REVIEW: SIMON COLLINS
Basking in the mega-success of fifth album 1989 three years ago, Taylor Swift said “nothing’s out of the question” for the follow-up. “Except maybe for me making a rap album, because I don’t think I’d be very good at it.”
Guess what? T-Swizzle made a rap album. And she’s not very good at it.
Well, sixth album Reputation is not all rap. And it’s not all crap.
But let’s start there, specifically the grinding industrial electro horror of opener ... Ready for It (no, we’re not) and I Did Something Bad (yes, you did), which sandwich End Game, a queasy quasi-hip-hop ditty co-starring rapper Future and a rapping Ed Sheeran.
Someone open a window — End Game pushes Sheeran’s Galway Girl for worst song of 2017.
The first five tracks all see Swift team with Swedish studio sorcerers Max Martin and Shellback, who famously set Tay-Tay down this path with I Knew You Were Trouble and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together from 2012 crossover hit Red.
The Swedes are seriously spreading themselves thin, thanks to recent collabs with Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande and Pink, and it shows with the turgid arrangement on Don’t Blame Me.
Unfortunately, when their heavy hand lets go after the relatively soothing Delicate, Jack Antonoff (Lorde, St. Vincent) takes over for lead single Look What You Made Me Do. (Antonoff handles six of the 15 tracks, the Swedes take the rest.)
In case you haven’t heard it, all you need to know is that Look ... takes aim at Swift’s celebrity rivals, specifically Perry, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, and sounds like the unholy matrimony of Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy and the Black Eyed Peas’ My Humps.
When she’s not getting scrubbed off the Kardashian-Wests’ Christmas card list, Swift ruminates on her romantic past and present with the depth of Twilight fan fiction. Where she was previously the damsel in distress, America’s former sweetheart plays the bad girl on Reputation. She has become the vampire.
Tipped to announce tour dates today, the 27-year-old has made her name writing songs designed to drive old boyfriends crazy.
Swift has built up quite a listenership, including Harry Styles, Tom Hiddleston and Calvin Harris. But it’s her current beau, English actor Joe Alwyn, who can perhaps take credit for Reputation’s superior second half.
While Gorgeous is naff, Getaway Car and Dancing With Our Hands Tied revive the lush 80s synth-pop sound of 1989. And final track New Year’s Day is a rare acoustic guitar and piano ballad, a breath of fresh air after the synthetic soundscapes which dominate most of the album.
But Swifty gets bitchy on This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, which echoes 1989’s major misstep Bad Blood with jaunty piano that could have been lifted from the musical Annie.
Given there are 15 songs, losing some duds would improve Reputation. Her understanding of the music business is far more nuanced than her exploration of relationships. Partnerships with Target, Ticketmaster and UPS to encourage physical purchases mean Reputation is laser-guided for No.1.
Charts over quality, Tay-Tay don’t give a damn ‘bout her bad Reputation.