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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

Along the way she has held tight to the innate understanding of social media platforms she expressed to me in 2008, shortly before her sophomore album, "Fearless," was released.

"Blogging has been really fun because I like to let people into my life as much as possible," she said back when MySpace was still the dominant social media outlet for most musicians, well before Twitter, Facebook and Instagram took over. "I think it's important for the people who keep you going and support you and have your back out there in the world to know that you're thinking of them all the time."

She quickly learned, however, that it's not a big leap from having someone's back to stabbing it, a harsh reality Swift has faced through intensely public Twitter feuds in recent years with Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, among others.

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms magnify vulnerability and hypersensitivity with snarky comments and images, making adolescence and young adulthood seem more perilous than ever.

She acknowledged the vipers in the room directly on her third album, "Speak Now," with "Mean," a song in which she transformed one blogger's nasty comments about her into a hit song. That's one tool with which she's avoided the "Don't get mad; get even" path of revenge, instead drawing illumination and creative inspiration out of the many barbs tossed her way.

TAKING THEIR SHOTS

Yet the more famous she's become and the more followers she's cultivated, the more the world at large apparently feels entitled to pass judgment not only on her art but on her life, topics she takes on in several of the new songs on "Reputation."

That's a fact of contemporary life Swift recognizes in "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things." In fact, it may well become an anthem for the Twitter generation, for whom every fleeting thought seems worthy of sharing with the world at large: "Did you think I wouldn't hear all the things you said about me? And here's to you ... 'cause forgiveness is a nice thing to do/ (laughter) I can't even say it with a straight face!"

I'll go as far as to suggest that the whole "Reputation" theme of the album isn't solely about Taylor Swift and her place in the world but examines the extent to which most of us now live out our lives in public thanks to the omnipresence of social media and the multiplicity of ways that plays out.

Indeed, in each of two elaborate 72-page magazines she has created for an exclusive deluxe edition of the album (available in the U.S. at Target stores), she includes an open letter noting, "This is the first generation that will be able to look back on their entire life story documented in pictures on the internet, and together we will all discover the after-effects of that."

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