After Refusing to Listen for a Year, ‘Reputation’ is My Favorite Taylor Swift Record
I’ll never forgive myself for letting the media (mostly just Kanye West’s opinion) warp my view of the entire Kanye-Taylor Swift saga, one that started with the infamous VMA kerfuffle in 2009 and was a founding catalyst for what became Taylor’s Reputation era. Looking back, I was a hopeless, closeted teenage boy hoping to tether myself to the loudest heterosexual opinion, and what do we say about heterosexual teenage boy opinions, class?
*Class, in unison* THEY’RE PROBABLY WEIRD AND WRONG!!!
So it’s funny, now, that a recent TikTok I made proclaiming that Reputation is her best album is now my most popular TikTok of all-time (over 1700 likes and 10,000 views, UTA will be calling any second now). I literally refused to listen to that album for an ENTIRE YEAR following its release, letting my ill-advised disdain for Taylor Swift guiding my decisions, an opinion steeped in my own commitment to sexist views of pop stars that I carried with me even a year or two out of the closet. But now it’s my favorite record of hers, and she’s regained her position as one of my favorite pop stars ever.
How does that happen?
It started as any millennial-Gen Z cusp’s journey does with the pop legend; I was into the ‘Our Song’ and ‘Teardrops on My Guitar’ moments, and soon after she began gaining traction, Fearless came in 2008. ‘You Belong With Me’ and ‘Love Story’ were smash hits, and as someone whose main (and only) avenue of music consumption until high school was via Chicago popular radio stations like B96 and 101.9, I loved those songs because they were playing every day.
Speak Now hit in high school, and though it was after the VMA incident, I was still very much into Taylor. I wasn’t lost, yet. The country was still part of her pop persona in this record, and I was in love with it. When I was dating a fellow swimmer, learning I was gay but thinking, hm, maybe I could be bi!, ‘Enchanted’ spoke to me to a scary degree. Like, in ninth grade, I literally texted my girlfriend (hey Min!) the lyrics to ‘Enchanted’ because of how enamored I was by her. That song truly is so beautiful, and bless my heart for that kind of behavior (I also texted her the lyrics to ‘Cooler Than Me’ by Mike Posner at one point? If I could write you a song to make you / fall in love / I would already have you up under my arms…. I have chills in a bad way right now thinking about my actions LOL).
In reality, listening to ‘Enchanted’ is just a ridiculously easy way to fabricate yourself into a time-swirling love story, and as a baby gay and Pisces, of course this made sense to me! I just… projected it weirdly.
Throughout Red and 1989, I was still steadily supporting her music. I don’t remember exactly where things soured; I think the ‘Shake It Off’ music video controversy was a turning point, one of the first instances of her being called out for appropriation. While Taylor has dealt with an absurd level of misogyny and demonization in the media throughout her career, she still was a cringe-y white woman, a reputation (lol) she has mostly left behind now. For all the bangers that 1989 gifted us, I think I was annoyed about the whole ‘Famous’ debacle (I think me and Taylor might still have sex), not necessarily siding with Kanye, but I was annoyed that Taylor was back in the middle of everything again.
Did my annoyance have sexist rhetoric behind it? Almost definitely. It wasn’t until later on that I doubled back on myself, realizing how rude and self-centered Kanye was at the time. But that’s what happened! While Taylor deserved (and deserves) all the criticism on co-opting Black styles, or pandering to the gays in the mess that was the ‘You Need to Calm Down’ music video, I was still lazily feeding into media narratives about her being annoying, which is pretty embarrassing on my part.
In any case, I had my own mythology about her, and when she came out guns blazing with her brazen lead singles to Reputation, I was completely turned off.
It wasn’t until 2018, the next year, that I actually started to listen to the album. I went in toe-by-toe, dipping into her most maximalist electropop record to date, first falling in love with ‘Delicate,’ then ‘Don’t Blame Me’ and ‘Endgame.’ But I stalled out again, convinced the rest of the album was trash. It wasn’t until the holidays at the end of 2018, when my friend Olivia started playing ‘Call It What You Want’ on repeat at a party, that I started unlocking more of the album’s gems. ‘Call It What You Want’ is, according to this Tumblr quiz that took me 45 mins to finish, now my favorite Taylor Swift song.
By the time Lover came out, I was mentally at a neutral, if not slightly positive, place with Taylor. I really enjoyed Lover, especially the bigger stadium bops like ‘Cruel Summer,’ ‘London Boy’ and ‘The Man.’ I still hadn’t really listened to the back-half of Reputation, though!
It wasn’t until the year of the pandemic 2020, three years after Reputation’s release, that the final pieces of the puzzle came together. Something triggered me to listen to ‘Dress,’ I think it was Matt Rogers talking about it on Las Culturistas. Banger. Then I was like hold on… I’m trying to see something here. Sure enough, ‘King of My Heart’ and ‘Dancing With Our Hands Tied’ turned out to be electro bangers that rival Zedd’s best. ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘Getaway Car’ suddenly had undeniable hooks; ‘Getaway Car’ was perhaps the most fairytale/romance/narrative as Taylor gets on the album. ‘…Ready For It?’ out of thin air had the best pre-chorus ever made! ‘New Year’s Day’ felt like a folklore B-side before folklore was just an idea in the back of Taylor’s blonde braid and Jack Antonoff’s nerdy skull.
So, over years of re-programming, or maybe just as Taylor continued to put out amazing music, I had finally been Swifticated. Swiftified? Swifterized!
folklore and evermore are albums I would’ve hard ignored a few years ago, and probably would’ve, too, before my relationship with Taylor soured in 2016. They’re not the full-bodied, soaring pop records that I hold near and dear to my heart. But I’ll be damned if I ever doubt Taylor’s songwriting — nay, musical architecture — ever again. Her alchemic formula for making music is pristine, and if you see my tongue raise against her in the future, feel free to chop it off.
Lastly, if you want a crash course in Taylor’s most pop-centric music, I made a 26-song playlist with her biggest arena bops since 2008. Listen here.