Taylor Swift has dropped her Netflix special on New Year’s Eve, as if it were a ball. Get it? She’s sure we do — there are plenty of reasons why she’d have faith that this holiday eve is the appropriate time to unveil “Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour” as a streaming event, and why fans would devote the year’s waning moments to reliving the biggest tour in U.S. history. She’s laid down a choice: Swift, Netflix ‘n’ chill, versus Seacrest, Times Square and watching people catch their death of cold.
Here are 10 reasons Taylor makes for a fine New Year’s Eve companion:
One of the songs is, of course, “New Year’s Day.” One of the highlights of the show, filmed on the American tour’s final night in Dallas Oct. 6, is Swift alone at her piano singing the closing song from the “Reputation” album, preceded by a snippet of the similarly valedictory “Long Live.” It’s like a very intimate “Auld Lang Syne,” in which Swift tells her beloved that she’ll enjoy cleaning up the mess with him the morning after as much as she did partying with him the night before. It’s a metaphor, of course, for dedicating yourself to the grunt work of a relationship as well as the preliminary sizzle. But no need to get deep about it — on New Year’s Eve, we’re all about the literalness.
The opening “…Ready for It?” is an Anything Eve anthem. There’s a heavy sense of portent to the violently rhythmic song that opened her tour just as it opened the “Reputation” album. Good portent. And after a 2018 that some of us may hope will be slapped across the ass by a swinging door on its way out, aren’t we ready for non-ominous omens? “I see how this is gon’ go,” she sings, and we can see it, too, for ourselves and others in 2019: Newer and hotter relationships. Improved job prospects, or a raise. Personal peace and prosperity. The stock market could always completely recover. “Captain Marvel” may not suck. The Mueller report should finally arrive. Baby, let the games begin!
Swift makes us feel okay about being party-avoidant cat people. Some of us are not out on New Year’s Eve because we’d rather stay in with our feline friends — and, let’s face it, some of us have had that choice made for us. Anyway, when Swift uses the “stumble home to my cats” line in the third song, “Gorgeous,” to flash multiple images of Meredith and Olivia across the screen, she’s throwing out a sign to fellow members of the tribe: It’s all right if it’s cat vomit you’ll be cleaning up in the morning, not confetti.
There will be confetti, though. A lot of it is dropped on-screen at about the 55-minute mark, when Swift, Camila Cabello and Charli XCX are finishing performing “Shake It Off.” To the natural eye and ear, this seems like it should be the climax of the show, even though it’s a little shy of the halfway point. If you really want to time it well, you can start watching the special at about 11:05, experience the all-star tickertape moment at midnight, and consider the rest of the special the after-party.
Swift is implicitly encouraging you to join a gym. There is no New Year’s Week custom quite like the ritual of signing up for that gym membership you will spend at least two years paying for while visiting thrice. Swift would never be one to pressure us, and she’s of that never-let-‘em-see-you-sweat generation, where no matter how athletic the show gets, we somehow never see actual perspiration. But during the end credits, there is behind-the-scenes footage that lasts several minutes. And, as relaxed as she seems while she’s learning the choreography, it is a reminder of the determined hard work and, yes, fitness that goes into a two-hour-plus show like this. Yet the last shot is of her happily skipping into the distance, as if all that prep is no work at all. The least we could go is gallop off to Gold’s, for a couple token weeks.
Stars: they’re just like us — runny noses included. The weirdest moment in “Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour” is the one where, during a break between songs, a dancer brings Swift something to blow her nose with, which she makes a point of acknowledging rather than hiding. For a show that is this regimented and choreographed and production-designed and acted within an inch of its life, it’s an odd thing not only to publicly transpire in front of 60,000 people but to not edit out of a special. Yet Swift probably had the instinct then, as now, to know that the one thing fans would talk about when they got home more than “Taylor did ‘All Too Well’!” was “Taylor expunged!” May we all draw some confidence for 2019 about how endearing our own messy moments are… and not test it too much.
“All Too Well” as cautionary tale and tattoo endorsement. If you consider yourself a member of the Taylor tribe, an inordinate love for “All Too Well” (from 2012’s “Red”) is a secret handshake you share with other cultists. It’s not the saddest song she ever wrote, but it has a reputation as that, maybe because the level of detail in the lyrics makes fans feel they understand the real circumstances of the breakup described and can relate to its aftermath themselves. On several occasions on the tour, she busted out the ballad for the nightly acoustic wild card slot, this closing show in Dallas being one of them. Its announcement provokes a sort of Beatles-on-Sullivan hysteria, with grown men overcome with the vapors at the very thought of its performance. It’s a highlight, but the song has been known to inspire some bad judgment calls: Swift notes that fans have showed her the lyrics tattooed on their skin. She seems to be registering approval of this, but trust us, girls: The “All Too Well” lyric tattoo is one you’re definitely going to regret when you’re 60. Don’t drink and listen to “All Too Well,” kids.
What happened in 2018 stays in 2018. Or at least doesn’t require a lot of needless guilt, Swift would suggest. The singer used to be accused of playing the victim in her music, but any sense of that was long gone with “Reputation,” although it’s unlikely her critics would ever pick up on that. She played the bad girl for satirical laughs in “Blank Space,” but a couple of the newer songs included in this performance take a more intriguingly ambiguous look at her own morality in some past relationships. In “I Did Something Bad,” the exhilaratingly slam-bang second number, she takes open delight in having screwed over a narcissist with shallow intentions. There’s more heightened emotion or insight near the end of the show in “Getaway Car,” the best song from “Reputation,” in which she points out that relationships that begin shadily are bound to end that way, too. There are admissions but no apologies in these songs, in which she and her exes are seen as more or less equally complicit in regrettable behavior. If your own recent romances left you with a feeling of “Yeah, so thathappened — what about it?,” these could be your 2018 exit anthems.
Goodbye to all that, haters. Swift is a pretty dedicated sentimentalist, so you might have expected the “Reputation” tour to end with the tenderly celebrative hope of “Long Live” or “New Year’s Day.” (Although even that latter song has a bit of wariness embedded: “Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere,” she repeats, with one eye on the trap door even in the happiest moment.)But I loved how she chose to finish the shows instead with a snippet of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” that leads into a semi-epic version of “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” one of the lesser-known but key songs from “Reputation” — the one where she gives a big, figurative middle finger to everyone who ever crossed her, a couple of specific celebrities definitely included. I one sense, it’s kind of a juvenile, almost punk way to close a show, getting that petty about your enemies and frenemies… which, as a fan of musical pettiness, I appreciated. But there’s also a maturity to “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” too, in that she calls out the true friends and family who outlast the fickle. In that way, as the people who matter get their shout-outs, maybe “Nice Things” really is the “Auld Lang Syne” of her show after all.
Like all good parties — New Year’s or otherwise — this one gets looser toward the end. Early on in the tour captured here, there is a lot of severe, almost militaristic costuming and posing… a kind of bombast I think was more effective from a distance in a stadium than it always is in close-up. But eventually the special becomes as warm as I remember the show being in my multiple visits. And that’s not because of the winning solo acoustic moments, although those obviously play a big part. The last stretch is as choreographed as the first, but the costuming and expressions get more friendly, and by the time she sings “Call It What You Want,” one of the subtler, more wizened and sexy songs off the last album, the camerawork puts you onstage in a way that really does make you feel like you’re in the pleasantly buzzed, chill-out portion of a party. These final numbers are a good example of why you want to hang out with her even after the buzzers and poppers and noisemakers have all gone off.