The Swiftening, Part 6: reputation (2017)… Shite Heaven In Hell

Before December of 2020, Jordan Holmes (comedian, author, podcaster) had never, intentionally, listened to a Taylor Swift song. Then began The Swiftening, where Jordan decided to review every Swift album in order. So far, he has covered Swift’s 2006 debut2008’s Fearless2010’s Speak Now, and 2012‘s Red, and 2014’s 1989 which we encourage you to check out if you haven’t already.


This will be about Taylor Swift’s sixth studio album, reputation (sic), but first, I must digress to a ridiculous degree. To the exposition!

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I stopped fitting hearing aids in 2018, after a decade of boring non-exploits. For whatever reason – MONEY! – hearing aids lag behind other audio technology – OLD PEOPLE CAN’T FIGURE THAT SHIT OUT ANYWAYS – the first set of hearing aids I fit was a three-channel amplifier with a fat ass on the back of your ear. I could adjust the frequency range in only three ways, like your car, bass mid treble. From there it was just volume, “Want it louder or softer? Better one, better two? Better two, better three?” Simple stuff.

The most important thing about hearing aids, though, is the way they fit. Everyone’s ear canal is shaped similarly, but not the same – like a fingerprint – and the way your ear canal is shaped also shapes the sounds you hear. Generally speaking, ear canals naturally amplify the frequency range between 1.5khz and 2.5khz. Current evolutionary theory says that this is because those are the frequencies most used in communication. Vowels are below 1khz, consonants above. But vowels have more natural oomph, using more of your diaphragm and resonance, and consonants, being mostly created by the tongue and the teeth – less oomph – are significantly softer. Our ears naturally evolved to balance the frequency ranges needed to communicate with each other. 

More boring info that may or may not pay off should you continue reading after this point: the nerves inside your cochlea that respond to high frequency ranges are smaller and more fragile than those that respond to lows and those nerves are the most likely to die as we age. When they’re gone, they’re gone. 

All of this is to say that, though minutely, every single sound you hear is unique, because no one hears any sound exactly the same way you do. 

My first year, hearing aids were simple. The next year a new model was released. This model had 6 channels and offered more options for targeted adjustments. 

The basic process was to test their hearing, see what frequencies had what damage, then create a soundscape that fit like a puzzle piece. But, as pointed out earlier, everyone hears every sound uniquely, so even if you created a perfect fit, a complete dB for dB restoration of one’s hearing, it could be worse than having no hearing at all. This is due to distortion from all kinds of sources. No hearing aid can avoid creating distortion, no nerve response is exactly the same, some of the nerves can be so damaged that they fire signals to the brain at the wrong times, making it impossible to amplify that frequency range without destroying any possibility of processable sound. 

Hearing aids programmed by the wrong hands can be worse than no hearing aids.

Every couple of years, new models were released, all of them becoming more and more sophisticated, with higher processing speeds, faster attack times, better noise filters, more channels. Hearing aids got so fucking cool.

Unfortunately, as is always the case, making something cool created a new set of problems. 

The history of hearing aids begins door-to-door. Salesmen (I’m using “salesman” instead of “salesperson” because the history of door-to-door hearing aids begins before “persons” were allowed anywhere near what “men” did door-to-door, natch) would go to your home, ask if you could hear, and then try to convince you to spend money. At the end of that process, you would receive a noisemaker. Hearing aids sucked. Hence, salesmen. People needed to be convinced to buy hearing aids.

And hey, guess what? When you tie healthcare to money, the people who earn the most money are rewarded. The best salesmen were rewarded. 

Even as hearing aids became more and more accepted and beneficial, the barrier of shitty sound was replaced by the embarrassment of actually having to wear hearing aids. The general consensus in culture is being old is bad and what better signifier of being old than not hearing? Most people don’t want to appear old, so they live in denial of hearing loss. They need to be sold on wearing hearing aids. 

Hearing aids remained in the world of salesmen at least up until when I quit, I haven’t lived in that world for a few years, but, as someone aware of capitalism, I’m sure the focus has become less on money and more on positive outcomes! HAHAHAHAHAALDFOIWERPJFLKJS!

Beginning in the late 80sish, Audiology became a more “medical” practice, in the same way psychology used to be dipshits measuring the size of your chin until it got scienced up. More and more actual doctors of audiology were also fitting hearing aids. They approached fitting hearing impaired people with the mentality of a doctor. They were trying to heal people the same way they would stitch up a wound.

Now, capitalism’s gonna do, so hearing aids were/somewhat still are considered luxury items – as if the physical function of hearing is only for the rich! – and, unlike the salesmen, Audiologists could help hearing, but couldn’t get anyone to drop 4 grand for something they couldn’t really understand and actively disliked. 

Audiologists hated salesmen for being dumb salesmen, and salesmen hated Audiologists for being smart non-salesmen. But salesmen sold hearing aids, and audiologists didn’t. The hearing aid cartels prefer salesmen, so expertise was looked at as far less valuable than sales training. 

In my time working with hearing aids, I went to ten times as many sales training courses as I did tech courses, to give you an example.

As tech advances in hearing aids, another player enters the game – math folks. Math folks saw a bigger problem than audiologists not selling or salesmen not knowing a goddam thing about ears. See, most of the people in the hearing aid business at the time were as old as their customers. Everyone was confused by the technology: customers, salesmen, and audiologists alike. Math people were tasked with creating hearing aids that were idiot-proof, i.e., customers, salesmen, and audiologists. They created algorithm after algorithm to input the customer’s hearing loss and output the solution without the others to do more than press a button.

Math people, of course, ran into the problem I outlined above; everyone’s hearing is unique. Their algorithms will never, can never be one-size-fits-all. They blamed everyone else; they hated the salesmen and the audiologists for not being able to correctly use their creations. 

The hearing aid business is dominated by three separate skills, sales, diagnostics, and programming. After ten years, I became pretty good at all three, but my favorite was programming. Unlike literally every other person I had ever met in the hearing aid game, I had a background in audio production as well – soundboards and the like – and I spend most of my life in headphones. I love music, yes, but I also love sound

When programming a set of hearing aids, you have to listen to the person try to describe what they hear. Most people are bad at talking about hearing. When you ask someone, “What does this sound like?” they will give you different answers, even if they mean the same thing. Some will say “scratchy” or “echo-y” or “harsh” and maybe they mean the same thing or different things, but either way, the fix for their problem is the same. You have to be able to interpret imprecise language to adjust hearing aids properly.

I took pride in my ability to program soundscapes. I was a good salesman, I was good at diagnostics, but I was a very good programmer. I had spent a year in studio before I switched to hearing aids (I was broke!), so I knew when programming music, the slightest, weirdest, most counterintuitive adjustments can unlock the world. 

PHEW! Now you can understand the next part!

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“…Ready For It” is fucking great! This is the best Swift song so far by a margin that I cannot express to you. Taylor knocks the vocals out of the park and also she is not at all important in the song being a banger. Any top tier pop star could crush this song, because this song is so fucking good

I would say Swift was lucky to receive this track if she weren’t already a super billionaire at this point in time, she did not need luck. I will say I am lucky she received this track, because as aforementioned, this song is fucking good and I am happy to have found this song. It is eminently listenable. 

Let’s talk positively about Taylor Swift(‘s song, not her at all, credit belongs to everyone else involved in this track) in awards form because fuck it, this is my sixth go at this!

Rookie of the Year goes to… Ali Payami! Ali Payami helped write this song because, though he was born in Iran, my man is Swedish through and through. 

I will tell you this right now, the American public has no fucking clue how important ABBA really was.

I am 100% certain that Ali Payami is responsible for “…Ready For It” in the same way I feel Kyle Schwarber is responsible for the Cubs World Series in 2016 despite the fact that he hit only singles with no men on base. He was the person in the room who wouldn’t let everyone else quit on the song (reminder: I am making all of this up), because I can think of at least thirty different ways they could’ve fucked it up.

Silver Slugger goes to… Max Martin! In the pop game, producers are constantly creating beats. When they make some good shit, they sell it to other folks. It’s almost unusual now for producers to create beats with someone specific in mind – even if they protest otherwise – and if an artist like, say, Taylor Swift records with that beat, the writer gets a writing credit and royalties that never, ever end. 

Example: the writing credits for “Black Skinhead” (why am I referencing yet another ‘Ye song? The answer will become apparent!)

Max Martin did the heavy lifting on the beats for “…Ready For It” and he hit it *baseball metaphor*. The bass! The snare! The tempo! The way it makes your neck swerve! The beat is a miracle.

MVP time! Who could it be?! Could it possibly have something to do with wasting, like, ten thousand words up top?! 

MVP goes to… Șerban Ghenea!

“Who the fuck is that!?” you scream at me, “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE FUN!?” 

I tell you this, “…Ready For It” sounds perfect. 

Ghenea is the mixing engineer on this track and this is one of the most beautifully mixed tracks I think I’ve ever heard. The timbre of… everything… is just beautiful. I don’t know if I could accurately describe it to you without sounding like a gibbering idiot. So I will just say that the mixing on this song brings me to tears.

Living Rent Free In Taylor Swift’s Head award goes to… Kanye West! “…Ready For It” is not a sample from Yeezus, but it’s basically a sample from Yeezus without gospel horns and a Pop-infused chorus. 

I am endlessly fascinated with how inextricable Swift and ‘Ye seem to be.

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“End Game” is track 2 and it makes me uncomfortable. “…Ready For It” was basically a Yeesuz sample, sure, but “End Game” has Taylor Swift singing like White Rihanna, Ed Sheeran singing like Very White Logic, and Future singing like Future if he was singing with Rihanna and Logic. This feels like inappropriate appropriation. 

I’m not saying that it’s wrong, exactly, for an already incredibly famous white pop singer to suddenly switch to a uh… different… sound with pop garnishes, but… uh… we’ve been here before *cough*ELVIS*cough*.

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First, for “I Did Something Bad” let’s take a look at the number of hands on the finished sound of this track as compared to “…Ready For It”: 

RFI

“I Did Something Bad” 

If there’s a “Mastering Engineer” credit over a “Mixing Engineer” credit, the “Mixing” credit is not the finished product. Not coincidentally, this song is mixed worse than the one mixed solely by Ghenea.

Second, this song is about how Arya and Sansa conspired to kill Littlefinger on Game of Thrones. Is that cool? Or is that actually very stupid? I’m not sure if that makes me like the song slightly more or slightly less, but either way, it is a bad song. 

It has pretensions towards a power anthem but instead is a shitty approximation of it. The part that goes, “Ra-di-di-di-di…etc,” is awful and embarrassing. If you are in the position to do a “ra-di-di-di…” please do not.

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In regards to “Don’t Blame Me”, from Genius (bold my own):

“The track notably has significant sonic and thematic similarities to Hozier’s 2013 track, “Take Me To Church,” from which it may have drawn inspiration. More broadly, the comparison of love to a drug has appeared in many popular songs over the years, including Kesha’s 2010 track “Your Love Is My Drug” and 2013’s “Dark Horse,” by Taylor’s former rival, Katy Perry.

Wait, wait, wait… they’re not rivals anymore? Why doesn’t anyone tell me things? 

(Hozier is shit, by the way) 

So now I have to look this shit up and what happens but the BB-goddam-C has a fucking timeline of their stupid feud. It ended when Katy Perry sent Taylor Swift an actual olive branch. 

Who am I? What have I become? Are any of you real? Why does that, specifically, make me feel like I’m in a simulation? 

The worst, worst part is that the lyrics are supposedly self-serious, but the song genre is just “soundtrack” and I find that kind of disgusting. 

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“Delicate” is evidence Taylor Swift has heard of Justin Vernon. Listen to his stuff instead.

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“Look What You Made Me Do” is evidence Taylor Swift has heard of Peaches. Put your dick in the air.

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“So It Goes…”, Track 7 and Swift’s 10,000th track that begins or ends in an ellipses, is a mess. The sheer number of effects at play are there purely to distract you from the lack of meat. From the drum programming that pops in and out with beats superfluous to the song, to a chorus that literally separates itself.

“So It Goes…” is utterly incoherent. I can’t imagine finding this song aesthetically pleasing to listen to. It’s almost painful in it’s lack of clarity. 

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I’m getting very discouraged here. Track 1 was so gods damned good, I’m struggling to even continue listening to this album. The quality has fallen so far in so short a time, the production, the programming, the vocals, all of it lacks any originality. 

I don’t mean “lacks any originality”, necessarily, in quite the same pejorative way as you might think. 

I don’t mean that it lacks any “Taylor Swift” or that it’s not like her old stuff or even that iconclasty is necessary for quality music. 

What I find missing here is any reason for this album to exist. It’s not that this isn’t “Taylor Swift” music, or that it’s a different genre, it’s that I would choose someone else to make this album! Up to this point, beyond track 1, Taylor Swift is singing someone else’s album. This album is made of original music that Taylor Swift and co. absolutely made, originally, but it would be better served if none of them – except Ghenea – were involved. 

Many, many people should be fired for their work on this album. 

Except, of course, for Ghenea, whom I have fallen in love with.

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AGHHHHHH!!! “Gorgeous” is evidence Taylor Swift heard the album Love You To Death by Tegan and Sara (released in 2016)! GO LISTEN TO IT INSTEAD!

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Lyrics from “Getaway Car”: 

“It was the best of times, the worst of crimes”

*Deep Breath*

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Of “King of My Heart” Swift said at the iHeartRadio (full disclosure: I have no monetary relationship with iHeartRadio and I kinda think they suck) reputation release party.

“I’ve always wanted to structure a song where each individual section of the song sounded like a move forward in the relationship, but still be listenable. So, I wanted the verse to seem like its own phase of a relationship, the pre-chorus to sound like its own phase of a relationship, and the chorus to sound like its own phase of a relationship. And I wanted them to have their own identity, but seem like they were getting deeper and more fast-paced as the song went on. So finally, I was able to achieve that in a song.”

Swift and I have different definitions of the word “achieve”. If her understanding of music has her believing what she’s created bears resemblance to relationship structure, then her relationships begin with a weird Blue Six reference and then immediately explode into huge wet farts. 

If I had a mutant superpower, it would be the ability to recognize when someone has not played the regular scheduled bass you were expecting, but instead managed to sneak in a sample – and that sample is of a big, loud, wet fart. I have listened to it again and again. 

Exactly 22 seconds into the song, there is a fart. 

Now, I will allow that, if her previous work is any indication, her relationships are indeed, farts. But, and I feel this strongly – you don’t need to fart in my face. I think Swift should get together with Thundercat.

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I swear, I’m beginning to think everyone is fucking with me here. This album is clearly an album of covers or a Late Night Tales because this shit is just nakedly stolen. 

This reminds me of how extremely rich people can just purchase their way into mediums they absolutely do not belong in (stealing from struggling people who might literally have sold plasma to eat) so they can feel even more self-important. 

Fuck them. Fuck Rashida Jones, Bill Gates, and Taylor Swift. Eat the rich.

“Dancing With Our Hands Tied” would sound great on an Odesza album, and if you don’t know who Odesza is, people like Swift are why.

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On “Dress” Swift finally wants to fuck.

From “Red” onwards, I have toyed with a theory that Swift occupies a sort of sexless Madonna space in the culture. Madonna came out and freaked people out cause she wanted to fuck. Britney Spears followed along and then there were all those other ladies the zeitgeist wanted to fuck, all the way up to the newly be-olivebranched Katy Perry; Swift and company filled a similar niche; Christians need to fuck, too – which is why everyone is bending over backwards to act like she’s “reinvented” herself instead of just hiring people to manufacture whatever genre she feels like singing for her – but they have to sublimate that intense physical desire into whatever this bullshit is. 

She began as the young woman Christians creepily wanted to fuck, but could openly praise, as opposed to a Britney Spears whom they must publicly flog and secretly… flog. She gets older and they realize that teenage bullshit can’t last forever – you can only be the young (super duper extra emphasis on young, subtext: for Christians. I am not subtle.) woman for so long – so she hires one of the most accomplished production teams in pop music and goes from there. Eventually, she’s just too old and too-has-publicly-fucked-John-Mayer to pass as PG-13. 

Advice for you, Taylor, now that you’ve joined the fucking-world, Don’t. Get. 2. Drunk. 2. Fuck.

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“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is a parody of a parody. The song itself sucks. But I guess it’s supposed to suck? …To… punish the haters, I think? If I understand the song correctly, as well as the interpretations put forth by her fans, I’m supposed to say, “Yeah, you go get em!” I am supposed to feel better specifically because she is telling her critics off. 

But also, the song is bad. Not bad in the sense that is awful to listen to, but bad in the sense that it’s tossed off, empty, and musically uninteresting. 

Are you not validating your haters by making a shitty song to mock them for saying you make shitty songs? Or is this supposed to be a “fool me once, fool me twice, fool me three times” where, me mocking her shitty song about me shitting on her songs is the ultimate trap and instead I’m just taking the bait.

See, me mocking this song is her making it obvious I’m just obsessed with my own self-importance and am an out-of-touch elitist who can’t just “enjoy” stuff, who do I think I am, I’m just a nobody! 

Ahh but now you have sprung my trap! For I have fooled you four times, making you the fool once again! I own that, I am a nobody who can’t just enjoy stuff, I can only love it. Why don’t you?

If you truly believed you made good music, you wouldn’t make this song. It’s so depressing. Why do people never get tired of famous people complaining about being famous? Foundation myths (Twilight Zone episodes) are about the curse of achieving your goals! The Simpsons did it, as always.

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The drum programming on “Call It What You Want To” is so bad I can’t hear anything else. When it’s clicking with the bullshit double-time triplets, I want to scream. When she’s singing or whatever, all I can think about is how afraid I am the double-time triplets will return. 

I will never sleep again. 

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I had to screenshot this, like anyone who takes words as more than a mistress, I have pet peeves (like saying ‘anyone who takes words as more than a mistress’ fuck anyone who’d do that shit, gross). From Genius:

What are we doing here? I don’t expect Shakespearean criticism, but, like, this song is not a metaphor. It’s a story.

Come on folks.

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Now for the final judgment!… Is reputation listenable or unlistenable?

reputation is unlistenable. So unlistenable I don’t even like “…Ready For It” anymore. It’s just so bad.

Even so, I look forward to her next album with an open mind!


Jordan Holmes is a Chicago comedian, author, podcaster, and one of the twenty best humans of all time. We love him very much. Every Monday & Friday, you can hear him on a new episode of Knowledge Fight, a podcast devoted to exposing the lies of Alex Jones. You can read (or listen) to his debut novel, The Quiet Part Loud, by going here.

3 thoughts on “The Swiftening, Part 6: reputation (2017)… Shite Heaven In Hell

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