WASHINGTON • Taylor Swift is planning something.
The pop megastar has been noticeably out of the spotlight since her pre-Super Bowl concert in early February to promote a new deal with DirecTV.
No red carpets, no strolls down the streets of New York, no paparazzi photo shoots while leaving the gym. There was even a social media blackout, save for two Instagram posts to plug new singles from her friends Lorde and the band Haim.
Then, the gears of the Swift machine started to grind. In early March, close pal Ed Sheeran let it "slip" in an interview that Swift "probably" would release an album at the end of the year.
Last Thursday, People magazine published an exclusive story titled "Inside Taylor Swift's 'Conscious Choice' to Disappear and Focus on Her New Music".
A nameless "source" said: "She was feeling overexposed and like things were almost spiralling out of control. She's being low-key and secretive because it makes her happy."
The story did not elaborate that feeling "overexposed" likely came from a high-profile relationship with actor Tom Hiddleston last summer that was frequently mocked for looking so staged, as well as the fallout from reality television star Kim Kardashian posting the infamous Snapchat video of Swift's phone call with rapper Kanye West about his song Famous.
By January, Swift could not even tweet about the Women's March without sparking backlash.
On Monday, TMZ published exclusive photos - the first sighting in months - of Swift getting on her private jet in Nashville and visiting her mother's house.
As Swift proved with her hiatus, she is perfectly capable of staying out of any spotlight if she wants to. What was with her sudden reappearance?
Then, on Tuesday evening, it arrived: "TAYLOR'S BRIT ON THE SLY", trumpeted Britain's The Sun, the same tabloid that first published the "kissing on a rock" photos of Swift and Hiddleston last summer.
"Taylor Swift has secret Brit actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn and the pair have been dating for months."
The Sun added that her security team "has made it a military-like mission to prevent her from being seen" as she visits him in Britain.
She made a concerted effort with her last album, 1989, to move on from the narrative that she only writes songs about her boyfriends.
But with a sudden rush of stories about her new music in the same week that it is revealed that she is dating someone, it seems like that is exactly what she is doing again.