Taylor Swift has been counting down to something for weeks, and now we finally know what it is. In an exclusive interview Thursday night with Robin Roberts on ABC, Swift announced that she’s releasing a new song and accompanying music video. The song, which came out midnight Thursday night, is called “ME!” and it features Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco. Because once you bring Urie into a project, you get ready to bring in some exclamation points too.
“It’s about embracing your individuality and celebrating it and owning it,” Swift told Roberts of “ME!” “With a pop song, we have the ability to get a melody stuck in people’s heads. I just want it to be one that makes them feel better about themselves.”
The news comes after a series of teases from Swift. Nearly two weeks ago, a clock appeared on Swift’s website, counting down to Friday, April 26, over a pastel sunset glinting with glitter. (April 26 is also the release day for Marvel’s much-hyped Avengers: Endgame. Some pop stars might not want to try to compete with a Marvel publicity blitz, but Swift has always loved a flex.)
Swift’s countdown clock also corresponded to a series of hints on her Instagram account. Earlier this year, Swift veered sharply away from the edgier red-and-black pictures that defined her Reputation-era aesthetic and toward more of a Lisa Frank mood: color-saturated rainbow dresses, glitter, butterflies, heart-shaped diamonds. And seeded in the new pictures, as Jill Gutowitz has chronicled at the Cut, were Easter eggs that seemed to point to that April 26 date: tiny, obsessive details, like the way the number of stars in the background of one picture corresponded to the number of days between the date the picture was posted and the days before April 26.
In the hours before Thursday night’s announcement, Swift began to drop heavier and heavier hints that whatever she was teasing, it was titled “ME!” She posted a picture of herself to Instagram with a telling caption (“ME! by the one and only @valheria123”), and another in which she poses in front of a butterfly-winged mural with the word “ME!” in block letters above her head.
But let’s not imagine that Swift has only been seeding title hints into her public appearances for a few measly days. In apparent proof that she’s been playing the long game, Swift also reblogged a Tumblr post that pointed to a lyric in the Reputation song “End Game”: “Reputation precedes me.” As in Reputation (the album) precedes “ME!” (the song). (Endgame is also the title of the very Marvel movie whose thunder Swift is currently stealing, and the song features a guest verse from rapper Future, as in “this is a message to the future.” Coincidence?)
In the midst of all this hint-dropping, many fans have theorized that Swift was planning to announce more than just some new music. After Swift was photographed wearing what looked a lot like unannounced Taylor Swift merch, some fans speculated that she was about to announce a clothing line.
Whether or not Swift decides to make another announcement to go with her new song, she probably loves that her fans are speculating in such detail.
She told Roberts that such attention to detail is one of her favorite things about her fanbase. “I cannot believe how dedicated they are, how thoughtful. I can’t believe how much they care,” she said. “So it makes it more fun for me to create music, to create videos knowing they will care about Easter eggs or clues or hints. It’s great to make it for people who care.”