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A List of Hidden References You Might Have Missed in Taylor Swift’s ‘Ready For It’ Video

8 minute read

Taylor Swift has laid low and avoided social media for much of the past year (even skipping her annual star-studded 4th of July bash). But it’s conceivable that she’s just been spending this whole time conjuring up ways to imbue her new music videos with cryptic messages. When she debuted t=”Look What You Made Me Do,” the first video off her upcoming album Reputation, it was replete with visual clues and lyrics about what the pop princess might think about the various narratives spun around her celebrity. Now it appears her latest music video, for the single “Ready For It,” is taking a similar tack.

While the “Look What You Made Me Do” video is a bonafide diss track with images to back it up, the “Ready For It” video’s romantic bent includes plenty of clues that point to Swift’s current relationship status, proving that even if the Old Taylor “can’t come to the phone right now because she’s dead,” when it comes to her reincarnation, old habits (specifically, a predilection for being in love) might still die hard.

Below, we’ve rounded up a list of hidden references you might have missed in the new video.

Swift’s use of numbers as icons could be a valuable clue as to whom the song is about.

Swift’s obsessions with numbers borders on numerology; the pop princess has a history of sending secret messages to fans using her favorite numbers. So it’s not surprising that the “Ready For It” video opens with a shot of Swift clad in a black hoodie, standing outside of a door that’s graffitied with the numbers 89 and 91. As any casual T-Swift fan will tell you, 1989 is not only the name of one of Swift’s most popular albums, but also the year she was born. A more observant Swiftie will be quick to note that the year 1991 is the year in which Swift’s boyfriend Joe Alwyn was born.

The numerical references continue with the keypad she uses to unlock a door in the video. She presses the number “21,” which fans were quick to point out is Alwyn’s birth date.

She might be hinting at her next music video with the (literal) writing on the wall.

As Swift enters a dark alleyway, there’s more graffiti on the walls, including romantic messages like “All Eyes On Us,” “UR Gorgeous,” “This Is Enough,” “I Love You In Secret,” and, of course, her lucky number “13.” While many of the messages might speak to the relative secrecy with which she and Alwyn have conducted their relationship (at least, in comparison to Hiddleswift season,) the “UR Gorgeous” phrase could also be a hint that her next music video will be for the single “Gorgeous.” The phrases could also be upcoming song lyrics.

Swift is hiding her messages for fans in different languages now.

Before the video’s release, longtime Swift collaborator and “Ready For It” director Joseph Kahn tweeted out that part of the video would be in Chinese.

Once the video debuted, fans were quick to point out that a sign above Swift’s head in one scene included the Chinese characters for the “Year of the Earth Snake,” the zodiac year in which Swift was born. Swift’s use of snake iconography in promoting this album is especially significant because it appropriates the Slytherin imagery she was pelted with on social media following her spat with Kanye West.

Those aren’t the only messages that Swifties found. Another observer pointed to two more messages in Chinese that reference Swift’s new album.

While another translated one of the Chinese signs as reading “Joseph.”

Speaking of Kahn, on one wall, his name appeared to be displayed with a halo drawn above it.

Swift may be reminding fans that she’s liberated from her past “reputation.”

One of the most buzz-worthy visuals in the video is of Swift meeting a sort of fembot version of herself. While one might want to draw a parallel between an “old” Taylor (who, as you might remember, can’t come to the phone right now because she’s dead) and a “new” Taylor, some fans are suggesting that the touchscreen pane of glass between the two of them represents a cage which, when shattered by fembot “new” Taylor, signifies the agency she’s now claiming from the media and the narratives that have surrounded her in the past.

But actually, let’s talk about Swift as a fembot.

Fembot Swift could be a very prescient visual manifestation of the new Swift, who presumably did away with her old self. The decision to make her a kind of robot speaks to the invincibility she may want to project as she sheds past narratives and reputations. Interestingly enough, her hair as fembot Swift is longer and wavier, much like it was when Swift first arrived on the music scene. Is this a clue that Tay wants to return to a simpler time before she became a celebrity fixture?

It’s worth noting that both this fembot form and the video’s visuals in general are heavily influenced by sci-fi movies. A connoisseur of the genre doesn’t have to look too hard to spot references to movies like Ex Machina, Ghost in the Shell, Tron and Blade Runner.

Swift’s emergence as a stronger, albeit robotic, being echoes another Swift music video, 2014’s “Bad Blood.” It’s also worth noting that similar visuals appeared in the music video of her arch-nemesis Kanye West’s 2009 video for “Stronger,” and this isn’t the first time she has appeared to reference West’s work.

Kahn confirmed that Swift’s fembot persona is, indeed, a robot with a clever twist on the pseudonym she used as a ghostwriter on her ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris’ track, “This Is What You Came For.”

Speaking of Calvin Harris…

Swift may still be mining her feelings for her ex.

Throughout the music video, lightning bolts play a prominent part in the visuals, a choice that parallels the equally prominent lightning bolts used by Calvin Harris in the graphics for “This Is What You Came For,” the song that became a major point of conflict after the pair broke up and Swift dramatically revealed that she was the song’s ghostwriter, Nils Sjoberg.

Swift is revisiting the past in order to look to the future.

If the visuals of this album are any indication, Swift is looking to the past to speak to her future in the Reputation era. In this video, she references not only “Bad Blood,” but also “Out of the Woods,” “White Horse,” and “Blank Space,” the last of which is an especially significant choice, given that it overtly referenced the way her romantic life has been portrayed in the media. The video also follows “Look What You Made Me Do,” which explicitly referenced Swift’s past in her journey to shed it.

Swift on a white horse references not only her song “White Horse,” but her music videos for “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood.” In a sense, however, if this song is really about her romantic relationship now, it could speak to the romance of the relationship, as suitors in fairy tales often ride in on “white horses.”

Swift could also be using the visual language to communicate her feelings about celebrity.

In the final shot of the video, Swift is seen on what appears to be the hangar of the private jet from her “Look What You Made Me Do” video. In the shot, graffiti that reads “They’re burning all the witches” is scrawled prominently on the front of the hangar. This could speak to the what fans came to call a “witch hunt” for Swift on social media after Kim Kardashian exposed Swift’s conversation with Kanye West about “Famous,” or the scrutiny the pop star — and her model-filled squad for that matter — has faced regarding her romantic liaisons.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com