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    How Taylor Swift's "Reputation" Era Broke All The Rules And Made Her More Successful Than Ever

    A year after the release of "Look What You Made Me Do", Taylor Swift's reputation is back from the dead.

    Believe it or not, today marks exactly one year since Taylor Swift ended her conspicuous absence from the world of showbiz and released "Look What You Made Me Do", the first single from her sixth studio album, Reputation.

    The Instagram posts announcing her new album's November release date came less than a week after all of Taylor's social media accounts were wiped completely blank.

    Instagram: @taylorswift

    In the days prior to the announcement, mysterious videos 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 a very public and very exhausting feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

    Long story short, they were right.

    A year later, Taylor is over halfway through her 53-stop Reputation Stadium Tour, which spans four continents and just days ago broke Taylor's own record for the highest-grossing US tour by a female artist.

    It's safe to say that Taylor is back on top of her game, and she broke all her own rules to get there. Here's how she did it...

    1. Firstly, deleting all her past tweets and Instagram posts indicated a clean slate for the Reputation era in a way Taylor has never done before.

    By the time Reputation was released, everything else was gone. There were no more memories from Taylor's famous 4th of July parties or photos of her cats through the years — and, most importantly, there was no more statement requesting to be "excluded from the narrative" written for her by Kim and Kanye.

    Big Machine Records

    It's fair to say the statement didn't have Taylor's desired effect of ending her feud with Kimye — it ended up being ruthlessly mocked and quickly became a meme. So, rather than being excluded from the narrative, she took control of it, using the video for "Look What You Made Me Do" to join in on the fun everyone else was having at her expense.

    In fact, Taylor used the video to poke fun at many, many aspects of her past public personas.

    Big Machine Records /

    Among many other things, throughout the video she's seen as the not-so-benevolent leader of a huge squad of models lined up like an army, a baseball bat-wielding robber of a streaming company, and a controlling dancer leading a group of eight ex-boyfriends wearing shirts that read "I ❤️ TS".

    "If everything you wrote about me was true," Taylor said in a behind-the-scenes look at the music video, "this is how ridiculous it would look."

    As soon as the video was released, fans began theorising about its meanings, and one theory that was almost universally accepted was that the version of Taylor seen in the background at the end of the video symbolised the new, real Taylor.

    Big Machine Records /

    "I can’t help but think if that Taylor on the plane behind all the other Taylors represents the actual Taylor," one fan wrote on Tumblr. "Like she created all the different archetypes for each era, but her real self is someone who isn’t portrayed 100% in the media and is forced into the background?"

    The post was liked by Taylor's Tumblr account, and therefore was taken as gospel. The real Taylor had been there the entire time, standing in the shadows and watching her public personas — and now she was ready to step forward and take centre stage.

    In a way, the Old Taylor — meaning the one who cared what people had to say about her — really was dead.

    Big Machine Records

    2. While she's never explicitly said who songs are about in the past, this era Taylor has actively discouraged people from speculating about the subjects of her songs.

    At this point, it's just a fact of life that when Taylor Swift releases new music, people try to guess who it's about. Since her past relationships have been so public, it's a pretty natural response to hearing her extremely personal lyrics.

    Kevin Mazur / WireImage, David Krieger / GC Images

    It's also well known that in the album booklets for Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, and 1989, Taylor has hidden secret messages in the lyrics of each song, which are all written in lowercase apart from a few letters.

    Big Machine Records

    The few capital letters scattered throughout the lyrics spell out a secret message. For example, the secret message for "Back to December" — a song from the album Speak Now — spells out TAY, leading people to believe the song was about Taylor Lautner.

    But Reputation breaks that tradition. Not only does it not have secret messages hidden in the album booklet, but the album's prologue states plainly that when gossip blogs post slideshows speculating about which men inspired which songs, their theories will be "incorrect".

    Genius /

    For the first time, Taylor is making sure her fans don't focus on who her music is about, but rather on the music itself. And that way, she's managed to keep her private life relatively off the radar.


    3. Apart from when she's playing shows, Taylor has basically completely stopped making public appearances.

    And it's not just awards shows. She's also rarely spotted by the paparazzi nowadays, which is shocking when you consider that a couple of years ago, barely a day went by without Taylor being photographed.

    Ray Tamarra / GC Images, Robert Kamau / GC Images

    While she's been papped leaving her New York apartment a handful of times in recent weeks, it's nowhere near as often as it used to be in the days of 1989 — in fact, in the entirety of last year, she was caught by the paparazzi a grand total of five times.

    Again, all of this guarantees Taylor's private life remains as private as she wants it to. In 2014, she sang "I know places we can hide" — and it looks like she was right.

    4. Taylor didn't do much promotion for the album's release, instead choosing to share recordings from her secret sessions so fans could hear her thought process behind each song.

    Taylor Swift /

    The sessions — which Taylor also did for the release of 1989 — were several secret events held before the release of Reputation. Taylor invited fans to her homes in their dozens and played them the album before anyone else got to hear it.

    What was different about this time, however, was that she recorded the audio from one of the sessions and released it on iHeartRadio on the night the album dropped.

    This tactic meant fans were able to hear their idol talking about her new music in detail, and Taylor could ensure that everything she was saying was on her own terms.

    Taylor Swift /

    5. She's almost completely stopped giving interviews, and her posts on social media are few and far between.

    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.

    Apple Music

    But the Reputation era couldn't be more different, again ensuring Taylor's music is at the forefront of any conversation she's involved in.

    NBC /

    Her TV appearances are rare and exclusively consist of performances: She was the musical guest to Tiffany Haddish's Saturday Night Live host in November, and gave a surprise performance on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show in lieu of an interview.

    Meanwhile, although she's 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 interviewer, speaking with '60s icon Pattie Boyd.

    The 1989 era was also notable for Taylor's heavy use of social media. Before the album was released, she posted lyric teasers for each song on her Instagram, and the album was announced with a livestream that could be watched by fans all over the world.

    Now that we're a year into Reputation, Taylor's social media posts are more of a regular occurrence, but they're still nowhere near as frequent as they used to be.

    6. That being said, she's not opposed to using social media to squash any ~drama~ before it gets out of control.

    When singer Hayley Kiyoko — otherwise known as Lesbian Jesus — made a comment in an interview about the homophobia she's experienced in the music industry, some people were prepared for a brand new feud.

    Big Machine Records

    "I’ve had several music industry execs say ‘You’re doing another music video about girls?’ I literally looked at them and was like, um, yeah...Taylor Swift sings about men in every single song and video, and no one complains that she’s unoriginal," Hayley said in an interview with Refinery29.

    A few fans thought Hayley was being shady towards Taylor, and posted on Tumblr about their disappointment.

    At this point, Taylor herself jumped in, reblogging the post and reiterating her belief that "we should applaud artists who are brave enough to tell their honest romantic narrative through their art". And then she invited Hayley onstage with her.

    7. When she wants to say something, she makes sure she says it herself — and she says it to tens of thousands of her most devoted fans.

    Rather than giving interviews or making public statements, where things are so often interpreted in the wrong way, Taylor has taken 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.

    Since then, she's taken 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.

    But it's not just while she's onstage. Most of Taylor's communication with fans comes from their experiences in the Rep Room — a special room backstage at her shows where they're given the opportunity to meet Taylor.

    What stems from these interactions is usually an adorable photo, a hug, and a string of tweets written in all-caps. Often fans will relay their conversations with Taylor back to other members of the online fandom.


    All of this ensures that Taylor's most devoted fans get to know as much about her as she wants them to and, most importantly, she gets to tell them on her own terms.


    A year after releasing "Look What You Made Me Do", Taylor Swift is back on top.

    In short, Taylor Swift is doing better than she ever was.

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