Late Thursday night, Taylor Swift released “ME!,” her first new single since her 2017 album Reputation. So far it’s, uh, divisive, to say the least. (Great outfits in the video! Why the dolphin screeches in the chorus? We’ve waited two years, and all she’s got for us is a song that sounds like a Katy Perry b-side?) But we’ll let others debate the relative vapidity of T. Swift’s current direction. We’re focused on the evidence that she’s got a Dixie Chicks collaboration in the offing.
Here’s what we know: Early in “ME!,” Swift sings, “There’s a lot of cool chicks out there.” As she does so in the video, there’s a wall in the background featuring portraits of a bunch of chicks—actual chicks, lil’ birdies—wearing sunglasses, as well as a painting of what looks like Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Robison in chic black outfits. Then, because Swift is not particularly subtle (sample lyric from “ME!”: “you can’t spell awesome without me”), she repeats the line at the end of the next verse, accompanied by a tighter shot with a much better look at that Dixie Chicks portrait. After the video dropped, the Texan country trio tweeted at the star:
— The Chicks (@thechicks) April 26, 2019
Aaaaand—that’s it, really. Because Swift’s good at playing hype cycles, and she likes to drop Easter eggs and teasers into her work, fans tend to parse each new video like it’s the end credits of a Marvel movie or a deep reference to an early-season episode of Game of Thrones. It’s possible that Swift is teasing a collaboration—”ME!” features the guy from Panic! at the Disco, so maybe she has a collaborations album in the works?—but maybe also she just wants to shout out an influence, or get the Internet to speculate for a day or two about her next single while the paint is still wet on this one.
It’s impossible to say—but if Swift and the Dixie Chicks are working together, it would be a big deal for both. Swift is a bigger star at this point, but the Dixie Chicks possess a hard-earned gravitas that sets them apart from the pop world. (Beyoncé doesn’t take most artists’ calls when they ask her to sit in with them, you know?) Working with Swift would be good for introducing the Dixie Chicks to fans who mostly think of them as a legacy act from their parents’ generation (albeit one with a surprising amount of indie respect). Meanwhile, welcoming the Chicks into her squad would give Swift a chance to earn cred with a segment of the audience that doesn’t hear much for them in a song like “ME!”
Will it happen? Who knows? But we’re talking about it, which means that both sides have already won, at least a little.