After the surprise release of ‘folklore’ in July, Taylor Swift fans knew better than to take the American singer’s declaration that there was “Not a lot going on at the moment” at face value. A black and white photograph of the singer sitting looking bored on a couch in a cabin accompanied the statement posted to Instagram on 22 November.
Sure enough, less than a month later, the megastar would release folklore: the long pond studio sessions on Disney+. Then, on 10 December, Swift announced on Twitter that her ninth studio album ‘evermore’ – a sister record to ‘folklore’ – would be released on 11 December. If you look closely at the photo of Swift on the sofa, you can see two pictures of plants: ‘willow’ and ‘ivy’, both songs from the artist’s latest country folk record.
Swift is now a dab hand at coding her social posts with clues that she knows her fans will unravel like an ‘invisible string’. Some fans believe that TS8 and TS9 were always going to be sister albums because the singer’s birth year – ’89 – has carried significance ever since the release of ‘1989’, her fifth studio album. Fans also noticed ‘evermore’ was written in the corner of pictures from a ‘folklore’ photoshoot in the summer. And now, one fan has spotted the word ‘woodvale’ on the ‘hide-and-seek’ edition of the ‘folklore’ CD, fuelling speculation that ‘woodvale’ could be a third secret album, or perhaps an alternative working title for ‘evermore’.
So, Swift fans were well primed to know something was in the water, but the Easter Eggs didn’t stop at the album build up. The 15-track record is peppered with secret messages for fans to decode – so here are just a few of the most mind blowing Easter Eggs, hidden meanings and fan theories.
Has Taylor married her ‘London Boy’?
Swift fans think the singer has secretly married her longterm partner, actor Joe Alwyn, who is also the mysterious ‘folklore’ co-writer William Bowery. A promotional image shared ahead of the release of the ‘willow’ music video sent fans into a frenzy, as it appeared to depict the singer in a wedding dress. But while the dress is not an official wedding gown – it’s the $2650 Charm Star Slip Dress by Zimmermann from their Fall 2020 collection – there are hints on ‘evermore’ that the singer might have secretly tied the knot. On ‘ivy’ she sings: “So tell me to run / Or dare to sit and watch what we’ll become / And drink my husband’s wine”.
These rumours snowballed after MailOnline spoke to one of Alwyn’s family members, who said: “I’m not saying anything!”. While an unwillingness to speak to the press isn’t firm evidence that any vows took place, Swift did sing about marrying her partner with ‘paper rings’ on 2019’s ‘lover’, suggesting she is ready to make a commitment to ‘London Boy’ Alwyn, who she has been dating since 2016.
Some fans have taken the idea that Swift and Alwyn are secretly married even further, claiming that Swift is pregnant after she sang “give you my wild, give you a child” on ‘peace’ from ‘folklore’.
Harry Styles remains in Vogue
It’s not just her current partner who has inspired songs on ‘evermore’. Swift’s former flame Harry Styles and British Vogue’s December cover star continues to provide lyrical inspiration after he gave his surname to 2014’s ‘Style’. On new Swift song ‘gold rush’ the nautical imagery “eyes like sinking ships on waters” allude to the British singer’s ship tattoo, while the line “thеn it fades into the gray of my day-old tea” recall the One Direction ‘Little Things’ lyric “you can’t go to bed, without a cup of tea”. Swift’s line “With my Eagles t-shirt hanging from the door” could be a reference to the Philadelphia Eagles football team, from her hometown of Pennsylvania, or it could be a link to the 70s LA rock band that Mr Styles has seen in concert. The song is about jealousy and celebrity, with the track’s title referencing the 1949 Gold Rush, where thousands of miners flocked to California in hopes of finding gold and becoming rich.
From ‘Shake It Off’ to all shook up
Mr Styles isn’t the only artist linked to ‘evermore’, there are plenty of Elvis references too: from the line “One for the money, two for the show” in ‘champagne problems’ to ‘dorothea’, where the lyric “The stars in your eyes shined brighter in Tupelo” references Elvis’ birthplace. The celestial imagery of this track also evokes Swift’s early country song ‘Tim McGraw’: “He said the way my blue eyes shined / Put those Georgia stars to shame that night”, reflecting the American star’s return to her country roots with this record – no more evident than the true-crime inspired ‘no body, no crime’, which features HAIM and their favourite restaurant chain, Olive Garden.
It’s not just the King who features; Swift’s opera singing grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, gives her name to ‘marjorie’. This song, where Swift’s grandmother is actually sampled, echoes a sentiment Swift shared in ‘30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30’, a piece she wrote for Elle in March 2019: “Grow a backbone, trust your gut, and know when to strike back. Be like a snake – only bite if someone steps on you.” Swift is no stranger to standing up for herself – see our final point, also – and it’s clear that she has been inspired by the strong women in her life.
Case in point: Selena Gomez is ‘dorothea’
Hours after the release of ‘evermore’, one fan took to Twitter to make the case for ‘dorothea’ being a song about Swift’s friend and fellow singer, Selena Gomez. Not only is ‘dorothea’ remarkably similar to ‘Dorothy’, the heroine from Gomez’s favourite film, The Wizard of Oz, but the lines “when we were younger, down in the park” and “your mom and her pageant schemes” fit with photographic evidence from Gomez’s childhood, as well as her friendship with Swift.
Gaylor rabbit holes
Anyone who has fallen down the ‘SwiftTok’ rabbit hole – the name given to the Taylor Swift corner of TikTok – will have seen the ‘Gaylor’ theories about Swift’s relationship with actress and singer Dianna Agron.
Regardless of whether or not you believe that Swift ever dated the former Glee star, Agron was spotted listening to Swift’s ‘cardigan’ on Spotify back in October, and there are plenty of Alice In Wonderland references on ‘evermore’. These link to the actress’s old Tumblr blog “fell down the rabbit hole”, and her Lewis Carroll-indebted tattoo. On ‘long story short’ the chorus of “And I fell from the pedestal / Right down the rabbit hole / Long story short / it was a bad time” combine with the Cinderella motif of “If the shoe fits, walk in it ‘til your high heels break”, as well as the line “From the dress I wore at midnight, leave it all behind” in ‘happiness’, to suggest that Swift has – like a lot of us – been watching plenty of Disney+ during lockdown.
While ‘folklore’ was heavy with the language of cinema (a theme that’s been present in Swift’s discography since 2010’s ‘If This Was A Movie’), it’s a bibliophile’s world on ‘evermore’. Swift referenced the closing line of Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises on ‘folklore’, and the idea of fate or determinism certainly continues on the new release (see the golden lines of fate in the music video for ‘willow’).
More literary allusions come in the form of Jane Eyre references on album opener ‘willow’, with the lyric “writing letters / addressed to the fire” evoking the letters that Charlotte Brontë’s eponymous protagonist wrote to her former betrothed’s home, only to arrive and find that the entire estate was destroyed in a fire. This motif returns in album closer ‘evermore’, which features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, suggesting that our narrative has come full circle.
I’m setting off, but not without my muse
Poetry – the subject of ‘folklore’ bonus track ‘the lakes’ – features heavily on ‘evermore’; one fan has linked the album, released on Emily Dickinson’s birthday, to the closing lines of queer poem ‘One sister have I in our house’.
YOU’RE TELLING ME TAYLOR SWIFT IS DROPPING A NEW COTTAGECORE ALBUM ON THE SAME DAY AS EMILY DICKINSON’S BIRTHDAY CALLED EVERMORE WHICH IS HOW EMILY DICKINSON CLOSED ONE OF HER MOST ROMANTIC POEMS THAT SHE WROTE FOR HER LOVER SUE GILBERT???? pic.twitter.com/NYeIymeihc— wassim’ʬ⁸⁴’ˣ (@tayIordspatroI) December 10, 2020
In ‘‘tis the damn season’ the lyric “And the road not taken looks real good now” references the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken, while in Taylor adopts a line from the poem Compassion by Miller Williams to establish the instantaneous and profound connection between her and her secret love: “You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone” becomes “I’d meet you where the spirit meets the bones”.
All this secret love stuff has fuelled the rumour mill, suggesting that Swift might be part of the LGBTQ+ community despite her long term relationship with Joe Alwyn.
It was the end of a decade, but the start of an age
The roaring twenties motifs that began with Gatsby-esque ‘folklore’ songs ‘the 1’ and ‘mirrorball’ continue on ‘evermore’. The unashamedly country track ‘cowboy like me’ features backing vocals from Marcus Mumford, whose studio eagle-eyed fans spotted in the Disney+ film. This track reflects F. Scott Fitzgerald’s protagonist Jay Gatsby’s wealth aspiration with the line “Eyes full of stars / Hustling for the good life”.
‘happiness’ uses Fitzgerald’s phrase “beautiful fool” to espouse the bitterness that is often felt in the aftermath of a breakup: “I hope she’ll be your beautiful fool / Who takes my spot next to you”. The lyric “across our great divide” refers to the Atlantic ocean that separates the two former flames, but can also be interpreted as the lake that divides the West Egg from the East Egg in Fitzgerald’s tragic novel.
This song pairs with the industrial folk song ‘closure’, where the staccato quality sounds like someone being terse with their ex. This song references Swift’s belief that forgiveness isn’t always necessary for the purpose of closure; in 2019, the singer spoke to CBS Sunday Morning: “You know, people go on and on about, like, you have to forgive and forget to move past something. No, you don’t. You don’t have to forgive and you don’t have to forget to move on. You can move on without any of those things happening. You just become indifferent, and then you move on.”
Old ‘Bad Blood’
Swift hasn’t always been very good at just letting things go; the singer has a whole litany of coded references to her feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian across her discography – the “robbers to east, clowns to West” narrative that began on ‘folklore’ continues in ‘long story short’.
But one thing Swift can’t let go of, it seems, is the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal once stood her up at her birthday party (see 2012’s ‘The Moment I Knew’). On ‘coney island’, which was produced by Bryce and Aaron Dessner and features The National, the singer reflects on disappointed expectations.
But, with this treasure trove of Easter Eggs it’s safe to say that Taylor Swift fans are anything but disappointed. Regardless of whether or not ‘woodvale’ is a sign that a third secret album is in the works, it’s safe to say that the American sweetheart has given us absolutely plenty to help us through the horrendous year that is 2020.
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