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reputation

November 10, 2017

reputation (stylized in all lowercase) is Taylor’s sixth studio album. Released on November 10, 2017 after a period of highly publicized disputes and immense media and internet scrutiny, reputation is regarded as Taylor’s comeback album by critics and fans alike, seeing her “claim her narrative”. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, having sold 1.28 million copies that week, more than the other 199 listed albums combined.
In the run-up to the release of reputation, Taylor was excoriated by the media for too often playing the victim. Some of the album’s lyrics seem to bolster that perception, but ultimately it’s Taylor’s willingness to portray herself not as a victim, but the villain of her own story that makes reputation such a fascinatingly thorny glimpse inside her mind. Taylor had already proved herself capable of laughing at herself, thereby defusing the criticisms often levied at her, but with reputation she created a larger-than-life caricature of the petty, vindictive snake she’d been made out to be. By album’s end, she assesses her crumbling empire and tattered reputation, discovering redemption in love — only reputation isn’t so much a rebirth as it is a retreat inward. It marks a shift from the retro-minded pop-rock of 2014’s 1989 toward a harder, more urban aesthetic, and Taylor wears the stiff, clattering beats of songs like “…Ready for It?” like body armor.
Table of Contents

Background and Release

The title, release date, and cover art for reputation were revealed on August 16, 2017, after Taylor removed all of her previous social media presence, a move which many other artists started mimicking and which is now called a “social media blackout”. Two days later, Taylor s glitchy ten-second videos of a snake, as a reference to the “nickname” she was given during the summer of 2016, after public fallouts with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry and ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris. Two more such videos were posted in the next couple of days. On August 23, 2017, Taylor made posts across her social media, introducing reputation as her upcoming sixth album, and added that its lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do” would come out the following night.

“Look What You Made Me Do”, released after a year of hiatus from public spotlight, is considered as one of pop music’s most memorable moments, bolstered by its music video, which gained over 43.2 million views during its first day on YouTube, breaking the record for the most-viewed music video within 24 hours. Among many other things, throughout the video Taylor is seen as the not-so-benevolent leader of a huge squad of models lined up like an army, a baseball bat-wielding robber of a streaming company, and a controlling dancer leading a group of eight ex-boyfriends wearing shirts that read  “I ❤️ TS”. “If everything you wrote about me was true,” Taylor said in a behind-the-scenes look at the music video, “this is how ridiculous it would look.” The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three consecutive weeks and instantly found a place in cultural ubiquity.

On September 2, Taylor teased a second song during ABC‘s “Saturday Night Football” telecast and on Instagram, titled “…Ready for It?” The song was released on September 3, 2017 as a promotional single. On October 20, 2017, Taylor released a third song titled “Gorgeous” at midnight as a promotional single. A track named “Call It What You Want” was released on November 2, 2017 as a promotional single with an accompanying lyric video.

Taylor also partnered with AT&T to produce a multi-part behind-the-scenes series chronicling the making of reputation, titled “The Making of a Song“. The online series started on November 1 on AT&T‘s YouTube channel.

A month before the album’s release, Taylor hosted the exclusive “reputation secret sessions” in London, Rhode Island, Los Angeles and Nashville. She said, “Everything about this album is a secret.” Each party had a number of attendees, with a total of 500 fans chosen from around the world, for whom the album was played but none of them leaked any music. The behind the scenes footage for the sessions was released on November 7 on ABC‘s “Good Morning America”. On November 9, a performance of the song “New Year’s Day” was premiered during the broadcast of an episode of ABC‘s “Scandal”. It was filmed in one of the secret sessions, held at Taylor’s home in Rhode Island on October 18, with an audience of 100 fans.

On November 7, Bloomberg reported that reputation would be kept off streaming services upon release for an undetermined amount of time and would only be available to purchase in digital and physical formats. Later that same day, Taylor posted the album’s track list to her social media accounts. reputation was finally released on November 10, 2017. According to Taylor’s father, Scott Swift, the album was supposed to come out months before it did, but her sexual assault trial in Denver pushed it back. The album became available to streaming services on December 1, 2017. Digital purchases were initially exclusively sold through iTunes and as a full album only. Streaming was limited to a branded internet radio station on iHeartRadio‘s website and app until December 2017.

Minimal Promotion

Surprisingly enough, Taylor didn’t do much promotion for the album’s release. She didn’t give interviews to magazines, nor did she appear on television to perform her lead single. Instead, she did a lot of marketing through her social media accounts and chose to share recordings from her “reputation Secret Sessions” so fans could hear her thought process behind each song. The sessions — which Taylor also did for the release of 1989 — were several secret events held before the release of reputation. Taylor invited fans to her homes in their dozens and played them the album before anyone else got to hear it.

«At the very beginning of the album I was pretty proud of coining the term: 'There will be no explanation. There will just be reputation', and so that was what I decided was going to be the album, and I stuck with it. I didn't go back on it. I didn't try to explain the album because I didn't feel that I owed that to anyone. There was a lot that happened over a couple of years that made me feel really, really terrible. And I didn't feel like expressing that to them. I didn't feel like talking about it. I just felt like making music, then going out on the road and doing a stadium tour and doing everything I could for my fans.»

Taylor Swift

Title Significance

Taylor stated that she knew very early on in the writing process that she wanted to name the album reputation, which is why she was able to construct the album based on that concept. She further explained her reasonings for naming the album reputation to Rolling Stone in 2019:

«Creating reputation felt different to any other album I’ve ever made because it felt a lot less fragmented in its storytelling. It was about a journey, from one emotional place to another. Other albums I’ve made have felt like a scrapbook of different memories, but there was something overarching about the theme of this album for me. I wanted it to sound like losing something you thought you wanted, and in the end, gaining something you really needed.»

Taylor Swift
Taylor further explained that the album had a linear timeline, starting with how she felt when she started working on the album, and transitioning to how she feels now. She told Entertainment Weekly in early 2019:

«Songwriters need to communicate, and part of communicating correctly is when you put out a message that is understood the way you meant it. reputation was interesting because I'd never before had an album that wasn't fully understood until it was seen live. When it first came out everyone thought it was just going to be angry; upon listening to the whole thing they realized it's actually about love and friendship, and finding out what your priorities are.»

Taylor Swift

Writing and Production

Taylor wrote the songs on reputation as a “defense mechanism” against the tumultuous media gossip targeting her during the time, and as a means to revamp her state of mind. Elaborating on the songwriting, Taylor told Rolling Stone in a 2019 interview that she followed the songwriting for her 2014 single “Blank Space“, on which she satirized her perceived image. She said, “I took that template of, ‘OK, this is what you’re all saying about me. Let me just write from this character for a second.'” In addition to the media commotion, love and friendship are major inspirations on the album, which corroborates Taylor’s trademark autobiographical storytelling through her songs.

Taylor started recording reputation in Nashville in September, 2016. Perhaps for the first time in her career, she decided to chase pop’s zeitgeist rather than boldly reinventing it. The actual sonic construction of reputation is extremely of its time, in that it’s split almost evenly between Max Martin’s long-reigning maximalist pop machine and the thornier, more intimate work of Jack Antonoff. The vibe on this record is clamorous, vaguely goth-y, and synthetic in a way that allows for some startling intimacy. Taylor explained that she decided to work with a much smaller group on reputation than on 1989, and picked these producers to work with because she “felt like they would be versatile enough to kill 1989, and make something new.” As a result, 1989 feels like a party where everyone is invited. reputation, with its inward focus, feels just the opposite: VIP only.

«There would be no way for me to make something even similar to 1989 and have it be effective. It had to be completely different, because that album was its own thing.»

Taylor Swift
The final cut of reputation consists of 15 tracks. Martin and Shellback, the former of whom was co-executive producer with Taylor on 1989, co-wrote and produced nine songs. Jack Antonoff co-wrote and produced the remaining six. Taylor’s recording sessions with Antonoff mostly took place at his home studio in Brooklyn, with several trips to Atlanta and California for him to incorporate ideas from other producers. According to Antonoff, the sessions tried to capture Taylor’s emotions at a particular time, when “you can feel like you can conquer the world, or you can feel like the biggest piece of garbage that ever existed”, resulting in a “very intense” record. He spoke of his work experience with Taylor on Entertainment Weekly:

«She is great at remembering the heart and soul of the process. Some people forget it — sometimes something works and everyone starts to rewire it. But she's really great at knowing what it's about: Talking about what the hell is going on in your life and somehow finding a way to take that exact emotion and make a song out of it. That was the theme of those sessions: 'Let’s just tell this story, whatever that story is, because that's the whole point.»

Jack Antonoff

As Taylor wanted to record the album in secrecy, Jack kept his studio computer offline to prevent a possible internet leak, and deleted the recording trials once the mixing and mastering finalized. Despite the unusual secrecy he really enjoyed the project, he told Rolling Stone in 2021: “I was like, ‘Oh, shit, we can do this too?’ My creative relationship with her feels kind of boundless…So much was going on culturally that it was easy to have a comment here or there. But I love it. I went back to it [the album] recently and loved it.”

Taylor has called reputation her most cathartic album, something she had wanted to make for “years and years”: “After I finished it, I was like, ‘Now I can go back to writing regular songs again.'”

Album Artwork

The album art for reputation was photographed by Mert and Marcus in London. The cover features Taylor in her signature lipstick, slicked-back hair, grey sweatshirt, and choker necklace. Newspaper headlines and columns are superimposed over one side of her face, which is a mockery at media that plagued her life. The typeface used for the headlines is reminiscent of the signature font of The New York Times. Target released two 72-page magazines that contain different content, including the album in the US. They contain photos, handwritten lyrics, poetry and paintings by Taylor. The reputation Vol. 1 magazine cover was shot by Mert and Marcus. Vol. 2 was shot by Benny Horne and features Taylor in a camouflage jacket.

Singles

On August 24, 2017, “Look What You Made Me Do” was released as the lead single from reputation. The song broke several major records including the most Spotify streams in a 24-hour period by any artist. It hit No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 with the biggest sales and streaming figures of the year. Its accompanying music video later premiered at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards and was viewed 43.2 million times on YouTube in its first 24 hours, the most in any video in history.

On September 2, 2017, Taylor teased on Instagram that the first track off reputation, titled “…Ready for It?”, was going to be released as a promotional single. Upon release, the song landed inside the top-10 of singles charts worldwide, including its entry at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. On October 24, “…Ready for It?” was upgraded into the album’s second single, impacting US rhythmic contemporary radio; its official music video premiered three days later. “End Game“, featuring Ed Sheeran and Future, was released to French radio on November 14, 2017 as the album’s third single. The song’s music video was released in January 2018 after Sheeran confirmed its existence in early December 2017. “New Year’s Day” was serviced to American country radio as the album’s fourth single on November 27, 2017.

Delicate” was sent to contemporary hit and adult contemporary radio as the album’s fourth international single on March 12, 2018. Its music video premiered at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards. It was the second single from reputation to enter the top 10 of Billboard’s Radio Songs chart (peaking at No. 2), after lead single “Look What You Made Me Do”. A strong radio success, “Delicate” topped the Billboard Pop Songs chart, and was reputation‘s first No. 1 single on the Billboard Adult Pop Songs and Adult Contemporary charts. It became the biggest single from reputation on the US radio. “Delicate” peaked at No. 12 and spent 35 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, the longest-charting single from the album as well. It was one of the 10 most successful songs on US airplay of 2018, culminating 2.509 billion radio audience impressions. “Getaway Car” was the album’s final single in Australia and New Zealand.

Critical Recepetion

reputation is easily Taylor’s most divisive album. Still, it received generally positive reviews from music critics. Most reviewers praised her mature artistry, while some denounced the themes of fame and gossip. The Guardian writer Alexis Petridis opined reputation, “may be mired in bitterness and gossip, but the pop star’s songwriting smarts and lyrical prowess are impossible to deny on her sixth album”, noting the songs see “Swift cutting her last ties with her Nashville roots in favour of the blare and honk of EDM-influenced pop”. Rolling Stone‘s Rob Sheffield writes reputation, “shows the darker, deeper side of the pop mastermind”. Sheffield also remarked, “As one of the all-time great pop masterminds, she’s trying something new, as she always does.” Roisin O’Connor of The Independent says “Call It What You Want” is “arguably, the best song Swift has ever made”, also praising Jack Antonoff’s production, calling it “essential” to the album. The New York Times called reputation a concept album. Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph states, “reputation is a big, brash, all-guns-blazing blast of weaponised pop that grapples with the vulnerability of the human heart as it is pummelled by 21st-century fame.” reputation was listed on Slant Magazine‘s list of the best albums of the 2010s decade.

Commercial Performance

Before reputation was released, the number of pre-orders reached more than 400,000 units, double the amount of her 1989 album. reputation easily had the best first-week sales of any 2017 album, selling more than a million copies in four days. Worldwide, it sold two million copies in its first week. In the U.S., the album sold roughly 700,000 copies after one day of availability, and 1.05 million within four days of release. reputation ultimately became Taylor’s fifth No. 1 album on the US Billboard 200, debuting at the top spot with first-week figures of 1.238 million album-equivalent units that consisted of 1.216 million pure sales. It was her fourth album to sell a million copies in its first week, making Taylor the first artist to have four albums each sell more than a million copies within one week since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. It sold more than the other 199 albums on the chart that week combined.
The album spent a total of four non-consecutive weeks at number one. Selling 1,903,000 copies by the end of 2017, reputation was the best-selling album of the year in the U.S. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), it was the world’s second-best-selling album of 2017, with 4.5 million copies sold.

reputation also topped the charts in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. As of 2021, reputation has sold over 5 million copies in the US and over 8.5 million worldwide.

Award Recognition

reputation won the award for “Favorite Pop/Rock Album” at the 2018 American Music Awards, while Taylor took home “Artist of the Year”. The album also received a nomination for “Best Pop Vocal Album” at the 2019 Grammy Awards, becoming Taylor’s second nomination in the category (her fifth album 1989 won in 2016).

Legacy

reputation is a case study in the pop history and a prime example on how to make a successful comeback in mainstream music.  Casual listeners missed the drama that inspired the album for the most part, but in 2017 the general public thought of Taylor as a giant “pop star,” which is why reputation, given the brazenness of its rollout and the enormity of its sales, will serve as a referendum on pop music in 2017.
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General Information
Released November 10, 2017
Studio
Genre
Pop
Electro Pop
Synth Pop
R&B
Length 55:38
Label Big Machine Records
Producers
Taylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
Max Martin
Shellback
Album Certification
Tracklist
Album Artwork
Highest Honor
reputation Era

reputation Era

reputation Songs

The Making of A Song

reputation Stadium Tour

Taylor Swift: reputation Stadium Tour

Taylor's Discography