In 2014, Taylor Swift released the hit-filled 1989, an album that went on to win a Grammy for best of the year to make her the first female artist to win the award twice.
From the mesmerizing “Shake It Off” to the instant karaoke jam “Blank Space,” “’89” was an album full of mainstream appeal: formulaic, but fun to experience. Moreover, it marked Swift’s first whole-hearted endeavor into contemporary pop, which went over with flying colors.
Fans were ecstatic to see where Swift would take her new music and, sadly, she exploited the bland commercialism we’re all growing numb to.
The rollout single for “Reputation” was the dreadful “Look What You Made Me Do” — the whole premise being that this is new, edgy Taylor (which, in the context of the whole album, doesn’t make any sense). But she is still the same old lovesick Swift we’ve grown familiar with on the radio.The single is one of a handful of songs that just seems too thought out for its own good. The record opens with the upbeat and somewhat empowering song “...Ready For It?” which, for the most part, is enjoyable and will probably stay on replay for at least a few months.
But what I wasn’t ready for was the subsequent monstrosity, the second song, entitled “End Game,” featuring Ed Sheeran and Future. Just the thought of these three making a song together is bewildering and absurd.
Taylor got lucky with how well Kendrick Lamar pulled off his feature on the “1989” track “Bad Blood.” This wasn’t the case with “End Game.”
“Big reputation, big reputation, you and me, we got big reputations/And you heard about me, I got some big enemies.”
Is a hook like this really something Taylor thought was a good idea? After listening to this, the question has to be asked: is there nobody in the studio with Swift to tell her “this is not a good song”?
I can’t even get started on who thought Sheeran’s hip-hop caricature was a good idea, let alone the fool who asked Future to jump on this track.
The only positive remark about this track is that I give her props for taking a risk. It didn’t pan out, but she took it.
After “End Game,” I wanted to hear anything else and “I Did Something Bad” was...a cure. Although it is similar (and I mean extremely similar) to “...Ready For It?” I still enjoy turning up my car volume whenever shuffle drops it onto my speakers. This song is one decibel away from a dubstep track, but ultimately was another risk that I think will more likely pay off. It’ll build a sturdy home for itself on the airwaves.
The album then, generally, goes over as well as can be expected, and there are a few stand out tracks such as: “Delicate,” “Getaway Car” and “Dancing With Our Hands Tied.” There are also some really not-so-great tracks, like the aforementioned “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Gorgeous.”
There are a few things that irk me about this record: the ill-placed gunshots on “I Did Something Bad” (Swift pretends she’s from Compton for the better part of three minutes) or the fact that the whole album is laced, head to toe, in trap hi-hats.
But on the subject of Taylor’s feuds — as much as Swift does not want to be part of them, she exploits them in over half of her songs to get in some halfhearted, toothless diss lyric which will seemingly breathe life into a dying drama.
The album has been out for just a few weeks. I have talked about it with friends, read other reviews and watched a handful of first reaction videos, all containing the same complaint: “Her music isn’t saying anything.”
And yes, that’s true, but her music hasn’t ever said anything impactful.
Swift has always made safe music, and she’s always stuck with what she knows, and that’s heartbreak and love. Just to be fair, it’s rare for any pop artist to make an impactful, political statement. People don’t press Ariana Grande for not saying anything monumental. The only two occasions that come to mind in the last ten years are Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Beyonce’s “Formation.”
Overall, I don’t think this album will win any Grammies or go down in history as a classic, but, in a shallow way, it will be good while it lasts.
Colton Newman is the photo editor and a music writer for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Coltonperson.