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What did the Taylor Swift Reputation era mean?

It’s been quite the October for Taylor Swift, but then again, she’s no stranger to headlines and awards. It’s got CelebMix thinking about Reputation and, going forward, T Swift 7… 

Last week, Taylor Swift voiced her own political standing for the first time in her career. The pop star took to Instagram to support local Democratic candidates and to encourage her fans to go out and vote.

“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions. I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG”, she stated. Swift then turned to her fan-base and, if you’ve attended one of the singer’s knockout Reputation stadium shows, you will know that many of her most dedicated Swifties are just hitting voting age. She went on to say, “So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count.”

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I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! ???

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And although many may see her as a simpleton pop star, the effects of the one Instagram post were huge. CNBC reported a “spike in voter registration” after the star’s statement and Swift even provoked a reaction from the President himself, who got the claws out to say he liked her music “about 25% less”. As usual, the press across the planet were straight for T-Swift’s throat with their headlines, such as The Guardian’s “She just ended her career”.

For a lot of Taylor Swift fans, whether they reacted to the call to vote or not, it’s easily ignored. However, as she stood with her arms full of awards at the American Music Awards last week, there is a lot that comes to mind.

The phenomenon of the press looking for Swift’s downfall is not one that has emerged this month, it has been the case for years. Her image was being manipulated out of her own control, as a break-up crazy, feud-seeking drama queen producing generic pop tunes. It was unwarranted, and before Reputation, was spiralling out of control.

To a great extent, Reputation has become a body-armour against it all for Swift. She has brilliantly turned all of the negativity surrounding her name into the selling-point of her brand. The album artwork of newspaper clippings, the 20-foot tall blow up snakes at her live show and tongue-in-cheek lyrics throughout the record are served with a cynical wink.

The construction of endorsement-gate by Swift and her publicity team was executed to a tee. A post to call upon fans, a rash comic statement from the President and bad headlines were followed by her opening the American Music Awards with the superbly melodramatic line, “if a man talks s**t then I owe him nothing” of ‘I Did Something Bad’ before sweeping home the awards with a smile. Swift looked the bigger person, unfazed as others were desperately trying to pull her down… a metaphor somewhat similar to the closing moments of the ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ music video.

Amongst it all, Taylor Swift’s words of acceptance stuck out the most. “This is actually the first time I ever wrote an album based on the title first… So the whole time I was writing an album based on all the facets of a reputation and how it affects you, what it actually means to you”. It’s true. Reputation was really an album that Swift HAD to make. She now has the armour that makes her untouchable. If you try to bring her down, you funnel money into her brand.

Musically, it has to be said that Reputation has not been the roaring success of the likes of 1989 and Red – it just hasn’t. By no means has it been a flop either. Certified platinum, Number 1 across the world and a record-breaking worldwide stadium tour aren’t bad going. But it was the first time that Swift was writing, perhaps, as a defence. “I always look at albums as chapters in my life, and to the fans, I am so happy that you like this one… But I have to be really honest with you about something: I’m even more excited about the next chapter.”

She has good reason to be. With all the work she has done, Reputation has set Swift up to be able to make whatever she wants for album number seven. After years of having to bat away others coming for her pop crown, the last album cycle will always be there do that for her.

What the next one will sound like is anyone’s guess… We heard her country-pop with an electric twinge last time out but with the likes of Sugarland, Maren Morris, Tim McGraw, Bryan Adams, and Robbie Williams all joining her on stage recently, we are reminded that the 28-year-old has the potential to take it anywhere sonically. She doesn’t have to write petty break-up ditties too. Reputation talks of the press and looks inwards whilst last week’s political breakthrough opens up yet another avenue.

Reputation is a fierce weapon in the Taylor Swift arsenal but one frightening thing is clear, the best is very much about to come.

Written by Toby Bryant

Student journalist: music, sport, culture and just about anything in-between… Have worked for The Courier, NME, Daily Mirror, FourFourTwo & British Rowing, amongst others.
@toby_bryant_ on Twitter