The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now…

So reads Taylor Swift’s Instagram tagline and it is applicable to her sixth studio album, Reputation, as Swift is clearly a new woman, in as much of a fighting mood as she is a loving and reflective one. Battle scarred by the price of fame and its inevitable toll, Swift has learned from her mistakes, emerging wiser, more street-smart but still open to letting light into her out sized life.

That light appears to be new love Joe Alwyn, celebrated on the synth-pop album on tracks like “Gorgeous,” and album-ender “New Year’s Day,” a smartly stitched together ballad. With left over glitter littering the party floor after a night of celebrating, Swift revels in the little joys and having someone special to leap into the new year with.

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The knives are sharpened on “Look What You Made Me Do,” the album’s first single. Names are taken (think Kanye West and Kim Kardashian for starters) and scores settled. Swift frets about games played and the role she is made to play – that of a fool. “But I got smarter/ I got harder in the nick of time/ Honey I rose up from the dead/ I do it all the time…”

And rise Swift does, pushing back hard at her detractors, putting them on notice while standing her ground. Exes Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston are not spared on tracks like “I Did Something Bad” and “Getaway Car,” the latter seeming to allude to Hiddleston providing Swift the out she needed to move on from the ruins of her union with Harris. But apparently, “Nothing good starts in a getaway car.”

Reputation is Swift’s best album to date. Apart from solid songwriting, Swift finds nuance, is introspective while letting love heal old wounds. And while feuds are addressed, Swift doesn’t dwell and fall into the trap of churning out one long revenge album. Most importantly, getting out of the public eye in a self-imposed exile of sorts appears to have allowed Swift to come to terms with herself and realize what matters. She sings, “Nobody’s heard from me for months/I’m doing better than I ever was.”

Voices like Ed Sheeran and Future are welcome as collaborators on the wild ride that is “End Game” and the hand prints of Max Martin and Jack Antonoff elevate proceedings for a final product that is worth the wait.

Playing out like a diary being opened up to both her fans and the world, Swift gets honest, admitting her frailties and learning from them. She leans into love rather than forcing the issue and Swift will now let her reputation speak for itself.


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