Taylor Swift's 'Reputation' Poem Meanings Make Having Vulnerabilities Seem Like A Blessing
Confessional is a word that's been applied to Taylor Swift's music for years — but the adjective was first widely used to describe poetry, not pop, back when M.L. Rosenthal reviewed poet Robert Lowell's work in 1959. So it feels fitting that the poems in Swift's Target Reputation magazines slot so nicely into the genre, offering the same personal insights into the musician that we get from her songs. Heck, even the same but more, because her poetry seems directly focused on her feelings, rather than dropping breadcrumbs about famous people to a catchy backing beat. But this isn't just about learning more about your favorite artist. Swift's verses are exciting not just for their focus on herself, but in how universally applicable they can have to the reader. They teach us that vulnerability doesn't have to be avoided. In fact, according to one interpretation of the poems, it can be the best thing of all.
Readers can find the poems in the CD and magazine package offered at Target, with two volumes to choose between. Each magazine reportedly boasts its own unique selection of personal photos of the 27-year-old, one of two poems, and one of two satirical back covers of TS, a fake magazine spoofing tabloid coverage of the blonde. Vol. 1's back cover demands "Who is [Swift's cat] Olivia's Real Father?" while Vol. 2 pays tribute to the musician's second feline companion, exclaiming "Catitude! Meredith Is Out Of Control!" But what about the poems?
Her Vol. 1 poem "Why She Disappeared" is the more upbeat of the two verse offerings. While it centers on her downward trajectory, even the early verses imply that the controversy cloud comes with a substantial silver lining. While her clothes "blew away," presumably leaving the Swift figure exposed, so do her "fairweather friends," a detail which sounds more freeing than isolating. Being placed in a vulnerable position has already come with benefits. Since the speaker is no longer attractive as a friend based on their social status, this means that the friends that are left are the ones who really root for her and love her for herself, not her popularity.
The third verse appears to document rock bottom, but even this sounds curiously relaxing. "When she lay there on the ground," she begins to dream. Being incapacitated allows her a moment for creative resuscitation, we see this when the poem reads of her dreaming "of time machines and revenge" as well as "a love that was really something/Not just the idea of something." Sure, being vulnerable appears to have led her to a position of such ill health or so few opportunities that she's quite literally floored, but this also gives the heroine a moment for some much-needed reflection and to let her imagination run wild. It suggests that whatever happens to you — whether you're fired or broken up with or you don't pass that exam — this is the best possible moment to dream, gather strength, and refocus on what it is you want.
The poem also seems to suggest that only through vulnerability can people learn the hardest lessons. It's only post her flooring that the speaker now knows to avoid beautiful, empty things like "Charmers, dandies and get-love-quick schemes." It even seems to bring the speaker the thing that she's actually avoiding. Much like that old dating advice chestnut that love comes when you least expect it, suddenly, while wading into the darkest waters rather than focusing on the charmers, the singer finds "a love that was really something" appear next to her.
But the boyfriend stuff isn't as exciting as the closing couplet of the poem. The death of her reputation making her feel truly alive is stirring stuff. It reminds us of the thing that it's easy to forget in the social age — you shouldn't be liked for the number of likes that adorable selfie got or your Klout score, but for you. So if you don't show the world who you are and open up about your weaknesses as well as your strengths, rather than posing with your best side in profile, how can you ever truly feel seen or understood?
The Vol. 2 poem "If You're Anything Like Me" puts the lessons we've learned in "Why She Disappeared" into action. If you read it as being purely about Swift, rather than from the perspective of a totally different character, it's a catalogue of the popstar's small failings. She bites her nails, is a consummate people-pleaser, is superstitious, isn't defensive enough about guarding her secrets. This display of vulnerability feels like the star daring you to like her exactly as she is, as every bit as mortal and flawed as any other person on the planet. The refrain of "If you're anything like me" could be interpreted as double daring the reader to be like her, to open up, to have enough self-reliance to present yourself as flawed and shrug if someone's not into that. She ends by selling the concept — this isn't just about admitting what's wrong with you, it's about doing so leading you to a new level of self-acceptance.
The fifth stanza says that, if you're like Swift, you'll have learned to hate your pride and love your thighs, which seems to place those emotive verbs in the sanest possible order. They'll have "stripped you of your shiny paint," which might put you in a vulnerable position, but means that you'll attract people who truly value you, not magpies, leaving you with "the ones who wanted you anyway." Eventually, "you'll thank your lucky stars for that frightful day."
In a nutshell, the poems seem to preach that being vulnerable and the hate that can come with that will show you who your friends truly are, who your lovers truly are, and will lead you to a healthier place in terms of how you truly relate to yourself. And what could be more tempting than that?