It's hard to be a Taylor Swift fan these days. For all the love supporters have gained for the superstar over the last 10 years, the events of summer 2016 have caused a sizable dent in our admiration. There was that questionable, media-crazed relationship with Tom Hiddleston; that incriminating phone conversation with Kanye West, leaked by Kim K. on Snapchat; and that defensive, unapologetic note released afterwards that was meant to be Swift's saving grace, but only launched a thousand "I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative" memes. The star's once seemingly impenetrable image has suffered a massive blow, and Swift, understandably, has stayed largely out of the spotlight, rather than risk the chance of causing even more harm to her career. Yet there's one way she can salvage her image, and, subsequently, her career: by releasing an album right now, and letting her music speak for itself.
For all the criticism her personality and actions have gotten over the course of her decade-long career, Swift's music has earned substantial praise. Yes, she's gotten called out for her boy-focused lyrics and name-calling tendencies, but her actual skills — singing, performing, and songwriting — have been lauded time and time again. Each one of her five albums has won rave reviews and sold millions of copies; together, they've earned her a total of 10 Grammys and nods from esteemed groups like the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Academy of Country Music. Swift's memorable lyrics and ear-catching hooks are the cornerstones of her success, the tools that have allowed her to become an esteemed artist, not just a celebrity.
And regardless of what's happened in her personal life, Swift's music has always been her savior. When the world was reveling in her dating life and labeling her as boy-crazy, Swift fought back — not by radically changing her lifestyle or denying the claims, but by releasing music good enough to overpower the gossip. It didn't matter that, when analyzed, tunes like like "Dear John" and "Better to Revenge" added fuel to the "Taylor's obsessed with love" fire, because they were genuinely great songs, with smart lyrics and unforgettable melodies. Swift's skills as an artist outweighed her actions as a tabloid figure, and let her rise above any gossip that came her way.
Yet this summer, Swift didn't have any new music to distract from the chatter over her high-profile romance and Kardashian feud. The gossip and controversies became the biggest focus, with Swift's artistry pushed to the background. Instead of getting to control her own image by reminding the public of the scope of her talent, she was forced to stand idly by while her image was torn apart. She was no victim in this matter, of course; there's little to say in her defense when it comes to that Kanye conversation or the lack of self-awareness in her note. But the lack of a new album to be used as a distraction meant that when it came to defending her image, Swift had nothing in her arsenal.
Now, though, she has the power to change that. There have been rumors for months that Swift is planning to drop an album in October, due to the fact that the month marks 10 years since the release of her debut album, Taylor Swift, and that she has released an album every two years throughout her career. Add to those facts the matter of Swift giving a rare concert earlier this month and several hints from people close to the star that new music is on its way, and it seems more likely than not that Swift has her sixth album done and ready, and is simply waiting for the right date to release it to the world.
And the smartest thing she could do is to not wait any longer. Coming off of a series of months that saw her public image crumble, Swift needs to remind the public of all she is capable of as a musician — both to distract them from the gossip, and to take back control of her story. If she sticks to her normal routine of delivering honest, analysis-ready, undeniably catchy lyrics, Swift can regain the public's trust and respect by telling her story on her own terms, answering her critics' questions in a form over which she has total power. To save her public image and reclaim the respect she lost from so many, Swift needs to be a musician first, and celebrity after.
The summer of Hiddleswift and Kardashian controversies is over; for the most part, the public has put Swift in the back of their minds. There is a chance for her to take back control, by using her a new album as a way to re-enter the narrative she so publicly left. And there's no time like the present to do just that.