“Karma” is real, but what about Karma?
Taylor Swift works hard, but Swifties work harder. Taylor is known to drop Easter eggs about her albums ahead of releasing them. So much so that a song title she recently announced off the Midnights album is rumored to be an egg that dates way back.
On Oct. 6, Taylor announced in a TikTok that track 11 on Midnights is called “Karma.” The song title is especially notable because it’s the same as a rumored long-lost Taylor Swift album that may have never seen the light of day. As soon as Taylor said the song’s title in her TikTok, she couldn’t contain her laughter. Could it have been a signal that she’s acknowledging the secret album theories? Here’s hoping so.
As outlined in a series of TikTok videos by the account @thethriftyswiftie, as well as a report by Rolling Stone, the theories start shortly after her smash album 1989 in 2014. The theory goes that a scrapped album existed between 1989 and Reputation, her 2017 follow-up record.
What was the name of that potential mystery album? Karma, of course.
Until Reputation, Taylor had consistently released a new album about every two years, so it seemed possible that a new album would arrive in 2016, two years after 1989’s release.
Rather than emerge with an even bigger new album, Taylor did something unexpected in 2016. She retreated from the spotlight following a highly-publicized feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. This tumultuous period was chronicled in her 2020 Netflix documentary Miss Americana, where she famously said, “Nobody physically saw me for a year.”
It all started in February 2016 when Kanye released his single “Famous,” where he rapped, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? / I made that b*tch famous.” Taylor publicly denounced the song, specifically the line calling her a b*tch. Vox reported in 2020 that, in 2016, Taylor’s publicist said, “Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that b*tch famous.’”
However, TMZ reported that Kanye had checked with Taylor about the song. The feud came to a head that July when Kim posted a video on her Snapchat of Kanye calling Taylor ahead of the song’s release to get approval on the line about having sex. This led to criticism of Taylor and popularized the image of her as a “snake” that she would later reference in her Reputation era. As for whether Taylor heard the “b*tch” reference, she maintained that she had not.
So, how does this relate to Karma? Well, a few months after the controversy, Taylor appeared on the April cover of Vogue where she rocked a bleached haircut. This was a departure from the blondish-brown cut she had at the Grammys in February amid the scandal.
Then, at the 2016 Met Gala in May, she hit the red carpet with the bleached haircut. This presented the possibility that a new music era was on the way, considering that Taylor changed up her hair before the releases of Red and 1989.
That’s not it. Taylor also did a 73 Questions interview with Vogue in April as part of her cover story. When asked what her biggest life lesson has been, she said plainly, “Karma is real.”
For Swifties, 2016 then largely came and went without a new album as part of her traditional two-year cadence. Then Taylor was back with a vengeance in November 2017 with Reputation. Not only was she back, but her hair had returned to a more familiar length and shade of brownish-blonde. This could have possibly signified that whatever era was supposed to start in 2016, if there was one, had passed.
The color orange also became a seemingly recurring theme in the years after Karma’s purported shelving, especially as the theories about a secret album picked up. In the video for the Reputation single “Look What You Made Me Do,” Taylor wore an orange outfit and tried fighting her way out of a cage, possibly symbolizing the Karma album was trapped in music purgatory. The song, which was theorized to be a direct response to Kanye and Kim’s shenanigans, also notably contained the lyric, “All I think about is karma.”
Taylor also wore a dress with an orange top to the 2016 Grammys during the Kanye feud, though it’s unclear if this was coincidental or part of the orange color story theory.
As new Taylor eras came and went, some hawk-eyed fans noticed other Karma-related clues throughout them. In the music video for the Lover single “The Man,” Taylor dressed in male drag and urinated in front of a wall graffitied with her album names. In the middle of the wall among all the other titles was the word “karma,” appearing next to a sign that read “MISSING: IF FOUND RETURN TO TAYLOR SWIFT.”
This is why Taylor announcing a “Karma” song on the Midnights album is increasingly notable. Of course, theories abound regarding the timing of the song announcement. As one Twitter user noted, the original demo of Kanye’s song “Famous” leaked online on Oct. 6, 2016. Because Taylor announced “Karma” on Oct. 6 of this year, this line of thinking would mean that she could potentially be signaling her long-overdue Karma era exactly six years later.
Another fan on Twitter pointed out the significance of where the song “Karma” is positioned on the Midnights tracklist. Track 11 on her 2010 album Speak Now is the song “Innocent,” where she addressed Kanye’s infamous interruption of her acceptance speech at the VMAs the year before. (Yes, Taylor and Kanye have had multiple feuds across decades.)
As it stands, all of this is just theories. To be clear, Taylor has never confirmed a Karma album ever existed. What is known for certain is that Taylor has finally confirmed that “Karma” is real, though (at least for now) it’s one song rather than a whole album.
Still, if there is an entire album’s worth of material sitting unreleased, why keep it in the vault? Taylor is notably cleaning out her vault, after all.