Without a single word, Taylor Swift has slowly been teasing her army of devoted fans with the possibility of new music, all thanks to a flurry of pastel-hued Instagram activity. Does a caption-less post filled with palm trees and stars signal the start of a new era? Does the number of stairs she’s sitting on in a follow-up post point to a release date? What does Taylor peering through fence slats mean?
As a certified Taylor stan, I was counting the number of mysterious stars and palm trees along with every other Swiftie in the world. I prize the selfie she gifted me with during her surprise appearance at the Reputation pop-up as the most-liked picture on my Instagram feed. I bought my brother a hand-numbered “Delicate” lithograph when I saw her on tour just to rub in the fact that I had sprung for floor seats in the 20th row (and also because I’m a good brother). I even happen to be wearing my stonewashed Reputation Stadium Tour sweater — which remains my favorite piece of merch I’ve ever purchased — as I write this.
Theories are running rampant on social media regarding the details of TS7, and as speculation continues to reach a fever pitch without any official announcement, release date or surprise single drop, here’s my wish list for Taylor’s elusive seventh studio album.
Breaking New Sonic Ground
Taylor has never been one to shy away from taking musical risks with a new album cycle. From the dubstep beat of “I Knew You Were Trouble.” to the glossy synth-pop sheen of 1989, she’s changed her sonic landscape on every album since Speak Now, so it’s safe to assume that the superstar will break new ground with her next LP. Without a lead single to dissect, there’s no telling where Taylor could be getting her latest musical inspiration from, but at this point, plenty of fans would love a touch of her country roots on at least a few songs as a reminder of the Taylor they first fell in love with. Personally, I also wouldn’t mind a return to the sparkling 1989-era sonics, but I’m equally ready for a mind-blowing left turn that no one but Taylor is expecting.
A Joe Alwyn ‘Love Story’?
Unlike the ripped-from-the-tabloids lead-up to Reputation’s release in fall 2017, the Taylor of 2019 isn’t dominating the headlines with rumors of feuds and gossip. This time around, there’s no public record that needs correcting or trail of ex-boyfriends to lyrically skewer. Instead she’s happily played the supportive girlfriend to Joe Alwyn throughout awards season, even opting to skip this year’s Grammy Awards to be by his side at the BAFTAs. Any mention on Reputation of her romance with the British actor was merely hinted at, leaving fans speculating about songs like “Delicate” and “Call It What You Want” and veiled references scattered throughout her music videos. Will she open up about her mostly private relationship to give us “Love Story 2.0″?
For her last two albums, Taylor relied primarily on pop heavyweights Max Martin, Shellback and Jack Antonoff to construct an endless parade of pop bangers. The partnerships clearly worked, delivering “Shake It Off,” “Blank Space,” “Out of the Woods” and “End Game.” However, a new album cycle is always a good time to bring both old and new voices to the table. Liz Rose, who helped Taylor write more than a dozen hits in her early career — from “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops on My Guitar” to “You Belong With Me” and beloved Red album cut “All Too Well” — would be a welcome return, and I’d also love to see what Taylor could create with songwriters and producers she hasn’t worked with before, like Bonnie McKee, Emily Warren and Mozella.
As for guest features on the new record, it would be amazing to see some of Taylor’s public, adoring friendships turn into professional relationships, a la her multiple team-ups with good friend Ed Sheeran. Watching Taylor perform “Shake It Off” with Camila Cabello and Charli XCX in the pouring rain at MetLife Stadium last summer made me realize I’d positively live for a studio collaboration with either of her Reputation tourmates. Another obvious choice? Shawn Mendes, who served as an opener on Taylor’s 1989 World Tour and also made a special appearance on the Reputation Tour to duet with her on his hit “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” I mean, could you imagine Taylor and Shawn on dueling guitars?
Here Comes the Sun
The imagery surrounding the Reputation era was filled with snakes, cynicism and a certain world-weariness from the “Look What You Made Me Do” singer, and rightly so, considering the constant siege she was under from what must have felt like all sides. Now that she’s successfully weathered the storm and taken back her narrative, I’d personally love to see Taylor ditch the snakes and reintroduce some of the sunnier elements of her look while still reveling in the melancholy romance that permeates her discography. If her recent palm-tree-and-star-filled Instagram posts are any indication, the old Taylor may yet have a chance of being resurrected and returning stronger — and happier — than ever.