It's finally October 2016, which is two years later than October 2014, which is when Taylor Swift released her fifth album. As observers know, she's been on a strict two-year album release cycle since her eponymous debut album, which dropped in October 2006.
The big question this year: When will Swift release her sixth album?! She always releases her first single in the summer, before a fall album release - but so far, she's been radio silent. So it's a question shrouded in mystery, not only for her fiercely devoted listeners, but also for the music industry. As the biggest pop star on the planet, Swift is one of the only artists who can sell a million albums in a week.
Swift fans, meanwhile, are so eager for an album that they sometimes jump to conclusions: A couple weeks ago, country singer (and Swift pal) Kelsea Ballerini posted a Snapchat video of an audio clip that sounded suspiciously like Swift vocals on an upbeat song called Roses. The Swift fandom was in emergency mode until Ballerini cleared up the confusion herself.
As anticipation swells and Swift's famous friends hint that she's back in the studio, the album release date seems imminent; and I think I have a pretty solid guess: Oct. 23, 2016. After years of watching Swift operate her masterful image control - this summer's Calvin Harris and Hiddleswift and Kim Kardashian disasters notwithstanding - I feel like I'm close to cracking the code. Follow along as I lay out this very important five-step theory:
Step one: It's going to be a surprise album
There's no way it's not going to be a surprise album, right? After a summer being mocked for her bizarrely fake-looking relationship with Tom Hiddleston and Harris' tea-spilling tweets and that time Kim Kardashian made her look like a liar over the whole Kanye West/Famous lyrics incident, Swift needs to change the narrative. What better way than to pull a Beyoncé? Instead of Tidal, it will just happen through Swift's preferred outlet, Apple Music.
It's unlikely Swift would want to go through the traditional press cycle of magazine covers and talk shows leading up to a big album release, especially when it will be impossible to avoid Hiddleston and Harris and Kardashian/West questions. As a bona fide superstar, she doesn't really need that type of buildup.
Step two: It will be an October release
Yes, Swift's label president Scott Borchetta denied on Twitter that it's happening in October - and then deleted his tweet. Would he actually tell the truth if he did know? It's hard to imagine that Swift, who thinks so carefully about structure and significant dates, could really detour. Four out of her five studio albums have landed in October; the only exception was her second, Fearless, which nearly made it with a Nov. 11 drop date.
Plus, the 2017 Grammy eligibility period ended on Sept. 30, which means that Swift won't have to go up against Beyoncé's Lemonade or Adele's 25. And fall albums mean big sales over the holidays.
Step three: It will happen on a Sunday night
There's no better time to dominate the entertainment news cycle than on Sunday night when people are facing the reality of another week and want a distraction. (See: All the important award shows on Sunday night.) Internet traffic typically spikes on Monday when people are back at work, and a story like this would certainly get all of the attention.
In the past, she's released albums on Monday or Tuesday, closer in accordance with when albums were traditionally released, before it shifted to Friday around 2015. But Fridays aren't the best day to make a splash on the internet, as everyone's headed out for the weekend. And even though Nielsen SoundScan now measures album sales from Friday through Thursday, Swift's album will be so popular that she won't have to worry about sales numbers - she'll be No. 1 regardless.
Step four: It will have something to do with her 10-year music career anniversary
If you listen to her lyrics or follow her on social media, Swift is all about remembering specific dates, times, places and anniversaries. Her first album, "Taylor Swift," was released on Oct. 24, 2006. That's probably too big of a milestone to ignore.
Swift hasn't performed a concert since her final 1989 tour date in Australia last December. Her only concert date in 2016 will be at the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix in Texas on Saturday, Oct. 22. That does not feel like a coincidence.
Step 5: It will have to do with the number 13
Come on, you have to know about Swift's obsession with the number 13. You don't? OK, fine: It's her lucky charm, and she used to paint the number on her hand before concerts. After all, she was born on Dec. 13; her debut album went gold in 13 weeks; her Red tour started on March 13, 2013 ... the rest of the list is here. She's very into 13-related symbolism.
This is the mic drop for the guess we have for the album date, which again, is 10/23/16. That's a Sunday night in October, right around the 10th anniversary of her first album's release and the same weekend she has her first concert in nearly a year. And check out the actual date: Add up all the numbers (1+0+2+3+1+6) ... it equals none other than 13.
Convinced yet? Our backup guess is Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in case Swift wants to go postelection: It follows much of the criteria above, and 1+1+1+3+1+6 also equals ... 13.
Although Swift will probably outwit us all - you never know.