It is around that time again, every two or three years, when the drop of a single ushers in a new era in the age of Taylor Swift. Whether you love Swift or hate her, as one of the few artists who does not shy away from change, Swift’s calculated evolution from starry-eyed country singer to pop megastar, coupled with drastic image makeovers, has been fascinating to say the least.
After the success of “1989”, it is fair to say most were expecting Swift to continue building upon her Grammy-award winning formula for success: still writing songs about her widely-publicized relationships but also inserting a sense of self-awareness into her lyricism.
In “1989”, during a marked shift for Swift, she not only fully embraced and parodied her media characterization as a boy-crazy, serial-dating maniac, but she also successfully revealed a more grown-up side. No longer was Swift the inexperienced, childish girl of her youth who reveled in taking unambiguous shots at her exes.
However, with recently released singles from Swift’s upcoming “Reputation”, cracks in both Swift’s impeccably crafted image and her artistry are beginning to show.
In the lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do”, growing hope for a continued mature evolution soured into sheer disappointment.
Swift has managed to regress back into her old, juvenile comfort zone, taking thinly-veiled hits at those out to get her, all layered over a generic beat, with a melody-less chorus that can barely even be classified as music.
The lyrics are laughably basic and she reuses her old gimmick of talking mid-song, hardly making the overly contrived song worth listening to. Maybe this was not the piece of music, but with its well-made music video, it was palatable.
Swift’s lead singles are never her strongest offerings musically, as most are highly commercial—take the horrendous “Shake It Off”—so there was still faith that she could turn it around.
Yet as Swift continued to release songs like “Ready for It” and “Gorgeous”, “Look What You Made Me Do” turned out to be the rule, not the exception.
Swift’s bizarre tendency to include disjointed compositions of chorus and verse, derivative beats, and dumbed-down lyrics, that sound more at home in a children’s book than in a celebrated songwriter’s catalogue, is apparently the new normal.
Although it appeared she had entirely shirked her angelic image and embraced a more “dangerous” persona, Swift never fully commits to this character, still singing her tired, cat-lady tune on the song “Gorgeous” where she’ll “stumble on home to her cats”.
These constant contradictions ultimately fail to provide any payoff and portray Swift as more phony, affected, and pathetic than ever before.
Unfortunately for our ears, but more fortunately for Swift’s bank account, this is the pop music that sells. While Swift once set the standard for innovative and meaningful pop music that did not conform to the usual noise on the radio, she now, like millions of other artists, stoops down to the level of what sells.
While this album, beginning to look devoid of any real artistry, will inevitably sell millions of copies and possibly win a Grammy, it may be a better use of your time to turn off the radio, listen to Swift’s older albums, and patiently wait for Swift to grow up, again.