By Joey Alan
I've listened to reputation about 5 times through and I have thoughts. Skip if you hate Taylor because this post will be long and neither she nor I need that kind of negativity in our lives.
I'll get this out of the way first. I love it.
In preparation for the release, I've been listening to a lot of Taylor this week. I've always loved 1989 and RED, but I hadn't even gotten into her earlier stuff. I spent a lot of this week listening to Speak Now. On my first listen through, I was a little "WTF is this?" My first listen through of the whole album in general was pretty underwhelming.
The album suffers a LITTLE (not a lot) from the production sounding similar, so until you get to spend some time with the songs, the melodies, and the lyrics, it can feel like a lot of the same at first. It's GOOD production; it's just busy sometimes, and follows some similar patterns. (At times it feels like Taylor making her best Lorde record, but her melodies and vocal stylings still make it inherently Taylor).
This underwhelming feeling definitely changes the more you listen to it. First, Taylor continues to be one of the best lyricists in the pop game. I've heard people complain about her lyrics, but I think they are crazy. Taylor is, first and foremost, a storyteller, who has been compared to Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, and Carole King. These are bold statements, but she could absolutely be heading that way if her career continues in the way it has. Her specificity and imagery sets her apart from the rest, but sometimes that type of language, which is appreciated in folk and country music can come across strange or clunky in pop music where the lyrics are usually so unimportant/generic.
Taylor loves to play with the opinions that people have of her. Look at track titles like "I Did Something Bad," "Don't Blame Me," "Look What You Made Me Do," "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things." Hell, she did it 3 years ago when she wrote an entire song about being a crazy, obsessive stalker girlfriend in "Blank Space". It's fun to hear her poke fun at herself, but also basically say "FUCK YOU" to everyone who thinks every ridiculous thing they read about her is true.
Vocally, it's fine. She has some killer vocal moments and has always been great with her patter in songs, but she's never been a capital S SINGER and that doesn't change here. She sounds Taylor-great throughout, and she plays with some vocoder/vocal effects that work really well.
It's not as effortlessly catchy as 1989 and I don't know yet that there are any "timeless classics" like All To Well or Holy Ground, but as a whole, it's a really cohesive work and a really welcome addition to her catalogue.
Track highlights: I Did Something Bad, Getaway Car, Delicate, Dancing With Our Hands Tied
Skip: None really, but End Game (feat. Future and Ed Sheeran) could have easily been cut and I would have been fine with that.