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Karma

"Lost Album" Fan Theory

This article is about the fan theory. For the 2022 song, see Karma.
Karma is the name of a rumored scrapped, and secret album that some fans think Taylor was working on in 2016. However, Taylor has stated more than once that she wasn’t working on new music at the time. The theory also has no connection to the song “Karma,” which was released on Taylor’s tenth studio album, Midnights (2022).
Table of Contents

Background

Across numerous breakdown videos and Twitter threads, Taylor’s Easter egg-loving fans have been piecing together the mystery of a “lost” album in her discography. Various clues suggest that the album might have been titled Karma and that it was meant to follow her pop blockbuster 1989 (2014). Of course, what actually happened after 1989 is also what might have led to the supposed Karma album being scrapped (if it even existed): In 2016, Taylor endured a very public feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian that made her go radio silent for nearly a year until she released 2017’s reputation. That period also bore controversies over her lack of a clear political affiliation during the 2016 election and alleged falling outs with numerous gal pals attached to her infamous “squad.”

Theory

People think Karma was recorded in 2016 — a rough year for Taylor. To understand why, here’s a refresher: In 2016, Taylor was coming off the success of one of her biggest album rollouts yet. 1989, her full tilt into the world of being a mega pop star, had been released in 2014, and she spent most of 2015 on the road, touring stadiums with her “The 1989 World Tour” in support of it. However, the next year was a rocky one for her: She had made amends with Kanye West after he had interrupted her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, and they were publicly friendly until February 2016, when he released the song “Famous,” which features the lines “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why?/I made that bitch famous.”

Taylor spoke out against the song and it led to a back-and-forth discussion about whether or not she had approved its controversial lines. The feud peaked in July, when West’s wife Kim Kardashian released videos on her Snapchat in which Taylor seemed to approve the song over the phone. Taylor then left social media and mostly stopped making public appearances for the rest of 2016. Up until then, she’d consistently released an album every two years. But now she had an uncharacteristically long gap in her discography, leading to speculation that perhaps she had something planned before stepping away from the spotlight.

In 2016, Taylor also debuted a new look and seemed to be dropping hints that a new era was coming. That spring, she did a very un-Taylor Swift-like thing: She chopped off her long bob and bleached it, an edgier-than-usual aesthetic for her. She appeared on the cover of Vogue, at Coachella, and at the Met Gala with the new look. Pop Rollout 101 has taught fans that a new hairdo and completely revamped style doesn’t come out of nowhere and, like other stars, Taylor has frequently used a major hair change to indicate a new era. Her styling changed, too, and she went for a more glam (but sometimes also punk) aesthetic than she had previously.
"Bleachella" by Taylor Swift (Instagram, 2016)

Karma Is Real

The title Karma wasn’t something concocted purely in the collective Swiftie imagination. Taylor had been talking about “karma” a lot then. For the same Vogue cover where she debuted a new look, she also did a “73 Questions” interview, posted on the magazine’s YouTube channel. In it, she was asked what her biggest life lesson has been, and she made it a point to say:

«Karma is real.»

Taylor Swift
It’s a common phrase and could have been a simple reference to her public feuds with West and Kardashian. But the word came up again a few years later, in the video for Lover single “The Man.” In the video, which was Taylor’s directorial debut, she illustrates all the male privilege men get to enjoy. At one point, her male alter ego urinates in front of a wall graffitied with the names of the albums that Taylor eventually began re-recording. There, in the middle, it says “karma.” The word appears next to a sign that reads “MISSING: IF FOUND RETURN TO TAYLOR SWIFT.”

The Color Orange

After the color orange began popping up in Taylor’s work more and more after 2016, fans began associating it with the mystery album, and looking for it everywhere. In the “Look What You Made Me Do” video, for example, she wore an orange outfit while swinging in a giant birdcage, which many have seen as a metaphor for the album’s status trapped in vault purgatory. (Famously, the song also features the lyric, “All I think about is karma.”)

Why The Theory Is Probably Not True

Taylor doesn’t do anything publicly without purpose, and everything from the bleached hair to the music video graffiti suggests that she might have had something in the works for 2016. But still, even if out of all the fan theories that circulate online the existence of Karma seems extremely plausible, it is unlikely that it is true. When asked by Vogue in early 2016 what’s next for her, Taylor answered:

«I have no idea. This is the first time in ten years that I haven’t known. I just decided that after the past year, with all of the unbelievable things that happened...I decided I was going to live my life a little bit without the pressure on myself to create something. I’m always going to be writing songs. The thing is, with me, I could very well come up with three things in the next two weeks and then jump back into the studio, and all of a sudden the next record is started. That’s an option, too. But probably not for the moment. I would really like to take a little time to learn things. I have lots of short-term goals.»

Taylor Swift
She eventually returned to work in September 2016, when she began writing and recording reputation.
General Information
Associated EraMusic Hiatus (2016)
Time Frame2015-2016
Rumored GenrePop
EDM
Producers
Jack Antonoff
Taylor Swift
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY
1989 (2014)reputation (2017)
73 Questions with Vogue
Related Content

Music Hiatus
(2016-2017)

Taylor's Discography