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Taylor Swift, public relations genius, releases ‘Out of the Woods’ early

Taylor Swift performs during the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

When it comes to pre-album publicity, there’s no one as expertly methodical as Taylor Swift.

Call her the anti-Beyonce or U2: Instead of randomly dropping an album in the middle of the night or sneaking it on to people’s iTunes libraries, Swift still treats the lead-up to a new project (the upcoming “1989,” dropping Oct. 27) as a major international event. She appears on magazine covers across the world, from People to British Vogue. She includes loads of album details in the most significant cover story, such as her scoop-filled profile in Rolling Stone. She stops by talk shows and signs on to guest-mentor on “The Voice.” She invites her diehard fans to preview listening parties at her houses across the country, called the #1989SecretSessions.

The most important: She strategically releases one song at a time in the weeks leading up to the album release, teasing them with Instagram photos. The anticipation reached an unusual hysteria on Monday night when Swift released new tune “Out of the Woods” on iTunes just after 11 p.m. Peak frenzy: During the evening, hashtags like “#5HoursUntilOutOfTheWoods” became worldwide trending topics. (It’s the first new song since the album’s debut single “Shake It Off,” which was released in August and already certified platinum.)

Part of the reason for the excitement was in that Rolling Stone story, Swift revealed that the song (written with Jack Antonoff of fun.) chronicled a spectacularly difficult relationship. It was one where “every day was a struggle. Forget making plans for life – we were just trying to make it to next week,” Swift said. This led to everyone’s favorite guessing game: Which ex is this song about?  (The obvious contender is One Direction’s Harry Styles.) But more significantly, the lyrics include a reference what Swift says was a serious snowmobile accident.

“Remember when you hit the brakes too soon/Twenty stitches in a hospital room,” Swift sings. “When you started crying/Baby, I did too.” (And yes, a trip to the hospital between two superstars managed to stay secret.)

The rest of the song doesn’t offer too many specific clues, except this line: “Last December, we were built to fall apart/Then fall back together.” That should give the Styles conspiracy theorists plenty to mull over: Swift and Styles did have an on again, off again relationship and dated in December 2012. (Leading to the infamous “saddest boat ride ever” in January after they broke up.) Another hint: “Your necklace hanging from my neck,” so expect the Internet to start scouring for photos of Swift wearing his necklace.

The tune is as catchy as you would expect, building to a frantic chorus asking “Are we out of the woods yet? Are we out of the woods yet?” repeatedly, followed by “Are we in the clear yet? Are we in the clear yet?” The words also call out Polaroid photos, a big theme in “1989” album art: “You took a Polaroid of us, then discovered/The rest of the world was black and white, but we were in screaming color.”

As the fandom immediately went to work dissecting the lyrics, Swift — who had happily tweeted all day about the song — used her marketing savvy for the predictably perfect kicker for the evening, reminding us the point of all the excitement: pre-ordering her album.