Here's What Every Song On Reputation Is Actually About

It’s been three years since Taylor Swift has released a studio album, and so it’s been three years since we’ve participated in our favorite competitive sport: Scouring each new track for potentially biographical references. Who, and what, are Swift's new songs about? Back in the Speak Now era, Swift used to make up stories about crashing weddings. Now, as reputation goes to show, her personal life has more than enough material to sing about.

With reputation, Swift flaunts a new side of herself, a side which might not have formed had it not been for the summer of 2016. After numerous public feuds, Swift retreated from the limelight. She started dating actor Joe Alwyn. She wrote reputation. And in her own words, she got "smarter," she got "tougher," and she did it in "the nick of time."

If you’re at all curious to know Swift’s thoughts on Tom Hiddleston, Calvin Harris, Kanye West, Joe Alwyn, fame, wrongdoings, revenge, and British slang, you’ll get ‘em here. Here's our comprehensive, track-by-track rundown of Reputation.

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"...Ready for It?"

What's It About? Like many of the songs on Reputation, "...Ready for It" is almost assuredly about Swift's new boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. She embeds some sly clues about her new relationship. The opening line, "Knew he was a killer / first time I saw him," may be a reference to Alwyn's breakout film role in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, in which Alwyn played an Iraq veteran diagnosed with PTSD. Swift mentions that he's "younger than my exes," which is also factually accurate: Alwyn is 26, whereas recent her recent exes, Tom Hiddleston and Calvin Harris, are 36 and 33 respectively.

Mostly, "...Ready For It" sets the tone that Swift is in an absolutely new kind of relationship, with someone who makes her very happy. And you know what they say: Happiness is the best revenge. So, she plans on keeping this guy "forever," and flaunting their happiness "like a vendetta."
"End Game"

"End Game (featuring Ed Sheeran and Future)"

What’s It About? In addition to being an excuse for Swift and Ed Sheeran to showcase their rapping abilities, “End Game” seems to be about how Swift’s fame may have impacted the beginning phases of her new relationship. She sings, “Reputation precedes me, they told you I'm crazy / I swear I don't love the drama, it loves me.” Though drama seems to follow her — See: the Feuds of 2016 — that's not who she actually is. Swift wants to be this guy's goal, or "end game;" she wants him to fight to get to know the person behind the reputation.

More broadly, “End Game” may be about how all the artists on the song (including Sheeran and Future) struggle with their outsized status. Sheeran comments on the same phenomenon in his rap. Sheeran acknowledges his fame — ”Reputation precedes me and rumors are knee-deep” — and is grateful he can be himself with his partner. When he sings, “Something was born on the 4th of July,” he’s referencing his relationship with Cherry Seaborn, because their anniversary is July 4.

"I Did Something Bad"

"I Did Something Bad"

What’s It About? Time for the (ridiculously catchy) Grudge Song. In “I Did Something Bad,” Swift takes down the people who stirred up drama for her in 2016 with some pretty direct references.

The beginning of the song is about a certain “narcissist” — likely to be Kanye West. She sings, “If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing / I don’t regret it one bit, ‘cause he had it coming.” West rapped about Swift in “Famous” (or “talked shit”), and now it’s her turn to sing about him.

Next up is the “playboy” verse, which is likely referencing Tom Hiddleston. She sings, “So I fly 'em all around the world / And I let them think they saved me.” Over the few months they were a couple, Swift and Hiddleston visited Rhode Island, Rome, Australia, and the U.K. She also says, “You gotta leave before you get left,” and as the rumor goes, she left first.

Calvin Harris comes up when Swift sings, “But if he drops my name, then I owe him nothing / and if he spends my change, then he had it coming.” Apparently, Swift had written Harris' song, “This Is What You Came For,” under the pen name Nils Sjoberg. Harris took credit for Swift’s work. He "spent her change."

Finally, a small Kim Kardashian West Dig. Swift knows people are coming after her with “receipts and reasons” — a call-out to Kardashian West’s posting the phone call between Swift and West on Snapchat.

"Don't Blame Me"

"Don't Blame Me"

What's It About? After "I Did Something Bad," Swift is back to a goopier topic: Joe Alwyn. For the second time so far on the album, Swift mentions that Alwyn's younger than her past partners: "I've been breakin' hearts a long time / and toyin' with them older guys." Swift is 27; Alwyn is 26.

As an aside, Swift's use of the word "crazy" is interesting. She says, "Don't blame me / love made me crazy" in this song. But two tracks prior, in "End Game," Swift had sung, "Reputation precedes me, they told you I'm crazy." The difference is significant. In "Don't Blame You," being crazy is a good thing, and it's part of the narrative Swift is writing about herself. Whereas in "End Game," other people are calling her crazy.

"Delicate"

"Delicate"

What's It About? "Delicate" is a very relatable love song. Swift puts to melody the obsessive interior monologue many experience in the early phases of a relationship. "Is it cool that I said all that? Is it too soon to do this yet? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate..."

Without delving into much detail, Swift does provide some specific references to her own life. “My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me,” she sings. And isn't that just what she wanted in "End Game?" Someone to get beyond her reputation?

"Look What You Made Me Do"

What's It About? We've already written extensively about the lyrical intricacies and hidden alter egos featured in this song, the first single off the album. In a nutshell, this is Swift's phoenix rising song; she's shrugging off her old self, and becoming someone stronger.

The most obvious reference to the Kim-Kanye debacle comes in this little interlude: "I'm sorry, the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now." / "Why?" / "Oh 'cause she's dead!" Swift drives in the point that she's no longer the "old Taylor," or any of her past personas
"So It Goes..."

"So It Goes..."

What's It About? Unfortunately, we doubt this song's title is a reference to "So It Goes" from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. This song seems to fall into the category of Songs About Joe Alwyn. "So It Goes..." also connects to other Songs About Joe Alwyn on Reputation.

In "So It Goes..." Swift says she wants to wear her lover "like a necklace." This connects to the line in "Call It What You Want" about wearing her lover's initials on a chain around her neck. Swift has has been photographed wearing a necklace with Alwyn's initials.

Also, Swift says that she met the guy from "So It Goes..." in a bar ("Met you in a bar"). "Gorgeous" is about meeting someone in a bar. Coincidence?

"Gorgeous"

What's It About? Usually, when you hear songs about people in clubs, they're sung from the perspective of a man ogling a woman. Swift flips the script in "Gorgeous," and pretty much is dripping with lust for some gorgeous guy in a club. According to a fan who attended Swift's Reputation secret sessions, Swift confirmed that the song was written for her new muse, Joe Alwyn.
"Getaway Car"

"Gateway Car"

What's It About? This can't be a song about Joe Alwyn, because it's about a endings and a doomed love story. The first line, "No, nothing good starts in a getaway car" sets the tone: The relationship described will be a fraught one.

If we had to guess, this song is about Tom Hiddleston. They met at the 2016 Met Gala: "The ties were black, the lies were white / in grey shades of candlelight." Surprise, surprise, there were candles in the background of the video of Swift and Hiddleston dancing. Then, Swift sings, "I wanted to leave him / I needed a reason," implying perhaps that she used Hiddleston as her "getaway car" for leaving her relationship with Calvin Harris.

"King Of My Heart"

"King of My Heart"

What's It About? Hey, have you heard? Taylor Swift loves Joe Alwyn. Here's another song about him. At the beginning of the song, Swift describes her perspective as a single woman before she met him: "I'm perfectly fine, I live on my own / I made up my mind, I'm better off bein' alone," She's not sure she's ready for a relationship — but Alwyn, or the subject of this song, is winning her over.

This song gets sexy quickly. The chorus says, "We rule the kingdom inside my room." The other boys have "Range Rovers and Jaguars" (Harris drives a Range Rover and Hiddleston drives a Jaguar). But they "never took me quite where you do." See what she's doing? She's saying that her lover takes her places in bed.

In this song, as with "End Game," Swift reveals that she's fixated on the idea of Alwyn being "the one." Here, she asks, "Is the end of all the endings?" She's been thinking long-term about him since the start.

"Dancing With Our Hands Tied"

"Dancing With Our Hands Tied"

What's It About? This is definitely about a doomed relationship. But which one? We're thinking Calvin Harris. She says she was "25 years old" when the relationship started, and she was 25 when she began dating Calvin Harris. The line, "Picture of your face in an invisible locket" also hearkens back to the locket that Harris bought her for their anniversary.

The song is focused on the pressure that Swift's status as a public figure put on her relationship: "People started talking, putting us through our paces / I knew there was no one in the world who could take it / I had a bad feeling." She doesn't think anyone could handle such scrutiny. They were trapped, and "dancing with our hands tied."

Weirdly enough, this song lyrically resembles "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" by her ex, John Mayer. In both songs, the chorus is about people intimately dancing through a doomed situation (a "burning room" in Mayer's song or "an avalanche" in Swift's). Swift also says they were "Swaying as the room burned down."

Last thing: With the lyrics, "I had a bad feeling" and "Nothing good starts in a getaway car," Swift seems to indicate in "Dancing With Our Hands Tied" and "Getaway Car" that she knew nothing good would come of her former relationships. That's clearly not how she feels about her current relationship with Alwyn.

"Dress"

"Dress"

What's It About? Taylor gets racy. "Only bought this dress so you could take it off," she sings in falsetto. Damn, girl. Apparently, her parents left the room when "Dress" came on during the Reputation listening party.

We think this song is also about Alwyn, because of this description: "Your buzzcut and my hair bleached." It's simple. Alwyn had a buzzcut for Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk, and Swift had beached hair when they met.

"This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things"

"This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things"

What's It About? Kanye! West! This is a song about her evolving relationship with West, beginning with the phase in which they'd reconciled after the 2009 VMAs incident. "It was so nice being friends again," Swift sings of that period. But the fun didn't last for long. A few weeks after the Gatsby-esque party she describes at the beginning of the song (aka Swift's famous July 4 party), Kim Kardashian West released the video of Swift and West discussing the "Famous" lyric.

Swift literally makes a reference to the phone call. "There I was, giving you a second chance / But then you stabbed in the 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."

She gives Alwyn a shout-out as the antidote: "Here's to my baby / he ain't reading what they call me lately." Guess he's not letting her reputation influence him, as Swift had expressed she feared would happen in many other songs on this album.

"Call It What You Want"

What's It About? If the opening lines of this song, "My castle crumbled overnight / I brought a knife to a gunfight / They took the crown, but it's alright" sound familiar, then good — they should. These three lines pair well with lyrics from "Look What You Made Me Do," which read, "I don't like your kingdom keys / they once belonged to me," and, "You said the gun was mine." We can presume that, like "LWYMMD," this song begins with references to the "Famous" controversy and her difficult summer of 2016.

From there, Swift tells us who her anecdote for the drama is. It's her baby, who's "fit like a daydream." Only British person or someone dating a Brit would use the word "fit" to mean "attractive." The rest of the song is about how Joe Alwyn has raised her "high above the whole scene," and away from the drama.

Also, she says she wants to wear "his initial on a chain round my neck."
"New Year's Day"

"New Year's Day"

What's It About? The song begins with the aftermath of a raucous party. Very nostalgic imagery: "Candle wax and Polaroids on he hardwood floor." Then, she and her guy get into a cab, and he says "it's gonna be a long road," but that they'll be in it together. It won't always be a party, but it'll be worth it.

We're back to this album's theme of a relationship that just keeps going. Swift says, "Don't read the last page." She doesn't want to read the ending. In fact, she doesn't want there to be an ending.

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