Burning all the witches (even if they aren’t one)
by Iryna Byelyayeva
Here we go.
I like to be wrong. When it comes to pop culture I like to be proven wrong. That’s the point of pop culture—to be constantly evolving and changing and entertaining, to be opening new discussions. Maybe Taylor Swift’s Reputation (2017) hasn’t opened any new discussions (and hasn’t really closed all the old ones we’re having about her) but goddamn it she got me. And I love it.
‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is a terrible song. The cover art is cringey. The track titles are straight out of high school (‘…Ready For It’; ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’; ‘Don’t Blame Me’). Everything about the surface of this album is awful. I didn’t want to listen to it—I had made up my mind and I don’t like hate-listening to music. Listening to something you think is bad and revelling in it because you don’t like the artist is adolescent, let’s all make a pact to stop doing it. But with everything I was hearing about the album, my curiosity grew and I put it on.
‘…Ready For It?’ I had already heard, it had already gotten stuck in my head, I knew what I was in for. Same goes for ‘End Game’—although that is a truly terrible song. But with the beginning of ‘I Did Something Bad’ I had to close my eyes, take a deep breath and realise that she got me. Unfortunately for us, Reputation is a collection of very good pop songs, and there’s no denying it anymore. Suddenly, my mind cleared and I saw all the shitty marketing for what it was: a dare. Taylor dared us to hate her and then made music, which makes that hate impossible.
I love ‘Don’t Blame Me’—the chorus is impossible not to sing along to. ‘Delicate’ is that classic Swift song that makes you want to put on cute clothes and flirt with a boy (who happens to look like Clint Eastwood’s son, even though that’s usually not your type at all). ‘Gorgeous’ is very sweet. ‘Getaway Car’ is the Jack Antonoff that seems to be the crucial ingredient for catchy pop albums at the moment.
This is not to say that the album is without fault. ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is still on there, so is ‘End Game’. The gunshots in the background of ‘I Did Something Bad’ are too Lana Del Rey (who, in fact, should sue). This album, unlike 1989 (2014) suffers from the same thing that most pop albums seem to suffer, which is the fact that the second half is significantly more boring than the first (strange that most of the second half was co-written with Antonoff though).
But ultimately, the album’s good. It’s solid Taylor Swift. It’s the right balance of unashamed romance, the self-deprecation we all loved in 1989 and anti-boy sentiments we can fist pump to.
I like that this album proved me wrong. The day pop culture stops feeling new and spontaneous is the day we all put on black turtlenecks, start reading T.S. Eliot and die from terrible senses of humour.