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HOW I LEARNED TO STOP BITCHING AND LOVE REPUTATION

It’s true; I lost my blind faith in Taylor. Granted, my fall from grace was brief, but I’d be lying if I said I was gung-ho from the reputation get-go. Like many people, I got cozy with late-country and early-pop Taylor. “Look What You Made Me Do” was startling; it marked sudden change, which is practically guaranteed to make people uncomfortable.

Eventually, though, time passed, dust settled and the album approached. HITSHolly Gleason got to me (as she always seems to do) with early talk, as well as her insightful critique of the new album, and I realized that the initial songs actually fall into place, and the album works with context. I began to think “LWYMMD” might be a piece of satire; and honestly, if that's the case, it's sorta brilliant, right down to its “I’m Too Sexy” core.

The rest of the songs on the album are much less sonically jarring. They’re more rhythmic and pleasant, to say the least. And guess what? There are hits. By track three (“I Did Something Bad”) in my first, Mary Jane-sponsored listening session, I started to understand reputation and find it kinda relatable. I was still futzing around the apartment and cleaning while listening, though. Then “Don’t Blame Me” made me turn my head. Suddenly, “Delicate” was there, and my laptop had a magnetic pull. By “King of My Heart,” I was sitting on the floor, staring at the screen, mouth agape. (I guess there's also a slight chance my evening medication was extra-strong, but I doubt it).  When “Dancing With Our Hands Tied,” transitioned into “Dress” and “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” it was clear she was on a unstoppable roll. And finally, by the end of “New Year’s Day”—the simplest song on the album and the perfect closing—I was enamored.

Not only is reputation a great album, it also makes sublime sense in the timeline of her career. As for the awkward rollout, I now suspect it was intentional, designed to confuse people. The strategy gave her a curveball to throw and so much conversation to trigger, making the moment of connection that much more impressive. This wasn’t just marketing; it was psychology. A sports game that starts off rough and ends triumphantly is way more fun than a quick, easy kill. And if you think about it, this was Taylor facing the dreaded "sophomore slump" dilemma; reputation is only Pop Taylor's second album, after all. How could she follow up a total smash? How could she successfully one-up herself?

Here’s the thing… Generally speaking, if you assume something will be phenomenal, the end result is usually at least semi-disappointing because of those expectations. People came into this album skeptical and negative and let down, and then she hit them with a roundhouse kick. Don’t get me wrong, the first songs aren’t total shit; remember what I said about how people tend to instinctively handle startling change. But Taylor knew what she was doing. She put everyone in the palm of her hand. As my colleague Bud Scoppa said to me on release night, “If this body of music has the power to shift the conversation from white noise to actual substance, then she’s achieved something rare and enduring.”

So, here it goes... something us "millennials" hate to say: I was wrong.

AMATO’S GOTTA GO
It just doesn't add up. (11/21a)
TIM & FAITH AND TAYLOR, OH MY
The supercouple are due to debut with... (11/20a)
RELEASE-DATE SHUFFLE
UMG has been doing some heavy lifting. (11/21a)
PRESSING PLAY ON THE GRAMMY PREDICTIONS
We've got your playlists; listen and place your bets. (11/21a)
GRAMMY SHOCKERS
You just wait.
PIZZA IN THE DIGITAL ERA
When will it come through my phone?
EMINEM
Stop asking us about the goddamn release date.
WE'RE ON TWITTER
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