‘Look what you made me do’
We’ve all said it, right? Yelled at a sibling, muttered under our breath to a colleague, or grumbled to a spouse – sometimes in jest, sometimes in frustration. But I’m willing to bet that few of us have said it with such panache as Taylor Swift in her new album reputation, which came out last week.
Taylor Swift – the girl known for ‘Love Story’ and ‘Teardrops on my guitar’, the queen of the break-up ballad, the former country singer whose songs are known for being both catchy and deeply relatable.
In her new album, she’s taken on a new persona, and the gloves are off. With lyrics like ‘and here’s to you / ‘cause forgiveness is a nice thing to do’ followed by a cackle and a declaration of ‘I can’t even say it with a straight face’, we are catapulted into a world saturated in blame and seemingly lacking in redemption.
There’s no denying it – reputation is musically brilliant. But no matter how good, this album, as The New Yorker review points out, ‘revels in a state of sin’ – ‘they say I did something bad / but why’s it feel so good?’ – making it relatable in the most human of ways.
Taylor Swift’s ability to put into words the feelings and experiences we all wrestle with but struggle to name is ever present. From blaming others to struggling to forgive, whether we like it or not, we can relate to many of the themes and lyrics in this album.
So, what can we learn from Taylor Swift’s reputation? The themes of the biblical story are present throughout. Good things like friendship, love, and trust get twisted into jealousy, lust, and blame.
But then, in an album full of life lessons such as ‘this is how the world works / you have to leave before you get left’ we are suddenly offered a glimpse of hope: ‘don’t read the last page / but I stay when it’s hard, or it’s wrong / or we’re making mistakes’.
Even in the most broken of our human desires, in the longing to run away and put up walls, to blame and bear grudges, there is a hint of the redemptive power in simply staying. Of getting our hands dirty and bearing with one another in love. A hint of the power of Emmanuel, God with us.