Reputation has collaborations and diss tracks
But that doesn't mean the album is completely devoid of gossip, biting remarks, and drama. "I swear I don't love the drama, it loves me," she insists on "End Game," her awkward-yet-fascinating collaboration with Atlanta rap lothario Future and R&B muppet Ed Sheeran. Even when Swift is climbing out on a stylistic limb, like she does on many of the Max-Martin- and Shellback-produced tracks on the record, she does so with a sense of assurance and control. She falls on her face with the grace of a tightrope walker.
She also pokes at her ongoing conflict with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West with similar precision. The most noteworthy moments of finger-pointing and blame-shifting occur on "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," one of four captivating Jack-Antonoff-produced songs that close out the record. Over skittering drums and plinking piano keys, she lays into some conspicuously unnamed fake friends. "There I was, giving you a second chance," she sings. "But then you stabbed my back while shaking my hand / And therein lies the issue / Friends don’t try to trick you/ Get you on the phone and mind-twist you."
It's hard to interpret the reference to "the phone" as anything other than an allusion to the fateful recording Kardashian released on her Snapchat last year. Later in the song, she makes a reference to Kanye West's fractured relationship with Jay-Z when she sings, "I'm not the only friend you've lost lately." She even concludes the song with a "toast" to her real friends, which feels like a pointed call-back to Kanye's "Runaway" where he made a "toast to the douchebags." If you hoped Reputation would abandon the underdog narrative in favor of some more measured introspection, it's hard not to be disappointed by the track. The tone is celebratory, like a champagne bottle being popped. The aftertaste is sour.