Two days ago, Taylor Swift released her new album. Reputation has a hard sound but the beats are fun and the lyrics are ruthless and honest. I’m not a music critic, I’m really not any type of critic unless I’m giving a too-nice peer review for class.
However, Reputation has gotten me thinking. I’ve had the album on pre-order since September so every few weeks I’ve been notified when a new song was released. Look What You Made Me Do, … Ready for It, Gorgeous, and Call It What You Want all came out before the full album, so I’m more familiar with those. However, I’ve listened through the album and haven’t disliked any of the songs.
For the most part, I enjoy Reputation. I discussed the songs at length with my best friend and we both agreed at one point that, despite liking the music well enough, it “didn’t sound like Taylor.”
But then I got to thinking, what does that mean? That this album in 2017, the year I begin college, doesn’t sound the same as the music that had me dancing around my room in 5th grade? Surely that’s a good thing.
While I’ll admit Reputation is a bigger jump than some of her earlier music (Fearless and Speak Now are similar enough) I’ve found that, placed back to back, Swift’s albums show a fairly natural progression. But more than that, her music expresses an evolution that makes a lot of sense to me.
Take the Harry Potter series, for example. Those books become darker and deal with grittier issues as they progress. Ron isn’t making out with Lavender in book 1, and no one is using the Cruciatus curse in book 2. Those all come later, as the characters age and (if reading as the books were coming out) the reader aged with them.
As I’ve said, I’m not a big critic. I like most of the music I listen to, most of the movies and TV shows I watch, and most of the books I read. When I edit for others I don’t try to perfect their writing, but rather encourage improvement in the areas I believe they’re ready to improve in. As an artist, I’m also very aware of how much effort it takes to make something even mediocre, so perhaps I am lenient to others in these fields.
With Taylor, Reputation grows on me the more I listen to it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to drive with the windows rolled down and sing my heart out to Fearless in the summers, but End Game reflects my conflicts and musical interest as a college student better than Fifteen. I’m glad Taylor is branching out, if she wants to rap then by all means. She wants to try EDM? Go for it.
The same way that actors get typecast or authors get shuttled into genres, musicians can often find something is “expected” of their upcoming albums; I’m not sure that should be the case. I would much rather see my favorite artists growing, changing, and trying new things. If a book I write at 19 is of the same substance and quality as one I wrote at 13 (or even 18) I would be concerned, there is no need for an artist’s work to be static.
I started writing when I was eight, and while I’m not studying creative writing directly I expect that I will write for the rest of my life. Originally, I wrote fantasy adventures suspiciously similar to the plots of Eragon and Fire Emblem. Then I wrote contemporary young adult stories about teenagers struggling with identity. Now I have begun to transition into historical fiction, and I expect my writing will continue to evolve. Just look at my FanFiction profile, the content of my stories in 2013 is very different from my current projects.
Well, good on you Taylor. I’m proud to have grown up with her music and look forward to many more years for the both of us to explore our art. Just don’t be surprised if you catch me listening to Enchanted or Starlight when I’m walking down the road, or humming along to You Belong With Me and Out of the Woods in the car. The songs I listen to are often loaded with memories (good, bad, and ugly,) I hope Reputation makes that cut.
-Grace T, November 2017