To be a Taylor Swift fan is to be a detective. How 'The Tortured Poets Department' release has Swifties in a frenzy.

As far as fandoms go, Taylor Swift fans — aka Swifties — are in a league of their own. Be it a cryptic lyric, hidden message or pop-up installation at a shopping mall, fans of the 14-time Grammy winner can’t seem to get enough of her use of easter eggs to tease crucial information about upcoming albums and projects. With The Tortured Poets Department’s April 19 release around the corner, Swifties are in full-fledged detective mode. The hidden details of the forthcoming album is one case they’re determined to crack.

Swift’s use of hidden messages can be traced back to her debut album. 2008’s Taylor Swift marked the first time the singer intentionally capitalized certain letters in the CD’s lyric booklet to form a message pertaining to each track. She continued this trend through Red in 2012 before switching things up — relying on uncapitalized words to form a message — for 2014’s 1989.

But The Tortured Poets Department isn’t as easily decodable as keeping track of capitalized or uncapitalized letters. Since announcing the Tortured Poets release date at the Grammys in February (marking the second time Swift has announced an upcoming album at an awards show), fans have been obsessed over her use of peace signs and the number two. Could all this signify another surprise drop?

The album’s announcement itself also came as a surprise as fans were expecting her to release Reputation (Taylor’s Version) instead. Moral of the story? Swift isn’t one for predictability.

Swifties share their decoding processes

For Danielle Marie, a Taylor Swift-focused content creator with more than 170,000 followers on TikTok, constant decoding is integral to the fandom.

“Part of being a Swiftie is the insanity of deciding whether or not Taylor is giving us an Easter egg,” Marie told Yahoo Entertainment. “I have a master note where I keep ideas…that end up being successfully [verified] as an Easter egg and compare what we know from previous things she’s done or shared. I also have a ton of screenshots and folders to easily identify things that I recognize from previous Swiftie-esque investigations.”

Nikki King, another prominent Swiftie on TikTok, told Yahoo Entertainment that she’s typically on high alert for any information that comes directly from Swift or her team.

“The process for me personally is to make connections with anything from her past releases or to look for what it might mean in the future,” she said. “For example, [on April 16] we learned about the lyric ‘one less dagger to sharpen’ on TTPD. … I immediately looked for previous uses of daggers or knives in her lyrics. I personally remember her wearing a pair of dagger earrings to the American Music Awards in November of 2022. She loves to weave a metaphor as a golden thread through her work and it deepens our understanding of her art in context.”

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift at the 2022 American Music Awards. (Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images) (Gilbert Flores via Getty Images)

She added: “We try to track [Swift’s patterns] but she can be unpredictable. Prior to the pandemic, she followed a more typical album cycle. She’d release pre-album singles and would typically release a new album every other year. Now, things are so unpredictable with her rerecords and current new releases.”

Jen, who asked to go by her first name for privacy reasons, runs the TikTok account @swiftieversenews13. She believes Swift’s fashion is an easy indicator that something new — an album or an era — may be on the way.

“As she begins recording and working on a new album, her clothing will begin to reflect that new era. It’s the first real clue that something is in the works,” she said. “It’s why Swifties get extra excited to see pictures of her out and about, going to dinner with friends or heading to the recording studio.”

Why does Swift love Easter eggs?

What started as a way for the “Cruel Summer” singer to incentivize fans to read the lyrics of her songs has evolved into something far bigger than Swift intended. Luckily, Swifties are up for the challenge and are gladly distinguishing and dissecting every Easter egg that comes their way.

“[Swift] has said she will keep leaving Easter eggs as long as we continue to enjoy finding them,” Jen said. “I think the point of it is for her to have fun with her fans, to connect with us in this very unique way and at the same time it’s promoting her work and getting us excited for it.”

These cryptic clues and theories, King said, aren’t just ways for fans to get wrapped up in the process, they’re also sources of inspiration for Swift.

“When fans saw the album variants for TTPD, they theorized that each announcement of a ‘darker’ variant, from white to black, symbolized the five stages of grief,” King said. “According to Apple Music, she was so inspired by that fan theory, she leaned into it, creating five playlists of songs she wrote at each stage.”

A network of Swifties

For Swifties, deciphering one of Swift’s cryptic messages isn’t just an engaging pastime, it’s also a way to interact with other fans.

Casey Tayler, a Swiftie content creator, told Yahoo Entertainment that the Swiftverse is a particularly unique fandom because of how enthusiastic and communicative everyone is.

“The Swiftverse is a sharing universe and that’s what makes it great. It’s a bunch of girly bops supporting each other, engaging with each other over shared experiences and most importantly, being excited about what’s coming next,” Tayler told Yahoo Entertainment. “I think that’s why Taylor does what she does. She gives us an opportunity to be excited about the future … to work together.”