be but the pure pop destiny she still can’t help manifesting, with or without a crown.“
Jon Caramanica (The New York Times)
“Reputation is fundamentally unlike any of her other albums in that it takes into account — prioritizes, actually — the tempo and tone of her competition. Reputation is a public renegotiation, engaging pop music on its terms, not hers. And even though what’s au courant in pop — post-Drake lite-soul noir, or gothic but plain dramatists like Halsey and Selena Gomez — doesn’t necessarily play to Ms. Swift’s strengths, she barrels ahead here, finding ways to incorporate it into her arsenal, and herself into it. Some things are lost, to be sure, but it turns out that Ms. Swift is as effective a distiller of everyone else’s pop ideas as she was at charting her own sui generis path.”
Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone)
“Reputation is her most intimate album — a song cycle about how it feels when you stop chasing romance and start letting your life happen. As one of the all-time great pop masterminds, she’s trying something new, as she always does. But because she’s Taylor Swift, she can’t stop being her own turbulent, excessive, exhausting and gloriously extra self. Make no mistake, this girl’s love affair with drama is alive and well.”
Ann Powers (NPR)
“What some might not have expected is that Swift would actually make music that comes closer to [Kanye] West’s own eclectic sonic experiments than she ever has before. With the help of the producers Max Martin and Shellback and Jack Antonoff (among whom this long album’s 15 tracks are fairly evenly divided), Swift has created her answer to West’s classic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, another album which also grapples with self-doubt and the negative effects of fame.”
Maeve McDermott (USA Today)
“Aside from the simple piano on ‘New Year’s Day,’ the album is all skittering beats and booming bass choruses and vocoder-style harmonies, a sonically unified sheen of icy pop crafted with the help of mega-producers including Max Martin and Jack Antonoff. Yet, while reputation tightens up 1989’s wide-ranging pop experiments into a more defined sound, the album’s slower stretches — where she’s stuck in the throes of love for songs on end — may leave some fans nostalgic for her previous album’s more playful pop stylings or the twangy guitars of her earlier releases.”
Alexis Petridis (The Guardian)
“Swift is a smart cookie. She’s smart enough to write lyrics far better and wittier than the average pop fare, inverting the cliche of the love ’em and leave ’em Romeo — ‘I’ll carve your name on my bedpost,’ she snarls — and admitting defeat when her chat-up lines fail with a sigh of ‘I guess I’ll stumble home to my cats — alone.’ And she’s certainly too smart to put all her eggs in one basket. At the heart of reputation lies a sequence of songs that chart the rise, fall and fallout of a fleeting relationship and offer a masterclass in pop songwriting along the way.”
Randy Lewis (The Los Angeles Times)
“The double-edged sword of success — and the fame and fortune that have accompanied it to stratospheric levels for her — inform many of the songs on reputation, possibly the most anticipated album of the always-intensive fall season. As one of a small handful of music writers offered an early listen to the new collection, I’ll venture to call it her most focused, most cohesive album yet.”
Chris Willman (Variety)
“Although you might not guess it from the songs that have been released prior to the album’s launch, reputation is, in whole, a lot more sensual than it is peeved. Nearly all the tracks are as unapologetically electronic as those first teasers, but they get looser, sultrier, hookier and more about the R&B than EDM influences.”