After months of anticipation, including two much-discussed music videos and a handful of songs released via lyric videos, Taylor Swift's new album, Reputation, has finally been released. The record dropped right before midnight on Nov. 10, and according to fans on Twitter, it appears that Swift has included a written message along with physical copies of the disc. But what does Swift's Reputation prologue mean, exactly? For those of us who purchased digital copies of the album and may not have gotten a printed booklet or prologue, the content of the message couldn't pique our interest more.
If you've been scrolling through Twitter confused by everyone sharing their thoughts about the prologue wondering why you don't have it, don't worry — you're not alone. But luckily, thanks to the Internet you don't need to go out and buy another copy of Reputation to be able to read the prologue. Then again, if you're a hard-core Swiftie and want to own a physical copy then feel free to head to your local retailer. No judgement.
Overall, Swift's prologue hits up a number of topics, from the way social media impacts all of our lives to the constant gossip about her romantic pursuits. But the main theme of the singer's note is that people aren't necessarily how they seem in the media or online. "Here's something I've learned about people," the message begins. "We think we know someone, but the truth is that we only know the version of them they have chosen to show us." Swift's note definitely seems in line with the music videos we've seen from the Reputation era, which have featured different versions of Swift throughout her career.
The prologue continues,
"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."
After comparing how different people in your life all know you in a somewhat different way, Swift then tackles the rumors and gossip that have been spread about her over the years.
"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 that person and feel foolish for believing baseless gossip."
In the second paragraph Swift mentions how millennials are the first generation to document their lives online through social media. "We post photos online to curate what strangers think of us," Swift notes. "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."
Given how much of the lyrics on Reputation seem to be about a love of Swift's, it's no surprise that she mentions meeting a special "someone" in the prologue.
"Humans are intrinsically impossible to simplify," Swift says. "We are never just good or just bad." Swift then goes on to acknowledge her own mistakes, writing,
"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 heartbreaks have been used as entertainment, and my songwriting has been trivialized as 'oversharing.'"
Swift has faced criticism in years prior for writing songs about former romantic partners. But despite those complaints, she has a loyal fan base that enjoys when Swift shares information about her personal life with them.
"When this album comes out," Swift predicts in the prologue, "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." Indeed, it's impossible to know the exact inspiration for a song or music video. However, Swift herself did seem to encourage fans to analyze her songs when she liked an article on Tumblr that pointed out all of the potential references to her reported boyfriend Joe Alwyn in her song "...Ready For It?"
Swift then ends the prologue with a powerful statement, and a reference to her new album's title.
"Let me say it again, louder for those in the back...
We think we know someone, but the truth is that we only know the version of them that they have chosen to show us.
There will be no further explanation.
There will be just reputation."
As Swift says, we really do only know the version of a person that is shown to us. We're all entitled to our own opinions, and not everyone is going to like all of Swift's new music or persona, but Reputation is expected to break sales records, so Swift is definitely doing something right. And judging by the album's prologue, it seems like the singer is content with her life and career, and does not intent to offer any further explanation about the version of herself she's presenting to the public.