Even if you wish Taylor Swift had gone less mainstream with Reputation, “you leave the album with a new appreciation for her versatility,” said Jamieson Cox in Pitchfork.com. On her first studio release since 1989 dominated 2014, the 27-yearold former pop-country starlet sings with conviction about lust, booze, and betrayal, and in putting aside narrative songwriting has delivered a 15-song set rich in “bulletproof hooks” and “sticky turns of phrase.” Her team’s take on modern pop proves “surprisingly maximal.” Combining vocoder harmonies, hip-hop beats, and “hair-raising” bass drops, the record offers a study in state-of-the-art studio craft. Granted, when Swift raps, her delivery “can be a little bloodless,” said Craig Jenkins in NYMag.com. But she never flubs a cadence or misses a note, and if you put aside “Look What You Made Me Do”—the album’s snarling first single and also the worst track on the record—“the new sound is an improvement.” The retro-pop of 1989 was “a little too clinical to be believed.”
The ninth track on Reputation shifts the album’s tone and “arrives like a savior,” said Spencer Kornhaber in TheAtlantic.com. “Getaway Car,” like past Swift acmes, is “a tune to hum misty-eyed after the movies.” But that’s not the only effervescent moment. On “Call It What You Want” and the closing track, “New Year’s Day,” Swift sings movingly to a current flame. She’s sharing “her most personal lyrics to date,” even as she unapologetically embraces musical fads. For all the noise Reputation has stirred up, said Evan Sawdey in PopMatters.com, the album turns out to be “almost astoundingly” tame—“a solid if unspectacular set of pop songs” and nothing more.