Taylor Swift is notorious for hiding secret messages and clues anywhere and everywhere — in her music videos, song lyrics, album booklets, clothing, merchandise, Instagram captions and photos, Tumblr posts, and more. If it involves a visual or written form of expression, Taylor has probably cemented a clue, or 13, or 113. She hinted at her April 26 announcement well before declaring it: Her 26th lesson in her “30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30″ essay was about how much she loves countdowns. Not to mention the fact that 4 26 = 30.
In addition to her obsession with numerology, Taylor is an artist who celebrates her history, often weaving references to her past work into her present. That holds true for her newest single with Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie and its music video for “ME!,” a fantastical pastel dream that has almost as many subtle hints to her life as her infamous Reputation lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do.” Here are all the past homages to Old Taylor we noticed in the theatrical video for “ME!”
Country Music and Its Political Pioneers
Country icons the Dixie Chicks get an early cameo in the music video for “ME!” — they’re in a painting that is surrounded by paintings of actual chicks, which Taylor hinted at days before the song and video release by posting a photo of said “cool chicks” on her Instagram.
There are a couple good reasons for the reference: Taylor famously kept her political views private until a few months ago, when she announced her support for Tennessee Democrats during the midterm elections. The Dixie Chicks also have a complicated history with activism, dating back to when member Natalie Maines spoke out against President George W. Bush in the early 2000s. The group’s music was subsequently banned from many country radio stations, taking a toll on the band’s career.
Taylor has also always been a fan of theirs; she even said in a 2008 interview that when she first went to Nashville to visit record labels to start her music career, she provided demo CDs of herself covering songs from various artists, including the Dixie Chicks.
The Infamous Snake Motif
In the first few seconds of the “ME!” video, a colorful snake appears, harkening back to the days of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West feuds and Reputation-era messaging. But the snake in the beginning of the “ME!” video never actually bites; it turns into a swarm of butterflies before any damage can be done.
It seems to communicate that Taylor knew all this time that Reputation was just a temporary version of herself where she had to present herself as this tough snake, but even now, that snake is pink, not the dark, giant, scaly snake (known as Karyn) that we saw on the Reputation tour. Now Taylor is free to be herself and fly away after her temporary reptilian transformation.
The Rebuilt, Reimagined Castle
Taylor Swift is now back in her castle, and it’s better than it ever was. On Reputation track “Call It What You Want,” she sings, “My castle crumbled overnight.” In “Look What You Made Me Do,” Taylor proclaims, “I don’t like your kingdom keys / They once belonged to me.” But in her newest music video, her castle (and thus her old self) are firmly back in her possession. We see a giant rainbow castle toward the end of the video, in addition to the re-created “LWYMMD” steps and atrium that are now brightly lit and full of color.
An Iconic Phone (or Two)
One especially memorable line from “ME!” goes, “I know that I went psycho on the phone.” In the video, she rushes by a cloud with a pink phone on it. The reference is clearly “LWYMMD”: “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead.” But it also nods to the vintage-style pink phone in the video for “Our Song.” Now she’s moved past the drama of old, dead Taylor and also remembers her history, including the iconic early songs of her career.