I was excited for Taylor Swift’s new album release. Really genuinely excited. Despite all that Taylor Swift has done and endured in the three years since the release of 1989, my love for her music has never wavered.
This is an artist with an uncanny ability to take the experiences and perspectives of young girls seriously and communicate them with lovely detail. Seriously, I still cry every time I sing along with “All Too Well” in my car. I thought that with all of the headlines and controversy, Taylor Swift was going to use her disappearance to get back to what it’s about: life in music.
That is not what Reputation delivered. As I listened to the album all the way through for the first time, there were multiple moments where I was totally feeling a song, loving it, and bopping along until the moment it became clear that she was actually addressing her experience with the controversy that has surrounded her.
My disappointment about this comes from a few different places. The first is related to why I loved her music to begin with: I wanted to relate to her music and I wanted to know that I feel what she feels. To dedicate so much of her new album to addressing the controversies means that much of her new album is completely unrelatable to me. It means that this album has less potential to stir up my own memories and emotions. It means that this album doesn’t make as much of an impact on me. There are really only a few songs that don’t reference the controversy in one way or another, which means that there are only a few songs that even have the potential to relate to me like her earlier work did.
I was also disappointed because I’m tired of this controversy; I think we all are. It’s old news and it’s boring. There isn’t even a fire to add fuel to anymore. No one else is living in this controversy. And I don’t want to hear an entire album about it. I just don’t. I don’t want to have to think about the Twitter fights and the Snapchat videos and the award acceptance speeches and the statements. I’m done thinking about it. And I came out of all of that thinking that I still wanted to buy her album, so I can’t even imagine how much others are sick of it.
I’m done with the Taylor Swift controversies. I’m moving on. I hoped that she would too, but this album really proves she didn’t. She will make music videos for these songs, tour while singing these songs, perform them on the late night shows. Essentially, she is going to continue to live in these songs and her own controversy for two more years at least. And it’s just not interesting to me.
At the same time, I hate feeling this way. I notice that I somehow feel entitled to Taylor Swift’s artistic expression because I am personally disappointed when she doesn’t produce what I want, which is wrong and gross. I have no right to expect her to have moved on from something so unique and, I’m sure, horribly soul-crushing as the way she has been treated for the last three years (or 10 years if we’re being real). She is allowed to feel what she feels, even if it’s not interesting to me. I have no right to demand that she be interesting to me, that she produce art that relates to me specifically, or that she experience the world on my timetable.
So, basically, I’m equally or more annoyed with myself for the way I think about Reputation as I am about Reputation itself.
This album will not play on repeat. I’ve moved on and I don’t want to hear about it. But I will spend some time thinking about how I came to feel so entitled to Taylor Swift’s life and music. Listen, someone criticized me for a typo in an e-mail 1 full year ago and I’m still thinking about that. Realistically, I never should have expected Taylor Swift’s album to be like the music she created before she faced so much public criticism. But damn, I still wish she released the extended version of “All Too Well.”