Taylor Swift’s reputation: Love It or Hate It?

reputation cover

I’m having a love/hate relationship with reputation era Taylor Swift. So lemme get all the “hate” out of the way first. I had no knowledge of her big scandal/feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. I trust Taylor Swift way more than Kanye and Kim. What I don’t trust Taylor Swift on right now is her love life. This album isn’t exactly “telling it like it is.” And I’m not gonna go into a tirade about how disappointed I am that Taylor is “not that innocent” anymore. Someone else did it for me.

That said, I still love Taylor Swift. In the end, I want her to be happy and I want to believe that once she properly deals with her issues instead of being insecure and drinking too much, she will finally find the happiness she has been looking for.

This blog post won’t be a moral tirade of how Taylor needs to change, though. Instead, I want to tell you whether this album is worth your money on a track-by-track basis. You can buy the individual tracks on Amazon or just listen to the promotional singles on YouTube, but it’s ultimately up to you whether this album is worth your money.

After listening to the album from beginning to end, only two out of the 15 tracks are ones that I can guarantee that everyone will love: “Call It What You Want” and “New Year’s Day.” The rest…well, read on and decide for yourself.

fifteen taylors

There’s also a theory that each of the fifteen Taylors from the end of the “Look What You Made Me Do” represents one of the tracks on this album. I’ll be guessing which Taylor the song might be about.

  1. ...Ready For It? : 6/10. I love the music video for this song more than the song itself. The lyrics are dangerous and provocative. Also, I so don’t believe the line “I’m so very tame now.” Not with the way you’re talking in this track, Taylor! I think the Taylor in the fishnet stockings fits this song because of how Taylor dressed when she performed it on SNL.
  2. End Game (featuring Ed Sheeran & Future): 7/10. This is a hip-hop/rap track that I have to admit is fun and catchy, but Future’s presence is honestly unnecessary. I kinda swoon over Ed Sheeran’s voice, though. I think the “Shake it Off” ballerina Taylor fits this song because it’s reminiscent of 1989’s sound. Best line: “I swear I don’t love the drama. It loves me.”
  3. I Did Something Bad: 3/10 because the bridge was the only part I liked. You know the Taylor in the velvet leotard with the word “rep” at the center? This one embodies her. A dark and twisted song with a chorus that basically embodies the nature of sin: It starts out feeling good, but you kinda resign yourself to it. “This is how the world works” is the most telling lyric. Also, they didn’t burn witches in the Salem Witch Trials.
  4. Don’t Blame Me: 1/10. This song is basically Blank Space 2.0, represented by the bank robber Taylor who’s wearing a sweater that says “Blinded by Love” and got compared to Harley Quinn. Comparing your love to a drug is too Ke$ha 2009. Can’t you be more like present-day Ke$ha who’s singing about praying?! The most telling lyric: “Baby for you, I would fall from grace.”
  5. Delicate: 6/10. This song is almost authentically vulnerable, which is why I think it corresponds with the sparkly dress Fearless-era Taylor. Meeting a new guy, being uncertain of whether this will work? Hoping that someone will love you for who you truly are? That I can relate to. Inviting him up to your room and saying “I don’t wanna share”? Not so much. Basically, I like the pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge more than the verses. “Is it too soon to do this?” Honey, I think it’s too late.
  6. Look What You Made Me Do: 3/10. There are many reasons why this song doesn’t work for Taylor. The biggest reason is that this is a villain song and even though she tried with the whole Snake Queen look, Taylor is not a villain. She’s just majorly flawed. That said, somebody made an AMV to this song using Death Note and it is perfect.
  7. So It Goes…: 1/10. I don’t like this track. It sounds good, but…let’s just say that the Taylor in the giant birdcage is a great indicator of the state of Taylor’s soul right now. (And yes, I know I said it before. It bears repeating.) This and a few other songs on here can easily fit on a 50 Shades soundtrack, with lyrics like “You know, I’m not a bad girl, but I do bad things with you” and “scratches down your back.” And that’s not a good thing.
  8. Gorgeous: 8/10. I loved this song when this came out, but upon listening to it more, it’s starting to sound like a mixed bag. The song is relatable because everyone has probably found someone attractive even though they were in a relationship with someone else. Acting on those feelings is another story. Best line: “Guess I’ll just stumble on home to my cats.” I think Met Gala Taylor represents this song cuz the dress is gorgeous.
  9. Getaway Car: 6/10. I’m pretty sure this song is about Calvin and Tom. The way that Taylor is telling the story, it paints Tom as being her “rebound guy” from Calvin and the relationship in this song sounds like it didn’t last long, doomed from the start. Biker Girl Taylor is the best candidate for the representative for this song as Taylor compares herself and the person in the song to “Bonnie and Clyde.”
  10. King of My Heart: 9/10. I love the song conceptually. The idea of finding real love after thinking you’re done with it, not to mention wanting a more simple life? More of this please! Just cut out the line “We rule the kingdom inside my room” and this song would basically be perfect. Also, the chorus of my song is MY LIFE! It takes me to Heaven and back! The “You Belong With Me” Taylor in the Junior Jewels shirt definitely fits this song!
  11. Dancing With Our Hands Tied: 5/10. I have no clue who this song is about. On the one hand, I want to pick the Out of the Woods zombie Taylor because the song is about uncertainty in the midst of a relationship, but a lot of Swifties compared this song to “Holy Ground,” which means it’s more like the Red Era Circus Ringmaster Taylor. I don’t like the title of this song, either, cuz…well, the image that comes to mind is very 50 Shades of Grey.
  12. Dress: 2/10. This song is the most 50 Shades aside from “Don’t Blame Me.” Give this song an R rating for explicit, provocative lyrics! (That was not a compliment.) My best friend thinks that it could work if you think that the dress is a wedding dress, but this song is far from being romantic, even if it sounds ethereal. This song isn’t “deep and tender,” as Taylor claims. It’s just one big “F#$& Me” song. Also, I have no clue which Taylor fits this song.
  13. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: 5/10. The Taylor dressed in a cheetah print coat talking about “getting receipts” fits this song because this is a good-sounding, bitchy, condescending song that gives a big middle finger to Kanye and Kim. This is the song that comes to mind when I think of “complaining about being famous” songs. I really hope you forgive Kanye and Kim someday, Taylor, because forgiveness isn’t a “nice thing to do,” it’s a necessity if you really want to move on and be happy. That said, she should have made this her first single because it’s honestly clever.
  14. Call It What You Want: 9/10. This song is such a huge mood whiplash from the previous song. But I loved this song from the moment I heard it and still love it. The idea of having someone in your corner in the midst of all the hard times in life is something I love. But Taylor definitely seems happy in the lyric video for this song. Since the Taylor in the background is standing on a plane, I can’t help but hope that this is the song that represents the Real Taylor.
  15. New Year’s Day: 10/10. If there’s one song that I think everyone should buy, it’s this one. The lyrics are basically “relationship goals” in song form: spending time with the one you love and cleaning up after a party, planning for the future, promising forever, being with him/her for better or for worse. I love that Taylor plays the piano because it just sounds beautiful. This is the best sounding track, musically and lyrically.  This is also one I think represents the Real Taylor, the one standing in the back.

I hope Taylor’s next album will be one I can love with all my heart and sound more like the last two tracks. As it is, I’ll just live with the “Dark Taylor” and pray that this is just a phase.

“…Ready for It?” No, I Was NOT!

ready for it

I was really worried that I wouldn’t like Taylor Swift after all the anger she unleashed in her first music video “Look What You Made Me Do.” When I listened to her second single, “…Ready For It?” I still had doubts because it’s her most mature song, implying erotic dreams and having this dark bass beat. I felt a little better when listening to “Gorgeous” because it had actual music on the track, not just synthetic beats, but I wasn’t sure if I could love all of “reputation.”

Then Taylor dropped a teaser of a music video for “…Ready For It?” And I screamed like I just won Hamilton tickets. And when the music video dropped last night, I couldn’t sleep. I watched it multiple times.

There is no way that I could analyze this video completely. I can’t read the Chinese characters in the background. But I’ll do my best to give my own take on this.

The video begins with Taylor with electric blue eyes, wearing a black cape/hoodie, walking through a dark alley surrounded by robots. She pushes some buttons on a keypad and opens up a large room that has another Taylor, looking like a mix of Tron and Ghost in the Shell, trapped in some kind of glass box.

The first thing Swifties on Tumblr have pointed out is that Dark Taylor, the one in the hood, is her reputation in the media. The Dark Taylor is who everyone thinks Taylor is.  The Taylor in the glass box is the Real Taylor.

In the second verse, the Dark Taylor sings to Real Taylor while dressing her up as a cyber-warrior, with black armor.  Real Taylor calls Dark Taylor her “jailer.” This particular moment reminds me of the birdcage scene in “Look What You Made Me Do.” When I saw Taylor in the giant birdcage, I felt like I was looking at the state of her soul, trapped by everything that she’s been experiencing. Dark Taylor also personifies temptation, talking to Real Taylor about how boys are “Burton to this Taylor,” how “you’ll never be alone,” and “no one has to know.”

Another note: The different images that Real Taylor tries on in this video remind me of her music videos from 1989. The armored robot? Totally “Bad Blood.” Then in the 2nd pre-chorus, she’s on a white horse, reminding people of “Blank Space.” In the 2nd chorus, Taylor is holding a blue orb and then she’s surrounded by tiny blue lights, floating in midair, reminiscent of “Out of the Woods.”

As the song goes into the bridge, Real Taylor starts to channel lightning, as if she was a futuristic version of Frankenstein’s monster. I can’t help but think that it’s also a shout out to when she co-wrote Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s “This Is What You Came For,” since there’s a line about how “lightning strikes every time she moves.”\

My favorite part of this video, though, is when Real Taylor and Dark Taylor stand face to face. As the song goes into the third chorus, Real Taylor screams and breaks the glass. The shards cut into Dark Taylor’s skin, revealing her to be a robot. Towards the end of the video, Real Taylor walks up a stairway while Dark Taylor stands on another stairway, being struck by lightning as other robots run towards her. According to Tumblr Swifties, this represents Taylor taking back the narrative, killing off everything that the media has said about her. The video ends with Real Taylor smiling at the death of her reputation and then staring into the camera and asking the audience “Are you ready for it?” as her eyes glow that electric blue one last time.

I was basically waiting for this video. It blows “Look What You Made Me Do” out of the water.

There are some parts of the video that scare me, such as when Real Taylor is covered in snakes (I think) for half a second in the first pre-chorus. And the part where she channels lightning is almost demonic and I didn’t like the phrase on the stairway that Dark Taylor stands on that says “They’re burning all the witches!” I guess it’s supposed to mean that Taylor’s reputation became a witch hunt, but with the term “witch” becoming a badge of honor in liberal feminist circles, I don’t want Taylor embracing the idea of being a witch.

Nevertheless, there’s something in this video that “Look What You Made Me Do” didn’t have: Hope. This video is giving me hope that Taylor is starting this new era with love and happiness and not a desire for revenge and retribution.

Crush the heads of those snakes, Taylor. Grace will be coming for you.

Resurrection vs. Retribution

Taylor_Swift_025_(18305306995)

Ever since 2006, when I first heard “Picture to Burn” on my local country radio station, I have been a “Swiftie.” Taylor Swift’s songs always resonated with me. However,  I recently started feeling a dissonance between how I saw life and how Taylor saw hers. This dissonance was most profound when I listened to her latest single “Look What You Made Me Do” and watched the music video that debuted on Sunday night. To me, it didn’t sound like Taylor at all aside from a few lines here and there. I know that Taylor has been through a lot in the past few years, but I wondered why she chose to portray herself the way she did in her music video.

“Look What You Made Me Do” starts out with Taylor crawling out of her grave, looking like a zombified version of how she looked in “Out of the Woods,” which was my favorite music video from her thus far. But her face reminded me of Anya Jenkins, who started out as a vengeance demon on Buffy:

anya demon face

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox. Image is used for editorial purposes only.

The prechorus of the song goes: “I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time. Honey, I rose up from the dead. I do it all the time.” Why did she show herself coming back from the dead as a zombie? I see it as a distorted version of the Resurrection. Zombies, vampires, and other versions of the undead are all dark, perverted types of “resurrections.” To quote Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she came back wrong.

Taylor has written songs about revenge in the past. But at the same time, she also wrote songs about forgiveness as well. So why does she choose to use revenge now?

A few telling lines from the second verse give the answer: “The world moves on, another day, another drama drama. But not for me, not for me. All I think about is karma.”

I recently read an article from Bishop Robert Barron about the difference between karma and grace. In the most simplistic terms, karma is about retribution. “Do good things and you get good in return. Do bad things and you will suffer.” Taylor is driven by revenge in the hopes that everyone who did her wrong will get what they deserve.

The last significant line in the song is this spoken line and it’s the one that Taylor puts on all her social media: “I’m sorry. The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh. ‘Cause she’s dead.” In the video, this is shown by all of her past selves falling down into a dark chasm, with the new Taylor standing on top of a hill with a giant T behind her.

The old Taylor is definitely dead. But instead of embracing grace and forgiveness, Taylor chose to be the bad guy, bent on revenge and retribution.

Now flip the script and take a look at my life recently. In the past few years, I went through my share of bad dating experiences. I was one guy’s rebound date. I went speed dating, but never really connected with anyone. I even dated someone who turned out to be a narcissist!

But at the same time, I kept writing. I worked on my novel and got to share it with other writers at a couple of conferences. I went to Chicago on my own! My first real grown-up adventure! I have been finding my writing voice, this clear, resonating bell that people can hear and listen to. I learned what forgiveness actually feels like and how to persevere in the face of adversity. In other words, I became stronger.

What gave me my strength? Grace. By rooting myself with God, He gave me strength I never knew I had. Even now, as Hurricane Harvey flees Texas, I have found the strength to overcome the anxiety that was building up within me since the storm hit. Grace is not something that I deserved because I was good. God’s strength was given to me because I needed it. Grace is a gift, one that we need to share with others. Through grace, we find the strength to forgive and renew ourselves. We find the strength to persevere. We die to ourselves and live again through Christ.

“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

And grace is the difference between having a personal resurrection and being fueled by the revenge from the death of your reputation.

*mic drop*