Swift has been using her Instagram to leave what fans are calling clues about her upcoming album. (Illustration by Erik Ojo, Northeastern University)
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To a trained eye, the pop star’s Instagram is littered with hidden clues.

Taylor Swift is no rookie when it comes to cryptic album releases. In August 2017, she began dropping hints about her new album, “Reputation,” by deleting all of the photos on her Instagram and posting dark, eerie videos of a snake. The album was released in November 2017, and the snake became its official mascot after Kim Kardashian famously called her one.

Now, Swift seems to have ditched her edgy aesthetic for a colorful, beachy vibe. Her recent Instagram posts and essays published in Elle UK and Elle U.S. have fans in a frenzy to figure out when her seventh album, dubbed TS7 by fans, will come out.

With other artists, this kind of speculation would merit little attention, but Swift’s fans are known for having the ability to take the smallest of clues and blow them up into major investigations. While some of their theories seem like a stretch, others are more plausible — and given Swift’s history, anything could be possible.

The rumors about Swift’s possible new album started after her unusual Instagram behavior. The pop singer is not usually someone who posts frequently on Instagram, so her three photos in a row first piqued fans’ attention. One of the photos was of the Los Angeles skyline and featured seven palm trees; she captioned the photo with seven palm tree emojis.

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In another, she is sitting on a staircase, seven steps down (or six steps up, depending on your theory). In the third photo, Swift is looking through a fence with five holes, which has led fans to believe that she will be using the photos as a countdown.

However, if the countdown theory was correct, fans should have expected a release — or at least a bit of new information — on March 2. Instead, the next photo that Swift instagrammed was that of her cat, Olivia Benson, looking surprised and standing on her hind legs with the caption, “She just read all the theories.” Is Swift simply just playing with fans, or will she start her countdown up again soon? Only time will tell.

The singer was seen exiting a recording studio on March 3, which fueled the fan theories even more. She was also spotted leaving a recording studio in January, so she’s definitely up to something— the question is when fans can expect new music. Plus, there is also the question of whether Swift will release a new single first, as she’s done in the past, or release the new album all at once.

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Other fan theories have suggested that Swift’s new album may have either a heart or palm tree theme. Many of her recent posts on Instagram have been captioned with heart emojis, and she was recently seen exciting a recording studio wearing a sweatshirt with hearts on it. Fans have also noticed that she featured a few different palm tree-patterned outfits in her music videos during her “Reputation” album era, including a palm tree patch and jacket. The jacket appears to have six palms trees on the back.

One fan even noticed that in Swift’s “Look What You Make Me Do” music video that multiple versions of past and present Swifts were standing together, and one on the far right was wearing a tropical-looking palm tree shirt. Farfetched? Diehard fans don’t seem to think so.

Another theory suggests that Swift’s next album will be mermaid-themed, because she wore a mermaid costume to a New Year’s Eve party this year and ended her Reputation Tour Netflix documentary wearing a mermaid shirt. Other fans have added to the theory, pointing out that she wore a jacket in the booklet for “Reputation.” And as far as her recent Instagram posts go, they definitely give off beachy vibes.

On top of all of the theories, Swift apparently liked a Tumblr post from a fan about TS7 that talked about how she was probably laughing at all of the hints that were right in front of their eyes. Given that she has been sneaky about album releases in the past, it wouldn’t be surprising if she enjoyed her fans’ theories. One thing is for sure: Swift enjoys the speculation, and probably does have something up her sleeve.

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One question that fans are wondering about is what genre Swift’s new album will be. The singer has had a dramatic music evolution over time, with her last album “Reputation” showing her edgier side. Although she started out as a country singer, her latest music has been more pop than country. From the looks of these theories and her social media posts, this next album seems like it could be lighter and poppier than her last.

Swift is known for including personal lyrics about her life, and it’s doubtful that that will change with her next album. As she turns 30 next December, the timing of this album could mark a huge milestone for her. It’s possible her songs will become more mature and show growth from her previous albums.

One thing is for sure: Regardless of when Swift releases her new album, her fans will be ready and waiting. If there is one fan base that enjoys finding clues and proving theories, it’s the Swifties.

The singer has mentioned wanting to release her next album before her birthday, and it wouldn’t be surprising if she released it months before then. It’s possible that she’s waiting to release the album closer to summer, but no one knows for sure. We’ll all just have to rely on fan theories for now.

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