I'll Be Cleaning Up Bottles With You On New Year's Day
I bought Taylor Swift's reputation the day it came out because, you know, I had to, and I’ve been putting in a lot of listening hours since its mid-November release. Bouncing back and forth between holiday jams, Christmas hymns, and Revenge-y Taylor has been an enjoyable and satisfying experience, if not in a dystopian, alternate It’s-A-Wonderful-Life snow-globe of jingle bells and regret. The TL/DR version of my review? I love it.
With the early song releases, I made some predictions about what I thought the album would be like, and, while not 100% correct (I’m no mind reader after all) I do think the outcome is a best-case scenario. (My new hope is for her to make a country cover of The Oh Hello’s I Have Made Mistakes and then everything would be well and good.)
There’s a fantastic episode of a podcast that I love that begins like this:
You’re sitting at home alone and there’s a knock on the front door. When you open it there’s a man standing there, and the man says to you, “I think we both know why I’m here. We know what you did. Let’s go.” My friend Jamie always talks about this hypothetical. He swears Errol Morris came up with it – I dunno, it’s not on Google — but the point is, most of us, if we get that knock on the door, we’ll confess to something. Because most of us have done a bad thing, and we’ve gotten away with it, and we’re looking over our shoulder until the day we finally get caught.
When applied to ourselves, we all have a scenario that pops to mind—I know I do. Surely, many males in the entertainment industry have had these thoughts lately. And Taylor Swift certainly has her own list of things that that proverbial knock would bring to the forefront.
But, like I hoped in my earlier post, reputation is more than just the slamming of that door, and blaming the other person for knocking. (There’s a little slamming. But I’ll get into that.) reputation is great, not just sonically (there are some really fun things happening musically— I’m looking at you Don’t Blame Me, This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Delicate, etc etc) but also thematically. It’s something Taylor has done well her whole career, and I think this is collectively, probably her most cohesive in that department.
There are the obvious Revenge-y Door Slamming Songs (I Did Something Bad, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Don’t Blame Me) and the classic TSwift love songs (King of My Heart, Gorgeous, End Game) but there’s also another kind of song on here. The one that says: Yeah. I messed up. But, I’ve got this good thing going for once with a guy I really care about, and we’ll still throw our big parties and there will be the big rumors and the big celebrity but… in the end, I just want to be doing something small and normal like cleaning up with you after a party. It’s not exactly the “apology” song I was hoping for. But, in some ways, I think it’s better this way. With New Year’s Day as the last song, it’s getting that Errol Morris knock on the door and inviting someone in to shift through your mess for a while instead of slamming the door. That’s the thing that made Taylor famous; her ability to relate to real people through song. And if you’ve ever spent the morning following a great party with your closest friends, scraping wax off the floor and taking the recycling out and moving all the furniture back to home base… you know. You know that there are bad days, bad decisions, and good days, good decisions. You know that no one is perfectly "right" or succinctly "wrong" and that sometimes you just mess up and sometimes you have a really simple yet-profound moment amongst friends that you'll remember forever -- like cleaning up after a party.