Does Friday still feel like a fever dream to anyone else? While we were downloading houseparty and leaving teddy bears in our windows during lockdown, Taylor Swift was busy writing and recording sixteen tracks for her new album, folklore. With the one year anniversary of Lover still a few weeks away, and an album cycle that usually rolls out every two years, nobody could have predicted this – not even Taylor herself. In a post made on Instagram, she announced, “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.”
Collaborating virtually with The National’s Aaron Dessner, Bon Iver, and Jack Antonoff, folklore is her most introspective and intimate album to date. From losing the one you love (‘the 1’), to an autobiographical love triangle (‘betty’), to screaming “**** you, forever” (‘mad woman’), it’s a bodyslam of emotion from start to finish. Despite there being no promotional campaign and less than a day’s notice, it of course wouldn’t be a Taylor Swift album without a decent serving of Easter eggs. In the ‘cardigan’ YouTube premiere chat, she told fans, “one thing I did purposely on this album was put the Easter eggs in the lyrics, more than just the videos.”
Challenge accepted! We’ve spent the last few days compiling them all for you… prepare to have your mind blown.
Her Instagram tease
This is why we have trust issues. “Not a lot going on at the moment” = “I’m just about to save 2020 with this new song I wrote in a couple hours called ‘cardigan’”
— “It’s Holli, isn’t it?” (@holliswift13) July 29, 2020
The order of the tracklist
No explanation on the tweet below – one of the many reasons why we love Taylor Alison Swift.
When you realise that:
— Taylor Swift News (@TSwiftNZ) July 23, 2020
Who is William Bowery?! Taylor listed the mysterious collaborator as having two co-writing credits on the album yet no one has ever heard of him before, not even best mate Google. We all know Taylor loves a cheeky pseudonym (Nils Sjöberg and Jack Leopards & The Dolphin Club), so this led fans to whip out the magnifying glass. The leading theory so far is that “William Bowery” could actually be her boyfriend Joe Alwyn. One of the first times they met was back in 2016 at the Bowery hotel in NYC and Joe’s great-grandfather is named “William”.
Nils Sjöberg & William Bowery; yup that’s the tweet pic.twitter.com/Ah3LjDpNh8
— Giselle 🇲🇽 LOVER FEST WEST N2 PIT 1 (@GisiLovesTaylor) July 23, 2020
Revealing the name of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds third daughter
‘betty’ is the song where we learn the three names of the teenage love triangle and coincidentally, Inez and James are the names of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ two eldest daughters. The couple have yet to publicly share the name of their third daughter born back in October of last year, so could this mean that she is named “betty”? Both did not confirm or deny when they posted about folklore on social media, and James has already had a little cameo on Taylor’s ‘Gorgeous’ from her 2017 album ‘reputation’, so it’s definitely not a stretch.
📝 | Taylor Swift has seemingly confirmed the name of Blake & Ryan’s third daughter
Song ‘betty’ features 3 names Betty, Inez and James — the last 2 being the names of their first 2 daughters. A source told PEOPLE that the song was named in part for their 3rd daughter born Oct 4 pic.twitter.com/u7GjQq7glQ
— Taylor Swift News (@TSwiftNZ) July 25, 2020
The teenage love triangle
During her YouTube live chat Taylor revealed that “there’s a collection of 3 songs I refer to as the Teenage Love Triangle. These 3 songs explore a love triangle from all 3 people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.” The general consensus seems to be that the three songs are ‘betty’ (James’ angle on cheating on Betty), ‘cardigan’ (Betty’s point of view before, during and after the breakup), and ‘august’ (Inez’s tale of her secret summer fling with James). Can this storyline be made into a Nicholas Spark novel asap please?!
The Love Triangle Storyline: Cardigan / August / Betty
— Ai 🦋 (@AiSjoberg) July 24, 2020
me pretending to be betty’s front porch light so I can know what happened pic.twitter.com/jZwRt6Tu9V
— katelyn (@noitskatelyn) July 28, 2020
The ‘cardigan’ music video
Although it’s not on ‘ME!’s’ level with album titles, Christmas trees, cats and more there is still a healthy dosing of Easter eggs hidden in the ‘cardigan’ music video. The first scene features her “lucky number” 13 on the clock and a photograph of her grandfather (who’s later referenced in the song ‘epiphany’), as well as a painting of her Rhode Island home (possibly painted by Taylor herself?).
Joe Jonas newly born child
Lyrics in ‘invisible string’ reveal that Taylor has sent presents to the babies of her exes. She sings, “cold was the steel of my axe to grind / for the boys who broke my heart / now I send their babies presents.” Unless Harry Styles has pulled a Drake and has a secret child, this must be about Joe Jonas who’s wife Sophie Turner just gave birth to their first daughter Willa.
taylor swifts still writing lyrics about joe jonas 12 years later makes me feel at home
— Ashley🦋 (@swiftlyxjonas) July 24, 2020
Rebekah Harkness and Holiday House
On ‘the last great american dynasty’, Taylor tells the story of Rebekah Harkness, a socialite who married the heir to Standard Oil and once lived in Taylor’s Rhode Island mansion (“Holiday House”) before her. Rebekah had a reputation for her wild behaviour – spending money like it grew on trees, filling up the pool with champagne at parties, and even dying her neighbors dog “key lime green”, drawing comparisons to Taylor’s own ‘Blank Space’ character.
“T is the best storyteller. So happy that she wrote a song for one of the stories I always ask to hear again ☺️” pic.twitter.com/iJKQ60ogjz
— Taylor Swift News (@TSwiftNZ) July 24, 2020
Gigi Hadid revealed that it is a story she tells often. Oddly enough, the plot thickens as fans discovered that Rebekah’s nickname was also “Betty”…
🔎 | Various fans and critics have discovered that ‘the last great american dynasty’ is based on the love story between Rebekah Harkness and her husband William who were the previous owners of Taylor Swift’s Rhode Island home.
Rebekah’s nickname was also Betty. pic.twitter.com/IKlQkzakCO
— Taylor Swift News (@TSwiftNZ) July 24, 2020
Lyric parallels galore
At this point in time there are too many to name. But one that stands out is on ‘invisible string’ where she gives a lyrical nod to her 2014 hit ‘Bad Blood’ singing, “Bad was the blood of the song in the cab on your first trip to LA.” The “your” referencing her beau Joe Alwyn.
Her relationship with Joe Alwyn
The couple have largely kept their four year relationship to themselves, but on folklore, Taylor sings about Joe once again. References to the British actor in ‘invisible string’ include: the yoghurt shop he worked at as a teen, his first trip to LA when ‘Bad Blood’ played in the taxi, and their three year anniversary trip to the Lakes district. The lyric “Out of all the wrong arms, right into that dive bar” is reminiscent of the NYC dive bar they went to on dates, which was first introduced on reputation’s ‘Delicate’ with “Dive bar on the East side where you at?”
taylor: what colour was your yoghurt shop uniform
joe: …..what the fuck are u doin now
— would you tell me(ghan) to go **** myself (@babyouremyqueen) July 28, 2020
Calling Out Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta
Both ‘my tears ricochet’ and ‘mad woman’ seem to address her ongoing battle in regaining control of her masters with lyrics on track five such as, “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace / ‘cause when I’d fight, you used to tell me I was brave”, 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 also references her “stolen lullabies”. In ‘mad woman’ she sings, “They say ‘move on,’ but you know I won’t”, and “It’s obvious that wanting me dead / has really brought you two together”. “Do you see my face in the neighbor’s lawn?” could also reference the duo seeing her face on billboards around Nashville.
— bridget (@brovitsky) July 24, 2020
Remember the house in the Lover music video?
It had an extra eighth room upstairs with a beige colour palette. Usually this would be filed under “a coincidence” but this is Taylor Swift we are talking about. See the popular fan theory below with the references of all seven rooms relating to all of her past albums. Was she dropping hints about her next era without even knowing what it was going to sound like?
— Sadie Esplin (@thatsadie) July 24, 2020