Critics Weigh In | Taylor Swift, ‘Reputation’
The reviews are in for ‘Reputation,’ the highly-anticipated, sixth studio album by Taylor Swift. What do those ‘professional’ critics think?
The critics have spoken when it comes to Reputation, the highly-anticipated, sixth studio album by Taylor Swift. According to Metacritic, judging by an aggregate score of 71 (as of publication date), reviews are considered favorable. Compared to the score we gave Reputation when reviewing it – 3 ½ stars out of 5 – it’s about right. Do the math, and our star rating would convert to a 70, which by Metacritic standards is favorable.
An interesting note, however, is that Reputation is her lowest rated album, even if only by a smidge. Her 2014 Grammy-winning 1989 sits at a metascore of 76. Both Red and Speak Now from 2012 and 2010 respectively sit at 77. Fearless, her sophomore album and first to win the prestigious Grammy for album of the year, comes in at 73. Taylor Swift isn’t included.
Getting more in depth, of the 28 professional critic reviews, 19, or nearly 68% were favorable. 6 of the 28 reviews were mixed (21.4%), while just 1 was the outlier, disapproving of Reputation (<1%). The outlier came courtesy of Consequence of Sound, who proclaim “the dopamine rush that modern pop music can so reliably produce never arrives.” Oh snap – that’s just the Metacritic excerpt. The subheading of the review, penned by Geoff Nelson, asserts that “The blockbuster star’s sixth studio album is a bloated disaster, but maybe that’s the point?” Nelson does cite pros, writing, “Not surprisingly, Reputation’s strongest moments are its most restrained.” While two of the three songs he highlights didn’t align with The Musical Hype picks, we did align on “Call It What You Want.”
Moving on from the outlier, we get into the mixed realm. Among the Professional review organizations who found Reputation to be mixed were Clash Music, AllMusic, and PopMatters. Renowned critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine, the senior editor for AllMusic tacked Reputation himself. According to Erlewine:
“Reputation dispenses with the notion that Swift is a babe in the woods, swapping naiveté for calculation, leaning hard into the idea that she plots her every move. In that light, it’s difficult not to read Reputation as Swift’s first self-consciously ‘adult’ record, one preoccupied with sex, betrayal, and the scars they leave behind.”
Essentially, Erlewine seems to be skeptical of Swift’s delivery, essentially characterizing her as “clumsy” and “awkward” when tackling sex and attempting to be a villain. Fair enough.
Critic Approval to the Utmost
Some critics absolutely ate Reputation up. While I was personally on-board and found the album to exceed personal expectations, it wasn’t ‘the second coming.’ But, as Swift sings herself, “Call it what you want.” Organizations delivering positive reviews included Spin, Rolling Stone, and the Los Angeles Times. Examining one of the most impressed critics, Los Angeles Times reporter Randy Lewis praises her “narrowing of collaborators,” asserting:
“They conjure a sense of foreboding to illuminate her songs of betrayal, heartbreak and disappointment. There also are plenty of bright spots celebrating new love and new maturity in her outlook, most framed in dance-floor-conscious beats and employing inventive sonic textures that expand on or outright defy conventions of contemporary pop-R&B music production.”
That’s pretty convincing stuff that Lewis writes. He goes on to quote Bob Dylan, and writes in depth about where Swift stands artistically and how Reputation fits. The headline gives high praise: “Taylor Swift’s talent remains intact on ‘Reputation,’ her most focused, most cohesive album yet.”
To reiterate, most critics are ‘onboard’ with Reputation. There are a few less optimistic, but all in all, Swift continues to roll. If you haven’t already checked out our track-by-track review of Reputation, get on that.