How Taylor Swift Redefined Herself in 2018 -- and What's Next!

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“When she fell, she fell apart. When she finally rose, she rose slowly,” Swift says in the just-released trailer for her new Netflix concert film, premiering Dec. 31st. "Without your past, you could never have arrived. Here.” 

"Here" being Taylor, at the top of her game. "Here" being the record-holder for highest-grossing tour in U.S. history. "Here" being the record-holder for most AMA wins for any female. "Here" being the artist who fights for other artists in her own new record deal. "Here" having the best-selling album of 2018.   

These are just some of Taylor's achievements in 2018 though.  

It's Taylor's 29th birthday today, and nearly the end of the year. So, we wanted to reflect on Taylor's "Rep Era" and celebrate with her.  2018 was the year she shed her former image, redefined herself and took control of her own narrative. 

1. Taylor Takes on Politics 

In October, Taylor broke her silence on politics for the first time, endorsing two Democrats from her home state of Tennessee. Her initial Instagram sparked much debate from her fans and critics. But Taylor didn't care. 2018 was the year she pushed her reluctance aside and used her platform to educate her fans about the importance of voting and speaking up.  It worked.  In the 24 hours following her post, 65,000 citizens registered to vote.  And Taylor didn't stop there. Nope. Taylor never does anything halfway. She created her own voting movement on social media, vowing to post photos of her fans with their "I Voted" stickers on in her own Story if they tagged her.  

2.  Taylor's Tour

If you didn't get a chance to see the Reputation Tour, you missed out.  It was an epic experience from the moment she hit the stage for "...Ready For It" to the very end, an explosive firework show set to "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things."  And since the old Taylor is "dead," no encore. The stadium stage was built for a superstar, it was crafted to be LOUD yet intimate at the same time, just like Reputation.  She commanded the stage in a way only Taylor can, but managed to find ways to showcase her vulnerability with intimate moments and self-aware speeches that gave fans glimpses into her genuine emotions. 

And it paid off. Despite all the critics and naysayers who were quick to dismiss Taylor's ticketing plans ahead of the tour, the Reputation Tour became the highest-grossing tour in U.S. history, grossing over $265 million in just 38 dates.  

It also should be said that Taylor made time BEFORE and AFTER playing to sold-out stadiums to connect with fans. How?! Doesn't she need personal time to prepare and get into a performing head space?! Doesn't she want family time after?! Or a moment to just scarf and snack?! Nope. She wanted to be with her fans. 

3. Taylor Switches Labels 

After releasing six successful albums on Big Machine Records, 2018 marked the year she moved on. This month, Taylor announced she had signed with Republic and Universal Music Group. But Taylor proved her business-savvy by adding major stipulations to her deal, making her contract one of the best and most brilliant ever.  First, she will have ownership of her own masters going forward.  Second, she leveraged herself to help and champion her fellow labelmates. "I asked that any sale of their Spotify shares result in a distribution of money to their artist, non-recoupable,” she wrote on Instagram when she announced she had a new label. “They have generously agreed to this, at what they believe will be much better terms than paid out previously by other major labels.”

Taylor also teased new music in her announcement, simply writing, "I can't wait to show you what I'm making next." 


4. Taylor's Awards

In October, Taylor became the most-decorated female artist in American Music Awards history with a total of 23 trophies

The 29-year-old also made a bevy of year-end lists, including Forbes' Celebrity 100 list and the Bloomberg 50 list.  

The singer also cemented a GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. If we could complain about one thing, though, it's the lack of recognition in other major categories, especially Album of the Year -- according to Billboard, Reputation is the highest-selling of 2018. Taylor is also a GRAMMY darling, with 10 wins and over 30 nominations. 

When ET asked Recording Academy President Neil Portnow about Taylor on Dec. 7, he explained, "It's not about popularity, it's not about charts, it's not about marketing or streaming numbers, it's not about social media activity, it's really about the music and we sit and our members listen to the music and in any given year, people are going to have opinions about how that turned out. Taylor is nominated and that's really wonderful and she should be and she's had history-making experience with us, but this year there are others that have come up and come along and so every year is gonna be different."

Still, we think the music on Reputation speaks for itself and tells a concise story about growth. 

5. Taylor's Personal Life 

Taylor not only took back her own narrative through her music, but she lived it out. Her actions matched her lyrics, her words. Instead of the constant cycle of what seemed like daily pap shots of her enjoying date night, leaving the gym, hanging at hot spots with friends, she was photographed significantly less. Sure, she's been dating actor Joe Alwyn for nearly two years, but they've rarely been photographed and she's never spoken about him publicly.  

Taylor also only gave two interviews, one that came out last December -- for the January 2018 issue of British Vogue and a July feature with Pattie Boyd for Harper's Bazaar this summer, where SHE did the interviewing.  

She's also kept quiet on social media in many ways, tweeting less than 20 times. Seems crazy she was dubbed "most influential woman" on Twitter, but hey, that's just her power! 

6. Taylor's Return to Country 

Still, in killing the "old Taylor," she managed to return to her country roots -- on her own terms. 

The two biggest examples of this happened in April. She made a surprise return to Nashville's iconic Bluebird Cafe and then released "Babe" with Sugarland, a song she wrote. 

7. What's Next for Taylor 

While it's unclear what Taylor's next chapter will bring, one of the best things about her is her ability to outdo whatever we think she should or could do. Seriously, who predicted the SNAKES? 

She's teased new music is coming, but we don't know when. The fact that she's been dropping breadcrumbs (in her label announcement and at the AMAs) makes us hopeful it's coming sooner rather than later.  

What will be interesting to see, though, is how she evolves and changes as a songwriter as she begins to settle down. How will her perspective change? 2018 and this "era" of music have been largely about Taylor figuring herself out and coming into her own in a way we hadn't seen before, so we're excited to see how she reinvents herself next. All we know is, we're ready for it.  


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