The past few weeks have been pretty eventful for the music industry, thanks to one ever-present songstress: Taylor Swift. We all know her name, but her image? No matter what way you spin it, Swift is determined to forge her identity for herself, taking no prisoners in the process.
The news that’s been rocking the musical world for the past few weeks is the announcement of Taylor Swift’s latest album, “Reputation,” which is slated to be released on November 10. As the album art for Swift’s latest release suggests, “Reputation” will most likely take on a tone of vengeance and retribution for the way that the media has portrayed her over the years. Whether it’s the doe-eyed innocent girl or the serial dater, Swift is sick of the media’s depictions, and it shows. Although the former country-pop songstress has vocalized in past songs her disdain for how the world has portrayed her, this album seems like it will be much more straightforward.
So far, Swift has dropped two singles from the album, and each song is radically different from anything that the artist has released before. After three days of some shady, serpentine videos, Swift released “Look What You Made Me Do” to the public on August 24. In this song, Swift takes on a vengeful persona, claiming that the “old Taylor” is dead. Musically, it fits right in with the sound of most commercial pop on the radio, but is a far cry from standard Swift fare. She subsequently released her music video for the song that Sunday, during MTV’s Video Music Awards, of course.
I could go on for quite some time about the music video (which has over 238 million views,) as there’s much to dissect and analyze about the imagery within it. Swift takes quite a few stabs at the people who have wronged her over the years, from Kanye West to Katy Perry to even Spotify. She also reaffirms the lyrics that claim that the old Taylor is dead by, well, dressing up as old “versions” of herself. This all culminates in a satisfyingly shocking end scene in the music video in which all of the Taylors bicker, making fun of the commentary surrounding Swift.
Not much later, Swift dropped “…Ready For It?” during Labor Day weekend. Needless to say, many people were not ready for this song. Lyrically and musically, the song is even more different from anything Swift has produced before. As a rap song—yes, you read that right, rap—Swift seems out of place, discussing a heady subject like her romantic encounters (to say the least).
Naturally, critical reception of Taylor’s latest music has been all over the place. Some lauded the timing of her first single, as it came out on the same day as Katy Perry’s music video for “Swish Swish,” which, of course, seems like a clapback to Swift’s “Bad Blood.” Other critics didn’t think her latest songs were good at all, claiming that they weren’t up to par with Swift’s stellar hit record. Some claimed that “…Ready For It?” wasn’t good, but due to Swift’s enigmatic publicity, it honestly didn’t matter.
Regardless of what the media thinks, Swift probably will shake it off. The plucky songstress has had a history of calling out the people who have wronged her. Many fans have noted that Swift’s “Reputation” release news has come practically a year after the whole #KimExposedTaylorParty fiasco. For those who don’t recognize the hashtag, it has to do with the footage Kim Kardashian West posted on Snapchat, claiming Taylor consented to lyrics in one of Kanye West’s songs, “Famous,” in which he calls Swift a “b***h.” Swift addresses this directly in “Look What You Made Me Do,” in case you were wondering.
One of Swift’s latest headlines has dealt with the groping lawsuit in which she won a symbolic dollar from a radio host who had allegedly groped her at a meet-and-greet back in 2013. Despite the victory in the case and her using her high-profile to bring awareness to sexual assault victims, the media’s image of her has still been flip-flopping for some time.
Swift’s fans are mixed on the new releases as well. While many immediately lauded “Look What You Made Me Do” and “…Ready For It?,” just as many fans were reluctant to immediately sing their praises of the new sound. For a pop star whose bold moves have historically slid off her like Teflon, some of Swift’s fans are unhappy with the death of old Taylor. Regardless, many of her devoted fans still look forward to what “Reputation” will offer, but are waiting for the release to fully embrace (or reject) Taylor’s new image.
Despite what the media and fans think, however, Swift’s masterful publicity and promotion of her latest works have expertly built up hype to garner the attention of practically everyone in the music industry. Her deliberate sweep of all her social media and website outlets created curiosity instantaneously, and she didn’t have to say a single word. Even her new music has managed to grab public interest because, well, she’s Taylor Swift. Every move Swift makes is calculated, and whether you love or hate her, we collectively follow her—no matter what.
As a long-time fan of Swift’s work, I personally have mixed feelings about her new sound. I’m a classic Swiftie, still holding onto the days when most of Swift’s media hype surrounded the cryptic messages left in her album liner notes. However, I still appreciate the message she’s trying to convey to the world. By boldly distancing herself from the old Taylor, she’s declaring to the media, her enemies and her fans that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Nobody can define Swift; nobody has the power to taint or shape her image. She alone is in control of her identity and her reputation.