Yesterday, completely out of the blue, Taylor Swift dropped her quarantine project. While we were baking banana bread she was cooking up a 16-track album, Folklore, which is her most critically-acclaimed work to date.
She shared the album prologue on social media, revealing that the stories she tells on Folklore aren’t all her own. “In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result, a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness,” she wrote. “Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Taylor Swift album without a couple of Easter eggs. In a YouTube Livestream chat, she told fans that she’d included a couple of hidden things on the album for us to find.
“One thing I did purposely on this album was put the Easter eggs in the lyrics, more than just the videos,” she wrote. “I created character arcs & recurring themes that map out who is singing about who.”
Here’s everything that eagle-eyed Swifties have picked up on.
The Teenage Love Triangle
In the YouTube live chat, Taylor revealed that three of the songs on Folklore share a common thread: “There’s a collection of three songs I refer to as The Teenage Love Triangle. These 3 songs explore a love triangle from all three people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.” These three songs are likely “August”, “Cardigan” and “Betty”, which tells the story of three high schoolers called James, Betty and Inez.
They all share the same imagery told from different points of view: kissing in cars, cobblestones, standing on the porch, and a secret summer romance – this TikTok lays them all in detail.
“Cardigan” introduces the story from Betty’s point of view, about the power of a young relationship. “August” is about a secret summer romance, from Inez’s point of view, while “Betty” is from James’ perspective.
Name-Dropping Famous Kids
“Betty” is clearly the gayest song on the album (you can’t change my mind), and is where we learn the three names of the love triangle teens. James and Inez are actually the names of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds‘ two daughters.The couple has yet to publicly reveal the name of their third daughter, born late last year. Maybe it’s Betty?
This actually isn’t the first time their kids have had a little cameo in a Taylor song! The track “Gorgeous” from her 2017 album reputation begins with a recording of baby James saying “gorgeous”.
Joe Jonas’ Unborn Child
In “Invisible String”, Taylor makes a passing reference to sending presents to the babies of her exes. “Cold was the steel of my axe to grind / For the boys who broke my heart,” she sings. “Now I send their babies presents.” Unless Harry Styles has a secret child, this has to be about Joe Jonas who is currently expecting a child with Sophie Turner.
The Mysterious Collaborator
When Taylor announced the album on Instagram, she listed the collaborators she worked with. Bon Iver, Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner and some dude named William Bowery that no one’s ever heard of before. Swifties think this is actually a pseudonym for her boyfriend Joe Alwyn – one of the couple’s first dates was at the Bowery hotel in New York City.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Aaron Dessner, who produced 11 of the album’s 16 tracks, revealed he’d never met William Bowery or even knew who he was.
“He’s a songwriter, and actually because of social distancing, I’ve never met him. He actually wrote the original idea for “Exile,” and then Taylor took it and ran with it. I don’t actually know to be totally honest. But I’m pretty sure he’s an actual songwriter. She enjoys little mysteries.”
Sure, it could be Lorde or Maggie Rogers or any number of other talented songwriters that Taylor has relationships with. But the extreme secrecy really makes it feel like it’s Joe.
Her Relationship With Joe
“Invisible String” is almost certainly about her relationship with Joe – making it one of the only autobiographical songs on the album. The couple is notoriously secret, we really know nothing about them other than what we’ve learned through songs on reputation and Lover.
There are plenty of references to the British actor in “Invisible String”: the yoghurt shop he worked at as a teen, the time they went on an anniversary trip to the Lakes district and a waitress said she “looked like an American singer”, his first trip to LA when “Bad Blood” played on the taxi’s radio. The lyric “Out of all the wrong arms, right into that dive bar” is a callback to the NYC dive bar the pair went to on dates, which was introduced in “Delicate” with “dive bar on the east side where you at?”.
“Time, wondrous time / Gave me the blues and then purple-pink skies / And it’s cool” sounds like a reference to her journey through sad eras to the candy-colored love song vibes of the Lover album.
Rich Debutantes Of The Past
“The Last Great American Dynasty” tells the story of Rebekah Harkness, a socialite who once lived in the Rhode Island mansion that Taylor bought in 2013. Rebekah was known for being a wild debutante who married one of the country’s richest men, oil baron William Harkness. By all accounts, Rebekah threw raucous parties that saw her on the outs with the uptight Rhode Island ladies who became her neighbours, which Taylor references: “Rebekah gave up on the Rhode Island set forever / Flew in all her Bitch Pack friends from the city / Filled the pool with champagne and swam with the big names / And blew through the money on the boys and the ballet.”
One of the songs, she writes in the album prologue, is inspired by her grandfather, Dean, serving in the army. This song is certainly Epiphany: “Keep your helmet, keep your life, son / Just a flesh wound, here’s your rifle.”
Her Feud With Scott Borchetta
Taylor has a ritual of putting her most personal, heartbreaking songs as track 5. For Folklore, the honour goes to “My Tears Ricochet”, a song that seems to be about Scott Borchetta, Scooter Braun, and their very public falling out after Taylor left music label Big Machine.
“I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace / ‘Cause when I’d fight, you used to tell me I was brave,” the lyrics read. “And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake? / Cursing my name, wishing I stayed / Look at how my tears ricochet.”
In the bridge, she references her “stolen lullabies”, a nod to the fact that Big Machine owns the masters to Taylor’s first six albums. Even the title “My Tears Ricochet” could be a reference to one of her earliest hits, “Teardrops On My Guitar”, which Scott now owns.
Some fans think “Mad Woman” is also about the Scooter and Scott bullshit as well: “And when you say I seem angry, I get more angry” and “It’s obvious that wanting me dead / Has really brought you two together”.
In the bridge of the song she even takes a dig at the fact that Scooter cheated on his wife: “The master of spin has a couple side flings / Good wives always know.”Image: Instagram / Taylor Swift by Beth Garrabrant