In an interview with Vogue, Taylor discussed why she was taking a break from the spotlight, and what she planned to do with all her free time:
“This is the first time in 10 years that I haven’t known [what’s next]. I just decided that after the past year, with all of the unbelievable things that happened…I decided I was going to live my life a little bit without the pressure on myself to create something.” — Taylor Swift
She revealed that during her time off, she hoped to accomplish some “short-term goals,” such as learning CPR and how to make a cocktail. “I would really like to take a little time to learn things,” Taylor said. “I have lots of short-term goals. I do things like this. [One time] I got it in my head that I couldn’t do a split, and I was really upset about it. And so I stretched every single day for a year until I could do a split. Somehow I feel better knowing that I can.”
Taylor noted that even though her plan was to take a long break, she was not counting out the possibility of getting back into the studio sooner than expected. “I’m always going to be writing songs,” Taylor said. “The thing is, with me, I could very well come up with three things in the next two weeks and then jump back into the studio, and all of a sudden the next record is started. That’s an option, too.”
MET GALA CO-CHAIR
Only a few weeks into her break, Taylor attended the 2016 Met Gala. She wasn’t just a guest, though. Along with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and actor/DJ Idris Elba she was a co-chair of fashion’s most over-the-top night. She took her role very seriously, sticking to the night’s “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” theme with a somewhat controversial robotic look and newly bleached hair.
BLEACHELLA & BREAK UP WITH CALVIN HARRIS
In June 2016, Taylor and Calvin Harris broke up after dating for a little over a year. Her relationship with the Scottish DJ-producer was quietly fizzling out. In early June, media outlets confirmed that the pair had split, and seemingly on amicable terms. In typical Hollywood form, however, their relationship came under intense scrutiny, and in July, the simmering tension exploded after it was revealed that Taylor co-wrote Harris’ and Rihanna’s summer hit “This Is What You Came For” (up until that point she had used the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg). Harris took to Twitter to defend his part in the creation of the song, noting that he “wrote the music, produced the song, arranged it and cut the vocals.” He went one step further, throwing an unprovoked jab at Taylor and her then ongoing feud with Katy Perry. “I know you’re off tour and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy etc. but I’m not that guy, sorry. I won’t allow it,” he tweeted at the time. In the following weeks and months, he offered his apologies for overreacting, calling his tweets “completely the wrong instinct.”
SUMMER ROMANCE WITH TOM HIDDLESTON
Also in June 2016, Taylor connected with British actor Tom Hiddleston shortly after her breakup with Harris. She and the Thor star first met at the Met Gala in May with an impromptu dance-off that had fans speculating that there was more to the relationship than met the eye. The pair then engaged in a whirlwind 90-day romance that included trips to Rome, Nashville, Rhode Island, England and Australia. The pair split three months later in September. At the same time, “Snapchat gate” happened and started a massive online hate-train towards Taylor.
TAYLOR’S FIRST “GREATEST HITS” CONCERT
There were rumors Taylor would release a new album (also called “TS6”) or a “Greatest Hits” release in October of 2016, after it was announced she would headline the “Formula One Grand Prix Post-Race” show on October 23. The event took place 11 months following the closing date of her awesomely successful “1989 World Tour” and two years since that album had debuted atop the charts. The concert also coincided with the ten-year-anniversary of her debut album. Taylor had a repeated history with releasing records every two years — however, she broke that habit in 2016.
RETURNING TO HER COUNTRY ROOTS
In November 2016, it was revealed that Taylor penned a song for country music group Little Big Town, called “Better Man“. The members of Little Big Town revealed Taylor as the songwriter at a press conference, several weeks after the song was released . “We didn’t want you to have any subtext there other than to hear the song,” band member Karen Fairchild said at the time, adding that Taylor thought the decision not to name her as the songwriter as “the greatest honor.” “Better Man” was the lead single off the group’s seventh album The Breaker and won the award for “Song of the Year” at the CMA Awards 2017 which went directly to Taylor as she is the sole songwriter.
DUET WITH ZAYN
In December, Taylor teamed up with her good friend Gigi Hadid’s then boyfriend (and now husband) Zayn Malik on a surprise track for the movie Fifty Shades Darker. The duet “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” excited fans who were going through a “Taylor Swift drought”, and reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The music video was filmed in London and released in January, 2017.
SUPER SATURDAY NIGHT
In February 2017, Taylor performed her first and only concert of that year. She returned to the stage at a pre-Super Bowl 51 bash (hosted by AT&T and DirectTV, which had launched a channel in her honor, Taylor Swift NOW, back in November, 2016) in Houston, Texas. She performed a greatest hits set and also included “This Is What You Came For,” “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” and “Better Man.”
Afterwards, Taylor’s radio silence was immediate. No red carpets, no strolls down the streets of New York, no paparazzi photo shoots while leaving the gym. There was even a social media blackout, save for two Instagram posts to plug new singles from her friends Lorde and the band HAIM. Taylor was far off the grid — unusual for a superstar usually so thoroughly present in the public consciousness.
“Taylor made the conscious choice to disappear,” a “source” (assumed to be her publicist, Tree Paine) said in the beginning of 2017. “She was feeling overexposed and like things were almost spiraling out of control. She’s being low-key and secretive (right now) because it makes her happy.” The source did not elaborate that feeling “overexposed” likely came from Taylor’s high-profile relationship with Tom Hiddleston the previous summer that was frequently mocked for looking staged, as well as the fallout from Kim Kardashian posting the infamous Snapchat video of Taylor’s phone call with Kanye West about his song “Famous.” By January 2017, Taylor couldn’t even tweet about the Women’s March on Washington without sparking backlash.
Taylor’s security team had “made it a military-like mission to prevent her from being seen” as she visited her new boyfriend Joe Alwyn in the United Kingdom, where he lived with his parents. The pair had secretly been dating since September 2016, as was revealed by a media outlet in May 2017.
SEXUAL ASSAULT TESTIMONY
In August 2017, Taylor resurfaced when she testified in a trial against David Mueller, a former radio DJ from Colorado she had accused of groping her in 2013. Mueller denied Taylor’s allegations and said the incident cost him his job, which led him to sue Taylor, her mother Andrea and a radio station employee in 2015. Taylor countersued him for alleged assault and battery. The trial took place in Denver, CO, and lasted seven days. During her testimony, Taylor was brave and unrelenting, telling the judge and the jury at one point that “he grabbed my ass underneath my skirt.” The jury ruled in Taylor’s favor, awarding her $1 in damages as a symbolic gesture. Taylor responded to the verdict in a statement:
“I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.” — Taylor Swift
She was eventually named Time‘s “Person of the Year” in 2017 as part of the “Silence Breakers” who spoke up about sexual assault.
One year after Taylor was granted the symbolic $1 in her assault and battery countersuit against David Mueller, she addressed the incident at a stop in Tampa for the first time. “This exact day a year ago, I was not playing a sold-out stadium in Tampa. I was in a courtroom in Denver, Colorado…and this day a year ago was the day that the jury decided in my favor and said that they believed me,” she told the crowd who held up $1 bills:
“I just wanted to say I’m sorry to anyone who ever wasn’t believed because I don’t know what turn my like would have taken if people didn’t believe me when I said that something had happened to me. So, I guess I just wanted to say that we have so, so, so much further to go, and I’m so grateful to you guys for being there for me during what was a really, really horrible part of my life.” — Taylor Swift
Shortly after the trial, Taylor blacked out her social media, which marked the beginning of her iconic reputation era.