We think we know someone, but the truth is that we only know the version of them they have chosen to show us.
There will be no further explanation
There will just be reputation."
Reputation (stylized reputation) is the sixth studio album by American country-singer-turned-pop-phenomenon Taylor Swift. Released November 10, 2017, as her final album with Big Machine Records, it marks a shift from the dreamy Synth-Pop of her previous album, 1989, to heavier electropop with more prominent Hip-Hop influences and darker lyrical themes.
It became the second highest-grossing album of 2017 (first in the US), selling over a million copies in its first week and 4.5 million total and reaching #1 in 13 countries. It was nominated for Best Vocal Pop Album an the 61st Grammys. A concert film of the Reputation Stadium Tour was released on Netflix on December 31, 2018.
reputation is, for lack of better words, a singularly meta album. Its fifteen meticulously crafted tracks, each a pop anthem in its own right, weave a tenuous, highly introspective narrative around fame and celebrity, public image, and the dangers of mistaking reputation for reality. As such the songs themselves, as well as the message in the lyric booklet, the circumstances surrounding the album's release, Swift's public statements about the work, and especially the suite of richly symbolic music videos supplementing the album invite speculation and multiple interpretations.
- "...Ready For It?" (3:28)
- "End Game" (featuring Ed Sheeran and Future) (4:05)
- "I Did Something Bad" (3:58)
- "Don't Blame Me" (3:56)
- "Delicate" (3:52)
- "Look What You Made Me Do" (3:32)
- "So It Goes..." (3:48)
- "Gorgeous" (3:30)
- "Getaway Car" (3:54)
- "King of My Heart" (3:34)
- "Dancing With Our Hands Tied" (3:31)
- "Dress" (3:50)
- "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" (3:27)
- "Call It What You Want" (3:24)
- "New Year's Day" (3:55)
Tropes Appearing in reputation:
- Ahem: "...Ready For It?" and thus the whole album begin with Swift clearing her throat before beginning to rap.
- Album Title Drop:
- In the post-chorus of "End Game":Big reputation, big reputation
Ooh, you and me, we got big reputations
- And in "Delicate":This ain't for the best
My reputation's never been worse
So you must like me for me
- An alleged deleted lyric of "Gorgeous":My reputation precedes both of us
- In the post-chorus of "End Game":
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: "End Game" says "I heard about you / You like the bad ones too." And Future's verse says:I got a bad boy persona, that's what they like
You love it
I love it too 'cause you my type
- all lowercase letters: the album's stylized title.
- Alone in a Crowd: The "Delicate" music video begins with Taylor staring off into space in the middle of a gaggle of reporters before Reality Ensues and she smiles sweetly and answers the reporter questioning her. The rest of the video has a similar energy, with Taylor becoming invisible to everyone around her.
- Answer Song: "Look What You Made Me Do," to Katy Perry's "Swish Swish," itself an Answer Song to Swift's "Bad Blood."
- Appropriated Appellation: After Kim Kardashian released the recording of the phone call that seemed to show Swift approving Kanye West's lyric about her in "Famous" (which Swift had previously denied knowledge of), detractors flooded Taylor's social media accounts with serpent emojis, calling her a "lying snake." Swift, perhaps inspired by the animal's connections with immortality, chose to reclaim the insult. Months later, she blacked out all her accounts, then posted a set of snakes gifs on her Instagram to announce the upcoming reputation. Snakes went on to feature as something of an Arc Symbol to the album, appearing on her rings and around her throne in the music video to "Look What You Made Me Do," featuring prominently in the lyric video for the same, and adorning the stage in massive scale on the Reputation Stadium Tour.
- Arm Cannon: The enslaved Taylor briefly sprouts one in the "...Ready For It?" video.
- Badass Boast: The prechorus of "Look What You Made Me Do":
- Ballroom Blitz: Downplayed. "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" uses the imagery of wild, extravagant parties to make it all that much more tragic when her friend betrays her.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: The robo-Taylor in the "...Ready for It?" video first appears seemingly naked, but with a smooth crotch and no nipples—and feet shaped like flesh-colored high heels.
- Be Yourself: A moral.
- Becoming the Mask: The album's narrative shows Swift struggling to reconnect with her authentic self under the many layers of PR-face.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: "Gorgeous":You're so cool, it makes me hate you so much
(I hate you so much) ...
You've ruined my life
By not being mine
- Beneath the Mask: A Central Theme of the album. How much is a mask, how much can I control it, how much does it control me.
- Big "SHUT UP!": The alternate Taylors deliver one in tandem to VMA Taylor at the end of the "Look What You Made Me Do" video.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things":But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand
- Book-Ends: The video for "Delicate" opens with Taylor sadly looking straight ahead, before she suddenly becomes invisible to everyone around her. It ends with everyone suddenly being able to see her again and staring at her. . . while she looks to her love interest and smiles.
- Break the Cutie: . . . and, if she's Taylor Swift, she'll write an album about it.
- Depicted in the "Look What You Made Me Do" music video, where the only innocent, idealistic Taylors are the younger ones from early in her career.
- Bring It: In "I Did Something Bad," the bridge, "They're burning all the witches, even if you aren't one," concludes with, "Go ahead and light me up!"
- Burn the Witch!: "I Did Something Bad" and its bridge, "they're burning all the witches," a phrase which can also be seen graffiti'd on the side of a staircase in the video for "...Ready For It?".
- Caged Bird Metaphor: The "gold cage" referenced in "So It Goes..." shows up in the "Look What You Made Me Do" music video as a massive birdcage for a singing Swift. The metaphor of the golden cage also shows up in Swift's Poem, "If You're Anything Like Me," which appears in Vol. 2 of the reputation magazine:Each new enemy turns to steel
They become the bars that confine you,
In your own little golden prison cell ...
But darling, there is where you meet yourself.
- Celebrity Is Overrated: The themes of fame's harsh realities present in "The Lucky One," "Shake It Off," and "I Know Places" come to the foreground here. Every song is on some level about the impossibility of the job of the woman in the public eye: to keep everybody satisfied.Everyone thinks that they know us ...
- Central Theme: The relationship between public image and true personality and how the spotlight affects and twists one's personal life and, er, reputation.
- Chase Scene: A brief on in the lyric video for "Look What You Made Me Do" shows eyes in the rear-view mirror of a car on the highway (possible an allusion to "Getaway Car") with bullet holes appearing in the windshield.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: "Getaway Car," where she eventually betrays the person she left her previous relationship for.
- Clear My Name: Subverted. She sets about to accomplish this by specifically not trying to.
- Color Motif:
- The lyric video for "Look What You Made Me Do" (which was the first content released from the album) and several lyrical references at least call back to her long-standing love affair with red.
- "I Did Something Bad":I can feel the flames on my skin
Crimson red paint on my lips
- "End Game":You've been callin' my bluff on all my usual tricks
So here's the truth from my red lips
- "I Did Something Bad":
- "Dancing with Our Hands Tied":My love had been frozen
Deep blue, but you painted me golden
- The "golden" motif also appears in "Dress":Made your mark on me, a golden tattoo
- The "golden" motif also appears in "Dress":
- "Getaway Car":The ties were black; the lies were white
In shades of grey in candlelight
- The lyric video for "Look What You Made Me Do" (which was the first content released from the album) and several lyrical references at least call back to her long-standing love affair with red.
- Concept Album: Its Central Theme is reputation.
- Concept Video: The videos to "...Ready For It?", "Delicate," and "Look What You Made Me Do."
- Continuity Cavalcade: The "Look What You Made Me Do" music video. It's so jam-packed with references to Taylor's old videos, songs, and public appearances that not even a diehard Swiftie could catch them all on the first viewing.
- Counting to Three: To spectacular effect in the bridge of "So It Goes...":You did a number on me
But honestly, baby, who's counting?
(1, 2, 3)
- Covered in Kisses: "So It Goes...":Getting caught up in the moment
Lipstick on your facenote
- Creepy Cemetery: The "Look What You Made Me Do" music video begins in one. The first shot is a sweeping aerial that reveals the tombstones spell out the initials TS.
- Cyberpunk: The "...Ready For It?" music video seems to be this, taking place in alleyways and warehouses full of shady individuals, graffiti, and robots.
- Darker and Edgier: Considering its first promotion was a set of snake gifs and its first single was the lyric video for "Look What You Made Me Do" (a completely different aesthetic from anything her work had incorporated before), it's no surprise the album billed itself as this. The sound is objectively darker, especially in the first half, and the lyrical themes are more serious (including mentions of alcohol and more explicit sexual references), but the album's conclusion with "Call It what You Want" and "New Year's Day" begs the question whether Swift ever really went dark . . . or just wanted to show us she could.
- Decon-Recon Switch: "New Year's Day," by showing the aftermath of the kind of wild euphoric moments so many love songs fixate on, but also emphasizing that with the right person, it's well worth it.I want your midnights
But I'll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year's Day.
- As Taylor herself put it in an interview:"I was thinking about how everybody talks and thinks about who you kiss at midnight [...] But I think there's something even more romantic about who's gonna deal with you on New Year's Day. Who's willing to give you Advil and clean up the house?"
- As Taylor herself put it in an interview:
- Diamonds in the Buff: The second scene of the "Look What You Made Me Do" music video shows Taylor literally bathing in diamonds in a room full of mirrors.
- Double Meaning: In "...Ready For It?", "Touch me and you'll never be alone" can be taken to mean both "I'll always be with you" and "Since I am in the spotlight, touch me and they will come for you, too."
- Erotic Dream: "...Ready For It?"In the middle of the night, in my dreams
You should see the things we do, baby, mmm...
- Enemies List: "Look What You Made Me Do":I've got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined
- Et Tu, Brute?: The phrase can be seen carved on the arm of her throne in the "Look What You Made Me Do" video.
- Evil Feels Good: "I Did Something Bad":They say I did something bad
So why's it feel so good?
Most fun I've ever had
And I'd do it over and over and over again if I could
It just felt so good
- Evil Makeover: Her aesthetic, at least during the first half of the album, became noticibly darker to suit the Darker and Edgier new sound.
- Face on the Cover: Swift is shown in black and white, half obscured by newsprint.
- The Faceless: We never actually see Taylor's love interest in the "Delicate" video.
- The Farmer and the Viper: "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things"
- Femme Fatale: Affected in "I Did Something Bad."I never trust a narcissist, but they love me
So I play 'em like a violin, and I make it look oh so easy
- Forbidden Fruit: "Gorgeous":You make me so happy it turns back to sad
there's nothing I hate more than what I can't have
- Glass-Shattering Sound: In the "...Ready For It?" music video, the captive robo-Taylor is finally able to escape her prison by shattering her glass cage (and her captor) with the power of her voice.
- Gold Digger: Derides this quality in "I Did Something Bad":And if he spends my change then he had it comin'.
- Good Bad Girl: Referenced in "So It Goes...":You know I'm not a bad girl,
but I do bad things with you.
- Grave Humor: The beginning of the "Look What You Made Me Do" music video shows an Old, Dark House and Creepy Cemetery from above, before focusing in on one of the gravestones, which proclaims:Here Lies Taylor Swift's REPUTATION
- Happy Rain: The music video for "Delicate" ends with Taylor joyfully dancing in a rainstorm, rushing off to meet the person she's singing to.
- Homage: The lyric video for "Look What You Made Me Do" is done in the style of the title designs of Saul Bass.
- Hotter and Sexier: This album features Taylor's most overtly sexual lyrics yet, and the music videos show her in much more revealing outfits—one scene in "Look What You Made Me Do" has her dressed as a Dominatrix!
- I Can't Dance: The "Delicate" video is something of a sequel to the video for "Shake It Off," which poked fun at Swift's inability to dance. Here, instead of pushing herself into a series of styles she's not suited for, Taylor realizes that no one around her can see her anyway and takes the opportunity to dance around the city like no one is watching.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: The album contains multiple references to drinking and getting drunk (a topic Swift's lyrics had formerly avoided), especially in "Gorgeous," where the narrator is implied to get drunk to distract herself from her feelings for the song's subject.You should take it as a compliment
That I got drunk and made fun of the way you talk.
- I Regret Nothing: "I Did Something Bad":If a man talks shit then I owe him nothing
I don't regret it one bit 'cause he had it comin'.
- I Will Wait for You:"...Ready For It?":I know I'm gonna be with you,
So I take my time
- I'm Your Worst Nightmare: Played with:I'll be the actress starring in your bad dreamstranslation
- In the Hood: Taylor appears in a sinister black hood in the "...Ready For It?" music video. And she does turn out to be evil.
- Intercourse with You: Much more blatantly than in her previous albums.
- "Dress":Carve your name into my bedpost
'Cause I don't want you like a best friend
Only bought this dress so you could take it off,
Take it off.
- "So It Goes...":Getting caught up in the moment
Lipstick on your face
So it goes...
I'm yours to keep
And I'm yours to lose
You know I'm not a bad girl, but I
Do bad things with you.
So it goes...
Come here, dressed in black now
So, so, so it goes
Scratches down your back now ...
- "Delicate":Do the girls back home touch you like I do?
- Invisibility: Taylor suddenly becomes invisible in the video for "Delicate," because everyone's so focused on the public image that no one notices or cares about the real thing anymore. She can't even see herself.
- Kubrick Stare: The evil Taylor in the video for "...Ready For It?" delivers one on the first Title Drop.
- Ladykiller in Love: Gender Flipped in "...Ready For It?" and "Don't Blame Me," in which Taylor (or at least, the version of herself she's playing) describes herself as a heartbreaker . . . who is now head-over-heels in love.
- Laser-Guided Karma: "Look What You Made Me Do":The world moves on—another day, another drama, drama
But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma
And then the world moves on but one things for sure
Maybe I got mine, but you'll all get yours.
- Literal Metaphor:
- The video for "Look What You Made Me Do" takes "I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time" literally, beginning with Taylor as a zombie clambering up out of her grave.
- On the Reputation Stadium Tour, part of her set included a see-saw stage that resembled a massive open book.
- Literal Split Personality:
- Two versions of Taylor appear together in the music video for "...Ready For It?": A hooded, black-clad underworld version, and a naked-but-sexless robot version sealed in a glass case, completely at the mercy of the other (who is in the end revealed to also be a robot). Robo-Taylor goes through various transformations, alluding to previous personalities or eras, all futile—until she shatters the glass (and the other Taylor) with her voice.
- The "Look What You Made Me Do" video features a mountain of Taylors from various stages in her career, all fighting and clawing their way toward the top, where the new reputation Taylor stands. At the end of the video, a dozen or so Taylors appear onstage, bickering like the one-dimensional media cutouts they are."You Belong with Me" Taylor: [gasps] You guys!
Zombie Taylor: Stop making that surprised face, it's so annoying.
Ballerina Taylor: Yeah, you can't possibly be that surprised all the time.
Snake Taylor: [hisses]
Reputation Taylor: What's with that bitch?
Zombie Taylor: Don't call me that.
Country Taylor: Y'all—
Marching Band Taylor: Oh, stop acting like you're all nice, you are so fake!
[Country Taylor begins to cry.]
Biker Taylor: Look, there she goes. Playing the victim again.
Speak Now Taylor: What are you doing??
Hollywood Taylor: [snapping photos] Getting receipts! Gonna edit this later.
VMA Taylor: Um— I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.
All: SHUT UP!
- Loss of Identity: A theme of the album is how one's true personality can get buried or even edged out entirely by the public image. There's a lot of contrast between "Taylor, the pop star" and "Taylor, the person." In the video for "Delicate," this is shown by having Taylor become invisible to everyone around her — and her being unable to see her own reflection.
- Love Is a Drug: "Don't Blame Me":Lord save me, my drug is my baby
I'll be using for the rest of my life ...
I get so high, oh
Every time, yeah every time you're lovin' me
- Love Makes You Crazy: "Don't Blame Me":Don't blame me, love made me crazy
If it doesn't, you ain't doin' it right
- Lyrics/Video Mismatch: Played with. The music videos for "...Ready For It?" and "Delicate" do relate to their songs' lyrics, but in wildly unexpected ways.
- The "...Ready For It?" video takes a love song and uses it for a narrative about freedom from self-image and finding authenticity through artificiality . . . with robots. Several of the song's beats coincide with appropriate events in the video, such as the captive Taylor mouthing "Jailer!" at her captor. And in the context of the video—singing to an artificial version of yourself that hates you but that you control utterly—lines like "In the middle of the night, in my dreams / You should see the things we do," "you'll never be alone," and "No one has to know" take on new, darker meanings.
- "Delicate" has less overlap between song and video, and the narratives are almost antithetical. The lyrics sing about treading carefully so as not to mess up a new relationship, while the video tells a story of realizing it's maybe not all that delicate—people will see in her what they want to see—and shedding all carefully cultivated pretense to embrace awkward, bumbling authenticity.
- Malicious Slander: Swift takes on some of the besmearment she feels her reputation has suffered, including her alleged lies regarding "Famous."
- Missing Reflection: Taylor's first sign that she has become invisible in the "Delicate" music video is when she turns back to her mirror to discover she can no longer see her own reflection.
- Motif: Much symbolism repeats throughout the songs and videos.
- Keys. "I don't like your kingdom keys / They once belonged to me" and "Put the money in a bag and I stole the keys."
- "So It Goes..." and "Call It What You Want" both express wanting to wear her lover or at least his initial "like a necklace," and "Dancing with Our Hands Tied" includes the lyric, "Picture of your face in an invisible locket." The shape of a locket also appears in the background of the "Gorgeous" lyric video. Swift is depicted wearing a choker on the album cover.
- The Heist is a repeated motif throughout the album. There's the Outlaw Couple in "Getaway Car," the scene from the "Look What You Made Me Do" video where she and her girl squad rob a bank in cat masks, and the second verse of "...Ready For It?":Me, I was a robber first time that he saw me
Stealin' hearts and runnin' off and never sayin' sorry
But if I'm a thief, then he can join the heist
And we'll move to an island, and
And he can be my jailer
- Mythology Gag: As usual for Swift, many of these songs and videos contain nods to lyrics and themes from her previous work.
- The "list of names" in "Look What You Made Me Do" is reminiscent of her "long list of ex-lovers" ala "Blank Space"—only this time, it's a hit list.
- One of robot-Taylor's incarnations in the "...Ready For It?" video rides a white horse.
- Her legion of plastic dominatrixes in the "Look What You Made Me Do" music video evokes her action team in "Bad Blood."
- "And all the pieces fall / Right into place" from "So It Goes..." echoes "Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place" from one of her most personal and enduringly popular songs, "All Too Well" from Red.
- The motif of cars—expensive cars, getaway cars, car crashes—has always been one of her favorites. "Red":Loving him was like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street.
- New Sound Album: As with her previous two albums, Swift reinvents her musical style in reputation. She even raps!
- Never My Fault: Parodied by "Look What You Made Me Do."
- Russian Reversal: "I don't trust nobody, and nobody trusts me."
- Not-So-Abandoned Building: In the "...Ready for It?" video, the robot-Taylor is being kept in what appears to be an abandoned shopping mall, full of graffiti and broken escalators.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Downplayed in a literal interpretation of "Look What You Made Me Do": she never says exactly what she's actually done. Same goes for "I Did Something Bad."
- Obsession Song: "Gorgeous."
- Ominous Music Box Tune: "Look What You Made Me Do" begins with a variation of one.
- Other Me Annoys Me: The Taylors in the "Look What You Made Me Do" video don't get along. At all.
- Ouroboros: These symbols appear in concentric circles during the chorus in the "Look What You Made Me Do" lyric video, reinforcing the fuzzy cause-effect relationships the song explores.
- Outlaw Couple: The romance in "Getaway Car," if you take it literally. Which you probably shouldn't.
- Pop Punk: Believe it or not, "Look What You Made Me Do" has some elements of the genre.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- "I. Don't. Like your lit-tle games."
- "This is why we can't have nice. Things. Dar. Ling."
- Questioning Title?: "...Ready For It?"
- Real Life Writes the Plot: As per usual with Swift, it's safe to assume that at least some of the songs on the album are Based on a True Story. However, the lyric booklet intro cautions against searching for that kind of meaning in them, deriding those who consider the key to her songs "as simple or basic as a paternity test."
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: or Song, in these cases.
- "Look What You Made Me Do"I don't like your perfect crime
How you laugh when you lie
You said the gun was mine
No, I don't like you
- "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things"But I'm not the only friend you've lost lately
If only you weren't so shady ...
This is why we can't have nice things, darling
Because you break them, I had to take them away
- "Look What You Made Me Do"
- Record Producer: Notably, Swift executive-produced the album herself.
- Revenant Zombie: One of Taylor's incarnations in the "Look What You Made Me Do" video. She's still fully sapient and hardly seems the worse for having died.Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time ...
- Revenge: A central theme of the album. As we know, there's nothing she does better.
- Revenge Ballad:
- "I Did Something Bad", about taking small revenges on various men who mistreat her.
- "Look What You Made Me Do", though the exact nature of the revenge goes unspecified.
- Rhyming with Itself:
- "Look What You Made Me Do" rhymes "nick of time" with "all the time."
- "Gorgeous" has, "I can't say anything to your face, 'cause look at your face."
- Robot Girl: The "...Ready For It?" music video features a naked robot version of Taylor in captivity in a glass cage. In the end, it turns out the free Taylor we have been following is also a robot.
- Robot Me: All the Taylors in the "...Ready For It?" video.
- Rock Star Song: The Album.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Don't Blame Me," where the formerly Vamp-y singer feels like she's falling apart or losing her mind for her new live interest.Don't blame me; love made me crazy
- Saw a Woman in Half: "So It Goes...":All eyes on you, my magician
All eyes on us
You make everyone disappear and
Cut me into pieces
- Self-Parody: To the point where it's sometimes difficult to tell how much of the album is authentic and how much is parody of the public's image of her . . . Which is precisely the point. reputation seems to have been the product of Swift tiring of contorting herself to keep everyone happy—being just authentic enough—and, as seen in the "Delicate" video, just going, "F*ck it!"
- "I Did Something Bad" is all about how she's (perceived as) a remorseless, unfeeling Gold Digger.
- Virtually all of the video for "Look What You Made Me Do" is self-parody.
- First Swift portrays herself as a vengeful ghoul literally risen from the dead out of petty spite.
- Later she is a lavishly dressed paparazzi whore posing for the press after a stylized car crash.
- Later, her new reputation incarnation appears atop a writhing mountain of Taylors in her costumes from previous videos, viciously jockeying for the top position.
- At the end of the song, various Taylors appear onstage before an applauding crowd, each embodying a different "flaw" the media has blamed her for, bickering while a central Taylor timidly requests:
- Sequel Song: "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" to Speak Now's "Innocent," both about Kanye West. "Nice Things" retracts the forgiveness proffered in "Innocent" after Kanye's repeat betrayal.And so I took an axe to a mended fence
- It's also something of a Spiritual Successor to 1989's "Bad Blood."
- The line, "he had it comin'" from "I Did Something Bad" is possibly an allusion to ''Chicago's "Cell Block Tango", where the "Six Married Murderesses of the Cook County Jail" sing about the various ways they have taken revenge on their unfaithful husbands:All: He had it coming, he had it coming
He only had himself to blame!
- The phrase "so it goes" is integral to Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, where it is used as a narrative transition each time a character dies.
- It has been suggested that the plant motif in "Don't Blame Me" is a reference to contrasting fictional women:
- "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" also alludes to The Great Gatsby to emphasize the lavishness of her parties.And there are no rules when you show up here
Bass beat rattlin' the chandelier
Feelin' so Gatsby for that whole year
- The opening line of "Getaway Car," "It was the best of times, the worst of crimes," is a play on the infamous first sentence of A Tale of Two Cities.
- This pun in "...Ready For It?":
- The line, "he had it comin'" from "I Did Something Bad" is possibly an allusion to ''Chicago's "Cell Block Tango", where the "Six Married Murderesses of the Cook County Jail" sing about the various ways they have taken revenge on their unfaithful husbands:
- Shrouded in Myth: Believes herself to have become this and wants to set the record straight.
- Silly Love Songs: Subverted.
- Sitting on the Roof: "King Of My Heart":... With all these nights we're spending
Up on the roof with a schoolgirl crush,
Drinking beer out of plastic cups
- Slave to PR: Swift is tired of being one and contorting herself to fit what she thinks the public wants her to be—tired of worrying about her reputation.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Runs the whole gauntlet from the album's cynical beginning to its idealistic end.
- Snakes Are Sinister: Her satirical reclaimed symbol.
- Something Completely Different: This album of dense electropop ends with "New Year's Day," a simple piano ballad.
- Splash of Color:
- The "Look What You Made Me Do" lyric video is grayscale + red.
- The "Gorgeous" lyric video, contrastingly, is grayscale + pink.
- Spoken Word in Music: "Look What You Made Me Do" and "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" both feature brief spoken sections in their bridges.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Implied in "Dancing With Our Hands Tied."I loved you in spite of deep fears that the world would divide us.
- Stealth Pun: It has been suggested that the repetition of "Think about the place where you first met me" in "Getaway Car" is meant to allude to the Met Gala where she met both Tom Hiddleston and Joe Alwyn, whom the song seems to be about.
- Stepford Smiler: The "Delicate" video starts with a close up of Taylor staring off into space in the middle of a paparazzi mob before smiling sweetly and answering a reporter's question. Later, alone, she practices a series of ever-goofier smiles in the mirror, eventually devolving into just making faces at herself.
- Subdued Section:
- The prechorus of "...Ready For It?" before. . . Are you ready for it? [bass drop]
- The bridge of "New Year's Day."
- The prechorus of "...Ready For It?" before
- Sugar-and-Ice Personality: An odd duality of this album is that it contains some of Taylor's most vicious "The Reason You Suck" Songs ("Look What You Made Me Do", "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things", "I Did Something Bad"), but also some of her most genuine and tender love songs ("New Year's Day", "Delicate", "So It Goes...", "Call It What You Want"), resulting in her coming off as this.
- Take That!: Critics expected the album to be full of vitriolic take-downs of her various enemies, including Katy Perry and Kanye and Kim Kardashian West. Arguments vary as to whether it actually delivered.
- The "tilted stage" line in "Look What You Made Me Do" has been interpreted as a reference to Kanye West's most recent tour, where he performed on a sloped stage. But it could just as easily be the tilted stage she is being made to perform on—especially as she incorporated an open book on a tilting see-saw into her own tour set.
- Her outfit in the car crash scene could be described as incredibly evocative of Katy Perry's style, and she poses for the cameras afterwards holding a Grammy Award—which Perry has never won.
- "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things" is generally agreed to be about Kanye West and his repeated betrayals of her trust after she forgave him for the infamous incident where he barged his way onstage to interrupt her acceptance speech at the 2009 VMA Awards.Friends don't try to trick you
Get you on the phone and mind-twist you
And so I took an axe to a mended fence.
- Take That, Audience!: Doesn't shy away from deriding her listeners, detractors and fans alike, for assuming to understand her.Everyone thinks that they know us
But they know nothing ...
- Take That, Critics!: The "Look What You Made Me Do" video addresses various criticisms people have made of her, some—that she's petty and spoiled, that her girl squad is unnaturally perfect—symbolically, some—that she's inauthentic, too nice, too surprised, indecisive, dramatic—directly, through the alternate Taylors onstage at the end of the video.
- Take That Me: All over the album, often verging into Self-Parody.
- In the video for "Look What You Made Me Do" she sings "No, I don't like you" to . . . a mirror.
- "Gorgeous":Guess I'll just stumble on home to my cats ("eugh!")
- That Woman Is Dead: The bridge in "Look What You Made Me Do":I'm sorry, the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, 'cause she's dead.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: Many of the songs on the album play with Swift's reputation this way, as much as to say, "Well, if this is how you perceive me anyway, so be it!"
- "I Did Something Bad" exemplifies this trope.
- "Look What You Made Me Do" and its Create Your Own Villain conceit.
- Title-Only Chorus: "Look What You Made Me Do"
- Took a Level in Badass: As "Look What You Made Me Do" announces:But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time
- Took a Level in Cynic: Since the last album. We've gone from "I shake it off!" to "I don't trust nobody, and nobody trusts me."
- True Companions: Swift and her new beau as of the end of the album.I'm laughin' with my lover, making forts under covers
Trust him like a brother, yeah, you know I did one thing right
- Tsundere: "Gorgeous," so very much.You make me so happy, it turns back to sad
There's nothing I hate more than what I can't have
- Turn the Other Cheek: Subverted in "This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things":
- The Vamp: Pokes fun at her reputation as a maneater in several songs.
- "...Ready For It?":Me, I was a robber first time that he saw me
Stealin' hearts and running off and never saying sorry
- "Don't Blame Me":I've been breaking hearts a long time
And toying with them older guys
Just playthings for me to use
- "...Ready For It?":
- Villain Song: "I Did Something Bad," "Look What You Made Me Do," and "Getaway Car."
- Visible Invisibility: In the "Delicate" video. The audience can see Taylor just fine, but she suddenly stops showing up in mirrors and everyone around her acts as if she isn't there.
- Warts and All: The "Delicate" video shows Taylor, realizing that no one can really see her anyway, embracing her authenticity, warts and all, through the metaphor of some extremely awkward dancing.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: Continuing the motif from previous albums.
- "Delicate":Oh damn, never seen that color blue
. . .
Sometimes when I look into your eyes
I pretend you're mine all the damn time
- "Gorgeous":Ocean-blue eyes
Looking in mine
I feel like I might
Sink and drown and die
- "Call It What You Want":Starry eyes sparkin' up my darkest nights
- World of Symbolism: The music videos. From the graffiti to the costumes to the juice boxes and thumb rings, virtually everything that appears onscreen can be mined for hidden meaning.
- Your Cheating Heart:
- The singer of "Gorgeous" is infatuated with someone new despite having a boyfriend.
- In "Getaway Car" she uses her new love interest as "a reason" to leave her current relationship, possibly by cheating with him.
- Your Little Dismissive Diminutive: "I don't like your little games."