November 10, 2017
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, she posted 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. A total of 500 fans were chosen from around the world, for whom Taylor played the entire album. 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, it 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.
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.
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.'”
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.
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.
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.