It’s here: new Taylor Swift music, in the form of the bright, bubbly new pop single “ME!” featuring Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie. Following multiple months of speculation and a careful trail of breadcrumbs, Swift just released her new song and its rainbow-hued, fantastical accompanying music video on Friday. And for fans, there are plenty of clues to unpack that harken back to her old work and her previous eras, as well as some that herald a whole new phase in the pop star’s career.
Swift fans are no stranger to the artist leaving hidden messages in her music: her sprinkling of Easter eggs, symbolism and winks at past work is open knowledge. In her music video for her past single “Look What You Made Me Do,” for instance, off of 2017 album Reputation, Swift included references to all of her previous personas that appeared in the six preceding albums. Swift has also done things like made sure to work in her favorite number, 13, throughout many of her music videos.
This new era continues that trend. After a few months of introducing a carefully-curated new aesthetic of pastels, sparkles, rainbows and sequins — on her social media, in her sartorial statements and even on magazine covers — Swift has finally showed us just where her work was going with all those cryptic hints at the next phase. Here’s your guide to the Taylor Swift “ME!” references you might have missed in the new music and video so far.
A snake transforming into butterflies
The video opens with a pink snake magically morphing into a cloud of butterflies, representing Swift’s Reputation-era aesthetics — which were full of snake iconography — and her metamorphosis to this next, bright phase.
Throwbacks to each artist’s past
The video’s narrative begins with Swift and Urie set up as a quarreling couple in an apartment. But look closer, and there are two important throwbacks that recall each artist’s individual, independent history. First, the apartment set itself is reminiscent of the opening of Urie’s own music video for the song “It’s Better If You Do” with his band Panic! At the Disco. And on Swift’s side, the Christmas tree in the background is a callback to Swift’s roots: she grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania.
It’s no secret that Swift is a feline fanatic; in a video for TIME, she explained they are one of her three big influences in life at the moment. Here we get a glimpse at Meredith Grey and Olivia Benson, her Scottish folds, curled up on a couch.
During her delivery of a line referencing “cool chicks,” the camera pans to a wall in the apartment decorated with portraits of young chickens — and hidden in the midst of this arrangement is a framed image of the country trio the Dixie Chicks. In a tweet response to the group, Swift confirmed her fandom.
In her last lead single “Look What You Made Me Do,” Swift famously decried, “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Cuz she’s dead!” In “ME!” she has a new lyric: “I know that I went psycho on the phone.” And in a dreamy sequence that sees Swift waltzing through a cloud-filled hotel lobby of sorts, a pink telephone pops up. The old Swift is back to answer your calls, it seems.
As she rushes through the cloud-filled hall, another snake head appears in the mists. But Swift has brighter things on the horizon.
Seven briefcases for seven albums
Numeric specificity is a Swift strong suit. Fans have pointed out that in the scene featuring Swift dancing in a pastel pantsuit surrounded by other dancers with briefcases, the numbers add up to a nice, significant seven: her upcoming album will be her seventh.
A clock with a hidden message
Fans seem to believe that a clock set to 8:30, glimpsed briefly in the apartment scene, may hint at further new music coming on August 30.
Musical and film references abound in the video, and it’s hard not to see echoes of Baz Luhrmann’s movie musical Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman in this scene, in which Swift perches in a waterfall dress on the top of a unicorn overlooking a Paris-like cityscape with sparkling skies. (In the movie, Kidman’s character of Satine lives in a similarly dramatic architectural elephant, and she shares a romantic will-they-won’t-they duet with Ewan McGregor on its roof, just as Swift and Urie have a back-and-forth.) In the city below, a neon sign spells out “Lover;” the Moulin Rouge is also known for its neon signage.
Mary Poppins and more
Brendon Urie gets his Mary Poppins moment when he descends from the skies using an umbrella. Many of us will tie this to the iconic nanny Poppins, but there are also hints of Jacques Demy’s classic French film Umbrellas of Cherbourg. (That movie was also an inspiration for La La Land with Emma Stone.) There are also shades of the zaniness of Willy Wonka and Candy Land in the melting costumes and bright colors throughout.
A new kitten
As Urie tries to tempt Swift back into his good graces, he cycles through offerings of flowers or an engagement ring before finally offering up something she’ll like: a kitten. Swift hinted that there was some kind of “secret” hidden in the video during a YouTube chat. In a follow up Instagram post she also shared that she has a new kitten, which may indeed be that “secret” she’s been so assiduously keeping.
In one very specific callback, Urie opens the lapel of his coat to show off a heart-shaped kaleidoscope that the camera tunnels through in his chest. It’s a reference to lyrics in her previous song “Welcome to New York,” which goes, “Kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats under coats.”
The sixties and big band shows
Swift and Urie seem to have a lot of fun onstage as a Hairspray-style pair of performers backed by a cupid-themed big band for a celebratory audience during this scene.
“Hey, kids! Spelling is fun!”
Swift’s unusual shout-out in the bridge is also a reference to her past: she was a Spelling Bee Champion years ago.
In the following scene, Swift performs as a majorette alongside Urie, perhaps referencing her association with American football: she announced the song and video during the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Swift has Nashville roots — and in a dance duet with Urie, she shows off some of that Southern connection with a pair of white cowboy boots that definitely look made for walking (and dancing).
Singin’ in the Rain
It’s hard not to think back to the iconic movie Singin’ in the Rain as Urie jumps nimbly around a cobbled, retro street, magicking rainbow splatters to fall from the skies, while Swift twirls in a puddle of multicolored slime. There’s even a lamppost nearby.
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Write to Raisa Bruner at firstname.lastname@example.org