The cover of Taylor Swift’s sixth studio album. | Facebook

When I first lis­tened to Taylor Swift’s new album, I didn’t rec­ognize the sound. This was a new Taylor Swift. 

“Rep­u­tation,” Swift’s sixth studio album, is dark, despite its pop genre. Swift is moody, angsty, and sensual from beginning to end in an album that feels like one com­plete mas­ter­piece. While she sings of her ado­ration for her current boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn, and she takes digs at her per­sonal feuds with rapper Kanye West, singer Katy Perry, and her ex-lovers, the songs convey a uni­versal mood. It sounds like 2017.

The numbers show it. On Friday’s release date, “Rep­u­tation” sold more than 700,000 copies in the United States alone, according to Bill­board, col­lecting the largest sales week in 2017 in its first day even before becoming available on streaming ser­vices.

It’s been three years since the 27-year-old singer-song­writer released a new album, breaking a trend of releasing new music every other year. If Swift had fol­lowed her pre­vious pattern, “Rep­u­tation” would have told an entirely dif­ferent story.

But the album’s sto­ry­telling is one thing Swifties since her sun­dress-and-cowboy-boots days will rec­ognize, as she moves from feelings of anger and frus­tration to finding peace with the “death of her rep­u­tation,” all while con­veying it with a stuck-in-your-head chorus song after song.

In the midst of today’s political polar­ization and Hol­lywood scandals, a few lyrics convey the con­fusion in con­flicts playing out on social media and in the news: “They’re burning all the witches / Even if you aren’t one / They got their pitch­forks and proof / Their receipts and reasons.”

The album’s lead single “Look What You Made Me Do” and its music video attack her enemies as well as the media for their limited por­trayal of her. Mean­while, con­ser­v­a­tives and lib­erals alike crit­icize their bias. The lyrics convey that skep­ticism and never-ending news cycle heav­iness: “The world moves on / Another day another drama, drama / … / I don’t trust nobody / And nobody trusts me.”

Other songs refer to how “my drug is my baby,” getaway cars, and “dancing with our hands tied,” con­tinuing a dark mood and sense of pow­er­lessness throughout the disc. These metaphors par­allel the current culture’s ele­ments of escapism and the suf­fo­cating restraint on free speech that comes with political cor­rectness.

Swift’s lyrics obvi­ously appeal to fem­inism, though, a reminder of the women’s marches and #MeToo cam­paign: “I want to wear his initial / On a chain round my neck / Chain round my neck / Not because he owns me / But ’cause he really knows me,” Swift sings in “Call It What You Want.”

The album’s nar­rative does shift toward the end, however. Swift draws focus to a redemptive love story. Although “Dress” is probably the most sexual song on the album, lines like these remind fans of the Taylor Swift they know and love: “Even in my worst times / You could see the best of me / Flashback to my mis­takes / My rebounds, my earth­quakes / Even in my worst lies / You saw the truth in me.”

In the last three songs, Swift shows maturity in regards to her thoughts on the events she dis­cusses earlier in her album. In “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” she seems to be leaving behind the drama to pri­or­itize her family, boyfriend, and “real friends.”

In the final track, “New Year’s Day,” which is unfor­tu­nately Swift’s lone ballad on the album, she finds a brightness in the little things in a new era: “But I stay when it’s hard / or it’s wrong or we’re making mis­takes / I want your mid­nights / But I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you / On New Year’s Day.”

That’s some­thing we can — and should — take from what Swift has written. Even though 2017 has come with tragedies and dev­as­tation, it is pre­cisely those reasons that should help us to rec­ognize that who we are — our rep­u­ta­tions — come from the things we treasure the most.

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Breana Noble
Breana Noble is The Collegian's Editor-in-Chief. She is a born and raised Michigander and studies politics and journalism. This summer, Breana interned in New York City at TheStreet, a business and finance news website. She has previously worked for The Detroit News, The American Spectator, and Newsmax Media. She eventually hopes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. email: | twitter: @RightandNoble