I need a strong cocktail after the week I’ve had following Taylor Swift’s pre-album clue trail like a dumb kid wearing Toys ‘R Us store-bought “spy gear.” On Thursday night, the enigmatic pop star released the first single and music video off TS7 called “ME!” featuring Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie. Swift laid extensive groundwork for the single, dropping hints all over social media since January. There’s a lot to uncover here, so let’s start with the Easter eggs and then we’ll dig even deeper.
With less than an hour before midnight, Swift said in a YouTube Q&A that the “ME!” video would have Easter eggs — she always does this. In her “Ready for It” video, fans noticed there was literal writing on the wall that read “They’re burning all the witches,” a suspicious portend that ended up being a lyric from her Reputation album. In this new music video, there are a few leads.
First, one of the paintings on the wall coyly depicts the Dixie Chicks, which most likely definitely means that TS7 will feature a Dixie Chicks collab. Taylor even doubles down on the hint, singing “There’s a lot of cool chicks out there” as the camera pans across the painting. Swift has collaborated (mildly) with the Dixie Chicks in the past, when she invited Natalie Maines to sing “Goodbye Earl” with her onstage during the 1989 Tour. So this shouldn’t come as much of a shock — but it’s exciting nonetheless.
In another scene, when Taylor drapes her Rapunzel-esque tutu over a unicorn-gargoyle, we can see a lurid neon sign that reads “Lover” in the background. I assume that means there will be a song on TS7 called “Lover” — the Dixie Chicks collab, perhaps?
This one’s a bit wonky, but worth mentioning. Toward the end of the video, we get a glimpse of this Whoville-like dream city that she pranced through in “screaming color,” and we can see that it’s not one single, real place, but rather an amalgamation of two. In the background, Capitol Hill is juxtaposed against Big Ben and the Parliament building, a.k.a. where the friggin’ laws are made in the United States and England. This might be a cute little nod to her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, who is British — and maybe a clue that they’ll soon be merging their lives. Is an engagement announcement in the near future? (I want Taylor to be happy and Joe seems great, but I’m sorry, literally how do you see The Favourite and come out of that movie thinking “Joe Alwyn” and not “bludgeon me, Rachel Weisz.”)
One fan on Twitter pointed out that the entire music video takes place in some sort of encasing, a chrysalis — and with all the butterfly paraphernalia, it’s hard not to notice the moment at the end when a rainbow literally shatters the encasing. So, all this drowning in rainbow goo and color might actually be symbolic in itself. It might be kinda gay. I’ll explain.
On Thursday afternoon, Swift took to Instagram to share a photo of a giant butterfly mural that she had commissioned, and promised it was loaded with clues. I unpacked that cipher as well, and found a deluge of hidden meanings, all of which seemingly pointed to Swift flirting with queerness. The combination of a metamorphoses and rainbow theme seems to do the same, and having a rainbow penetrate a glass ceiling does seem like a hint toward a new chapter — a freer, more open one.
Elsewhere, Brendon Urie offers Taylor Swift a kitten in the video, which she lovingly accepts. In the pre-video Q&A on YouTube, Swift wrote, “there’s a secret in the video I’ve been keeping in for months — let’s see who can guess it.” There were three cats in the butterfly mural — so move over Meredith and Olivia. There’s a new cat in town, whose name I’m hoping is Dana Scully. (Swift has since posted another look at her new addition to the family — the kitten, not Joe. Hmmm.)
And finally, Swift depicted a rose-colored snake (a nod to her Reputation persona) hissing and exploding into a swarm of rainbow butterflies — the ultimate, heavy-handed message that THIS *clap* IS *clap* A *clap* METAMORPHOSIS.
There’s a lyric in “ME!” that’s quite stressful to me. It goes, “One of these things is not like the other / Like a rainbow with all of the colors / Babydoll, when it comes to a lover / I promise that you’ll never find another like me.” She’s saying she’s “like a rainbow with all of the colors” — what does that mean? Are colors genders?? I’m sorry, I refuse to drop the theory that this song and video is queer. Taylor Swift released an entire music video that was literally oozing rainbow, and came clad with gangs of women dressed in pantsuits with ties and briefcases. Did I dream that? Manifest it?
There’s another line where Swift sings “Trouble’s gonna follow where I go,” which seems like a nod to her 2012 hit “I Knew You Were Trouble.” However, that song was rumored to be about Harry Styles; that specific reference doesn’t make sense for this era of new beginnings, so that may be a dead end. But there seems to be another reference to her old discography, of which she’s leaving behind: a “fight out in the rain” — she has so many songs about rain! And then there’s “I know that I went psycho on the phone,” a clear callback to “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.” And we can’t overlook Taylor planting an Easter egg that foreshadowed “ME!” when no one could possibly notice, because we were still deep in the Reputation era: On “Endgame” she sang, “My reputation precedes me.” Oy.
These aren’t necessarily Easter eggs, but it’s worth noting how many clues Swift dropped on social media over the past few months that actually appeared in the music video. But mostly, I just want to gloat about my prophesy that everything she was posting on Instagram was actually a series of screengrabs from a music video.
Instagram photos that appeared in the video: rainbow cobblestones, rainbow butterflies, Olivia and Meredith on a couch, the paintings on the wall of “cool chicks,” the pink tutu fabric, the pastel yellow suit, and the other pastel suits and briefcases.