- Taylor Swift just released “Reputation,” her first album since 2014’s “1989.”
- It’s culturally irrelevant.
- We live in an age of anxiety and political turmoil. Swift just wants to talk about herself.
- The narcissism falls short of the work of other great artists from this year.
After three long years, Taylor Swift released “Reputation.” It’s about love, betrayal, and the strange contours of fame. It is timeless.
That’s not a good thing.
“Reputation” is entirely about Swift’s interior life. It’s all about what’s going on inside her head. And that’s fine! Art should be something that grows from an investigation of the self and expresses it to the outside world.
But in 2017, that all seems a little stale. This is an age of anxiety. Donald Trump is president. Men are creeping through the top rungs of the world and allegedly sexually assaulting people. Kim Jong-Un waves around his nukes. Protests of systemic racism is a frequent event.
In 2014, making a song about shaking it off may have been alright. In 2017, it just reads as irrelevancy.
Compare “Reputation” to other recent albums and songs released by Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and even, uh, Keith Urban. Taylor Swift, from “1989” to “Reputation,” doesn’t have much to say about anything other than herself.
It doesn’t help that Swift’s politics are mysterious. She, possibly the most powerful person in the music industry, doesn’t address it in her music — even though she’s lived on that tricky line between country and pop. And she basically went underground for the entirely of the 2016 election cycle, giving no interviews. On election day, fans were left to parse her outfit for clues about who she voted for.
When Swift does talk about the exterior world, it’s in relation to herself: How she feels about other people, how the world has wronged her, and how she positions her own fame. But, as Mark Harris noted in Vulture, it’s all in a rather Trumpian way. Insofar as “Reputation” has any political interpretation whatsoever, this is it. Swift commercializes her self-exoneration. She is wrong and everyone must pay attention to her as the world has tried to ruin her. Taylor Swift wants to be the center of gravity.
The thing is, we all have more important things to worry about.