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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

TAKING CONTROL

Case in point: "Reputation" is the first album for which she's given no interviews in advance. (I had sat down with her for extended talks about each of her previous four albums, "1989," "Red," "Speak Now" and "Fearless.")

Additionally, only a small handful of music critics were invited to hear this album in advance (The Times' pop music critic Mikael Wood was not).

She did once again hold several playback sessions for fans in recent months, as she did when "1989" was being readied for release three years ago. But no reporters were allowed to look in on those as a few did for "1989."

Things have changed, indeed.

What struck me initially about Swift's music was the refreshing viewpoint she brought to her songs, which sounded, for a change, like what real teenagers might think, feel and say.

That was a big part of what prompted me to single her out at the end of 2006 as one of the artists most worth watching in the year ahead and to travel to Nashville a few months later to interview her about her ambitions.

So many other young pop and country acts spent most of their time attempting to pass themselves off as preternaturally mature, often singing of experiences well beyond their years.

That initially sparked my respect for her as a young artist -- not just a pretty face and perky personality who'd been handed a batch of songs written by others and instructed by her handlers on what to say, how to dress and where to stand.

Clearly that resonated with a lot of listeners as well, and launched her on a meteoric rise: first in country music, and then to her place today as arguably the biggest pop star on the planet.

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