In case you forgot about the story that took over the Internet in 2016, Swift publicly condemned West for calling her a “b—-” and taking credit for her fame in his new song, “Famous.” But then Kardashian uploaded a secretly recorded phone call to Snapchat that seemed to show Swift knew about the lyrics in advance and gave her stamp of approval.
Swift strongly disputed that account (the footage didn’t show West using the b-word) and called it “character assassination,” yet it was too late: The Internet branded Swift a snake. Kardashian gleefully fueled the flames. Shortly after, Swift went underground — at least, as much as possible for an A-list star.
Her disappearing act lasted until she released her latest album, “Reputation,” in November. While the album’s name and several songs appeared to address her public image taking a hit, Swift didn’t elaborate, nor did she give any interviews — she hasn’t talked to the press since the Kardashian-West situation. But on Tuesday, she got a bit more personal onstage with the 55,000-plus fans in attendance.
“You might be wondering why there are so many snakes everywhere, huh?” Swift asked, sitting at a piano more than halfway through the show. Sure enough, Swift has embraced the snake imagery for this album cycle, from her “Look What You Made Me Do” music video to merchandise. During the concert, screens showed images of massive snakes; there was a snake microphone; at one point, Swift even flew through the crowd on a snake platform.
“A couple of years ago, someone called me a snake on social media and it caught on,” Swift said, continuing her tradition of not naming names. “Then a lot of people were calling me a lot of things on social media. And I went through some really low times for a while because of it. I went through some times when I didn’t know if I was going to get to do this anymore.”
Swift paused, and then segued into what she does best — connecting her life, even as a celebrity, to her extremely loyal audience. She further explained the snake symbol.
“I wanted to send a message to you guys that if someone uses name calling to bully you on social media, and even if a lot of people jump on board with it, that doesn’t have to defeat you. It can strengthen you instead,” Swift said, as the crowd cheered. “And I think something that came out of it that was good is that I learned a really important lesson that I’ve been telling you from the stage for about 10 years, but I never had to learn it so harshly myself — and that lesson has to do with how much you value your reputation.”
She concluded: “I think that the lesson is that you shouldn’t care so much if you feel misunderstood by a lot of people who don’t know you, as long as you feel understood by the people who do know you; the people who will show up for you, the people who see you as a human being.”
Swift went on to thank her fans for sticking with her, a common theme throughout the concert. She also expressed her gratitude that they were patient when she spent time under the radar: “I decided it was really important to me to figure out who I would be and what my life would be like if I didn’t have a spotlight on me all the time.”
The two-hour concert tackled nearly every song on “Reputation,” along with throwbacks to Swift’s older hits, such as “Love Story,” “You Belong With Me,” “Should’ve Said No” and “All Too Well.” She ended with a mash-up of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” The latter, a track on “Reputation,” is commonly thought to be directed at West, with lyrics including “Friends don’t try to trick you, get you on the phone and mind-twist you.”
And as fans started to stream out of the Arizona stadium, they were left with one final parting thought from Swift on the video screen: “In the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive.”