An open letter to Taylor Swift’s Reputation
In a few hours, Taylor Swift is going to drop a brand new single and a brand new music video. It seems as though, according to all the photos and teasers, that there just might be a lot of glitter and butterflies, hues of pinks and blues, pastel skies, and pretty painted pink smiles that convey a fairytale vibe that might be headed our way with yet another new era, but before she shuts the doors on the reputation timeline, I just wanted to reflect back on it a little bit, as I’ve come to realize how that record is one of the only things that has ever made me believe it’s okay to grow up.
Chronological order makes sense in my head. It makes the most sense, you know, like I should start from the beginning, and I would love to start from the beginning. I would love to tell you how when “Tim McGraw” hit the radio in 2006 and I told my classmates that it was the song they absolutely had to listen to, they laughed at me. I would love to tell you about how my mom taught me four chords on the guitar when I was twelve years old and the first song that I ever learned to play was “Fifteen.” I would love to tell you about how I used to write out every lyrical metaphor off the Speak Now album in fancy letters in my notebooks during math class and got yelled at by my teachers. I would love to tell you how I used to dance in oversized tees in front of my mirror to “Holy Ground” until I couldn’t breathe at least once a day in 2012, and I would love to explain to you how 1989 literally saved me so that I would later tattoo birds that mirror the album cover onto my body, but I can’t possibly explain all that in one post, so maybe I’ll save those stories for another time. Right now, it’s about reputation. So it goes ..
Black screens. I just remember black screens.
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It was like an online identity crisis. Everyone thought there was something wrong with their phones. People thought Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook were all simultaneously down until a few seconds later when you realized that actually, no. Technology was fine. It was just that Taylor Swift was done.
I remember a lot of fans panicking. I remember everyone being sad. I remember worrying about if she was okay, but I also remember just really understanding. I really got that. Needing to be offline. Being so done. I understood that because I’ve done it and looking at it now, I’m really glad that she did that for herself. I’m glad she took that time away because when it came to the day she released new music, it was like an earthquake.
Oh, and there were snakes.
Taylor Swift did not do a single press interview during the entirety of the reputation era. The music was there. She knew it. We knew it. There will be no further explanation. For a writer to say that is deeply profound, and I understood that.
Suddenly, there was an album, and that explained it all.
Ready For It?
So I take my time … Let the games begin … Are you ready for it?
Listen, you can take this song however you want to. I know it’s really different, and out of the box for her, but I don’t really care. I still love it because I find significance in the idea of taking your own time. I feel like a lot of times in life, we just forget that we’re allowed to take our own damn time. We’re allowed to do that. We’re allowed to go at our own paces. Society puts rules in place and everyone talks about how you should be here by this age and doing this by this age, and for what? By who’s standard? Getting yourself to the point where you can ask someone else if they’re ready for the next chapter because you’ve finally gotten yourself to the point when you’re ready yourself is hard to do, and I think it’s really cool that she did.
Reputation precedes me. In rumors I’m knee deep.
The truth is it’s easier to ignore it. Believe me.
Reputation precedes me. They told you I’m crazy
I swear I don’t love the drama. It loves me.
Okay. Yes. Future’s verse is awesome. What a damn good track, but my favorite part is Ed and Taylor’s lyrics mirroring one another. I love the “It’s easier to ignore it.” I love the “Drama loves me.” I love them. It’s just a jam. It makes me happy. Thank you, Taylor Swift, for getting Ed Sheeran back on that kind of cadence.
I Did Something Bad
He says, “Don’t throw away a good thing,”
But if he drops my name, then I owe him nothin’
And if he spends my change, then he had it comin’
I’m tired of men. Taylor is correct.
Don’t Blame Me
For you, I would cross the line.
I would waste my time.
I would lose my mind.
They say she’s gone too far this time.
The sound on this song is unbelievable. I love her voice on it. I love the piano, and I love the idea of risking it all for somebody you love and her not caring one bit about what anyone says about her going to find that love because doesn’t everyone deserve that? Aren’t most people in search of that? Do you and go get it. She said that.
Phone lights up my nightstand in the black.
Come here, you can meet me in the back.
Dark jeans and your Nikes, look at you.
Oh damn, never seen that color blue.
What I love about that first line goes back to the way she took that social media break. Like absence. Black screens. I know she’s talking about it being the middle of the night when your phone lights up, but I also like looking at it as like her return to media after that silent break. It’s a joy hearing Taylor’s voice through a notification again after you thought she quit being online forever. She’s the one who lights it up, you know?
Okay, also !!! My favorite line in this song. “Never seen that color blue,” like have you ever heard of anyone describing someone’s eyes in such a taken aback way? No, you haven’t.
The whole idea of everything just being so fragile is so relevant today. It’s the thoughts that go through our heads before we ever post a picture online. Is this cool? Is it chill? Am I doing something that other people will find acceptable? When you think about those things applied to every part of life, and not just how you would approach talking to someone, it’s pretty insane. We’re always so fragile. We’re all so delicate. Sometimes even the people with the toughest shells to crack have delicate feelings. This song actually seems really sad. It’s like “Out of the Woods” and that constant wondering of are we ever in the clear? Are we ever gonna be free? Are we ever gonna be cool? Like the questions don’t ever get an answer, and that makes me so sad, and that’s the price you pay for caring about your reputation and what other people think of you, right? It actually breaks my heart to think about it, but thank god – at least – she turned this song into one you can dance to.
Look What You Made Me Do
I rose up from the dead. I do it all the time.
I don’t really care what anyone else says about Taylor Swift. I have always viewed her as a strong female ever present in my life. Every time someone had something critical to say about her, she would just work her way around her creativity and her artistry and her generosity to prove herself. She would shoulder all the comments and get back up and still perform. She would still give hugs to fans. She would still just try. She’s resilient in my eyes.
To me, that means a lot. This song seems vengeful, and it sounds a lot like revenge, but I would argue that a large portion of this album is also just about her letting these things go. The things that make you feel dead, like you should quit, like why are you even trying .. You feel it, then you let it go. Then you get back up again, and she does it all the damn time, and I love that about her.
It was the great escape, the prison break,
The light of freedom on my face.
“Getaway Car” is one of my favorite songs she has ever written. The story that goes on in my head when I hear it plays like a movie, but the lines above carry a lot of weight for me because it struck me at a time when I could actually feel those words, and I mean like, really feel them. I was feeling this freedom. I was feeling accomplished, and I rarely ever feel like that. If there’s a song about happiness or freedom, it’s usually me wishing I could feel that, but this I felt it in the moment. I felt like I had gone through breaking out of a prison that was holding me back and it was myself. I remember walking when the sun was out and this was playing in my headphones and the line, “the light of freedom on my face” just felt so real to me. When she performed this live, I was watching her and I had just honestly never seen her happier doing it, and that made me so happy.
King Of My Heart
All at once this is enough.
I will say that the production on this song is awesome. I am in love with the drums, but at the end of the bridge when she says, “And all at once this is enough,” it holds so much. This. This moment is enough. The one you’re in. You’re enough. He’s enough. She’s enough. They’re enough. Suddenly you just realize that it’s enough, and everything’s okay, and that’s helped me a lot.
Dancing With Our Hands Tied
“You guys are so all about lyrics and all about a feeling and all about – if whatever it is that the person that you listen to is singing about that you happen to be going through or did go through at one point in time, I think that’s all you care about when it comes to a song. So I’ve always written songs with the lyrics, the feeling, and the melody in mind hoping that no matter what production I added on top of it – whether it took a turn for pop or acoustic or whatever, I always wanted for a song to be able to be stripped back down and still be something that you liked and wanted to sing at the top of your lungs.”
I’d kiss you as the lights went out.
Swaying as the room burned down.
I’d hold you as the water rushes in.
If I could dance with you again.
The picture she paints with these words. Just let it develop in your head. It’s pretty amazing, and the acoustic version makes me love it even more. “A sacred oasis.” I can’t. Goodbye.
Even in my worst times, you could see the best of me
Flashback to my mistakes
My rebounds, my earthquakes
Even in my worst light, you saw the truth of me
And I woke up just in time
Now I wake up by your side
My one and only, my lifeline
There are certain lines off reputation that make me think, “Wow, I wish I had a love like that. I hope I find that someday.” The bridge on this song carries all that weight for me. The idea of someone making you better. Someone loving you through your dark sides, “Even in your worst light.” Someone loving you despite your mistakes or your past, and “Waking up in time,” just to realize and appreciate that. She’s singing about it, so it must exist.
I love “My one and only, my lifeline.” There are many days where I feel like Taylor’s music is that for me.
This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Here’s a toast to my real friends.
They don’t care about the He said, She said.
Sometimes we lose friends along the way. Growing up, that was something that really kind of hurt me, and I felt really damaged by it for a really long time. This song is such a burn and such a diss that it’s so funny and it makes you laugh and you wanna dance to it, but it also holds significance. Part of growing up is learning who’s gonna stick by your side through the years, when you change, as you grow, through the gossip. Real friends don’t care about that. Real friends stay. I just want to thank her for helping me accept that and put that behind me.
Call It What You Want
The first time I heard this song, I picked up a guitar to learn it immediately. It was kind of my anthem for a really long time, and I would stitch these words onto my heart if I could. This is my Walls up, I hate everyone, I don’t need anyone and I don’t care song, and I thank her for making it because sometimes I really need that.
My castle crumbled overnight.
I brought a knife to a gunfight.
They took the crown, but it’s alright.
All the liars are calling me one.
Nobody’s heard from me for months.
I’m doing better than I ever was.
This idea that people hurt you and consequently, you’ll go into a kind of hiding where you have to go and heal yourself because of it but suddenly everyone only wonders where you are once you’ve disappeared .. It’s a joke, like where were all those people before? I love when she says, “It’s alright.” They took the crown, but it’s alright. It’s alright. I don’t care anymore. I am doing better now.
All my flowers grew back as thorns.
Windows boarded up after the storm.
He built a fire just to keep me warm.
Want that kind of love.
He really knows me
Which is more than they can say, I
I recall late November, holdin’ my breath
Slowly I said, “You don’t need to save me
But would you run away with me?”
I love the growth that has happened in this song. In “Love Story,” there is this ever present desperation of needing to be saved by someone loving you. “Romeo, save me. I’ve been feeling so alone,” is a line I like to shout out loud quite often and “Love Story” itself is a song that’s really special and personal to me, so when she says, “You don’t need to save me,” in this, it’s no longer about someone rescuing you. It’s about being present with someone. It’s about staying in it. It’s about finally being so okay with yourself on your own that you just want this adventure with them. She is brilliant. I am so happy she’s gotten to where she can feel like that and sing about it. Want that kind of love.
New Year’s Day
I want your midnights.
I think this line is the sweetest, near to genius way that you can tell someone that you just want to spend the rest of your nights with them. It’s adorable and clever and beautiful.
Hold on to the memories. They will hold onto you.
For every fleeting moment that passes that makes me sad because it won’t last, thank you. For every time in my life that I wish I could go back to because I regretted it, thank you. For every fun night that I’m still wishing I could relive, thank you. Thank you for this line. It helps me a lot. It helps me when I feel anxious about time passing, which is a lot of the time. It reminds me that memories will find you when you need it. Thank you for this line. So much.
The reputation Stadium Tour was the first time I ever saw Taylor Swift in concert. It took me years before I ever got to see her live. She sang “Love Story,” and I burst into tears. A full on adult and I was crying over Shakespeare turned into a pop song because the fact was that there was a twelve year old girl still inside of me holding on to something, and that became very evident to me.
I watched her dance back and forth onstage and I realized that I could pinpoint a Taylor Swift song to every major point of my life growing up. I have had Peter Pan fever for a very long time. I had this idea that being older or getting older or doing things that make me feel like my youth is up and it’s gone and it’s done was such a ripoff. I think because I’ve never really felt young. I think because maybe I never really felt like my youth was worth it, so who is the world to tell me that now it’s over and I have to go do adult things now? I hated that. I absolutely hated it.
“All my flowers grew back as thorns,” was the summarized version of my personality for years. For a very long time, I was really bitter inside. I’m not gonna lie because sometimes I still feel like that, and I feel okay acknowledging it, but reputation has shown me that thorns come out of flowers to begin with. It’s possible to grow from it. It’s possible to actually not care about what other people think of you. It’s actually possible to let things go. It’s possible to find comfort in someone else. It’s possible to love yourself.
The moment that I realized just how impactful Taylor Swift has been on my entire life was when I started crying while she sat at the piano and sang, “Long Live.” I think it was the first song off Speak Now that she ever performed that night, and that album was really it for me. It really hit me how much my life actually revolved around her words. The time of my life, and there were so many times in my life. I wanted that to live forever. I didn’t want my night at the show to end. She performed the song, but then she had to go and mix it in with, “Hold on … To the memories, they will hold on to you,” and that’s when I realized that it was okay. It was okay to make your youth a memory. It was okay to do that, and I remember not being afraid of going forward in time because I had heard her sing that to me.
I have not even touched upon the lengths to which Taylor Swift as an artist has changed my life. As a woman, as a writer, as a music enthusiast. It just took me this long to talk about her lyrics alone. I don’t know if I’ll be able to put into words what she means to me as a person, but maybe the love can speak for itself.
The doors are closing on this era, and while I will be the first to point out all the hope and love and confidence that is evident on this album, you have to admit that this era was a little dark. Snakes. Dark lipstick. I loved that. I loved all the gold and green glitter. I love the deep red dresses. I loved all of it, but it’s dark. It’s been dark and maybe internally, I’ve felt it. As freeing as “Getaway Car” might sound to me, the whole era was just clouded in this ash of her explaining where she’s been and how she’s grown, which is what we all needed and loved.
and in the death of her reputation,
she felt truly alive
Now though, it feels like she’s coming out of that, and like we’re all coming out of that and somehow … Wildly, in the death of her reputation, is also the death of mine. In the death of her no longer caring, I don’t either. In the death of her insecurities, I feel more accepting of myself because of the music she put out. In the death of her worst fears, I am so excited to see what comes next and am not afraid of it any more, and in the death of her reputation, Taylor Swift is saying that it’s perfectly fine to be me … and I’m sitting here in tears because just like that, there are butterflies, you guys. Butterflies, and it’s pink glitter this time, and there is light and beautiful blue, pastel skies and I’m ready for that. I think I’ve needed that. That light. I feel so lucky to have grown up and to be growing with her.
So goodbye and thank you, reputation, so much for allowing me to be excited for this. For giving me the night of my life. For allowing me to feel grown. For letting me accept my thorns. For keeping me believing. For everything. You’ve helped me in more ways than I could ever write about. I don’t know why I even tried. You’re on my heart forever. I get to look back at being twenty-two and say it was you. It was you. You got me through it so thank you. I feel truly alive.