Taylor Swift: “America’s Sweetheart” becomes tactical entrepeneur

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Photo courtesy of Saturday Night Live "Three Sad Virgins"

Taylor Swift sings her bridge in the SNL skit, “Three Sad Virgins” alongside Pete Davidson. Swift appeared as a guest on the show the night after “Red (Taylor’s Version)” dropped. Her appearance on such a well-known talk show exposes “Red (Taylor’s Version)” to wider audiences.

Even after over 13 years in the public eye, Taylor Swift continues to shock avid music fans with each meticulously planned re-release. Swift is far from predictable, which may be the reason she is still breaking records this far into her career.

As part of her war to win back her masters, Swift released “Red (Taylor’s Version)” on Nov. 12. This came after her old label, Big Machine Records, sold her masters to music executive Scooter Braun instead of allowing her to purchase them herself. As she is highly passionate about her music, Swift took matters into her own hands and decided to re-record her first six albums, which she originally released under her old label. The album is the re-recorded version of her fourth studio album “Red,” released in 2012.

Swift was silent about the release until August 5, when she posted a 30-second CGI video coming from “The Vault,” a metaphorical chest of unreleased tracks written in past album eras. She captioned the video: “*press post* *cackles maniacally* Level: casually cruel in the name of being honest.” The casual tone of the post’s caption is a direct reference to the relaxed and intimate interactions she has with her fans.

“I know that she occasionally lurks on her fans’ Instagram Live. It’s like a cute, subtle surprise,” junior Mayling Chen said.

With the re-release of her first five albums, Swift will also include a handful of “vault” tracks corresponding to each era. The cryptic video shows 13 clusters of jumbled up letters, which were quickly decoded by Swifties to be vault track titles and names of artists featured on the “Red” re-release.

This isn’t the first time Swift had referenced the vault, with the first allusion occurring in April 2021 and preceding the release of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version).”

The objective of these obscure clips is to build up anticipation for her upcoming release, a skill she has mastered through years of music industry experience. Swift also has a multitude of other tricks up her sleeves to captivate fans.

Swift’s first ever TikTok video went viral on August 23. The video showed a brief clip from each of her eras, from “folklore” all the way up to “Red (Taylor’s Version).” She captioned it, “Lots going on at the moment: ‘Red’ (my version) vinyl is up for presale on my site and oh I’m on tiktok now let the games begin.” 😺 #SwiftTok.” (Within her caption, Swift included references to previous songs, including “22” and “…Ready for it?”)

Fans went feral over the video, encouraging Swift to post again. She did so just two days later, sharing a clip of a 2014 interview talking about how she would never get a third cat, as that would border on “crazy cat lady.” She abruptly cuts it off, flaunting her third cat, whom she adopted in 2019.

Though this TikTok didn’t directly promote the album, it inserted her into a relatable position that appealed to larger audiences. She succeeded, garnering almost 40 million views on those two videos alone, timing their postings perfectly to give prospective fans sufficient time to build excitement.

These two tactics definitely contributed to the record-breaking first-day success of the re-release. According to Business Insider, “‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ broke Spotify’s record for the most-streamed album in a day by a female artist.”

In addition to her smash-hits and clever employment of social media, Swift is notoriously known for her use of “easter eggs.”

“Easter eggs” are especially used in music videos, as the same eager viewer would replay the same video multiple times, adding views. An iconic “easter egg” era is that of “Lover,” her seventh studio album, which was released in 2019. The music video for its lead single, “Me!” contains such an absurd amount that it’s likely fans haven’t yet found all of them.

Swift has increased her creative use of these conceptual clues in recent years, though some have been found as early as 2008 with the release of “Fearless.” They appear subtly in all of her album rollouts, music videos, performances, outfits and pictures, and hint at future projects or reference past ones.

“She really tries to make things fun for us. I think it gives her a lot of joy to be mysterious and make a music video [and add easter eggs so we can decode] it and try to [figure out] what she’s gonna do next. I think that’s something that’s really special,” senior Olivia Pletter said.

This strategy is employed, unsurprisingly, with the release of the “All Too Well” short film (starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien) and the “I Bet You Think About Me” music video, both released less than a week after the new version of “Red” was put out.

In the first few seconds of the highly anticipated short film, Sink, who portrays Swift, removes her scarf and hangs it on the banister. To most, this looks as if she is just politely entering her boyfriend’s home but to Swifties, the scarf symbolizes so much more.

“I think she’s talking about a love that she thought was deep… She was so young and pure and innocent. [She] had no idea that a man could be so manipulative, and she just wanted love and was really, truly invested in the relationship. He kind of took everything away from her,” Pletter said.

The notorious scarf is mentioned twice in the song: “I left my scarf there at your sister’s house and you’ve still got it in your drawer, even now” and, “But you keep my old scarf from that very first week…”

Such a significant symbol in the fandom is shown several times throughout the film, and myriad other “easter eggs” are also hidden in the short film.

After a rocky battle with her past label, Swift is finally able to own her art, something she has advocated for other artists for years. She is still finding success and relevance in pop culture by utilizing savvy marketing strategies within the music industry.

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