The reputation Era
MOVE TO LONDON
It was assumed that the reason for her absence was to avoid the high amount of bad press she had been receiving over the entirity of summer 2016 due to public feuds with Calvin Harris, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian as well as her short relationship with actor Tom Hiddleston.
However, in May 2017 it was confirmed that Taylor wasn’t just in hiding in order to avoid even further overexposure; she had been in a relationship with actor Joe Alwyn since September 2016 and wanted to get to know him away from the spotlight. Because of that, she moved to London (England) which is Alwyn’s hometown.
SEXUAL ASSAULT TESTIMONY
Returning to the public eye in August 2017, Taylor went to court over a 2013 incident in which she alleged David Mueller, a former morning show personality for Denver’s KYGO-FM, touched her inappropriately during a backstage meet-and-greet photo-op on her “RED Tour“. During the trial, Taylor was brave and unrelenting in her testimony, telling the judge and the jury at one point that “he grabbed my ass underneath my skirt.” Taylor won $1 in her countersuit against the DJ, who initiated the legal interaction back in 2015 when he sued the singer for what he said were false accusations that cost him his job.
Taylor was eventually named “Person of the Year” in 2017 as part of the “Silence Breakers” who spoke up about sexual assault in the workplace.
Whenever Taylor announces she’s releasing a new album, it usually symbolises a fresh start for her. Famously, with “1989” (2014), she cut off her hair, moved to New York City and officially made the transition from country sweetheart to pop superstar. In the days prior to the announcement of “reputation“, her entire online presence was blacked out, deleting everything but three mysterious videos that were posted to her Instagram and Twitter accounts, apparently depicting a writhing snake. This led fans to speculate that Taylor was attempting to reclaim the “snake” image she was branded with after the public feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
Her first “reputation” single, “Look What You Made Me Do” declared the “old Taylor dead”. When the album was released on November 10, 2017, it scored colossal numbers upon its eventual release, selling 1,28 million copies in its first week in the US, making Taylor the only artist in history to have four albums debut with over a million first-week sales.
ON FINDING LOVE IN SPITE OF A BAD REPUTATION
“reputation” was Taylor’s long-awaited “heel turn” which she had already hinted at with her hit “Blank Space”. But although the album fixates on big enemies and bad reputations, the buried lede is a quiet romance budding in spite of them.
“It’s an album about finding love throughout all the noise…And how it makes you feel when people are saying things about you that you feel aren’t true…If you can find something real in spite of a bad reputation, isn’t that what matters most?” — Taylor Swift
LIVING HER LIFE AWAY FROM THE SPOTLIGHT
Before “1989” came out, you couldn’t turn on your TV or computer, or open a magazine without seeing something Taylor-related. It seemed like she was interviewed on every platform possible, and it worked — “1989” quickly became her most successful album ever.
During the “reputation” era, apart from when she was playing shows, Taylor basically completely stopped making public appearances. She had been a regular fixture at awards shows since the beginning of her career, but starting with the release of “reputation”, she mostly remained absent from red carpets. And it wasn’t just awards shows. She was also rarely spotted by the paparazzi, which was a stark contrast when you consider that a couple of years prior, barely a day went by without Taylor being photographed.
Taylor had almost completely stopped giving interviews, and her posts on social media were few and far between. Her TV appearances were rare and exclusively consisted of performances: She was the musical guest to Tiffany Haddish’s “Saturday Night Live” host in November 2017, and gave a surprise performance on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” in lieu of an interview. Meanwhile, although she’d been on the covers of both British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar since making her comeback, the magazines didn’t publish interviews. Her Vogue cover was accompanied by a poem written exclusively for the magazine, and in the case of Harper’s Bazaar, Taylor took on the role of the interviewer, speaking with ’60s icon Pattie Boyd.
Rather than giving interviews or making public statements, where things are so often interpreted in the wrong way, Taylor took her stadium tour as an opportunity to open up to her fans about the past few years of her life. On the opening night of her “reputation Stadium Tour“, Taylor made a speech to the audience in which she finally broke her silence on her feud with the Kardashian-Wests.
“I went through some really low times for a while because of it. I went through some times when I didn’t know if I was going to get to do this anymore,” she told the crowd in Glendale, Arizona. “I wanted to send a message to you guys that if someone uses name-calling to bully you on social media, and even if a lot of people jump on board with it, that doesn’t have to beat you. It can strengthen you instead.”
From then on, she took the opportunity to speak at length about a wide range of topics, from the struggles of the LGBT community to how she felt in the aftermath of her sexual assault trial.
HISTORIC NEW RECORD CONTRACT
In fall 2018, one of the big topics of conversation regarding Taylor became the upcoming fulfillment of her record contract. Having signed her deal with Big Machine at the age of 15 and selling around 32 million records in the meantime, Taylor was in line for what many speculated could be the biggest record contract ever signed by anyone. “reputation” further proved her ability to capital-S support an album through her touring (which, coincidentally, concluded the same month her record contract expired in November) and still landing a hit song when expectations were at their lowest (“Delicate“), had come at the best possible time. In a career that’s been full of unprecedented successes, Taylor’s then latest victory might’ve been her most crucial one. And there was no one but her who could take credit for that accomplishment.
Taylor’s contract with Big Machine Records ended on November 10, 2018, which also marked the 1-year-anniversary of “reputation.” On November 19, 2018, Taylor announced she had signed a deal with Universal Music Group and Republic Records, effective immediately. Though terms were not officially released, the pact could be worth anywhere from $100 million in guarantees to perhaps $200 million, according to Forbes. Likely more important to Taylor than the dollar amount: Universal lets her keep her future master recordings, which should revert to her five years after the release of each song.
Prior to the 2018 midterm elections in October 2018, Taylor endorsed candidates for public office for the first time, declaring her support for two Democratic candidates: Congressman Jim Cooper for re-election to the House of Representatives, and former Governor of Tennessee Phil Bredesen for election to the Senate. She spoke out against Bredesen’s opponent, Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, stating that her voting record “appalled” and “terrified” her. She expressed her desire for LGBT rights and gender and racial equality, and condemned systemic racism. Vote.org, mentioned in Taylor’s post, reported that 65,000 people registered to vote in the 24 hours following her post (called the “Taylor Swift Effect”), an unprecedented surge even accounting for usual registration increases as deadlines approach.
At the American Music Awards of 2018, Taylor won the awards for “Tour of the Year”, “Artist of the Year”, “Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist”, and “Favorite Pop/Rock Album” for “reputation”. With a total of 23 awards, she became the most awarded female winner in AMA history, a record previously held by Whitney Houston. During her acceptance speech for “Artist of the Year”, she once again encouraged her fans to vote in the 2018 midterm elections.