“We all like the feeling of finding something real,” Taylor Swift tells the crowd of 60,000 people, talking to them like a friend in a confessional tone that feels both personal and packaged — a contradiction that she emulates (and now, embraces) as an artist. Taylor confides the struggles of her reputation, a drawn-out media spectacle that we’ve all watched unravel as she participated and then recoiled — mostly spending the rest of this era working quietly, on her own terms.
Taylor confides the struggles of her reputation, a drawn-out media spectacle that we’ve all watched unravel as she participated and then recoiled — mostly spending the rest of this era working quietly, on her own terms.
Taylor is referring to the difficult road she’s navigated that led to this all-stadium tour, an impressive feat that made the Reputation Tour the highest grossing tour in the US alone. That, in itself, is a plot twist — the “Reputation” album wasn’t exactly met with rave reviews. Her first single, Look What You Made Me Do, seemed like a misstep, making long-term fans (myself, included) worried, and inevitably launching countless think pieces.
Through it all, including the infamous beef with Kanye, she surprised us with a record full of love songs, all tender and delicate (I couldn’t resist) that led to a rebirth full of snakes, turning her signature red lipstick into a darker shade of retribution. It’s something that we get to witness up close in the Reputation Stadium Tour Netflix Film, released in time for New Year’s.
The show opens with the vibrant Ready For It, all dark and ominous, with Taylor telling the audience that she did not come to play. She seamlessly transitions into I Did Something Bad, still in the character of the antihero. It was entertaining to see her so lively and self-possessed, maintaining that tenacity all throughout the show, with the production complementing her every move.
The stage is a giant on its own. The large-scale LED screens that move and transform makes it an engineering wonder. You have the elements of an epic pop show — pyro explosions, dazzling visuals, an army of backup dancers, a large inflatable snake, and numerous costume changes. (Lots of sparkling bodysuits.) It was a visual treat, and her most polished production yet.
We were delighted with the mashups of the classics — Bad Blood seemed tolerable mixed with the oldie-but-goodie Should’ve Said No. However, it was often during stripped and unguarded moments that Taylor shined. After all, her strength lies in her storytelling, and as much as it is fun to see her experiment and dance (painful at times), it was a relief to recognize the familiar just-her-and-the-guitar/piano-setup. A standout might possibly be the acoustic rendition of All Too Well, arguably Taylor’s best song to date. This intuition to perform the song acoustically, with a foreword that assures the fans that she really is listening, proves why she’s still one of the world’s biggest pop stars. She knows, and she will deliver.
And give credit where credit is due — Taylor does not forget to thank her legion of fans, and all the people she’s on tour with. She gives praises before a ballad version of Long Live, switching to a sweet transition of New Year’s Day, recreating the same warmth about her that people fell in love with.
The Reputation Stadium Tour was not life altering, but it was fun. It was a pleasure to see Taylor rise above the drama, and achieve success on the low, just by living her best life doing what she loves most. Taylor is a queen of reinvention, and she makes sure that she stands by everything that she comes up with — snakes, glitter, eye-rolls, and all.
You can watch the Reputation Stadium Tour on Netflix.