Forgive me for the late post — I don’t work on holidays and also, I’m still recovering from our reputation U.S. tour wrap party. I consumed way too much WD-40 with the glowing orb under the bleachers the AT&T stadium. (Can you believe we name our stadiums after cellular providers? Capitalism, man.)
The latter half of reputation tour was largely uneventful, which is a good thing. Taylor has to travel between different cities and then replicate the same set on a different stage — this is an obscure form of pop magic, and we’re lucky if we pull off a seamless show, ever. Listen, take it from a 30-year-old snake: you want your tour to be uneventful. My friend who tours with Paul Simon is always complaining about the hullabaloo that happens there. Paul may be much older than Taylor, but he gets wild!
Dallas, the last city on the tour, was a lucky place. There, Taylor performed not only “Babe” with Sugarland — the first time she performed the song with the band that actually recorded it — and “The Middle” with Maren Morris, but she also sang “All Too Well,” the absolute best song in the Swift database.
To recap for those who don’t know, “All Too Well” is Taylor’s song that is believed to be about Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s from her Red album, and it’s catnip to Swift fans. This is going to be the song that Taylor closes with when she performs a medley of her greatest hits on her 60th birthday, you know? It’s soulful, slow, contemplative, and it contains a lyric about “dancing ‘round the kitchen in the refrigerator light.” I have never danced to the light from the fridge, but this song makes me believe that I have. The song is ostensibly about pain — “call me up again just to break me like a promise!” — but it’s been such a treasured favorite that it now has a rosy glow.
“[Playing the song] was like agh, ow and now, I play it and I think of the times I’ve played it in a stadium or an arena or my living room with you guys screaming the words back to me,” she said.
Taylor sung “All Too Well” in Glendale, California back in the beginning of the tour, so this was a fitting end to the U.S. leg of the tour. The best song, a fun city, and a couple of glugs of WD-40. That stuff really loosens me up!
I think this tour has been, for Taylor as well as the rest of us, an exercise in loosening up. Speaking as a snake who knows nothing of pop culture and is mostly an observer, this tour started in a place of fear. A lot of the reputation brand was surrounded in fear — we were cautiously protecting Taylor’s reputation just as much as we were denouncing the importance of it. Yes, reputations don’t matter. Taylor says that every night on stage. What does her reputation matter? What does the media matter? I’m just a snake, but I feel like the reputation tour proved the opposite of what the album set out to do: it proved that reputations do matter. And Taylor, like the rest of us, cares deeply about hers. She put on four months of tireless shows, resting only when her glowing orb literally broke on stage. (Even then, she sang a cappella!) She met fans and let two people propose right in front her. She generated many millions in revenue and earned a couple of Billboard Music Awards while she was at it. Rome wasn’t built in a day; reputations aren’t either.
Which is why it feels natural for Taylor to broadcast her political opinions now. This weekend, Taylor shared the longest (and I mean the longest, even for a snake who likes to write) post about her decision to vote for Phil Bredesen for Tennessee senator. She admitted in the post that she’d previously kept her political notions to herself. Which, to be clear, a lot of people have been conditioned to do, famous or not. For a long time, politics, especially for women, weren’t for casual discussion. But political views are like salaries: We were told not to talk about them, which meant that we didn’t know who was getting shortchanged.
“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,” Taylor wrote.
For most of her career, Taylor did what most country-adjacent musicians do, peddling a loosely wholesome vibe that appealed to most Conservatives and Democrats. She straddled a line, crossing over only when it seemed convenient. Most of the time, she fought hard to stay atop that line. (“I would like to excuse myself from this narrative.”) If she strayed, she might lose fans, much like the Dixie Chicks did when they spoke out against the Iraq War. It’s almost as if Taylor was...worried about her reputation.
But here we are. It’s 2018, and a man accused of sexual assault sits on the Supreme Court. The planet is going to be in crisis in 22 years, and, turns out, “End Game” is a secret banger from reputation! (Drinking on the beach with/You all over meeee.) What kind of reputation matters now? What counts as a reputation? I dunno, really, and I think that’s where Taylor’s settled, too. There are more important things at hand.
Like my hangover, which I’m going to go nurse in my tour bus. The US tour may be over, but I have shows in Australia starting next week. There’s no rest for a snake!