THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated sixth album is finally on its way and we have NO CHILL. After months of silence on social media, followed by a week of cryptic clues, we now have an album title - Reputation - a cover and release date, November 10. The first single, meanwhile, is only a mere few hours away, dropping on Thursday (presumably in the US, so tomorrow for Hong Kong).
So what can we expect from Reputation? Swift has said herself in the past she always has a very clear idea about the sonic, visual and lyrical themes of each album - from fairytales to heartbreak to finding herself. She has also said she always tries to surprise her fans and give them something new, and it certainly seems we will be entering unchartered territory come November 10. Since that's still more than two months away, we'll have to be satisfied with speculation for now. From a through-and-through diehard Swiftie, here are motifs, rumours, people and events that may crop up on Tay’s new album.
After wiping out everything across every online and social media platform, Taylor posted three video clips this week of a sinister-looking snake. Taylor Swift and snakes have a long history. Her social media streams were flooded with the snake emoji last summer after her beef with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian (more on that later), and she was subsequently branded a snake by many anti-Swifties. Looks like Tay Tay is claiming the symbol for herself.
It’s certainly something her fans tried to do. On National Snake Day this year, Swift’s online accounts were once again taken over by the snake emoji, only this time it was by Swifties using it as a sign of solidarity. Swift is very good at controlling the narrative surrounding her, and while it slipped from her grasp for a moment back there, this could be a sign she’s taking hold of the reins once more.
Kim and Kanye
Swift’s feud with Kanye West goes back a long way. It started with West’s infamous “yo imma let you finish” VMA stage crash in 2009, followed by a seemingly friendly period including 2015’s reconciliation, and then there was the major fallout last year over West’s song Famous. In case you didn't follow the controversy, the song references Swift in a way that would anger anyone, but West claimed she had approved the lyrics. Taylor protested otherwise, and then Kim Kardashian West released footage that she said proved Swift had lied. The whole thing ended with Swift asking to be excluded from the narrative - but will Reputation see her returning to the narrative?
Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris were everyone’s favourite couple from 2015 to 2016, and although their break-up was sad, at least they seemed to end things on good terms, right? Right? Alas, not for long.
Swift began dating Tom Hiddleston, as well as casually letting it slip that she had, in fact, co-written Calvin and Rihanna’s summer anthem, This Is What You Came For. This prompted Harris to go on a (pretty juvenile and unnecessary) Twitter rant in which he accused her of trying to “bury” him. Swift stayed silent. But does she finally have some choice (and super-catchy) words for Harris?
Swift’s feud with Katy Perry is as well-documented as the one with Kanye, and has also seen shots seemingly fired from both sides. It’s widely rumoured that Swift’s song Bad Blood is about Perry, while Perry’s song Swish Swish is allegedly an ode (kinda) to Swift. While the Roar singer has said she wants to bury the hatchet, there’s been no word from Swift on the matter. Perhaps she’s ready to move on and forget the whole thing too? Reconciliation doesn’t seem a likely theme for Reputation, but you never know…
In recent months, speculation began building about what TS6 will look like, and the most popular fan theory was that it would have something to do with time. Swifties pointed out recent examples of Swift alluding to time or using the word “time” in her social media posts, such as when she posted a screenshot of Haim’s new single Want You Back on Instagram with the caption “On. Repeat. Til. The. End. Of. Time!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Note the 13 exclamation marks.) While this may not seem like much, when you take into account how well-known Swift is for hiding secret messages everywhere from her lyrics and album artwork to her social media posts, her fans may well be onto something.
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For a long time, Swift’s feminist stance has been described by some as “problematic”. She identifies as a feminist, and in many ways the 1989 era was symbolic of female empowerment. Yet many people have argued that when she could have used her unique position of power to speak up about feminist issues, she stayed quiet instead. She didn't weigh in on the 2016 US presidential elections, and did not attend the women’s march earlier this year. (Although, being Taylor Swift must make it hard to go anywhere.) Opinions also differ over her famous (and somewhat exclusive) squad. Then there was the short-lived dispute with Nicki Minaj over the 2015 MTV Video of the Year nominations, in which Swift mistook Minaj’s criticism - that the music industry's being racist was evident in the nominations - as being aimed at her. People were quick to point out Taylor’s particular brand of feminism excludes women of colour and trans women. And if it isn’t intersectional feminism, is it really feminism at all?
Then came this month’s sexual assault trial in which Taylor testified and won her court case against DJ David Mueller, and suddenly there was no longer any doubt in anyone’s mind.Swift couldn’t have sent a clearer message: she was speaking up for all women who have been victims of sexual harassment. The trial also provided endlessly quotable comebacks during her cross-examination, in which Swift shot down any and every attempt at victim-blaming. We certainly hope to see more of this brave, bold and unapologetic Taylor Swift on her new record.
Drake and Kesha
With a new album comes the potential for collaborations, and the two artists’ names which have cropped up most often are Drake and Kesha. Last year, Swift seemed to be spending some time with Drake and both appeared in promotional videos for Apple Music featuring the other’s song. Naturally, people began to wonder whether this meant they were working on music together. Guess we’ll find out soon.
Meanwhile, Swift donated US$250,000 to Kesha in February 2016 amidst the latter’s court battle with her record label and producer, Dr. Luke, whom she says abused her. This month, Kesha showed a similar sign of solidarity by tweeting her support for Tay Tay during her trial against Mueller. With both releasing new music around the same time, could a Taylor-Kesha collab be on the table?
November 10, we’re ready!