Easter Eggs Galore! 5 Things to Check Out in Taylor Swift’s New Album "folklore"

Daniel C.

Ever imagined the day Bon Iver, The National and Taylor Swift would be strung in the same sentence? We didn’t, until July 24, when American star Taylor Swift released her surprise album folklore. Not only did the album soundtracks skyrocket their way onto the charts, folklore has been positively reviewed by both critics and fans alike. How did this album come into being, and what were some of the interesting stories behind these tracks? KKBOX digs into folklore.

#1 An entirely independent work by Taylor Swift

With seven albums tucked under her belt, Taylor made the successful transition from country music to pop, becoming the first to win Grammy’s Album of the Year alongside the American Music Country Award’s top accolade for her second album Fearless. This placed her firmly in the A-list of Hollywood. But folklore is interestingly neither firmly country nor pop, but a good blend of both in a uniquely Taylor Swift style.The characteristic sounds are thanks to the mastery of musicians The National’s Aaron Dessner, American folk band Bon Iver, Taylor Swift’s long-term collaborator Jack Antonoff and William Bowery.

The composer-guitarist of rock band The National Aaron Dessner participated in the writing and production of 11 of the tracks in folklore, setting the fundamental tone and direction of the album. In his latest interview about the album in Vulture, Dessner revealed that ‘cardigan’, ‘seven’ and ‘peace’ were the first three songs completed for the album. Bon Iver’s lead vocalist Justin Vernon was involved in the only duet in folklore, ‘exile’. Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote and co-produced many of Taylor’s past works, was primarily in charge of keeping every piece true to Tay Tay’s style. William Bowery, on the other hand, is a mysterious composer (not registered in any music directories) credited in two of the songs on the album.

Besides the five of them, including Taylor, no one else knew that there was going to be a new album, not even Taylor’s record company. With that, folklore is perhaps the first album where she had full sway over her music and complete control over any and every decision. This makes folklore synonymous with its creator Taylor Swift through and through.

#2 Plenty of Easter eggs up for spotting

Known to hide Easter eggs in her music, sharp-eyed fans will be thrilled by the sheer number of hidden messages she has planted in this album. One of it is a photo from the album — where Taylor was wearing a black blouse lying on the floor — that had matched an Instagram post with a caption: “Not a lot going on at the moment”. Turns out, a lot was going on at the moment. She had in fact just finished the demo for ‘cardigan’ that day.

Another discovery is the release date of the album, July 24. Fans of Taylor would know how much she loves the number 13, which led speculators to the beautiful coincidence that 7 + 2 + 4 = 13. Rather than call it a coincidence, we’d rather imagine Taylor had it all planned out.

#3 A love triangle in a three-song series

Taylor shared in a ‘live’ video that there are three songs that make up a story of a teenage love triangle, viewing the event from different perspectives and time. Fans quickly found them to be the soundtracks ‘cardigan’, ‘august’ and ‘betty’. The three characters in this fictional love affair are Betty, James’ mistress and James. ‘cardigan’ views it from the perspective of Betty. The lyrics and music video are largely influenced by Disney’s Peter Pan, conveying a sense of innocence and nostalgia.

The main theme of ‘august’ is similar to Taylor’s debut hit ‘Tim McGraw’, narrating the hopeless summer-time romance. This time, it comes from the perspective of a woman who has had an affair with a certain James and who expresses the hopelessness in the love affair. The last song of the trilogy is ‘betty’, which reminds its listeners most of the Taylor of old — the sweet country gal who wore her heart on her sleeve. ‘betty’ is written from the perspective of James, and the regret he has from hurting Betty and how he witnessed her redemption from the pain.

Interestingly, the lyrics in ‘betty’ included names like James and Inez, which are the names of the elder daughters of Deadpool’s Ryan Reynolds and actress Blake Lively. It is no secret that the Reynolds family are close friends with Taylor. Their eldest James even lent her vocals to Taylor’s ‘Gorgeous’. This led fans to speculate that this love triangle actually narrates homosexual love — and that ‘betty’ is really the name of Reynolds and Lively’s yet-revealed third daughter.

#4 So secretive was this album, even her makeup in the self-written and directed ‘cardigan’ music video was done by Tay Tay herself

According to Dessner, the musicians roped in on the folklore album did not know who they were playing the music for; neither did Taylor’s recording studio who only got word hours before the launch. Could this be the most top-secret operation pulled off in music history? Written and produced completely in isolation, this is further proof that the direction and style of folklore were entirely in Taylor’s hands and this certainly adds a dimension of respect we have for her as an artist.

The MV for ‘cardigan’ was also written and directed by Taylor herself, even going so far as to do her own makeup. Taylor explained she did it because she had to limit the number of people on set due to the pandemic.

#5 Unresolved mystery: William Bowery

Of the four musicians credited by Taylor, all the names are highly recognisable in the industry except for a certain William Bowery. Fans have been guessing that William is actually her British actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn.

William Bowery participated in the writing of ‘exile’ and ‘betty’. A close look at the former’s music video revealed that there was a man featured in the forest roads. At the same time, Joe Alwyn had posted a photo in March showing him in a forest with a photographer in the scene as well. Put two and two together, and it seems somewhat likely.

Also, Taylor and Joe Alwyn was caught on their first date together at New York City’s Bowery Hotel. And Joe Alwyn’s great-grandfather was named William Alwyn, and he was a musician, composer and music teacher.

Still, there were other guesses on who William Bowery really is — from Joni Mitchell to Lorde to One Direction’s Harry Styles. The latter is a good guess, as Joe Alwyn does not appear to have a music background; and it has been revealed by Dessner that William Bowery is a male music composer. Styles has previously used the pseudonym ‘Mick Greenberg’ in a composition for Alex and Sierra. With that in mind, there is a high chance he could write under another pseudonym. When Styles and Taylor were dating in 2012, they were also frequently caught at the Bowery Hotel. ‘exile’ also has a slight whiff of their former relationship. In it, the lyrics say, “we always walked a very thin line”. Could it be a hint to Styles’ latest album Fine Line? If Taylor could make peace with her famed ‘enemy’ Katy Perry in ‘You Need To Calm Down’, why couldn’t she collaborate with an ex for this stunningly honest piece?

So, who do you think William Bowery is?

Daniel C.

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