"The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Because she's dead."
The first time Taylor Swift uttered the lyric in her comeback single "Look What You Made Me Do," it felt trite and cliché. But Taylor wasn't joking, bitch. Her new album, Reputation, is showing facees of the 27-year-old pop star we've never seen before (and I don't just mean her "rapping").
Reputation is full of firsts for Swift. She sings about drinking alcohol and has sexual agency in "Dress. She even curses in the album standout "I Did Something Bad," where we see Swift flip the narrative around her infamous feud with Kanye West to create an empowering self-own unlike anything we've seen from the pop star:
I never trust a narcissist, but they love me
So I play 'em like a violin
And I make it look oh-so-easy
'Cause for every lie I tell them, they tell me three
This is how the world works
Now all he thinks about is me
The song is a direct attack on West, and she's holding nothing back. "If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing/I don't regret it one bit, 'cause he had it coming." Her vindiction evokes similar feelings to The Six Merry Murderess rendition of "Cell Block Tango." "I didn't do it, but if I'd done it, how could you tell me that I was wrong?'
They say I did something bad
But why's it feel so good?
Most fun I ever had
And I'd do it over and over and over again if I could
It just felt so good, good
If she's manipulative, so be it. Swift is owning who Kanye and the media says she is, effectively reclaiming her power, and showing us a new wrathful shade of Taylor. "It just feels so good," even alludes to Haley Williams' iconic line in Paramore's vengeful 2007 hit "Misery Business."
Taylor Swift is a victim no more.
While there are a couple missteps, like the sanitized hip-hop of Future and Ed Sheeran's "End Game," the aristocratic air of the obnoxiously petty (but admittedly catchy) "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," and the instictive 360 degree eye roll that takes over the following times she references Kanye or repeats her album title in a song like a bad Glee episode hitting you over the head with the weekly theme by saying it every 32 seconds, Reputation is a stellar album.
"Delicate" shows Swift navigating the minefield of a romance in its infancy. "Dancing With Our Hands Tied" tries to dance through the impending downfall of a doomed relationship. "Getaway Car" is an introspective look at Swift's hopping from lover to lover, stamped with Jack Antanoff's signature sound. "New Year's Day" is a beautiful reminder of Swift's songwriting genius.
It feels like Swift has grown up, and while she's acknowedging her flaws, she's not apologizing for them.
Maybe the old Taylor really is dead, and Reputation is the shedding of a snakeskin she's outgrown. But the new Taylor feels more alive than ever.