On Friday, Taylor Swift unexpectedly dropped her new album Folklore — and people have been looking for hidden meanings in the songs pretty much non-stop since then.
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folklore will have 16 songs on the standard edition, but the physical deluxe editions will include a bonus track called “the lakes.” Because this is my 8th studio album, I made 8 deluxe CD editions and 8 deluxe vinyl editions that are available for one week😄 Each deluxe edition has unique covers, photos, and artwork. Available exclusively at taylorswift.com
After all, in the words of Taylor herself, “One thing I did purposely on this album was put the Easter eggs in the lyrics” — which naturally got the whole internet like:
If I ever go missing, please send the Swifties on the case.
So, without further ado, here are some of the biggest fan theories about Folklore:
1. First, the lyrics of “Betty” announced Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s daughter’s name.
The song references three people: James, Inez, and the titular Betty. As James and Inez are the names of Ryan and Blake’s first two children, some speculated that Betty must therefore be the name of baby number three. According to People, this one is TRUE.
2. “Cardigan,” “Illicit Affairs,” and “Betty” are all the same story from three different perspectives.
the love triangle is betty and james and the girl james cheated with
cardigan – betty pov
illicit affairs – the girl he cheated with pov
betty – james pov
i just have the mind of a mastermind tbh pic.twitter.com/zllRYqVdq0
— ً (@softIylive) July 24, 2020
Although there’s some debate as to whether “Illicit Affairs” or “August” is the third part of the love triangle, fans have found some consistent themes of love, youth, and cheating across the songs. Let’s use James’ cheating as an example: “Cardigan” lyrics include “Chase two girls, lose the one” and “Betty” says “Slept next to her, but I dreamt of you all summer long.” Coincidence?????
3. “Betty” is about a girl Taylor had a thing for.
This isn’t the first time fans have suggested a song of Taylor’s is queer. The argument for “Betty” is that the narrator is pretty obviously yearning after the gal — but it’s not clear whether that’s Taylor herself or a fictitious narrator. Regardless, a lot of people are pretty into this reading, so take what you will.
4. Taylor may have broken up Joe Alwyn IRL.
idk maybe i’m not listening right but did taylor swift and joe alwyn break up??
— Jesús Hernandez (@jesush0211) July 24, 2020
Sure, Folklore isn’t the most cheerful album — can’t fathom what global events may have shaped that one. Still, Folklore does have a few breakup songs — leading some fans to speculate that Taylor and her parter Joe broke up. For example, lyrics in “The 1” include “But it would’ve been fun / If you would’ve been the one.” Still, Taylor herself has said that her “imagination has run wild” with this album, so the inspiration behind these lyrics might not be the present day.
5. Joe Alwyn co-wrote two songs on the album.
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Most of the things I had planned this summer didn’t end up happening, but there is something I hadn’t planned on that DID happen. And that thing is my 8th studio album, folklore. Surprise 🤗Tonight at midnight I’ll be releasing my entire brand new album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into. I wrote and recorded this music in isolation but got to collaborate with some musical heroes of mine; @aarondessner (who has co-written or produced 11 of the 16 songs), @boniver (who co-wrote and was kind enough to sing on one with me), William Bowery (who co-wrote two with me) and @jackantonoff (who is basically musical family at this point). Engineered by Laura Sisk and Jon Low, mixed by Serban Ghenea & Jon Low. The album photos were shot by the amazing @bethgarrabrant. Before this year I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the ‘perfect’ time, but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed. My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world. That’s the side of uncertainty I can get on board with. Love you guys so much ♥️
In the above Instagram post, Taylor lists her collaborators — including a “William Bowery.” Just one problem: There doesn’t seem to be a songwriter or producer with that name. However, William is a name in Joe’s family and Bowery appears to be one of the places the couple first met.
6. “Mad Woman” is about Game of Thrones.
Before we go on with who Folklore may or may not be about IRL, allow me to throw this one into the pool: “Mad Woman” may be about Daenerys Targaryen. We know that Tay-Tay is a huge fan, and lyrics like “Does a scorpion sting when fighting back?” and “Now I breathe flames each time I talk” do sound awfully Thrones-esque. Could this song be the best thing to have come out of Season 8?
7. “Cardigan” is about Harry Styles.
— Hana 🤍 (@MissAmericHANA) July 24, 2020
There are certainly some visual parallels between the videos for “Cardigan” and “Falling” by Harry Styles. The two used to date and we know that Taylor is hardly a stranger to writing about her exes. Let’s hope that when you pull at this cardigan’s thread, it won’t unravel.
8. And “Invisible String” calls out Joe Jonas.
taylor swifts still writing lyrics about joe jonas 12 years later makes me feel at home
— Ashley🦋 (@swiftlyxjonas) July 24, 2020
Let’s take a look at these lyrics: “Cold was the steel of my axe to grind / For the boys who broke my heart / Now I send their babies presents.” Know which one of Taylor’s exes is about to have a baby? Yup, Joe Jonas. However, is followed by “Hell was the journey but it brought me heaven” — suggesting that Taylor’s heartbreaks have led her to a happier love (AKA Joe Alwyn) now.
9. “Epiphany” is about Taylor’s grandfather and the coronavirus.
Taylor has said that her grandfather’s experience in the military was one of the inspirations behind the album — which certainly appears to manifest in the first verse in “Epiphany.” However, the second verse has lines like, “Hold your hands through plastic now” and references to breathing — potentially drawing parallels between war and the coronavirus pandemic.
10. “My Tears Ricochet” is about Taylor’s old songs being owned by Scooter Braun.
Okay, so we know Taylor LOVES a good song about people who have wronged her. “My Tears Ricochet” includes the line “You hear my stolen lullabies,” which might refer to Scooter owning master copies of Taylor’s back catalogue. Other lyrics that support this theory include “You wear the same jewels that I gave you / As you bury me” i.e. Big Machine are still reaping the benefits of Taylor’s music as they hurt her.
11. Finally, “The Last Great American Dynasty” is about the people who used to own Taylor’s Rhode Island home.
the last great american dynasty is about the former owner of taylor swift's rhode island mansion, Rebekah Harkness. She also known as betty just like one of #Folklore track. HER MIND! pic.twitter.com/LLi65OfwQm
— danial (@repugodtion) July 24, 2020
The song references “Rebekah” and “Bill” — which is the real life names of the people who used to own Taylor’s home in, as the song says, Rhode Island. Plus, lyrics include, “The doctor had told him to settle down / It must have been her fault his heart gave out” which both seems to reflect how Bill died, as well as continuing Taylor’s motif of exploring sexism in her work. Rebekah’s nickname? BETTY.