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Taylor Swift just announced a new album and single in typically savvy fashion

2017 DIRECTV NOW Super Saturday Night Concert In Houston - Taylor Swift Performance Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for DIRECTV
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

We finally know what Taylor Swift has been plotting: her new Reputation.

Swift’s absence from the public eye has been conspicuous over the past few months. She apparently skipped hosting her annual Fourth of July party, which she usually celebrates by posting a blast of carefully posed photographs all over Instagram. Her presence in paparazzi rags has dropped to near invisibility. She’s been so invisible that it seemed plausible to multiple people that her staff was sneaking her in and out of her apartment in a giant box.

But this week, Swift started making moves.

She wiped all of her social media profiles clean — no profile pictures, even. She deleted her old posts.

On Monday, she posted a grainy video of a snake on every account she owned. Rumors flew that she was planning to make an announcement at 2 pm Eastern, just as the solar eclipse was reaching its peak in New York, in what would have been the ultimate power move.

The eclipse came and went without an official announcement from Swift, but a page did appear on Genius for a Swift single called “Timeless,” and has been registered and is “coming soon.”

On Tuesday and early Wednesday, Swift tweeted two more snake videos, further teasing an announcement of … something.

Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, Swift finally shared some actual news, and it’s big: Her new album is called Reputation, and she’ll be dropping the first single on Thursday night.

This savvy promotional strategy falls right in line with Swift’s masterful curation of her own image and music. Right now is the perfect time for a new Taylor Swift single, for a few reasons. Let’s break ’em down.

It’s is the perfect way to build suspense for Sunday’s VMAs

MTV’s Video Music Awards are this Sunday, and while Swift isn’t technically on the roster, it’s widely rumored that she’ll be making a surprise appearance. It would be a very Swiftian move, if so. The VMAs were the site of Swift’s infamous 2009 encounter with Kanye West, which was the moment in which Swift was perhaps most thoroughly in control of her publicity narrative, and they’ll be hosted this year by Katy Perry, with whom Swift has a well-documented feud — all of which would mean headlines galore for Swift. By releasing a song now, Swift is in the perfect position to give it its live debut at the VMAs this weekend, summoning all the associated publicity that would come with it.

It’s been just over a year since the #KimExposedTaylorParty

Last July, Kim Kardashian West released a series of videos online that appeared to demonstrate that Swift had signed off on Kanye West’s controversial “Famous” lyrics (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous”), despite Swift’s claims to the contrary.

The ensuing social media uproar was furious. We always knew Swift was fake, the narrative went, and now, at last, we had proof.

The whole thing went down on National Snake Day, and Kardashian West posted a tweet heavily implying that Swift herself was a snake. In response, people flooded Swift’s social media pages with snake emojis.

It was a brutal blow for Swift, who was still recovering from the damage her incredibly-fake-looking relationship with Tom Hiddleston had done to her image. For the first time, she skipped her biannual album release. She disappeared from the tabloids, more or less going into hiding.

But on Monday, Swift herself posted the same thing on all of her social media pages: a video of a snake.

Swift has let over a year go by since the #KimExposedTaylorParty. She’s ready to try to take control of her narrative again.

In the wake of her recent trial, Swift’s social capital is at an all-time high

After disappearing from public for most of the past year, Swift resurfaced earlier this month to face the man who allegedly groped her and then sued her for defamation. There’s no reason to think that Swift somehow manipulated the court system so that her trial would take place just before her music release date — but it would be entirely within her abilities to schedule her music around her court date.

And as a publicity move, that would be masterful. Swift came out of her trial looking fantastic. She was clearly the wronged party, but she wasn’t petty about it. She countersued her accuser for a single dollar, just on principle, in hopes of making the justice system easier for other women who get assaulted and have to deal with it in court.

On the stand, she was cool, collected, and endlessly quotable, slinging out bon mots like, “I'm not going to allow you or your client to make me feel in any way that this is my fault, because it isn't,” and noting that her skirt appeared undisturbed in a crucial photo “because my ass is located in the back of my body.”

After a year in which everyone has been vaguely certain that Swift is in some undefined way problematic, she’s successfully reestablished her feminist bona fides and once again become someone worth rooting for.

Now is the perfect time for Swift to capitalize on the public good will with a new single.

Updated: This article has been updated to include information about Swift’s official album announcement. An earlier version of this article included a section about Swift’s practice of releasing albums in October, but Reputation is apparently coming out in November.

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