When you're all done listening to Taylor Swift's sixth album and think you know which Reputation songs are about Kimye, you might want to go back and give the album's prologue a read. The transcript for Swift's Reputation prologue (which appears to be included in physical copies of the CD, according to fan tweets) is the singer's initial explanation of her latest album, which she's promised shows a new side of herself. Remember, the old Taylor is dead, which is why she hasn't been picking up any of your calls. But, this new Taylor Swift has learned a few things over the years and she's ready to share them with her fans.
With all five of her albums, Swift has included a prologue, which sums up the thesis of the record in a way that the music never could. And while it's meant to come before the music, there's nothing wrong with reading it after the fact. With 2012's Red, Swift referenced a line from a Pablo Neruda poem — “love is so short, forgetting is so long" — which explained why she wanted to take a deeper dive into a love gone wrong.
With the prologue to her last album 1989, Swift wrote directly to her fans, letting the know they gave her the courage to try something new, specifically, make a pop album. But, also she wants to send them the same courage. "I hope you know that who you are is who you choose to be," she says. "And that whispers behind your back don’t define you."
And on Reputation, Swift seems to continue on that path, beginning her prologue with a pretty hefty statement: "Here's something I've learned about people." From there she goes on to explore the idea that we never really know a person so we shouldn't assume we do.
"We think we know someone, but the truth is that we only know the version of them they have chosen to show us. We know our friend in a certain light, but we don't know them the way their lover does. Just the way their lover will never know them the same way that you do as their friend. Their mother knows them differently than their roommate, who knows them differently than their colleague. Their secret admirer looks at them and sees an elaborate sunset of brilliant color and dimension and spirit and pricelessness. And yet, a stranger will pass that person and see a faceless member of the crowd, nothing more. We may hear rumors about a person and believe those things to be true. We may one day meet the person and feel foolish for believing in gossip"
See, Swift doesn't want you to feel foolish, which is why she gently chastises those who believe everything they read. Especially, about her. The problem is, as she notes, that the internet makes it pretty hard to forget someone's past, especially their mistakes.
No one would blame Swift for wanting every story about her Kimye feud to suddenly disappear because man, there are a lot of them. But it's just not going to happen. It's why she likely talks about the need for everyone to find connections with people who are willing to overlook one's reputation (see what I did there) and really focus on the person in front of them.
As she explains:
"This is the first generation that will be able to look on their entire life story documented in pictures on the internet, and together we will all discover the after-effects of that. Ultimately, we post photos online to curate what strangers think of us. But then we wake up, look in the mirror at our faces and see the cracks and scars and blemishes, and cringe. We hope someday we'll meet someone who will see that same morning face and instead see their future, their partner, their forever. 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"
The word "kaleidoscope" implies that depending on where you're looking, you're likely to see something different. It's a notion that Swift has expressed when it comes to the criticisms the media has waged against her.
Swift's been criticized for "playing the victim" in feuds with other celebrities, but on her first single "Look At What You Made Me Do" she implies that she's reacting to what people say about her. Things, she says are wrong.
Swift's point here, though, is that no one is just one thing, which is why the idea that someone's good or evil just doesn't work. To call someone the hero or the villain is a lazy way to define someone and ultimately, it's bound to change.
It's why she makes the point that in her more than decade long career she's been many things. Some good, but as of late, she's been more bad, which she feels is unfair, as she writes:
"The point being, despite our need to simplify and generalize absolutely everyone and everything this life, humans are intrinsically impossible to simplify. We are never just good or just bad. We are mosaics of our worst selves and our best selves, our deepest secrets and our favorite stories to tell at a dinner party, existing somewhere between our well-lit profile photo and our drivers license shot. We are all a mixture of our selfishness selfishness and generosity, loyalty and self-preservation pragmatism and impulsiveness, I've been in the public eye since I was 15 years old. On the beautiful, lovely side of that, I've been so lucky to make music for living and look out into crowds of loving, vibrant people. On the other side of the coin, my mistakes have been used against me, my hearbreaks have been used as entertainment, and my songwriting has been trivialized as 'oversharing'"
It's true, Swift's lyrics have been called out for many reasons, including that she uses her personal life to sell records since she often writes about her ex-boyfriends and goes after those who criticize her. Though, to be fair, while she's been criticized for this, it's also helped her connect with fans who hang on her every word.
Swift, though, ends her prologue by going after those tabloids that will be combing Reputation for gossip, writing:
"When does album comes out gossip blogs will scour the lyrics for the men they can attribute to each song, as if the inspiration for music is as simple and basic as a paternity test. There will be slideshows of photos backing up each incorrect theory because it's 2017 and if you and if you didn't see a picture of it, couldn't have happened, right?"
It's those people who want to reduce Swift down to just a silly girl who overshares that she's speaking to. "Let me say it again louder for those in the back," she says, before giving her final take on the matter:
"We think we know someone, but the truth is we only know the version of them they have chosen to show us
There will be no further explanation
There will be just reputation"
This album is the side that Swift has chosen to show the world. The only question left now is, "Are you ready for it?"