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The Music Industry’s Obsession with Mystery

Recording artist or megamind?

I think we’re all familiar with the process an artist goes through when making new music. Usually, they finish a tour to make money to record a new album, record the album, release singles, release the full album and then go on tour again to start making money to record a new album. Sounds a bit exhausting and monotonous if you ask me. However, it’s becoming increasingly popular for artists to be cryptic about their new albums and keep fans on their toes. 

Most famously, Taylor Swift is known for dropping hints literally everywhere for her fans—only for us to figure it out months later. These hints can be found in her music videos and Instagram posts, and she’s even been known to drop extremely subtle Easter eggs during interviews or talk shows for her most special investigators. The clues point to new albums, songs, tours or other things I don’t even know about. 

Harry Styles has been known to do similar things, but he has stepped up his game for his new album. Before announcing the release date of his new album, mysterious doors started popping up all over the internet once a day. Fans soon attributed these doors to Harry Styles. Harry himself confirmed the theory, announced his new album and dropped a new single shortly after. Fans have also analyzed his “Love on Tour” performances for clues to his new album.

So, why do artists choose to create such mystery surrounding new projects? My theory is that it creates more interest around their new albums and songs. The more people an artist can get talking about their projects, the more media time and buzz the songs and albums will get. More interest means more revenue, which would mean more fans would come to see them on tour…and the cycle continues. But, I’m not simply that cynical. I think it’s deeper than that, too. 

Artists create a sort of treasure hunt for their fans because the artists themselves have fun with it. I know this sounds super simple, but it’s an extra layer of creativity to a process that can become repetitive and difficult. Coming up with new and interesting ways to engage with fans may be another outlet for artists to express their artististic talents (as well as tease their fans). If this is the case, it’s a win-win situation for both. We, as fans, get to play along and the artist gets to have fun creating clues and hints to keep their fans engaged. 

I thoroughly enjoy artists dropping clues and will continue investigating every time an artist comes out with something new. I like to think I know what’s coming next or how to solve a mystery, but I think we all know that’s not true. Keep your eyes out for your favorite artist’s clues.

Theresa Wolfe

Wisconsin '22

Theresa is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from Albert Lea, Minnesota. She is a Psychology and Social Welfare major with certificates in Criminal Justice and Italian. She enjoys listening to music, watching movies, and reading in her free time.
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