Taylor Swift loves a good Easter egg. And while everyone knows that Swift delights in teasing her fans with little hints, she has finally begun to open up about her process when it comes to coming up with new clues for each album cycle. "I think the best messages are cryptic ones," she told Entertainment Weekly. "It makes an album more of an event. Easter eggs are a way to really sort of expand the experience of seeing something or hearing music."
Swift explained that she'll use anything from her nail polish to forming an acrostic message out of her printed song lyrics to an interview in order to coyly hint at what her fans should expect for her next era. Take her most recent music video, for example. She released a deluge of possible hidden messages in "Me!," her first post-Reputation era single. One of those messages hinted at a potential collaboration with the Dixie Chicks, and her cats played a big role, too. And before she released the music video for "Me!" she posed in front of a giant mural in Nashville, which featured some large sparkly pastel butterfly wings and the words "Me!" painted in between.
Many of those fans take Swift's signaling and run wild with theories, but some theories are less wild than others. For example, she did mention Brendon Urie's band, Panic! At the Disco, in her Elle UK cover essay, and it took months before anyone figured out that she and the lead singer would collaborate on that cotton candy kaleidoscope of a music video for their "Me!" duet. With that logic in mind, if Swift will use just about anything she can get her hands on to drop hints, then we should probably look a little closer at the pins she's wearing on her denim jacket for her Entertainment Weekly cover story to suss out what we can about T7 (the title fans are currently using to refer to the artist's highly anticipated seventh album).
In addition to a conspicuously placed rainbow heart-shaped pin, she also comes bearing references to some of her favorite morsels of popular culture: Cats, the musical that she will star in this December, Law & Order, Mr. Rogers, the cast of Friends, Meredith Grey and Christina Yang from Grey's Anatomy (one of her favorite shows and inspiration for naming her cat Meredith), and a handful of Game of Thrones pins featuring Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark and Arya Stark adorn her jacket. She's also sporting a Selena Gomez pin, a Dixie Chicks pin, a Troye Sivan pin, a Drake pin, and one that reads "Track 5."
Now, Swift did reveal that this album will be her longest (the album that holds the previous record for most tracks is Red: Deluxe edition). That leaves a lot of room for duets and features, in addition to the "singer-songwriter, personal journey" tracks she has penned for the album. She promises that "you get some joyful songs and you get the bops, as they say," and also some "really, really, really, really sad songs,” on this album.
The probability of Swift collaborating with the people mentioned in her cover story interview and the people on her pin is actually pretty high. She's referenced the Dixie Chicks multiple times in recent memory, with paintings of the trio in the background of "Me!" video and mentioning in her Elle UK that "Cowboy Take Me Away" makes her feel like she's 12 years old again. She referenced Urie in the same interview, and suddenly he was a feature on her album. She also mentioned loving “How to Save a Life” by The Fray, “Breathe (2AM)” by Anna Nalick, and “The Story” by Brandi Carlile, but the likelihood of Swift collaborating with those three artists on this album is probably lower than a Dixie Chicks collaboration. (Plus, as she mentioned in her essay, those are all tracks from the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack, and possibly just a way to remind us all that she is a superfan of the show).
As for the rest of those pins, they're still worth placing under the microscope. Swift has been open about how much she loves Drake for years now (remember those Apple Music advertisements from 2016?), so that "Hotline Bling" pin she's wearing (plus her note of how much she loves his one-liners in the interview) could hint at a possible feature. Selena Gomez is one of her best friends, and if there was ever a time to hop on a track together for the first time, that time is now. It's possible that Troye Sivan could be featured on a duet (the two performed his single "My My My!" at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles last September and he almost fainted). The Game of Thrones pins could go either way: Swift is either wearing a pin with the face of her ex-boyfriend's wife on it because she likes her character on the show, or she's trying to hint at a possible Jonas Brothers (or at least Joe Jonas) collaboration.
Of course, it is also possible that we're reading into everything just a little too much. Consider Swift's "go-to" Easter eggs of the number 13 and cats. Even Swift herself said they don't necessarily symbolize anything in particular to watch out for in the future, but are "a tribute" to her affinity for them: "Sometimes it means nothing, other than just like, reminding you how much I love cats."