Taylor Swift’s latest album, reputation, came out on November 10th. She has become an iconic figure for the Alt Right in recent years, so a review seems appropriate. We must tread lightly because Ms. Swift has recently been flashing her litigious claws (clause?). Just a few days before the album’s release, the ACLU scolded the musical artist for threatening to sue a blogger writing at PopFront who suggested that she was dog-whistling solidarity with racist Trump supporters. The ACLU says the blogger is perfectly within his rights to interpret the lyrics and video of a recent song this way.
Whether or not a lawsuit is actually a good idea, the simple fact is that, in the current year, if a famous person isn’t actively virtue-signaling hatred for Trump the Left will make accusations of tacitly upholding white privilege and endorsing white anger. Indeed, a few days after the release of reputation, a Buzzfeed article alleged this is so many words:
Swift’s relative silence on politics may have worked for the majority of her career so far. But by the time the 1989 era came to a close, a lot of Swift’s standby strategies had already proven themselves outdated. And as a sizable portion of the US entered panic mode politically, the perceived stakes of anyone’s silence seemed to grow exponentially . . .
. . . But through the lens of a culture, especially a popular culture that involves progressives actively battling white supremacy, Swift is intrinsically linked to whiteness and privilege. And in 2017, she is still absenting herself from the cultural conversation while simultaneously trying to center herself in it.
This is not the first time the Left has attacked Taylor Swift, and to her credit she has never sunk to the groveling explanations and denouncements they demand. She has always proven herself to be a fighter, which only further enrages the lynch mob. My advice to Ms. Swift is to allow her critics to expose how truly pathetic and bitter they are and instead of suing them do what she does best, write a song about them.
So Why Does the Alt Right Like Taylor Swift?
When it comes to reading into Taylor Swift’s lyrics to find secret Alt Right messages both Left and Right are guilty. However, while it might be sort of fun to try and find some hidden message, this is not what makes Taylor Swift an “Aryan goddess” to the Alt Right. First, there is her great Aryan looks. But there is also the content of her songs, which when taken at face value as stories about relationships with autobiographical elements reveal the innate demeanor of an honorable woman. Not honorable as in, honor on the battlefield, but rather the honor of someone who is simply good.
This has been notable on all of her past albums and there are certainly examples that could be city on every one of them, but offhand I can think a few from the ones I like best, her second and fifth albums, Fearless and 1989.
For instance the song “The Best Day” off Fearless has always struck me as uniquely counter-cultural in this age of degeneracy. The song is an ode to her family, and specifically to her mother, in which she expresses her gratitude for their supportive role in her life. I particularly like these lyrics:
I know you were on my side
Even when I was wrong
And I love you for giving me your eyes
Staying back and watching me shine
As someone who thinks race matters, I personally like the part about “I love you for giving me your eyes” because it acknowledges that pieces of our identity come from our racial lineage, but I hold no illusions that Taylor meant it as a racial dog whistle. It’s just a truth that’s hard to avoid when you are a naturally truthful person.
The real power of this song is the rejection of the pop culture push for teenagers to act defiantly against their parents or to hold sort some of grudge against them. She was 18 years old when this album was released. Similarly, from the same album comes the song “Love Story.” It’s a ballad that starts out sounding like a Romeo and Juliet story, in which the subject literally refers to herself and her beau as Juliet and Romeo. But as the tension builds because the narrator seems ready to leave her family entirely, rather than a tragic ending, Romeo gets permission from Juliet’s father to ask for her hand in marriage and all ends well.
These wholesome messages generally characterized Taylor Swift’s songwriting throughout her career, but with each passing album she becomes increasingly cynical. I’m not one to follow celebrity gossip so I can’t to tell you what the autobiographical details in her songs refer to, but even by just listening to each one in sequence, a story of her life can be pieced together. In some ways it is a tragic tale about loss of innocence.
However, even on her fifth album, 1989, which was a significant departure from her country music style into the realm of pop, we find the same honorable woman. For instance, on the first track “Welcome to New York” there is the line, “The lights are so bright, but they’ll never blind me.” Considering that this song appears to be acknowledging the drastic change in musical style (and lifestyle), she affirms that she is the same Taylor who cannot be corrupted.
Another lyric I particularly like is from the song “You Are in Love” released as a bonus track on the “Deluxe” version of 1989, which is about the feeling of falling in love. As the song slowly builds to its crescendo she sings:
You two are dancing in a snow globe, go round and round
And he keeps the picture of you in his office downtown
You understand now why they lost their minds and fought the wars
And why I’ve spent my whole life try to put it into words
The way the image moves from domestic bliss to suddenly understanding why wars need to be fought is an artful sleight of hand. Love between a man and a woman is not a meaningless feeling that leads nowhere. Love leads to family, and family creates the nation, and it is nations that fight wars to defend what love made possible.
In any case, there is much to approve of about the songs on Taylor Swift’s past albums. But what of reputation, her most recent release?
reputation: Taylor Swift’s new dark persona
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about reputation is her total capitulation to a generic hip-hop infused pop sound. 1989 was able to maintain a unique sound, even though it was a pop album and every song had a certain kind of beauty. I’ll admit that upon multiple listenings it has begun to grow on me, but it was quite jarring at first, and it feels much too similar to other pop garbage that I would otherwise immediately dismiss.
Aside from the musical style, this is Taylor’s most cynical album yet. But is has a story arc that moves from emotional pain, anger, and defensiveness toward something more positive, reflective, and hopeful. Likewise the musical style becomes increasingly palatable as the album progresses. The cynicism was already foreshadowed back in August with the release of the first single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” when toward the end of the song a phone rings and we hear her say:
“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now”
“Oh, ’cause she’s dead!”
At the very end of the video for this song the version, various iterations of Taylor wearing costumes from past videos are shown standing around, apparently confused. These “old Taylors” once featured in videos for songs that were quite sincere are now just props for a joke. The joke? Taylor has severed ties with her roots and become a rootless cosmopolitan, so don’t bother taking her previous body of work seriously anymore. This is a reversal of her past affirmation, “The lights are so bright, they’ll never blind me.”
“Look What You Made Me Do” is the song that the PopFront blogger interpreted as a racist dog whistle. He suggests that Taylor’s attitude of defiance displayed here is analogous to white America bucking the multicultural project by electing a renegade president. Indeed, some of the lyrics might make one think this:
I don’t like your little games
Don’t like your tilted stage
The role you made me play
Of the fool, no, I don’t like you
I don’t like your perfect crime
How you laugh when you lie
This is certainly a sentiment that white America can relate to when it comes to the swampy mire that our government has become, but viewed in a larger context “Look What You Made Me Do” is about her personal struggles with people who have betrayed her in the past. It also shows that because of these betrayals she has become a different person.
While this song may be primarily about Ms. Swift’s experiences, the fact that people change because of negative experiences is an observable reality. The Alt Right calls it getting red-pilled by life and we see it’s manifestation in the number of Obama voters who went out and voted for Trump in the 2016. These voters are presumably white Americans who came to the realization that showing how anti-racist they were in 2008 and 2012 did not alleviate the pressure of constant social conditioning to make white act against their own best interests, so they rebelled and voted Trump.
Again, I’m not saying this is a deliberate metaphor Ms. Swift meant to convey. But her song recognizes the basic reality when people are hurt and betrayed, they change. She makes it very clear that she is no longer the” good girl” her audience wants to her be. Sadly, for us, she has lost some of those qualities that make her an honorable woman.
In other ways, it seems like she is making efforts to prove to the Left that she is in solidarity with the “person of color” aesthetic by incorporating hip-hop elements into her songs and having actual rap tracks like on the song End Game. Indeed, her own delivery of her lyrics is uses a spoken-word cadence that is more similar to rap than to singing. This all much to our dismay, and it’s not going to win any points for Ms. Swift. I would be shocked if she hasn’t been accused of cultural appropriation yet.
Most of the song on reputation deal with her typical themes of romance heartbreak, but the difference is that, on many tracks, it seems like Taylor now feels as though love is no longer worth the trouble. She has grown a thick skin. The opening track, .” . . Ready for It?” describes a prospective new relationship as a game. In “Don’t Blame Me” she sings, “My drug is my baby, I’ll be usin’ for the rest of my life.” Or how about these lyrics from the song “I Did Something Bad”:
I never trust a playboy
But they love me
So I fly him all around the world
And I let them think they saved me
They never see it coming
What I do next
This is how the world works
You gotta leave before you get left
One might argue that this is not very different from the song “Blank Space” from 1989 in which she describes the power of femininity and its ability to control men. But that song is so much more playful, whereas “I Did Something Bad” is downright mean-spirited.
Other songs on reputation like “Delicate” and “So It Goes . . .” describe meaningless sexual encounters. In “Gorgeous” she sings about how she likes some guy even though she has a boyfriend somewhere else:
You make me so happy, it turns back to sad, yeah
There’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have
Guess I’ll just stumble on home to my cats
Alone, unless you wanna come along, oh
From songs like this we get the sense that Taylor now feels as though any attempt to pursue love will only end in failure. There are some songs like “Getaway Car” and “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” that don’t really stand out. The lyrics are fairly innocuous, not dissimilar to songs from previous albums, at least in terms of lyrical content, but they aren’t very memorable.
Spirits lift toward the end of reputation. “King of My Heart” describes an experience, possibly imaginary, of meeting someone who is perfect for her. “Dress” reminded me of a high school romance movie about wanting to change from being “best friends” to something more. There’s an element of risk that all could be lost if it doesn’t work out, but she sings “My rebounds, my earthquakes, even in my worst light, you saw the truth in me,” so maybe it’s worth taking a chance. Granted, this song is somewhat sexually intense with lines like: “I don’t want you like a best friend, only bought this dress so you could take it off, take it off.”
On “Call It What You Want” she sings, “My baby’s fly like a jet stream, high above the whole scene, loves me like I’m brand new.” (I don’t know what I think about calling her baby “fly,” but at least it sounds like she’s starting to feel better about herself.) On a song called, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” she complains again about people in her life who have betrayed, unlike on “Look What You Made Me Do” she seems to be over her anger and simply resigned to the fact that she needs to move on with her life.
Finally, on “New Year’s Day” she urges her audience to “Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you.” The last song is a slow song and is most reminiscent of her pre-pop musical style. Perhaps ending the album this way is a signal to her audience that there is in fact something left of the “old Taylor.” She is not entirely dead.
Can Innocence Be Revived?
It appears by the end of reputation that Taylor has emerged from period in her life in which her innocence was destroyed, she passed through a gauntlet of troubles but has come to terms with these, and now feels renewed. The album insert includes a “Prologue” which begins, “Here’s something I’ve learned about people. We think we know someone, but the truth is that we only know the version of them they have chosen to show us.” It goes on to talk about her experience of being in the spotlight since the age of 15, and how this has been both positive and negative. She describes how a person’s reputation when he is famous can be manipulated by media, and this makes it difficult to portray an authentic version of one’s self.
The themes of authenticity and finding someone who knows your true self are prevalent on reputation, particularly in the latter half. I see this as being a very personal album for Ms. Swift. The idea that there is some larger political message that she has intentionally inserted seems far-fetched. Nevertheless there are political implications. Ms. Swift understands the psychological trauma that occurs when one is the victim of a witch hunt, and witch hunts are an everyday occurrence in our society targeting those who dare to question the conditions that have caused disunity in our communities and the alienation of individuals.
White people in particular live in fear of these witch hunts, and the average white person lives day to day knowing that they can never speak their minds, or take their own side in the political realm without the possibility of becoming a target. You don’t have to be a celebrity for the SJW mob ruin your life if you say something they find disagreeable. Most people have little recourse if their reputations are tarnished by a media hit job. While Ms. Swift has identified this problem, there is little in the way of solutions to be found on reputation. Her celebrity status gives her a degree of security that most cannot afford.
Overall, I find reputation to be a sad album. It is the portrait of a woman who became trapped in a world created by her own success. In this world she could not find a person to trust. Unfortunately, success in our society can taint and corrupt a person. She is no longer the honorable woman she once was. She has fallen. But the in which this album is structured, suggests that she understands what has happened to her.
For so long, Taylor Swift has been the kind of pop star that could be looked to as a kind of role model, something exceedingly rare in pop culture. Unfortunately, the songs on reputation deal with subject matter and behaviors that parents are not going to want their daughters emulating. Ms. Swift has moved into the realm of “adult” music, but it is not an adulthood in which people get married and have kids and grow a family together. It is adulthood where people continue to act like undisciplined children well into their 30s.
While some songs point to a renewed sense of purpose, one wonders how well Ms. Swift will be able traverse this road of international stardom in the future. It’s a difficult path for an honorable woman. My advice to her is to get out, return her country roots, become a mother, and come back to her people. We’re on her side, even when she is wrong. This is message that White Nationalists have for all white people. There is still a chance for us to be a nation again. We can still have a home. It is the best way to fight against a system that wants to corrupt and destroy us as individuals and as a people.