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Taylor Swift's talent remains intact on 'Reputation,' her most focused, most cohesive album yet

Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Diary entries, as a rule, don't constitute art. Songs do.

That what drew me in to Taylor Swift and her music upon the release of her 2006 debut album, "Taylor Swift," and that's what has kept me closely tracking the remarkable arc of her career since then, up to and including Friday's release of her sixth album, "Reputation."

From the beginning, Swift -- then a precocious, uncommonly smart, gifted and ambitious teenager -- has written deeply personal songs that often sound ripped directly from the pages of a diary.

That hallmark of her songwriting has nurtured an especially close bond between Swift and her fans, along with her savvy use of social media from the outset. It's also given her detractors no shortage of ammunition with which to attack her for everything from a new hairdo to her choices of dates to the logistics of selling tickets to concerts.

The double-edged sword of success -- and the fame and fortune that have accompanied it to stratospheric levels for her -- inform many of the songs on "Reputation," possibly the most anticipated album of the always-intensive fall season.

As one of a small handful of music writers offered an early listen to the new collection, I'll venture to call it her most focused, most cohesive album yet.

 

In large part that reflects her dramatic narrowing of collaborators compared with her previous two outings: Nine of the 15 new songs written and produced for the most part by Swift with superstar producers Max Martin and Shellback, the other six in tandem with indie rock band Fun front man Jack Antonoff.

They conjure a sense of foreboding to illuminate her songs of betrayal, heartbreak and disappointment. There also are plenty of bright spots celebrating new love and new maturity in her outlook, most framed in dance-floor-conscious beats and employing inventive sonic textures that expand on or outright defy conventions of contemporary pop-R&B music production.

I'd also say that in many ways "Reputation" echoes one of Bob Dylan's greatest lines of the last two decades: "I used to care ... but things have changed."

I say that based on many hours I've spent with her since first traveling to Nashville to interview her early in 2007, not long after her debut album put her on the map in country music circles.

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