Taylor Swift Is the Queen of Easter Eggs — See How Her Clue-Dropping Has Evolved Over Time
If you're a fan of Taylor Swift, it's safe to say that your detective skills are probably top notch. While other singers announce or promote music by doing interviews or posting to social media, Swift takes it one step further with an abundance of Easter eggs. It's a tradition that first started with her debut album when she included coded messages in her lyrics, and it has since evolved into something much bigger over time. I can't tell you how many times I've replayed her music videos frame by frame just to catch a hidden reference or clue (the Reputation era was truly something else).
"I love to communicate via Easter eggs," Swift told Entertainment Weekly back in 2019. "I think the best messages are cryptic ones." While Swift's love of Easter eggs has grown throughout her various eras, fans' fascination with them has also evolved over time. Like I said, we've become more much astute about picking up on hidden clues or decoding messages (see: Swift's recent announcement about her vault tracks for her rerecorded Fearless album). "I've trained them to be that way," Swift said about Swifties being part-time detectives. "I love that they like the cryptic hint-dropping. Because as long as they like it, I'll keep doing it. It's fun. It feels mischievous and playful."
In honor of our Easter egg queen, take a walk down memory lane to see how Swift's love for hidden references and clues has evolved over time.
Hidden Messages in Liner Notes
If you've been a Swiftie since the beginning, you're all too familiar with Swift's liner notes. In her CD booklets, Swift would include hidden notes in the lyrics of her songs by capitalizing certain letters to spell out a message. While they would sometimes spell out something simple like "Some day I'll find this" in the lyrics for "Love Story" (Aww!), other times the messages let fans know just who exactly the song was about; "Should've Said No" spelled out the name Sam over and over again. Yikes!
After including liner notes in her first five albums, Swift officially discontinued the tradition in her Reputation album, allowing the album to speak for itself. As Swift stated in the album's prologue letter, she had grown tired of gossip sites picking apart her lyrics for "the men they can attribute to each song, as if the inspiration for music is as simple and basic as a paternity test." As a result, she stated plain and simple: "There will be no further explanation. There will be just reputation."
As Swift released albums like Speak Now and RED, her dating life became more publicized. Swift started using her lyrics as a way to address her romances and breakups in her own way. While fans still turned to liner notes for hidden clues — the message for "Last Kiss" from Speak Now was "Forever and Always," which is another song Swift wrote about Joe Jonas — her lyrics started to include more pointed references.
While some lyrics were subtle — like the reference to Taylor Lautner's "tan skin" and "sweet smile" in "Back to December," or Kanye West's age when he stormed the stage during her MTV VMAs speech in "Innocent" — others were far more obvious. I mean, "Dear John" literally included John Mayer's name in the song title. She even used the instrumentation to get her point across. While "Dear John" mimicked the guitar riffs in Mayer's music, the intro to "Last Kiss" is 27 seconds long, which is the length of Swift's infamous breakup phone call with Jonas.
Music Videos Stacked With References
While Swift refrained from "explaining" her songs during her Reputation era, she certainly let her music videos do the talking. Her "Look What You Made Me Do" music video, which was our first introduction to the new era, was overflowing with hidden Easter eggs which referenced her celebrity feuds, public persona, and much more.
Though this wasn't the first time Swift included Easter eggs in her videos, she really went above and beyond during for Reputation . Not to mention it really strengthened Swifties detective abilities as we spent hours pouring over videos to find hidden clues. These music video Easter eggs further spilled over to her Lover era as she released the "ME!" music video, which expertly teased her album title, followup single, and much more.
Carefully Chosen Words in Interviews
Though Swift refrained from doing interviews during her Reputation era — remember: no explanation, just reputation — she did start opening up more during her Lover era, though her words were still chosen very carefully. Whether fans knew it at the time or not, she was actually dropping little Easter eggs in each interview she did.
In Elle UK's April 2019 issue, Swift shared a playlist of songs that have impacted her life, including the Dixie Chicks and Panic! at the Disco. While the Dixie Chicks were featured in her song "Soon You'll Get Better," Panic! at the Disco singer Brendon Urie was featured on her lead single "ME!" She also mentions Drake's "In My Feelings" in the interview, which she later references in "I Forgot That You Existed." In her cover story for Entertainment Weekly in May 2019, she also sported a jean jacket with several buttons that symbolized various songs on the Lover album.
Keeping Us Guessing With Instagram Posts
The Lover era also saw the introduction of Swift using Instagram as a way to tease exciting news. (Never forget the hole in the fence photo which fans thought was a countdown). When she finished recording the Lover album, she cryptically posted a photo of seven palm trees on Instagram to signify the seventh album. The color scheme on her grid also drastically changed to signify a new era was on the horizon. She even teased various themes and lyrics from the album with her captions and filters, including writing "ME" as the caption for her Elle UK cover story and doing heart filters on various images to symbolize the album title Lover.
Swift continued the tradition of teasing exciting projects on Instagram with her Folklore and Evermore releases. In April 2020, Swift posted a photo of her with the caption, "not a lot going on at the moment." While some assumed she might be rerecording Red, she was actually preparing to drop her surprise album, Folklore; she later revealed that she wrote the lead single "Cardigan" on the same day she posted the photo. Because Swift loves to mess with us, she used the same caption for a photo in November 2020, right before she announced the release of her followup album Evermore. Most recently, she teased the vault tracks for her rerecorded Fearless album by sharing a clip with scrambled letters of the track titles.
Lately, especially with her rerecorded albums, Swift has been playing around with Easter eggs in commercials. She cleverly placed a few Easter eggs in her Capital One ads in 2019 and 2020 — the latter included a few clues about track titles in Folklore and possibly the Evermore album cover — but she has also shared glimpses of rerecorded songs in commercials. In December 2020, she unveiled the first glimpse of her rerecorded "Love Story" in a Match.com commercial written by Ryan Reynolds and in March 2021, she gave the first glimpse of "Wildest Dreams" in the trailer for Spirit Untamed, possibly insinuating that 1989 will be the next rerecorded album to be released.