Cringeworthy was the word that came to mind when I listened to Taylor Swift’s single Gorgeous for the first time. For me, Gorgeous could easily be her all-time low, and I can’t say I felt much better after listening to the other singles from her pending album Reputation either. As far as I’m concerned, Look What You Made Me Do, …Ready for it?, and Call It What You Want are, as a group, some of the worst we’ve seen from Taylor. So I am left in this unfamiliar state of feeling dread directed at the album due to be released tomorrow.
How did this happen??
Taylor’s singles leading up to her albums’ release dates have never been my favorite songs, but I’ve always been able to identify some redeeming qualities, and after listening to them in the context of the album as a whole, they inevitably grow on me. However, I am skeptical that anything will be able to salvage my opinion of Reputation at this point. Not that my opinion really matters—but unfortunately for Taylor, many people seem to be sharing my opinion.
Simply put: we’re sick of her. She’d like to be excluded from the narrative she never asked to be a part of, but she is single-handedly drawing the narrative out, and we’re all being forced to listen and suffer. I’ve never been one to waste my time reading up on the latest drama in the media, but you’d have to have your head under more than one rock to not have caught wind of at least some part of the Taylor-Kimye internet showdown, etc (and I can definitively say this because I live under a single rock).
Swift obviously wasted no time in establishing the direction this album would be taking in her first release, Look What You Made Me Do. The title alone says everything. First off…honey, take some ownership. Acknowledge that maybe you were provoked, but you are your ultimate keeper, and your actions are based on your decisions, and your decisions alone. Let’s stop pretending otherwise, so we can move on and break the rest of it down.
She does not hesitate to throw shade at arch-nemesis Kanye West within the first three lines, which ultimately sets the tone for everything that comes after. We get it, Taylor—“old Taylor” is dead, has been killed by the media and the pettiness that exists between feuding stars…but was the “old Taylor” ever really there? Can we be sure she was real, and not just some meaningless façade that has finally (and perhaps unfortunately) been torn down? Because from what I’ve gathered, “old Taylor” was the nice fluffy exterior that we all loved to be in love with, and this harder, thorny, less-flowery version was there all along, looking for some excuse to rear her head and dole out her wrath.
Or at least, that’s what it feels like.
Evidenced in even the first four singles we’ve been able to glimpse, Swift somehow still views herself as not just a victim, but the victim. It is in this transition from relatable nerdy girl to solitary should-be-receiver-of-pity where she loses her audience. Underlying each and every one of her songs from Reputation is the unmistakable taint of Taylor’s real life, real mistakes, and real drama. None of this is new—furthering my suspicion that “new Taylor” has been present alongside “old Taylor” all along—half the fun of Taylor’s music has always been trying to figure out who she is writing about in her real life.
However, I think this time she has finally taken it too far. The air of mystery from before has been squashed out by new Taylor’s bold footsteps. No longer is there any question about who she is calling out. At this point, I’m having the hardest time understanding why she’d bother to waste a song on these so-called predators who apparently don’t fight fair—but who said you needed to even show up to the gun fight, Taylor?? Can’t you quietly extricate yourself, and go back to writing what we all want to hear? Or at the very least, writing from a place above the fray? And acknowledge that you’re not entirely faultless either? (Too much to ask for, I know, I know.)
The closest thing we’ve gotten thus far to old Taylor in terms of lyric intent is probably Gorgeous, which to me fell far from her previous marks, and at times was physically painful for me to listen to. Gone is the poetic delicacy that started off her career, swapped out for bluntness taken to an extreme bordering on creepy. Unimaginative also comes to mind, particularly when she laments, “I can’t say anything to your face—‘cause look at your face.” Yes, you’re surrounded by beautiful men, Taylor. You’re not fooling anyone when you claim that you’re still not used to it. We see you, girl.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the rapping-Taylor thing, but I have to say that …Ready For It? is my favorite of the bunch. At least it’s catchy, even if it’s not musically on par with anything from her previous albums. I suppose that is her entire point though, as she has not-so-subtly hammered home before we’ve even heard Reputation in its entirety—old Taylor is out, new Tay is here to stay. And as hinted at in Call It What You Want, apparently new Tay can hold onto a boy. We shall see. (Hey, if she’s gonna start throwing down challenges, imma do the same. In the interest of playing fair.)
As a giant asterisk to this relatively scathing review, this is a preliminary assessment from a long-time Taylor Swift fan who is generally not fond of change and has always managed to warm up to Taylor’s artistic swings (eventually).
Don’t count on me to boost her album sales though. Just sayin’.
Full album review coming next week! Stay tuned, rad-ish-ers 🙂 (rad-ish-ees?)