Do we approve of the latest album from the biggest pop star in the world?Big Machine, 2017
3.0 / 10
I’m so sorry, everyone. This is my fault. I’m holding the L on this one. See, when I expressed hope that Taylor Swift’s next album would be a “world-destroying, fucking monster album,” I was operating under a number of positive assumptions. I did this without understanding that perhaps Swift had a very bad album in her system. reputation is, indeed, a world-destroying, fucking monster album, and it is also boldly awful. When Swift sings, “Look what you made me do,” I have no greater rebuttal than “I knew not what I was doing.” Please accept my apology.
In my meager defense, I still think Swift can make a great album leaning heavy on electronic elements. Her strengths as a musician can translate well into this sonic palette. She proves this with the only two great tracks here, “Delicate” and “So It Goes”. Here, she keeps things simple while offering hooks sharp enough to cut granite, and the results are good enough that they could’ve been sequenced effortlessly anywhere on 1989. There’s enough good here that perhaps reputation 2 will be a decade-defining classic.
In the meantime, however, I have only reputation to speak of. Here, Swift sounds audibly uncomfortable with her new sonic palette. She gives us the language of electronic pop but not the pulse. This results in dance music you can’t dance to and music that doesn’t work well enough as art to pass itself off as avant-garde. It’s an album where a whole bunch of what Swift sings about depends on us interpreting her as the everygirl. Of course, this viciously rubs against the tracks that can only work as interpreted through the lens of a twentysomething superstar that’s been the center of many a gossip cycle. And those songs can only register as purple prose unless you’re willing to play the game of figuring out what each song is about, which I’ve never had to do to enjoy a Swift song until now.
It’s an album where wallbangers like “They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one” far outnumber lines like “My reputation’s never been worse so / You must like me for me.” It’s an album where the song with guest verses from Ed Sheeran and Future is the third-best track here. Getting anything meaningful out of this album requires a lot of work and a lot of patience with the turgid music, and while I think we all deserve better, I guess I got what I asked for. Again, sorry.