Reputation: Themes in Taylor Swift’s New Album That Changed Everything

coverI am a Taylor Swift fan. I will neither deny it nor apologize for it, and there was a time when I might have done both. But I have been on the Swift team since the beginning. Since the “Teardrops on My Guitar” days. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

A few years ago I wrote a post about Taylor’s last album, 1989, and how it was just what I needed in my life at that time. I wrote about how it helped me start over and heal and begin again. Today I want to do something similar with Taylor’s most recent album, Reputation.

Reputation is definitely Taylor’s edgiest album. It brings to light a lot of her struggles and highlights a lot of things that she’s usually very private about. It lets us into the darker sides of her, and the darker sides of what she experiences as a result of who she is. But like the true artist that she is, Taylor somehow manages to turn that darkness into light.

From beginning to end, Reputation is a journey: each song taking us through a different phase and highlighting different themes. As I’ve thought about this, I’ve settled upon seven major themes throughout the album that have come to mean everything to me. Themes that have changed the way I look at life and helped me see my own experiences in a different light.

Theme #1: The Fall From Grace

Even if you aren’t a T Swift fan, or don’t know much about her either way, it is pretty much common knowledge that she went through the ringer for a while there. As an ardent fan, I feel like I should know all of the details and have a very strong opinion, but honestly, I don’t know all the details. I really don’t know a lot about what happened. What I do know is that it hurt her, and she disappeared for a long time. I do know that it was a very hard fall for her.

Haven’t we all been there? I know I have.

We’ve all been through that point in life when we fall from grace and become very familiar with the feeling of a cold floor against our cheek. And quite frankly there is nothing worse than this kind of brokenness.flowers as thorns

This theme is highlighted in a couple of different songs on the album. “Call it What You Want” and “Delicate” are a few. Lyrics like: “My castle crumbled overnight, I brought a knife to a gun fight”, and “my reputation’s never been worse” whisper a little bit of this feeling.

Theme #2: Because You Break Them

Sometimes the people in our lives do stupid things. They do things that hurt us deeply. Things that confuse us. And while that isn’t fair, it is a part of life. What is interesting about this theme is that it is something we’ve all seen, and it can usually lead us down a couple of different paths.

If we have been deeply hurt by others, sometimes the healthiest thing to do is just move on. Leave it behind and start over. And other times we have to acknowledge that the pain changed us, and maybe not completely positively. Pain can do dark things to you. Again, that’s just the way it is sometimes.

“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Look What You Made Me Do” talk about this idea.

Theme #3: I Did Something Bad

Obviously, I can’t speak for everybody, but I think that most often the theme/phase that follows is usually the rebellious one. It was for me, at least. If we’ve been hurt sometimes we lash out. Sometimes we have to go through a moment in our lives when we do things we might regret later.

bikeThe song “I Did Something Bad” is the poster child for this phase. The lyrics say, “You say I did something bad, then why’s it feel so good?” This is an entirely accurate summary of how it feels to do something bad. It is an interesting look at the difference between good and bad or right and wrong. But the cold, hard truth is that sometimes doing bad things is fun.

But I will be the first person to say that staying in this phase really isn’t good. It’s not healthy. At some point, you have to realize that sticking your middle finger to the world is hurting you more in the long run.

Theme #4: In The Middle Of The Night, In My Dreams

One of the things I love most about this album is that while there are heavy themes of brokenness and rebellion, there are also very strong currents of hope and rebirth throughout everything. I love the words, “In the middle of the night, in my dreams,” from “…Ready For It?” because they start off the album with this idea of hope and dreams. The kind of dreams that you saw break into a million pieces against the floor. The kind of dreams that you slowly begin to dream again, piece by piece. The kind of dreams that are so precious you only dare dream them in the middle of the night, when the world can’t reach them.

Theme #5: I Know That It’s Delicate

When you start to begin to dream again, that is when it gets scary.

Picking yourself up off the floor, or letting people pick you up, is one of the hardest, scariest things you will ever do in your life. Because there is a certain comfort in being that broken. When you’re that broken you may be completely miserable, you may be in so much pain and darkness that it is unfathomable, but at least it can’t get any worse. At least you’re there now, not fighting to stay afloat. is it cool

So the process of standing up and walking back into the light is slow and scary, and very delicate. It’s very piece by piece, moment by moment. And somehow it can be the most reckless thing in the world to even fathom the idea of hoping for something again. But you do it anyway.

“Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate … isn’t it?”

Theme #6: My Broken Bones Are Mending

“King Of My Heart” is one of my favorite songs on the album, because it is such a blatant celebration of healing. It talks about how bad things happen, and we do find ourselves on the floor sometimes, and it is the absolute worst. But then healing can happen, and it does happen. We just have to believe in it. Even a little bit.

“Is this the end of all the endings? My broken bones are mending.”

I don’t care who you are, these lyrics are iconic. There is a bit of mystery to it. Like she can’t fathom that she’s healing. As if she’s watching it happen in disbelief. Another song has a line which says, “I woke up just in time.”

your midnightsAs if she emerged from her brokenness just in time. As if she threw the darkness aside in an act of wild faith and hope and passion and it was the best thing she ever did. Because now she is mending.

Theme #7: But I Stay

I love the song “New Year’s Day” more than I love many things on this earth. It ends the journey of Reputation on an incredibly beautiful note. It is a foundation song. A remembering who you are song. A grounding song.

I love this song because it is very simple. It talks about standing beside somebody through thick and thin. It talks about a very deep and abiding love. Something very powerful. But also very real and human. The kind of love that holds you through a dark night or helps you clean up after a party.

It is the song that says, “I know I’ve been through a lot of darkness. But somehow I’m still me. I’m better and stronger. I didn’t stay broken. I rose.”

Reputation is an incredible album about rebirth. There is so much to it. I could write a million more words about it, and extract countless other themes, I’m sure. These are only a few. Just some very powerful things that have changed my life and helped me in my own journey.

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No Control

Becoming a part of the One Direction fandom is a little bit like I imagine falling down a mountain would be. You get a little bit too close to the edge just to peek at the view, and before you know it you are plummeting into a place from which there is no escape. The only difference, I think, is that once you get to the point of no return there’s absolutely nothing you regret.

Actual footage of me entering the 1D fandom

You’re broken a lot, there are a lot of feelings, and you may even be dead in some ways. But you do not regret it. In fact, you’d do it all again.

I have been a serious blogger for four years now. Some of the biggest pride in my blog comes from my very well thought out and deeply emotional posts. I’ve spilled my soul to all of you a lot of times.

Imagine my shock then, when I found myself pulled rather roughly in the One Direction world last summer, and with that was pulled into a world stereotypically labeled as that of fifteen-year-old girls.  And it is not only the fact that I was pulled into the fandom, it is the fact that I am more than happy to be here now.

I regret nothing.

Here’s the deal: I’m 22 years old. And One Direction is currently on hiatus.

midnight memoriesSo there are a few problems with me joining the One Direction family when I did. Namely, I have to make my way through their whole library of songs as well as enjoy their solo music as it comes out. That is a lot of phases to navigate through all at once, people. Another problem is that I feel like such a proud mom…even though I’m basically the same age as all of them. I’m not sure why that is, but that is the way it is. The final problem is that I find myself missing One Direction so much. Very much, even though I wasn’t around when they were making music together.

You can think or say anything you want about One Direction, obviously, though I respectfully submit that if you don’t like them you didn’t have to read this far. One thing that I would like to say about One Direction, or maybe just about music in general, is that they helped me in a time when very little else could. Call it what you want, but the boys helped me through some very, very dark times. I think that is the true beauty of the music we love, or whatever it might be. The power these important things have to help us through the dark times. explain why

It obviously isn’t a secret that I love One Direction, I have blogged about them before. But I guess that the difference in this post is that I just wanted to highlight the beauty of loving something. The One Direction fandom is huge and extensive, and there are moments when I find myself simultaneously terrified of the lengths my fandom will go to to get information about the boys or proud of the lengths we will go to to protect them. But in the end, there is a very real, if sometimes strange, connection that binds us all together as One Direction fans.

I think one of the greatest things about being human is that we have the opportunity to find things like this that we love: music, movies, sports, art, or whatever it is. Whatever it is that brings you this joy or helps you through the dark moments. It could be one thing or many things, but whatever it is it’s beautiful.

Dear Rachel

Dear Rachel,

You have been my friend now for roughly seven years. Can you believe it? It blows my mind away how fast all of that went. The times and memories that we have shared and still share are so close to my heart. I can’t even begin to number or count the ways in which you have influenced my life, or all the reasons I love you.

You see, it never mattered that I already have quite a few sisters of my own. You have not only been a best friend to me over the years, but a sister as well. Even when you moved into my small town from New York, I never felt like you were anything but my best friend. I felt like I knew you instantly. I suppose Anne Shirley was correct after all on the whole kindred spirit idea. It has never mattered where we went in life, what we were doing, or how we were separated. I always know that besides all of these things, you will always be there for me when I need you. No matter what happens, you have always been there for me when I needed you.

The thing about you, Rachel, is that when I look at you I just see light. There is something about you that is just otherworldly. Over the years I have come to find that the reason behind that is because you are such a good person. Now, really, stop blushing and covering your face in disbelief. It’s true. You are an incredibly good person, and people know that just by looking at you. I’ve never seen you do anything wrong, I’ve never heard you say anything bad about anybody. You are an amazing person and you’ve been a wonderful example to me throughout the years.

The purpose of this letter today is just to tell you that. I just wanted you to know how much I love and appreciate you, and I wanted to put it in a place where it wasn’t just me telling you. Here are the permanent words of what your friendship and influence has meant to me over the years, and will mean to me always. Have a wonderful day, I’ll probably talk to you soon!

Love,

Me