Taylor Swift is apparently bringing in Phoebe Bridgers as a guest for her upcoming “Red (Taylor’s Version)” album — not according to any press release, but according to a word puzzle the superstar put up on social media Thursday morning.
Chris Stapleton and Ed Sheeran also appear to be confirmed as guests. Sheeran’s participation was already known — he appeared on the original “Red” album, and recently said in an interview he’d re-recorded his duet part — but Stapleton joins Bridgers in the surprise department.
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As Swift did prior to the release of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” — the first of her complete remakes of her Big Machine catalog albums — the singer took to her Instagram and Twitter accounts with a video containing what looks to be a random jumble of letters for fans to decode. Embedded within that word salad are song titles and guests for the “Vault” bonus tracks, consisting of songs written during the time frame but never released, set to come out as brand new recordings. But this time, the seemingly random lines of letters weren’t in anagram form, but added up to a crossword puzzle instead.
Some of the clues were tougher than others for Swifties to immediately decode. But Bridgers’ name? Swift didn’t make that too much of a challenge. When you take the entire sequence of lines of letters that appear in the video clip and stack them top to bottom, the letters in “Phoebe” line up in the left hand column. Even more obviously, “Bridgers” runs left to right on the next-to-bottom line.
Stapleton’s name took a little longer to figure; the letters in “Stapleton” appear backward on the bottom line of the puzzle.
Also appearing in the puzzle are the words “Better” and “Man,” making it appear likely fans will finally get Swift’s own version of “Better Man,” a song that became a No. 1 country hit when she gave it to Little Big Town to cover in 2016.
Similarly, the word “Babe” shows up, a likely tip-off that Swift fans will get to hear her take on a song by that title that she gave Sugarland to record (and added her own backing vocals to) in 2018.
Swift’s only non-puzzle comments on the post read: “*presses post* … *cackles maniacally* …Level: casually cruel in the name of being honest.”
“Red (Taylor’s Version)” was announced in June as set to come out Nov. 19. Until now, the only information Swift has released about it is that it will include 30 songs, and that it would include a 10-minute song, presumably the fabled 10-minute version of fan favorite “All Too Well.”
Just in case, there was any doubt about that latter track, the puzzle does include all the words in “All Too Well Ten Minute Version.”
A CD version of the upcoming set went up for pre-order simultaneously with the release of the word puzzle; promised amid the packaging is lyrics for nine previously unrecorded Vault tracks.
Since Sheeran is known to have re-recorded the original duet he did with Swift for the “Red” album, “Everything Has Changed,” and the other clues in the crossword relate to the nine previously unheard “Vault” additions, it’s not clear whether Sheeran might also have contributed to one or more of those tracks, too, or whether it simply refers to his being featured on the album generally.
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