It’s Friday morning. I’m sitting in my only class of the day, listening to my small group discuss our latest reading while scrolling through Twitter on my computer. Why, you may ask? Because if Taylor Swift decides to drop new music as a surprise while I’m in the middle of class, I have to be prepared. She didn’t last week … or the week before … but you never know.
If you visit any of Swift’s social media pages, you’re sure to find thousands of fans dissecting what seem like the most minute of details. But if you’re a longtime fan like me, you know that she has left clues for eagle-eyed fans to find ever since the beginning of her career. Whether it be hidden messages in her lyric books, pointed lyrics that reference whatever public scrutiny she was facing at the time or carefully chosen emojis in a tweet, her use of Easter eggs keep all of us on our toes.
Whenever a new single or album is announced, each of Swift’s cryptic captions, tweets and even interview responses quickly fall into place. When Lover was given a release date, fans discovered that the album title was right under our noses: It pops up in the background of the “ME!” music video (and of course, it’s there in the song’s lyrics, too.) Not only that, but all the way back in March of 2019 Swift captioned an Instagram post about her upcoming 30th birthday, saying that “part of me still feels 18 and part of me feels 283.” Rearrange those last digits and you get 823, or August 23, Lover’s release date. Figuring out these riddles ahead of an upcoming announcement makes the reveals all the more satisfying.
Sometimes, we have no clue what she has in store for us. In the midst of quarantine, Swift was hard at work writing countless secretive songs that would eventually become her eighth and ninth studio albums, folklore and evermore. I remember one of my coworkers literally screaming when she saw the tweet announcing folklore on a random Thursday morning in July. I had only just begun to consider myself a “Swiftie,” and this release hyper-fixated me on Swift’s entire discography (to this day I still rarely listen to anything else). When evermore was announced in the same manner less than six months later, I understood why screaming was an appropriate reaction. I couldn’t believe that she had done it again, and so quickly after the first time!
Despite these albums’ different overall sound from the country/pop vibes that people associate with Swift’s music, they did extremely well on the charts, shattering streaming records. folklore even nabbed Album of the Year at the Grammys, though we have yet to see if evermore will follow in its sister’s footsteps. But the biggest difference between these albums and the rest of Swift’s discography lies in the lack of promotion and Easter eggs in the months and weeks before release. The only hint we got was a cryptic caption that read, “Not a lot going on at the moment,” which fans thought was referencing a single from Red. Turns out, she uploaded this post on the same day she wrote “cardigan,” the lead single of folklore. She did this again before evermore was announced, and nobody caught on. Months later, she dropped “Mr. Perfectly Fine (From the Vault)” out of nowhere because she wanted to drive us nuts. Even though we’re now entering the era of re-recordings, Swift proved she still has a few tricks up her sleeve.
While part of the fun of being a Swiftie is trying to decode all of the hints, Swift has taken our love for trying to figure out her next move too far. Now that she has proven that she can successfully drop anything at a moment’s notice, we are living in a constant state of stress, and even worse she’s now chaotically egging us on. Let the games begin.
On the one hand, when she purposely gives us something to decode, like the puzzles to reveal the track titles “from the vault,” it’s fun to figure it out ourselves and be a part of the announcement. Still, a majority of the time we ravenously tear apart every social media post looking for clues that often aren’t there at all. We all believed that “22 (Taylor’s Version)” would drop on Friday, October 22. Not only is the date itself clearly significant, but her new music is typically released on Fridays. On top of that, fans pointed out that the original Red album was released on October 22, 2012 — making it the perfect day to release a single (and totally something that Swift would pay attention to). Swift added fuel to the fire in a casually cruel way, according to extremely observant fans who found her being suspiciously active on TikTok. How many videos did she like? 22. I don’t know about you, but this seems like pretty convincing evidence.
Of course, we all got clowned. But don’t blame us. At this point in the Fearless (Taylor’s Version) countdown, we had the “Love Story” re-recording as the first single, as well as two of the previously unreleased vault tracks. For the Red (Taylor’s Version) era, so far we have snippets of a few tracks but no single … and the album comes out in a matter of days.
This isn’t the first time that we jumped to conclusions, either. Fresh off the success of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), we fans started anticipating the next re-recording. Since summer was fast approaching, we all hoped 1989 (Taylor’s Version) would come next, and the summer merch collection on the official website seemed to confirm our hopes since the color scheme matched the original album cover. But at the same time, several of Swift’s recent tweets pointed to Red (Taylor’s Version) instead: slipping in lyrics from “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (one of the album’s lead singles), or using four red emojis in a row (Red is also Swift’s fourth studio album). Even after Swift announced that Red (Taylor’s Version) would be the next re-recording, she randomly dropped “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)” — a 1989 single — because the original song was trending on TikTok. While this shows the effects fans have on what gets released, it only added to the confusion of what era we’re actually in (and the glitch in Swift’s take on the trend doesn’t help.)
Swift doesn’t appear to want to stop messing with us any time soon. In her latest TikTok, there’s a short clip of her writing lyrics — some that we’ve never seen before. We then concluded that they must be from one of the vault tracks, but fans also pointed out that Swift wears pink nail polish in this particular clip, and her nails are red in the rest of the video. Not only that, but she’s wearing a snake ring on her finger, and snakes were an important symbol in the reputation era. With all the references and contradictions and general chaos in these last few days leading up to Red (Taylor’s Version), there’s no way of knowing what everything means or what will end up being significant until Nov. 12.
It’s the following Friday, and I’m about halfway through my class. Twitter is open on my computer screen again. The chances of a single dropping are slimming the longer I sit here, but I still have hope. If not, at least I don’t have to wait much longer for new music.
Daily Arts Writer Hannah Carapellotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.