However, Taylor herself has said that she intended the album to be a “bait and switch.” Listeners assumed from the titles and tone of the two lead singles that Reputation would be filled with pure anger over the backlash against her. Instead, the album mainly told a story of blossoming romance.
Choosing to bury the songs about Joe was perhaps the first time she’d ever protected her love life instead of exploiting it for content. And the songs themselves gave insight into Taylor’s vulnerability, reminding people that despite all the backlash and snake imagery, she was still only human.
This softer side of Taylor was also seen in Reputation’s accompanying material, which included Target exclusive magazines featuring her poem, “Why She Disappeared,” which exposed Taylor’s more emotional and hurt reaction to her 2016 ordeal in a way that the sassiness of “Look What You Made Me Do” didn’t allow.
Taylor’s expert combination of self-awareness, humor, and vulnerability teamed with her already-established songwriting prowess was a recipe for success, and by the time that her Reputation tour kicked off in May 2018, she was certainly no longer a social pariah in the celebrity world.
Seemingly on a mission to address every misstep of her career so far, 2018 is also when Taylor finally ventured into politics. This was a clear attempt to clean up the outcry around her lack of stance during the 2016 election, where she’d received widespread criticism for failing to use her power and influence to denounce Donald Trump — a stark contrast to other celebrities who were taking action and galvanizing their fanbases.