Not that the 34-year-old needed to go anywhere near a microphone this year to make substantially more football-adjacent news than the actual Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show headliner, Usher. (Who, for the record, was the consummate pro and got rave reviews.)
But Swift was part of the "maybe this year?" conversation long before she coupled up with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and added sports media darling/antihero to her ever-growing list of accomplishments.
Yet every year, inevitably another artist is announced.
Which seems antithetical, because wouldn't the biggest sport in the United States and the producers of the most-watched live TV event of the year want to join forces and get the biggest pop star in the world?
Of course, there are reasons why the event that's seemingly Taylor-made for the star (the halftime show usually lasts 13 minutes, FYI) hasn't yet included her. Because it's totally been her gig to turn down...right?
For starters, as far as 2024 was concerned, the logistics simply didn't make sense.
Swift just kicked off the second half of her record-smashing Eras Tour, and presumably would have felt no need to jet from Japan to Las Vegas (by way of Los Angeles) after performing four nights straight in Tokyo unless she wanted to cheer Kelce on in person.
Meanwhile, at least they're celebrating his third Super Bowl win and her whirlwind visit—she has to be in Melbourne, Australia, to perform Feb. 16—didn't include consolation kisses.
But even Swift's tight schedule didn't prevent endless unfounded speculation up until the 11th hour that she'd join Usher (who was announced as the headliner back in September) in some capacity on stage. The "Yeah" singer, meanwhile, just finished a Vegas residency in December, so he was the definition of geographically desirable when it came to putting the show together.
As for the preceding 15 years after she first hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with her sophomore album Fearless: Swift spent some of that time not exactly known as a singer of stadium-shaking bangers for everybody. That narrative has obviously since been thoroughly dismantled, stadiums literally left shaking on her Eras Tour, but the anthemic "You Belong With Me" aside, early Swift was not yet the artist she would soon become.
"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" off of Red, released in 2012, was her first No. 1 single (and it would be impolite to not sing along whenever you hear it), but it wasn't until 1989's stream of hits—"Shake It Off," "Blank Space," "Bad Blood"—in 2014 that you could start picturing Swift commanding the Super Bowl stage.
In 2013, however, she had signed a lucrative "long-term" endorsement deal to be the face of Diet Coke, a Coca-Cola Co. executive calling her "an extraordinary individual and a wonderful symbol of achievement." And chief rival Pepsi had just resumed its sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show in 2013, Beyoncé's lights-out performance at the Superdome in New Orleans the start of a beautiful friendship. (And she couldn't help stealing the show in 2016 from technical headliner Coldplay.)
Swift remained a Diet Coke brand ambassador through 2018. And, incidentally, she didn't release any new music between 2014 and 2017, which on paper doesn't look like much of a gap but at the time was downright haunting when she broke her every-two-years-like-clockwork pattern.
"Make no mistake—my career was taken away from me," Swift said of that fraught time following her viral clash with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. (Happily, she was recalling her "career death" from the comfier perch of being named TIME's 2023 Person of the Year.)
Pepsi remained in the game through 2022, after which Apple Music took over as the halftime show sponsor—and reportedly asked Swift if she'd do the honors at Super Bowl LVII in February 2023. Her fans were convinced it was finally going to happen, connecting every imagined dot.
Swift declined, however, purportedly because she was in the thick of rerecording the albums she made for Big Machine Records, her response to Scooter Braun acquiring the rights to her back catalogue when his company Ithaca Holdings bought the label in 2019. That ambitious project dovetailed with her most prolific period to date, which saw the release of Lover, folklore, evermore and Midnights between 2019 and 2022.
Moreover, TMZ reported in 2022 that sources with direct knowledge of the halftime show said Swift didn't want to take that particular stage until she'd finished re-recording her first six albums. She's still got two to go, her 2006 self-titled debut and 2017's persona-redefining Reputation, teasing the latter as "a goth-punk moment of female rage at being gaslit by an entire social structure."
Adding to the 2023 time crunch was preparation for her career-spanning Eras Tour, which began last April. And, while collecting her 13th Grammy on Feb. 4, Swift announced her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, will drop April 19. Not even performing dozens of sold-out dates and releasing a blockbuster concert film could slow down the muses.
Just thinking about all of it, it's kind of amazing she made it to the Super Bowl on Feb. 11 as a spectator.
"It feels like the breakthrough moment of my career, happening at 33," she told TIME last year. "And for the first time in my life, I was mentally tough enough to take what comes with that."
With her Eras Tour booked through this December, it doesn't seem likely that there's a blank-enough space on Swift's schedule that would allow for her to fine-tune a halftime show to her exacting specifications.
But if it's something she wants to do, at this point she just has to say yes.
And in the meantime, Swift still kinda headlined the 2024 Super Bowl. See all the highlights from her celebration with Kelce right here: