Since her Reputation world tour ended last November, Taylor Swift has gone mostly silent on social media, save for the occasional photo of her cats or sneak peek inside her Cats trailer (she’s nothing if not always on-brand). It’s understandable, then, that her fans are currently spiraling, since she posted five photos on Instagram in as many days.
They’re not simply excited at this unexpected overload of Swift content; intimately familiar with Swift’s love of metaphors, symbolism, and hidden messages, they’ve also spun a series of increasingly more ridiculous conspiracy theories tying these posts to the pop star’s next album. The overarching theory is that the photos signify a countdown: On Saturday, Swift posted a photo of one of her cats with the caption, “A purrito,” which contains eight letters. On Sunday, Swift posted a photo of some lush foliage, including seven palm trees, which she captioned, all too appropriately, with seven palm tree emojis. Later that day, she shared a bird’s-eye-view photo of her sitting on a staircase, and specifically on the sixth stair up from the bottom of the frame. When Monday’s post showed her peeking through a fence with five holes, fans went into overdrive.
For one thing, they posit, the calendar on Swift’s fan app shows a flower stamp on March 2, the date when this alleged countdown should end. For another, the shirt Swift wears in the third post is linked to a previous theory that she’s been working on her upcoming seventh album for several months now: In October 2018, she posted a photo of her wearing the exact same T-shirt and playing Scrabble, with the values of the letters in her tray adding up to seven.
Beyond the supposed countdown, fans have also noticed that the overall aesthetic of Swift’s posts has taken quite the technicolor turn from the dark, snake-filled photos of her Reputation era—and that this beachy new theme, and the palm trees especially, was actually hidden throughout Swift’s Reputation imagery. There are palm trees in both her “End Game” and “Delicate” videos, and palm tree patches on some of her grungy Reputation outfits. A particularly intricate theory involves yet another years-old hypothesis that the 13 Swifts featured in the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video represented her various past personas: Fans only recently noticed that the 14th Swift standing in the background and sawing off the wings of the airplane representing her reputation is wearing a palm tree-printed outfit, perhaps a meticulously planned-out premonition of Swift’s next era.
Just as the theorizing reached a fever pitch, though, Swift herself threw a major wrench in fans’ plans. Not only did she skip Tuesday’s “countdown” post, but on Wednesday, she shared a photo of one of her cats standing on its hind legs and wearing a shocked expression. “She just read all the theories,” Swift wrote.
The question, now, is whether Swift is trolling her fans, subtly admitting to some bread crumb trail of clues to her seventh album, or a combination of both, as many fans have evidently chosen to believe, citing Swift’s use of a filter called “Palm Springs” and what appear to be some tropical-looking plants in the background. Here’s the thing, though: With an absence of anything amounting to or representing the number four, this post completely shuts down the countdown theory—which, quite frankly, was never that sound to begin with, since the previous posts sometimes came twice a day. She might be working on new music, but it likely won’t be coming this weekend.
Plus, Swift’s fans have spun complex webs of theories countless times before, only to see them completely torn down when Swift finally chooses to release an actual preview of her new music. Many thought Reputation‘s overarching motif, for example, would be eclipses, and that 1989 would be about roses, or maybe skylines. The only thing we can all be sure of is that Swift is an expert in secrecy, and that if she wants fans to know something, they’ll know, and if she wants to lead them on a palm tree-themed wild goose chase while she prepares to release new music entirely unrelated to palm trees, she will. Maybe she just really likes palm trees, OK?