When Taylor Swift's Reputation era kicked off earlier this year, the "Look What You Made Me Do" music video was one of the first things that had people buzzing — especially with the way it ended. There were 15 versions of Swift taken from her various music videos and different stages of her life, all lined up, criticizing each other the way Swift has been criticized over the past several years. And now that the album is finally here, we get to know what the 15 Taylors of Reputation actually mean.
Back when the video first came out, theories related to all of Swift's identities were rampant, mostly because so few details were available about Reputation at all. The most popular theory, though, was that the album would have 15 tracks, and each track would relate to one of the Swifts, and as it turns out, the album does have 15 tracks, so the rest of the fell into place pretty nicely. It seemed like too big of a coincidence for this major element of her first 2017 music video to not relate to the album as a whole.
Then, Swift started releasing more singles. First, "...Ready For It," followed by "Gorgeous," and then "Call It What You Want." Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle began to come together, but it still wasn't totally clear how the 15 Taylors would tie into the album as a whole.
All of Swift's promo singles seemed to be her way of responding to everything that's happened to her over the past couple of years, as well as the way she's been portrayed in the media. In her "Look What You Made Me Do" video and lyrics she brings up so much of the criticism she's faced: her squad of model-like women, the controversy she faced when she wrote an open letter to Apple about Apple Music's streaming policy, and even references to her feuds with Katy Perry and Kanye West. In "...Ready For It?" she sings about the past loves that her detractors often use against her to slut shame her, and even in the sweet, low-key love song that is "Call It What You Want," Swift seems to be calling out Kim Kardashian and Kanye West over the "Famous" lyric debacle, too.
So many of these criticisms can be used to mark points in Swift's career, and so can the 15 Taylors from the end of the music video. But it seems like she's not expressing who she's been in the past through her new album — it's more about who she is now, and all the different sides of her personality that come with it. Sometimes she's angry about what happened to her in the past, sometimes she's overwhelmed with love, sometimes she's admitting that she lets that love-obsessed side of her get carried away. Add it all up, and you have one complete person, and in that way, Swift is expressing herself in a way she never has before.
In fact, in the prologue to Reputation, Swift writes, "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," later adding that everyone hopes to find "someone who will still choose us even when they see all of the sides of the story, all the angles of the kaleidoscope that is you." And in releasing Reputation, Swift is giving us those angles of herself.
In the "LWYMMD" lineup, one of the first of the older Taylors is the one dressed in her ringleader outfit, from the Red era. This Taylor was at the top of her game back then, almost universally liked — the kind of Taylor who threw the parties she sings about in "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things." Then, there's curly haired, sparkly guitar strumming Taylor, who may represents innocence — the side of Taylor who thinks she can trust people and is always surprised when she's stabbed in the back, the kind of Taylor who would have written something emotional and all heart-eyes like "New Year's Day."
Moving down the line, there's also the Swift who was interrupted by Kanye West at the VMAs, the girl who was humiliated and tried to forgive only to be let down again, and that results in a song like "I Did Something Bad." There's Met Gala Taylor and Junior Jewels Taylor (from the "You Belong With Me" music video), who are both sweet and perpetually surprised in the music video, relating to the way Swift has had to tone down who she is because people thought she was fake. The swan Taylor from "Shake It Off" is the clumsy, real, human side of Swift, a side she's letting us see even more of on Reputation, and there's zombie Taylor, who never did make it "Out Of The Woods" — and who may be a symbol of the fact that the kind of Swift who sings about heartbreak and lost love is the one that's dead and gone, because Reputation is free of any song that cuts as deep as "Out Of The Woods" did.
And that brings us to the rest of the group. Some of the Taylors are dressed in outfits from the "LWYMMD" music video itself, and since all of them seem to be rough around the edges, it seems they could represent the New Taylor's way of seeing the world — they've been burned by being one of the most famous celebrities possibly ever, and they're more cynical than the Taylors of the past. Some of them aren't even genuine, but that's easy to see; they're just the physical embodiment of all the rumors that have been thrown around over the past couple of years. That leaves us with where Swift is now, launching a new album, this time a little older, a little wiser.
The point that Swift is making with Reputation is that nobody really knows her, yet over the past couple of years, they've assumed what she's thinking and planning, especially where the West and Kardashian feud is concerned — and, of course, her reputation. But by listening to this album, fans get a peek into what she's really been thinking all this time that she's been silent on social media and staying out of the public eye.
Swift has always been known for the way she bares her soul on her albums, and in that way, Reputation proves that the Old Taylor isn't dead after all. But with the twist the New Taylor is putting on what made her so successful in the first place, this incarnation of her may be the best of all.