I know no one is shocked to hear me talk about Taylor Swift again (and if you are, you must be new here), but she released a new album yesterday, and I definitely lost my cool, and I need to talk about it. I have been a fan of Taylor Swift and her music for over a decade—since the day I heard “I’d Lie” in a Hannah Montana fan video (Yeah, I know.)—and I am completely in awe of how she manages to create something so new and so different, but still so true to who she is, every single time. Long gone are the days of sundresses, cowboy boots, and long, curly hair. Taylor Swift is kicking ass, taking names, and telling the whole damn world about it.
Taylor Swift’s sixth album, reputation, is a complicated yet intimate fifteen-track vocal diary of her life over the past few years. She still sings about love and fairytales, but she grew up. Her soft, flowery persona is protected by the hard shell of adulthood and the thorns of living in the public eye. She knows she has a reputation—one created almost entirely by the media and sexist double standards—but she is completely done letting it control her life. Taylor stands up for herself, and pokes fun at all the lies that have been crafted about her, and flashes a big middle finger to all of the haters. Through all of that, she has found herself in an incredibly good place in her life, and she shares those delicate, complex feelings too.
From the moment I first heard the lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” I knew this album was going to be something special. Yeah, the sound is obviously darker and stronger than the “Old Taylor.” Yeah, she is fed up and angry. She doesn’t hide it though. The “New (New) Taylor” is sassy and vengeful and unapologetic, but she makes her point. It results in an album that is sonically different than nearly everything she’s released before, while still remaining lyrically strong and hopeful. Frankly, it’s kind of a masterpiece.
“The way I feel the album is, as far as a storyline, is I feel like it starts with just getting out any kind of rebellion, or anger, or angst, or whatever. And then, like, falling in love, and realizing that you kind of settling into what your priorities are, and your life changes, but you welcome it because it’s something that matters to you. And this last part of the album feels like settling into where I am now. So it started with where I was when I started making the album, and ends with kind of my emotional state now.”
I have been exhausted for years by people who thought my taste in music was bad and theirs was better. People who thought it was cool to hate Taylor Swift because she sang about her feelings and called out her exes. People who thought I was stupid for spending all my money on concerts or being a Jonas Brothers fan. It’s given me the tiniest glimpse into what Taylor herself has dealt with all these years. Nothing, of course, will ever compare to the endless rude comments and horrible rumors and slut-shaming that have followed her since she was fifteen years old. I understand how she got here though—to the place where this album was born.
Part of what makes this world so complex and interesting is that people are entitled to their own opinions. But when you listen to opinion after opinion that attempts to tear down something good, it’s hard not to come away a little bruised and battered. When I stopped letting people’s opinions keep me from enjoying things that I love, it made a world of difference. If I want to buy twelve copies of the same album or throw myself a solo dance party or blast “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in the car, I’m going to do it. And I’m not going to feel guilty about it.
Taylor Swift has masterfully created music for years—music that has seen me through highs and lows and in-the-middles since I was fifteen—and reputation is no exception. I admit that I was kind on the fence leading up the album release because I had no idea which direction the album was headed. Once I heard every track though, I was even more so convinced of Taylor’s musical genius.
Everything about reputation works so well together in a way that’s hard to see just from one or two songs. I want to fight and get revenge, but I also feel like dancing and throwing glitter and falling in love, and no one can cross that line as effortlessly as Taylor Swift. Despite all of the haters and naysayers and overall mean people that will no doubt try to break her down, I hope Taylor is damn proud of what she’s made and how far she’s come.