On June 13, 2017, I predicted Taylor Swift would be dropping a surprise album at midnight. I was wrong. On August 18th, it made news that Taylor Swift had wiped her social media accounts. See for yourself: her Instagram, website and Twitter are mostly blank space (oops). Could this mean now it’s REALLY time? Grammy eligibility ends soon, after all. If so, please pretend the below was published two months later than it was, and join me in putting to-dos on pause to speculate.
Say what you will about Taylor Swift, but you can’t deny the staggering height of her pedestal. It sways dangerously and gloriously in the breeze, like a long, skinny skyscraper. It has a weed-like ability to grow in harsh conditions, withstanding innumerable glancing blows. It inspires awe and anger in equal measure, but more crucially, debate. If you wanted her crash with Kim and Kanye to knock her off, I’m sorry. If you want us all to look up to her, I’m sorry again.
Every Taylor Swift-flavored conversation I’ve been a part of has thrived past its logical expiration date. Unpacking her celebrity is like unpacking Mary Poppins’ bag in the dark. She comes together like a disorienting puzzle, capable of offending us with a tweet or changing the way we behave with a blog post. She’s a gangly, galloping contradiction, and as a fan and critic of her and her work, she makes me feel that way too. Her famous letter to Apple made me livid, and yet 1989 was the first album I bought in years. I looped it for weeks.
“I think I should take some time off,” she told NME in October of 2015, of her post-1989 tour plans. “I think people might need a break from me.” Her tour ended a couple months later, in December, but no break came to pass. She proceeded to have explosively public run-ins with Kanye West, Katy Perry, Calvin Harris, Tom Hiddleston, Kim Kardashian, possibly the entire feminist movement. And then, finally, a year after she said she would, she disappeared. Her feuds simmered, her squad seemingly disbanded, her social media channels went relatively quiet. Barring the song she put out with Zayn Malik for the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack, she missed her bi-annual new music window, a tradition she’d maintained since her first eponymous album in 2006. It would have been her sixth record.
For her, withdrawal is a bold move, and we clock her every one. It didn’t take long for the Taylor hush to become news in its own right. And now, curiosity as to what’s going on is cresting. Why’d she do it? What’s to come? It’s been six months; there are as many theories.
Some say she’s been in Nashville to escape the paps, or to take a personal break. Some believe she’s been shacking up with a new boyfriend in London. Others think she’s in hiding after a burglary scare. The most popular theory is that she’s busy recording a new album. That she plans to drop it at the end of the year, per Ed Sheeran’s interview “slip-up” wherein he indicated as much.
There exists a fringe theory, though — I heard it from a friend of a friend — that she’ll release an album on June 13th. 6/13. Sixth album/her favorite number. That’s today. This past Friday, she put all her music back on streaming services. It made headlines not just because her original pulling of it changed Apple’s business model, but because she did it on the same day Katy Perry released her album, Witness, thus stoking the low-burning coals between them. Inadvertent or not, she’s inserted herself back in the gossip sphere. And for those who missed her music, she’s inserted herself back in their ears.
“[W]hat’s different with Swift is her autonomy,” wrote Chuck Klosterman in his internet-breaking GQ profile of her in 2015, “There is no Svengali directing her career; there is no stage mother pushing her toward the spotlight. She is in total control of her own constructed reality.”
If Tay is indeed the mastermind behind her career and all of its levers, her disappearance was no accident. None of it was or is. So now, we wait.