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Taylor Swift finally released new music after a much-hyped countdown. Here’s everything to know.

Singer Taylor Swift debuted a music video for her new song, "ME!," at midnight on April 26. Here are some of the highlights. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)
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You might have seen it on Twitter, Instagram, or even an international billboard: For the last two weeks, Taylor Swift was counting down to something. As a timer ticked toward midnight ET on April 26, fans obsessed over what the pop superstar was planning. Swift ratcheted up suspense by posting one photo a day on social media, and even commissioned a mural in Nashville to tease her announcement. She stirred up the frenzy further when she made a surprise appearance at the mural on Thursday afternoon.

Finally, at midnight, it was revealed: New music! (Okay, you may have seen that one coming.) Swift, who released her last album in November 2017, dropped a single and music video for a new song called “ME!” featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco.

Swift, the master of hidden messages, knows the best way to create buzz is to be very vague and fuel mystery — so if you’re feeling a bit lost amid all the hype, here’s everything you need to know.

1) The writers of the song.

“ME!," an extremely upbeat, joyful track, is written by Swift, Urie and Joel Little. This is Swift’s first song with Little, the New Zealand producer known for working with Lorde (he co-wrote her debut smash “Royals” and produced both her albums) along with fellow Swift pals Ellie Goulding and Shawn Mendes.

As for the Urie partnership? “Brendon has always been one of my favorite performers and I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that it would be INSANE to find the right thing to collab on and when I wrote this chorus I KNEW," Swift wrote in a YouTube live chat as the video premiered.

2) The meaning of the song.

There are about to be thousands of theories dissecting this, but Swift offered an explanation during the 2019 NFL Draft (of all places!) Thursday night, where she appeared with ABC’s Robin Roberts for a brief interview in downtown Nashville.

“‘ME!’ is a song about embracing your individuality and really celebrating it and owning it,” Swift said. “I think that with a pop song, we have the ability to get a melody stuck in people’s heads, and I want it to be one that makes them feel better about themselves.”

She had more analysis in a note to Apple Music subscribers: “It’s about not feeling like you’re replaceable. We’re sent so many messages that there’s a better version of us on a social media app, with better abs, in a better vacation spot. You’re the only one of you — that’s it. There’s just you.”

3) The music video.

The sunny, pastel-splashed color scheme (which has been all over Swift’s Instagram clues for weeks) could not be more different from the dark, moody rollout of her last album, “Reputation,” which dropped after a very public feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian that led to "some really low times” for the singer.

In case you are oblivious to the contrast, Swift makes it extra clear in the first scene of the video, as a hissing snake slithers over colorful pavement. This is significant because Kardashian referred to Swift as a “snake” on social media, which contributed to the sinking of her “reputation.” Anyway, Swift embraced the snake symbolism in the “Reputation” era, but in the “ME!” video, the snake suddenly bursts into butterflies. Rebirth! A new Swift has arrived. She is literally a butterfly now.

The video kicks off as Swift and Urie star as a couple yelling at each other in French, even though Swift admonishes him for arguing in front of “our young daughters." These young daughters are Swift’s cats; there are cats all over this video, possibly to remind everyone that Swift will be starring in the feature film “Cats” later this year.

The lyrics are indeed all about individuality (“I promise that you’ll never find another like me”) and go back and forth between Swift and Urie’s characters. They admit they have their faults (she can act “psycho,” he’s obsessed with himself), but that’s okay! Without messiness, life would be very boring.

The video, which has a “Wizard of Oz" meets "Mary Poppins” meets “Glee” vibe, features Swift riding a unicorn; Urie floating from the sky with an umbrella; lots of colorfully dressed backup dancers with briefcases; a plethora of hearts and rainbows; and a spoken-word verse where they exclaim “Hey kids, spelling is fun!”

4) The hidden messages.

On YouTube, Swift had this to say: “Okay, regarding Easter Eggs. . .there are a lot of them in this video. Some you’ll find out right away and some will take a minute to reveal their meaning (omg why am I talking like a sorcerer).” She added there’s one secret in the video that she has been keeping “for months.”

Sorcery aside, one obvious clue stands out: When Swift sings the line, “There’s a lot of cool chicks out there,” the camera zooms in on a painting of none other than the Dixie Chicks, the famously controversial country trio that has been teasing new music for what seems like years. Swift is a longtime Dixie Chicks fan. Could there be a collaboration in store?

5) The album.

This is all leading to Swift’s seventh studio album. She will have quite an act to follow, as “Reputation” was the top album of 2018. On Tumblr, Swift assured a fan that the record will be released “SOOOOOOON.”

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@taylorswift is about to release something big. It could be a single, a video, an album, or something entirely different. Whatever it is will drop tonight at midnight. • @taylornation and the “Swifties” are ready. @taylorswift commands one of the most loyal followings in modern pop: She has 83 million Twitter followers, and 116 million Instagram followers. And while people tend to assume that Swift fans are teenage girls, Swift’s most longtime, diehard fans are actually a lot older than we think, Caroline Kitchener writes. They are the fans who have grown up with Swift, now straddling either side of 30. These millennial women continue to follow Swift for the same reason they keep watching the 2000s TV show, “Gilmore Girls,” says Brandon Hernsberger, a professor of English and pop culture at Houston Community College who has written extensively on the Taylor Swift fan base: It’s comfortable and familiar, granting fans temporary admittance into a world that’s less complicated than the one they inhabit day-to-day. (illustration by @polilovi for @thelilynews; art direction by @amycavenaile)

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