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Music

Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation’: A Masterclass on Controlling Your Own Narrative

When Adele releases an album, the entire world listens. The majority of her extensive demographic — be it millennial twenty-somethings or retired senior couples — listens closely to her music, appreciating the sharp production, the heartfelt lyrics and of course, the powerhouse voice that made her a phenomenon in the first place. Adele’s public persona, however, doesn’t necessarily factor into how a person listens to her albums. People listen to Adele purely for the music; Taylor Swift does not have that luxury.

Arguably the only two artists at the moment who are guaranteed one-million-plus sales of their albums during opening week, Adele and Swift share a lot of similarities. They both write about love, bravely depicting their real-life relationships for the world to hear. They are both adored by The Recording Academy, aka The Grammys. They both have refreshingly earnest, relatable personalities that resonate with their wide fanbases. They are also only one year apart in age, believe it or not. Eerily similar, one could say, yet the media has an unhealthy, downright scary obsession with only one of them.

Nobody knows and understands Taylor Swift more than Taylor Swift herself. But, as the stadiums have grown — the public interest has gotten scarier, the break-ups flashier and the feuds dirtier — Swift found herself amidst a career standpoint. Being the clever marketing genius that she is, she realized that she could either continue to make her music the same way she always did, despite what the world continues to say about her, or take control of the narrative through her lyrics and be the ultimate marketing mastermind behind Taylor Swift.

This happened a few years ago, with the release of her fifth studio album, 1989, but, more importantly, with the song Blank Space — a record that saw the popstar feeding into the media’s obsession with her, turning the fabricated narrative on its head. Then with another record-breaking album under her belt, Swift embarked on her 1989 world tour.

SNL

Swift performing Ready For It on SNL, November 2017

Somewhere along her reign, Swift made a new friend. Or patched up a relationship with an old nemesis, to be more precise. They shook hands, took cute pictures and joked about future collaborations. In a matter of months, however, that relationship took a serious turn for the worse. Snake emojis bombarded social media, as Snapchat recordings got passed around Twitter. Taylor Swift was publicly labeled a “snake” and was sentenced to be burned at the Twitter stake.

Soon after, another relationship ended for Swift — one that hit more close to home — and before we knew it, she boarded her private jet to one of her mansions and vanished into thin air. Twitter and Instagram were shook; Swifties were rendered wig-less, Katy Perry released a new album and the media went back to work.

Months later, all of Taylor Swift’s social media accounts were wiped clean. Soon enough, Look What You Made Me Do was released, pouring 6,000 tons of Hydrogen Cyanide onto a growing media fire, and not but 10 days ago, her 6th studio album Reputation was released. Swiftie’s all over the world dug up their magnifying glasses from mom’s dusty basement, because, honey, it was time to take a closer look.

ABC

Swift performing New Year’s Day on ABC, November 2017

Contrary to expectations, Reputation is much more introspective than Swift’s previous pop efforts. After the release of Look What You Made Me Do, fans expected a “revenge” album of sorts — a dark narrative by a songwriter who has been wronged one too many times by the media. However, with the exception of two or three songs, Reputation is far from that anticipated pity party.

This is, in fact, a love story record, detailing the artist’s fate over the past two years, and how, through all of the drama, she came to find possibly her truest love yet.

“Is this the end of all the endings,” she sings on the album’s anthemic song, King of My Heart. This is quite possibly Taylor Swift’s most present album yet. Every lyric sung comes off with a level of detail and authenticity unlike ever before. She confronts herself, her mistakes, hopes, and dreams for the future, rather than detailing the excessive wrong-doings of her ex-boyfriends.

In Red and 1989, she expertly used metaphors and clever melodies to get her points across, like the pop-wordsmith that she is, but with Reputation, for the first time ever, she says exactly what she wants to say.

Songs such as Call It What You Want and Delicate show an artist coming to terms with her mistakes, and, in a lot of ways, convey a sense of optimism for the future despite her misgivings. Getaway Car, Don’t Blame Me and I Did Something Bad see the artist toying with the character the media has created for her, like she previously did with songs like Blank Space and Shake It Off, only now exuding a sense of confidence and growth. She subserves the media’s exaggerated picture of her like never before, and that, in a sense, gives her complete control over the narrative. Heart-ringers like New Year’s Day and Dancing With Our Hands Tied remind us why we fell in love with Swift to begin with, and her undeniable knack for melodies shines high in Dress, Gorgeous and End Game — her collaboration with Ed Sheeran and Future, and the album’s most sure-fire hit.

For a bystander, Reputation could be seen as a completely different path for Swift, but fans will be able to tell that this is, in fact, the most purely Taylor Swift album yet — a love story narrative masquerading as a revenge record, and that, in a sense, is Reputation‘s genius.

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