Musicians hide hints in music videos, lyrics, social media

Charlotte Tomlin

Cakes. Cars. Names. Necklaces. Doors. Common objects take on a whole new connotation when musicians and production companies attach hidden meanings to them. Called “Easter eggs,” objects or ideas are correlated with a different meaning in films, songs, video games, TV shows and more — creating an elusive hint that only the most perceptive of fans catch. Easter eggs are not a new phenomenon in the media, yet the name is relatively new, used to elicit the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt. Hunting for Easter eggs is like hunting for clues in the media.

Arguably the most complicated and most famous master of Easter eggs is Taylor Swift, famed singer and songwriter. Swift has an expansive array of Easter eggs to her name, oftentimes planned years in advance.

“My favorite Taylor Swift Easter egg so far has to be her ‘not a lot going on at the moment’ phrase,” sophomore and Swift fan, Cara Lichty said. “She will post pictures with this caption when she is recording something to let fans know that music is coming. She posted a photo with this caption when she recorded ‘Cardigan,’ and did the same leading up to ‘Evermore.’”

Swift’s newest albums, including “Red (Taylor’s Version)” are chock-full of Easter eggs. In the music video for “I Bet You Think About Me,” a ‘vault’ track from “Red (Taylor’s Version),” a towering wedding cake is featured. On the cake, iced numbers are featured at the top, including the number 13, which is Swift’s lucky number. The middle layer of the cake features the design of two of Swift’s rings, one ring is featured on the cover of “Red (Taylor’s Version),” and the other one she wore when “Red” was released in 2012. The bottom tier of the cake features iced designs of birds, most notably two species of birds: seagulls—featured on Swift’s 2014 “1989” album cover—and a type of bird called swifts.

“[‘Not a lot going on at the moment’] was also on her shirt for the ‘22’ music video, leading some fans to think that she was hinting at the ‘Red’ rerecording the entire time [she was recording ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’],” Lichty said. “This has been my favorite Easter egg because to non-fans, it would seem like a normal caption to post, but now whenever she posts this saying, fans know that new music is in the works, almost like a code of sorts.”

In 2019, Swift, anticipating the release of her new album “Lover,” released a single and music video for her song “ME!” In the vibrant video, references were made to Swift’s “1989” album and The Chicks, the famed country trio who were featured on “Soon You’ll Get Better.” A neon sign spelling out “Lover” made an appearance in the video, hinting at her next album’s name. At the beginning of the music video, Swift and Brendan Urie, lead singer of Panic At The Disco who was featured on “ME!,” partake in an argument in French, in which Urie tells Swift “you need to calm down,” giving away the name of Swift’s next single.

 “I remember when she hid a Lover sign in her ‘Me!’ music video, hinting at the name of her next album,” Lichty said. “I like easter eggs like this that are so obvious after she drops an album that you are just left thinking ‘how could I have missed that?’”

One of Swift’s most Easter egg ridden music videos is her “Look What You Made Me Do” music video, accompanying the lead single of her 2017 “Reputation.” In the beginning of the video, a gravestone is pictured with the name “Nils Sjöberg” etched on it, the alias that Swift used when songwriting with Calvin Harris in the past. In a later clip of the video, Swift lays in a jewel-filled bathtub containing one singular dollar bill, representing her historic sexual assault lawsuit in which she sued for one dollar. Additionally, the video features her friends dressed in “I heart TS” tank tops—a nod to a tank top her ex-boyfriend, Tom Hiddleston, wore to one of Swift’s parties. However, one of Swift’s most famous Easter eggs is the use of snakes throughout her “Reputation” era. Snakes were the emoji that Kim Kardashian had used to flame Swift after the dispute between Swift and Kanye West, after the release of the latter’s song “Famous.”

“I have been a fan of Taylor’s music for my entire life,” Lichty said. “But I really only started following her life and easter eggs after she surprised everyone with her ‘Reputation’ album after disappearing for a while. Since then, I have been more invested in what she is up to because… I realized that the process of her releasing music and the expectation can be just as fun as when the music is released.”

I like Easter eggs like this that are so obvious after she drops an album, that you are just left thinking ‘how could I have missed that?’

Cara Lichty

Swift’s prolific use of Easter eggs has led many fans to speculate their own theories about what Swift will be up to next.

“I have a long standing theory that the colors in the lyrics for the song red correlate to the scarf that the album references,” Lichty said. “The lyrics of the song talk about the colors red, dark gray and blue just like the colors of the scarf. That is really the only theory I have come up with on my own, and it has never been confirmed, but I believe that it is true.”

However, Swift is not the only musician to use Easter eggs in her work. Singer and songwriter Harry Styles is famous for dropping clues for his fans to decipher his next move. Most recently, an Instagram account with the user “You are home” popped up on many fans’ radars and led to rumors flying about new music from Styles. The Instagram account posted a picture of a door every day, beginning March 19, at 11 a.m. Central Time. Mysterious backgrounds accompanied each half-open door and led many fans to speculate whether or not the backgrounds were related to Styles.

“Harry just started a new Instagram account called ‘You are home’ [where] the account posts doors with a secret meaning behind each door,” freshman Harry Styles fan Jane Leopard said. “I thought that the doors were somehow related to his new single coming out. When the music video was released I looked back and you could tell each door was a clip of the music video.”

On March 25, Styles announced the release of his new album “Harry’s House,” set to release on May 20, 2022. The name of the album coincided with fans’ belief that the new album would center around the theme of “home,” after Styles renamed the pit sections of his upcoming 2022 Love On Tour to “Bedroom,” “Hallway” and “Kitchen,” and ended the United States leg of his tour saying goodbye to his American audience by saying, “One more time, as loud as you can, send me home.”

“I’ve been a [Harry Styles] fan for around a year,” Leopard said. “[Even so], Harry could breathe, and we will think he is dropping clues.”

Music Easter eggs are not contained to just pop music either. Fans of up-and-coming Red Dirt country star Zach Bryan have noticed nods to future songs in his music.

“In Zach Bryan’s song ‘Heading South,’ he sings ‘as the masses sing the lyrics of a messed up kid,’” sophomore Zach Bryan fan Xander Nelson said. “‘Heading South’ is the fourth song on the album, and the eleventh song on the album is called ‘Messed Up Kid.’ I think it’s pretty cool how Zach Bryan hints at future songs in his [previous] songs. Plus, ‘Heading South’ is just a great song.”

Re-used lyrics and hints to future songs are a common theme in Bryan’s music, much to his fans’ delight.

“In ‘Don’t Give Up On Me,’ there’s the lyric ‘to hug you ‘till your little lungs turn blue,’” sophomore Stephen Swann said. “Later on in the album, in the song ‘Condemned,’ Zach Bryan reuses those lyrics and says ‘you can tell me that you love me till your little lungs turn blue.’ It took me a bit to realize that parallel, but once I did, my mind was blown.”

The proliferation of Easter eggs in current music culture has led to increased excitement within fandoms in anticipation of new material from their favorite artists.

“I for sure overthink everything Taylor does at this point, [but] that is what she wants,” Lichty said. “From her outfits, hairstyles, captions and what she chooses to place in the background of her photos, everything has a theory. This has definitely been heightened now that we know she is rerecording albums because we have an idea of what color schemes and styles we are looking for in accordance with the albums. Before we were just trying to guess if she would be releasing anything, [but] now we have options to try to figure out what she is going to release.”

“I for sure overthink everything that comes to music now,” said Swann. “Looking for hints in music and movies makes listening and watching them a lot more fun, and I’m definitely more invested in them. Easter eggs are really fun to look for, and I’m always on the lookout!”

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