Taylor Swift is obsessed with Easter eggs, and it's ruining her new music

For pop culture fans, Easter eggs aren’t just reserved for one holiday in April.

The concept in visual media of hiding clues and callbacks for fans to find has grown into a full-blown cultural obsession. After every new episode of “Game of Thrones,” articles flood the internet pointing out the obscure references to past plot lines and scenes. "Avengers: Endgame" was an Easter egg goldmine for Marvel fans. New “Star Wars” trailers are picked apart for secret messages in the seconds after their release.

"Pokemon: Detective Pikachu," "Riverdale," the new releases of “Mortal Kombat” and "Fortnite," the "Stranger Things" trailer and even Vampire Weekend’s new album have all been subjects of Easter egg hunts in recent months as fans take to social media to identify clues.

But what happens when creators go overboard and make Easter eggs the entire point of their release?

That’s the danger that Taylor Swift has been flirting with in recent weeks, with a new music roll-out that been almost entirely focused on the hidden clues in her Instagram posts, magazine covers and music video for her new single “ME.”

Brendon Urie and Taylor Swift perform during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards on May 1.

When done well, Easter eggs are a fun dialogue between artists and consumers. Fans feel rewarded for their engaged viewing with a jolt of recognition and that deeply satisfying feeling of belonging to some exclusive club of fans-in-the-know.

Swift, who is well-known for being a master marketer, has deployed Easter eggs throughout her career to stoke her fans' excitement for her new releases. She’s doing the same now, too, with many of her fans obsessed with her current hunt.

But somewhere in between her "Look What You Made Me Do" video in 2017, in which fans got to watch iterations of Swift from her past eras battle one another, and her current album roll-out, the focus on Swift's Easter eggs has superseded everything else related to her new music to the point where they've become meaningless.

Swift's weeks-long Instagram campaign, including daily posts of pastel imagery, many of which later showed up in the "ME" video, was only the beginning. The "ME" video was stuffed with clues such as her boyfriend's hometown of London and a painting of country artist the Dixie Chicks. The eggs almost completely consumed media coverage with Swift sharing in an interview that the clip contained three distinct tiers of Easter eggs of varying obscurity. Her Billboard Music Awards performance was equally filled with callbacks.

On her recent Entertainment Weekly cover, featuring her first proper interview in three years, she wore a denim jacket covered in pins – all Easter eggs, obviously. She explained that the butterfly high heels she wore to the 2019 iHeartRadio Awards as well as her pastel nail color in a 2018 Spotify video for "Delicate" were clues foreshadowing her forthcoming era.  

"I love to communicate through Easter eggs,” she told EW. “I think the best messages are cryptic ones."

Yet, many Swift fans – those who have connected with her plainspoken, honest songwriting over the years– may disagree with her statement that she's at her best when she's being cryptic. And listeners interested in engaging with her new music on a deeper level or for its artistic value may be hungry for Swift to give us something more substantive than the zero-calorie confections that are Easter eggs.

Discouraged Swifties tired of the Easter egg overkill can take heart in the fact that with Swift's previous two releases "1989" and "Reputation,"  the albums' initial singles were equally kitschy. Fans were skeptical of "Welcome to New York" and its associated NYC tourism campaign as well as the overdone villain posturing of "Look What You Made Me Do." But both of those were eventually followed by stronger singles and deeper content.

So while Swift may be leaning all the way into our cultural Easter egg obsession, there's hope that she will ease up on the hidden clues in her new music still to come.