Outside of NASA and the moon landing, no-one has ever mastered the art of the countdown better than Taylor Swift.
Forget going backwards from 10; a Swift countdown can start much further back (almost two months in the case of her 2017 album Reputation) and whip fans into a frenzy of anticipation – even when they don’t know what it is they’re anticipating.
So it is with her latest tease, which began just after midnight on Saturday, April 13, a moment at which the pop star’s website and social media accounts adopted a pastel palette of pale pinks, yellows and blues and began ticking down the seconds to April 26.
OMG! We can’t wait until she drops … whatever it is.
Swifties, as her most devoted and sleuth-minded fans are known, have been eagerly scouring their idol’s posts on Instagram and Twitter since the dawning of what they are calling TS7 – the Era of the Seventh Taylor Swift Album, since that is what many believe awaits on the fateful date.
There are images of heart-shaped diamond rings, of women in pastel-coloured business suits clutching similarly pastel-coloured handbags, of a patchwork floor (pastel, natch), of a pale blue bicycle, of some ruffled pink fabric, of a swatch of spotted pink, white and pale red that might be fabric or might, as more than one fan has posited, be some sort of medical reference (to torn cartilage, guessed one, and who are we to argue?)
Most baffling of all is the image of framed paintings of chickens wearing sunglasses. Has she traded the squad of gal pals from a couple of years back for a new clutch of cool chicks? What does it all mean?
The fan theories are both fascinating and fanciful. Beyond the obvious observation that the imagery seems to signal a softening of her image in contrast to the “bad girl” vibe of the Reputation album, videos and tour, the more rational theories posit that Swift is about to drop an album, a single, a video, tickets for a new tour, or a range of merchandise including clothes and jewellery (and possibly small farm animals).
Then there are those responses that make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a closed kabbalah forum, or a numerology workshop run by someone who speaks only gibberish.
A couple of examples (the excited capitals and dubious grammar are from the original posts).
“WE ARE GETTING A MUSIC VIDEO AND ITS GOING TO HAVE POWERFUL WOMEN IN SUITS AND CHICKENS WITH SUNGLASSES AND GLITTER AND SEQUINS AND TAYLOR SWIFT AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT MORE WE COULD ASK FOR.”
“7 Chickens = TS7
7 SHADES times 2 = 14 TRACKS
4 PORTRAITS = 4 DELUXE TRACKS
1 CHICKEN WITHOUT PARTNER = Taylor Swift is the ONLY PRODUCER and WRITER for TS7
1 UNSEEN CHICKEN = SURPRISE COLLABORATION”
The hypothesising has even spread to New York magazine’s Vulture, which published “an investigation” asking, “What the hell do all these Taylor Swift clues mean?”
The answer, though, remains elusive.
If nothing else, the Swifties ought to be applauded for their willingness to follow rabbits down holes. As one commentator noted on Twitter: “Taylor Swift fans should work as codebreakers for the federal government. It’s remarkable, truly, to spend five minutes in their world.”
SWIFTIES, what does:
Diamond, Jewelry, Ruffles, Kittens, Plastic, TIME100, Bicycle, Sequins, and Chicken all have IN COMMON?
THEY’RE ALL 7 LETTERS! pic.twitter.com/K4IrK16fRz
— dj swift 🌴 (@taylorsswift26) April 21, 2019
The one thing we can say for certain is that Taylor Swift is a canny operator who uses social media to make her fans feel included and invested in her world. And building anticipation is an important aspect of that.
In 2012, she released a promotional single a week in the month leading up to the release of her album Red. In August 2014 she began dropping hints that a new album was on the way (1989 was eventually released, like four of her six albums to date, in October). Reputation‘s slow tease started a whopping 55 days from release.
Though that 2017 album did only a fraction of the business of 1989, in large part because of the industry-wide shift to streaming, it was still the second-best-selling album of the year. The world tour that accompanied it grossed $US346 million across 53 concerts – an average of almost $US7 million a show – making it the 13th most successful concert tour of all time.
Music site hitsdailydouble.com reported a rumour on Tuesday that programming directors at US radio stations had in fact received a new single from Swift, but had to sign non-disclosure agreements before being allowed to listen to it.
One of the conditions of access, in fact, was that they were not only not allowed to discuss the content of the song, but also “to deny its very existence”. That could be true, or it could be that someone is just pulling another Swiftie on us.
We’ll just have to wait and see. Just the way Taylor intended.
Sydney Morning Herald