It's undoubtedly one of the biggest releases of the year and is already on course to be one of the biggest-selling albums of all time – but what is Taylor Swift's 'Reputation' actually like?
Since the release of 2014's '1989', Swift has become a global superstar. Before that album, she was merely a big pop star and former country ingenue who had been very publicly embarrassed by Kanye West at an awards ceremony one time. Now, as she says herself, 'The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Oh... because she's dead!'
With 'Reputation', everything in her world has changed – but does she use her sixth album to simply settle scores with former paramours and old enemies, or is it musically worthwhile, too?
See below for our track-by-track guide...
1. '... Ready for It?'
We've all heard this single by now, and it's certainly a statement opener to an album. Grimy synthlines give way to a punchy beat as Swift launches into an almost hip-hop/rap-style vocal swagger – and then that dreamy EDM chorus 'In the middle of the night in my dreams, you should see the things we do, baby...' sounds like something that (whisper) Calvin Harris might have on one of his songs.
2. 'End Game'
It starts off all sweetness and light with the line: 'I wanna be your A-Team, I wanna be your end game' – but within seconds, that buzzy swagger kicks in again as Swift sings about her reputation and her enemies. Rapper Future comes in in his Auto-Tuned glory before Swift reverts to sultry pop vamp - and then the ubiquitous Ed Sheeran makes an appearance for a verse. 'After the storm, something was born on the 4th of July', he sings; with her references to beaches and falling in love, they're not making a reference to that party and the whole sorry Hiddleswift affair, are they? 'I bury hatchets, but I keep maps of where I put 'em', she says, as a warning not to mess with her - we like it.
3. 'I Did Something Bad'
She's taking no prisoners straight out of the trap on this one: “I never trust a narcissist,” she sings on the opening line, “but they love me. So I play 'em like a violin and I make it look oh-so-easy.”
It's got a big, zippy, zooming chorus with snappy beats and is the musical equivalent of Swift throwing her head back and laughing maniacally, like she's Cruella DeVille and her exes are 101 dalmatians. “If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing / I don't regret it one bit, 'cos he had it coming.” U OK Calvin hun?
4. 'Don't Blame Me'
She's reining in the 'revenge-pop' a little on this and is back to the love songs; admitting that other guys have been 'playthings' for her to use in the past, but this new love is the real deal. It's a lot more musically downtempo, but retains that buzzy electro effect on the chorus – not unlike 'Style' on '1989'. At this point, it's starting to feel a little overused; sure, she's a modern pop star, but she can also play – so where are the actual instruments? She finally lets her voice soar as the song comes to a close; given the personality cult surrounding her, it's easy to forget that Swift is a more than competent vocalist. More of this, please.
Now, this is more like it. Although it starts with more filtered vocals, this time with a delayed AutoTune effect – it's nice to be able to hear Swift's voice (and actual piano) on an infinitely more understated song, although there's a brisk pace to it. Here, she sings about finding love with her new man, despite the baggage that comes with Being Taylor Swift: "My reputation's never been worse,” she softly croons, “so you must want me for me.” Later, she wonders “Are you ever dreaming of me? Sometimes when I look in your eyes, I wish you were mine all the damned time.” Nawww.
6. 'Look What You Made Me Do'
The first song taken from the album may have come as something of a surprise when it was first released, but it makes more sense within the context of the album – as we said above, numerous songs adapt that punchy beat and synthy buzz. We've all speculated about who this about; the 'tilted stage' and references to making a fool of her; u OK Kanye hun?
7. 'So It Goes'
This is an interesting start... a weird, offbeat, ghostly beginning before the beat kicks in, it sounds like something from the 'Stranger Things' soundtrack. To us, it sounds like an '80s-style pop ballad given a thoroughly contemporary makeover and shows Swift at her sultry best – although when she sings 'You know I'm not a bad girl, but I'd do bad things with you', we're not quite sure we believe her...
We're back to peppy, upbeat pop territory here – and since 'Gorgeous' was released a few weeks back, people have been speculating about who it's about (spoiler: like most love songs on this album, probably her new fella, actor Joe Alwyn). It's a nifty little toe-tappy number.
9. 'Getaway Car'
Is this another song about ending her relationship with Calvin Harris because she had the hots for Joe Alwyn? With lines like “I wanted to leave him, I needed a reason” and “He poisoned the well”, and the object of the song 'driving the getaway car', it's not too difficult a connection to make... Or is it about meeting Tom Hiddleston at the Met Gala? (“The ties were black, the lies were white.”) Musically, it's a gentle midtempo singalong with some nice strings.
10. 'King of my Heart'
Another love song, as Swift refers to herself as 'your American queen', and sings “All at once, you are the one I have been waiting for”. There's an unusual rhythm in the mix on the chorus, but the verse is fairly bland. Let's call this one 'filler'.
11. 'Dancing with Our Hands Tied'
To our ears, the beat of this one is really similar to Sigma and Paloma Faith's 'Changing' – although it's not hugely musically similar and the chorus is super-danceable, with its zooming synths and skittering beat. It feels like a more throwaway tune in the context of the album, but it's likably zippy little number that possibly sees her lament how things panned out between her and Calvin Harris?
A soft, breathy opening sees her singing 'Carve your name into my bedpost, 'cos I don't want you like a best friend / Only bought this dress so you could take it off'. Steady on, Taylor - your mam is listening, love. It's a little one-note and doesn't really go anywhere... but sure, it's grand all the same.
13. 'Call It What You Want'
A softly sung, understated song about being shafted by people ('All the liars are calling me one' – the whole Kimye affair, perhaps?) but it don't matter because she's got a 'fit like a daydream' new man to look after her, so ner-ner-ner-ner-ner. This is your classic ode to the-healing-power-of-love song with a bit of a sting in its tail. It does seem like the album is petering out majorly at this point, having been overloaded with the bristling bangers in the first half.
14. 'New Year's Day'
Voice and piano open the final track on the album, as Swift recalls the physical and emotional detritus from a NYE party. It's actually a sweet song and strips away all the studio effects that mask so much of the melodic loveliness that Swift is capable of, harking back to her much earlier material. At one point, it could pass for a stripped-back Haim song with its multi-part harmonies.
We have to admit that this isn't as much of a surprise as we may have expected from Swift – in many ways, it's the progression of her career that you'd expect after '1989's success and her ascension to bona fide pop royalty. There may be a bit of enjoyable score-settling, but there are more love songs than not. Musically, the booming radio-friendly bangers are the ones you'll hear most but the more understated ones – like 'New Year's Day', 'So It Goes' and 'Gorgeous' are the ones we'll return to more, and also the ones that separate Swift from many of her peers in terms of how good a songwriter she actually is. The tracklist does lose a bit of momentum in the second half, but overall it's a solid and often enjoyable collection.