Excuse me while I dust off my clown shoes for yet another Taylor Swift album theory.
Hold onto your cardigans Swifties, because there’s another theory about a secret Taylor Swift album and this time the evidence is too compelling to ignore.
But that’s all part and parcel of being a Taylor fan, and TikTok user @TheThriftySwiftie has pulled together some pretty watertight hints that later this year we’ll finally get an album that was scrapped back in 2016.
Confused? Don’t worry, I’ve got you.
Any seasoned Swiftie will be aware of the popular fan theory that Taylor’s sixth album was supposed to be called Karma, with many believing that it was going to have a pop-rock sound to tie in with the edgy new look she debuted toward the end of her 1989 era.
Between 2006 and 2014, Taylor released a new album every two years like clockwork, with each one coming with a whole new style and hairdo to mark a new era for the star.
Her breakout pop album 1989 was released in October 2014, and saw her successfully transition from her country music roots to a fully-fledged pop star.
In February of that year, Kanye — who’s since changed his name to Ye — released the controversial track containing the lyric: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.”
While he insisted that Taylor had known and approved of the lyric ahead of time, her publicist maintained that she’d never been aware of the specific line calling her “that bitch.”
Later that month, Taylor took a not-so-subtle swipe at Kanye as she accepted the Album of the Year Grammy for 1989 by referencing “people … who … try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame.”
And in July, things got even messier when Kim Kardashian uploaded a Snapchat video of a phone call between Kanye and Taylor where they talked about the song and she appeared to give approval. It didn’t, however, show him consulting her on the use of the word “bitch.”
After the video was released, the hashtag #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty began trending worldwide, while her social media pages were flooded with snake emojis.
As a result, Taylor completely retreated from the public eye for an entire year. She returned to social media in August 2017 to tease her new album, Reputation, with a series of snake videos as a direct reference to the fallout over the Kimye feud and her perceived ~reputation~.
The new album was released in November 2017 — just over three years after 1989 — with many of the tracks a direct response to the Kimye drama. This was perhaps clearest on the lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” where she addressed the shift in her public persona by stating that the “old Taylor” was “dead.”
And in case there was any room for doubt that Taylor’s new era was a response to the feud, “LWYMMD” opens with lyrics appearing to refer to the distinctive floating stage set-up Kanye had recently featured on tour, with Taylor singing: “I don’t like your little games/ Don’t like your tilted stage/ The role you made me play of the fool/ No, I don’t like you.”
Although fans were thrilled by the new album, as well as Taylor’s edgier aesthetic of dark lipstick, sequin bodysuits, and thigh-high boots, they couldn’t help but feel like they had been robbed of a chapter.
Given that the Kimye drama and Taylor’s subsequent decision to step away from the public eye occurred almost exactly at the time fans were expecting a new album, it’s become widely speculated that she was planning on releasing something else entirely before being forced into her Reputation era.
And towards the end of her 1989 tour, Taylor began to experiment with a distinctively rockier vibe — even performing a rock version of her hit “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, and being joined on stage by Rolling Stones’ icon Mick Jagger.
In April 2016, Taylor debuted a brand new look on the cover of Vogue as she showed off an edgy bleached blonde bob and posed in metallic clothing and chunky shoes. The new hair color saw fans affectionately refer to this phase in Taylor’s career as “bleachella.”
The following month, she wowed on the Met Gala red carpet with a rock-inspired outfit, complete with black lipstick.
It’s also worth noting — and this will become more relevant later — that Taylor appeared to be emulating grunge clothing trends of the ’90s at the time, with the decade obviously coming immediately after 1989.
While we saw a lot of this style in Taylor’s red carpet appearances, interviews, and photoshoots throughout 2016, we never actually got an album that embodied her new look.
As a result, fans have speculated that she had been gearing up for a new album release in October/November 2016, but that release never came.
The “Look What You Made Me Do” music video appears to confirm this theory, with the production featuring 14 different versions of Taylor that represented literal iterations of her throughout her career so far.
However, there was one version of Taylor in the video who we had never seen before, and was thought to represent the “real” person behind the pop star facade.
Interestingly, one of the standout moments from the video involved this version of Taylor sawing off the wings of a plane with “TS6” written on it.
Fans have long interpreted the scene to mean Taylor was forced to ground the sixth album that she’d planned to release in order to address her reputation on a different record entirely.
Even more intriguingly was the the fact that at another moment in the video, this Taylor spray-painted the plane with the word “reputation” — in other words, literally rewriting her reputation with this new record instead of releasing the scrapped one from a year earlier.
And Taylor has continued to hint about the existence of a scrapped album with the title Karma in several releases since the Reputation era.
Perhaps the most telling of these was the 2020 music video for her single, “The Man,” taken from her seventh studio album, Lover.
In one scene, Taylor — in full drag as a man — can be seen urinating against a wall that is covered in graffiti. The graffiti is made up of all of Taylor’s album names so far, but eagle-eyed fans also noticed that alongside these album names was the word, “Karma.”
Interestingly, “Karma” fills the space on the wall between 1989 and Reputation, with a poignant “missing” sign also placed between the two back-to-back albums.
This echoed the lyrics from “Look What You Made Me Do” where she sang: “All I think about is karma,” as well as a scene from the video in which she wore orange while stuck inside a cage.
Notably, “Karma” is also written in orange paint in the video for “The Man,” with the color not being used as a concept in any of her released albums.
Fans have theorized that orange was supposed to be Karma’s album artwork color scheme, and that the cage scene represents the fact that her “orange album” is trapped somewhere while Reputation commands attention.
And the theory of Karma’s existence is only bolstered by the fact that Taylor herself appeared to be sowing seeds for a new album all the way back in April 2016 — around six months before Karma is believed to have been slated for release.
In the interview, Taylor was asked: “What do you think is the most important life lesson for someone to learn?” and in response, she smiled and replied: “That Karma is real.”
While this could be seen as a cheeky reference to her feud with Kanye after the release of “Famous” two months earlier, some eagle-eyed fans noticed that “karma” was purposefully capitalized in the captions for Vogue’s video, implying that it was actually a title.
So that’s why fans think that Karma exists, but why do they believe that we will finally get to hear it in 2022? Let’s look at the evidence.
In 2019, Taylor alleged that her old label, Big Machine Records, refused to sell her the masters of her original recordings and instead brokered a deal with her nemesis Scooter Braun in a move she called her “worst nightmare.”
Shortly after the deal, Taylor vowed to rerecord all of the six albums she released under Big Machine to not only legally own them, but devalue the originals and prevent others from profiting.
During the performance, she wore a shirt covered in the names of the albums she released under Big Machine Records. She was also joined on stage by a group of young girls wearing matching shirts, but fans noted that she was surrounded by eight children instead of seven. This was confusing, as fans assumed that each girl represented one of her seven albums. The inclusion of an eighth girl sparked speculation that she represented Karma.
So far in her rerecording process, she has released her own versions of Fearless and Red, with each new album including tracks “from the vault” that she’d originally written for the respective albums but didn’t make the final cut.
In a series of TikTok videos, @TheThriftySwiftie references several recent reports suggesting that Taylor’s version of 1989 — expected for release at some point this year — will have the most previously unreleased tracks of all her albums.
The user explains that at least 20 songs are expected to be released “from the vault” for 1989. And what’s more, Taylor has previously hinted that Karma is locked in a vault — not destroyed entirely.
In fact, during one scene in the music video for “Look What You Made Me Do,” she can be seen in a literal vault while singing about “karma.”
Which begs the question: If other unreleased tracks can now be shared all these years later, why can’t the same be true for Karma?
The TikTok detective then references the graffiti from the “The Man” music video. Here, she points out that Karma is prominently written on the wall twice, but if you look carefully at the top left corner of the screen, 1989 is also written for a second time right next to it.
The Swiftie suggests that this could mean 1989 and Karma will be released together as a double album, and that the 20 “vault” tracks will consist of the songs that failed to make the final cut for both records.
What’s more, @TheThriftySwiftie also references Taylor’s recent music video for “I Bet You Think About Me,” which was teased on social media with a video showing two lines scratched into a wedding cake. This could also have been a reference to the fact that a double album is coming.
In fact, Evermore opens with a track called “Willow” which contains the lyric: “I come back stronger than a ’90s trend.” This might seem innocent enough to the casual listener, but when you watch its accompanying music video you’ll notice that Taylor is locked in a box trying to escape before coyly staring directly into the camera with a telling smile on her face as she sings this line and finds a trapdoor.
Perhaps this is her way of teasing the Karma era’s upcoming escape from the vault.
While this might seem like a reach to less hardcore Taylor Swift fans, the singer regularly admits to purposefully dropping Easter eggs, hints, and hidden clues in her social media posts and music releases for fans to work out what is coming next.
Speaking to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show in November, Taylor said of the Easter eggs’ origins: “It’s sort of a tradition that we started a very long time ago. I think the first time that I started dropping sort of cryptic clues in my music was when I was 14 or 15, putting together my first album.”
“I wanted to do something that incentivized fans to read the lyrics because my lyrics are what I’m most proud of out of everything that I do… When I was a kid, I used to read through CD booklets and just read the teeny, tiny print and obsess over it.”
And in 2019, Taylor told Entertainment Weekly that she gets excited by her fans’ theories, explaining: “I’ve trained them to be that way. 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.”
Here’s hoping that this is one theory that the fans have got right, because if there is one thing that the world deserves right now it’s some good Karma.