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A Comprehensive Guide to the References You Might Have Missed on Taylor Swift’s New Album Reputation

7 minute read

Taylor Swift’s long-awaited Reputation album dropped just before midnight on Friday, and as might be expected, it’s chock-full of the pop princess’ musings on friendship, love, and yes, the dramatic narratives that have manifested themselves in her life, from big parties to Kanye West to her whirlwind romance with new flame Joe Alwyn. The album — available to listen to as a physical purchase, digital iTunes download or on iHeartRadio — has been keeping the internet busy with theories, which she even addresses in her zine. Because as with any Taylor Swift album, there are apparent layers to what she has to say, so we rounded up every reference and clue you might have missed below.

Taylor Swift is extremely aware of how the public and the media perceive her

Album name and cover art aside, Reputation has plenty of other ways of communicating her self-awareness about her public persona. On “Delicate,” she repeats “My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me,” while on “I Did Something Bad” she sings “they’ve got their pitchforks and proof, receipts and reasons,” a seeming reference to the reactions to the phone call that nearly broke the internet last summer.

Taylor Swift appears to explore themes of the brief but glorious period known as “Hiddleswift”

Fans seem to think Taylor’s whirlwind courtship with Tom Hiddleston served as the inspiration for the song “Getaway Car.” Early lines talk about how “the ties were black the lies were white,” which seems to be a veiled reference to their meeting at the 2016 Met Gala, where the pair danced by “candlelight.” Fans found further support for this theory when she sings about how they were “were jet set Bonnie and Clyde;” in the early days of her romance with Hiddleston, the couple took trips to Rome and to meet their respective parents.

Taylor Swift’s doubling down on her stance about narratives

In her infamous (and now-deleted) Instagram post about the Kimye Snapchat video, Taylor told everyone that she would “very much like to be excluded from this narrative. She echoes this thought on “I Did Something Bad,” where she sings that “they’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one,” which could speak to her feeling that the media and culture as a whole have misread her.

She has an explanation for going quiet

For the past year and change, Swifties have had limited (if at all) dispatches from Taylor, who laid low following her time in the spotlight after the release of her last album, 1989. On “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” Taylor seems to address this absence, singing about how “it was so nice throwing big parties/jump in the pool from the balcony.” A true Swiftie might connect to her famous 4th of July bashes, which she skipped this past year. She goes on to sing “shaking my head, I’m locking the gates.”

Taylor Swift also addresses that phone call with Kanye West

Did you really think that Taylor Swift was going to make a new album and not address her clash with Kimye? Besides the overt “Look What You Made Me Do,” Swift seems to address her drama with Kanye West, starting with the line, “it was so nice being friends again/there I was giving you a second chance/but you stabbed me in the back/without shaking my hand,” pointing to the very public reconciliation that she and West had prior to their conflict over his song “Famous.”

Taylor most directly addresses this debacle with a later line that states that “Friends don’t try to trick you/Get you on the phone and mind-twist you.” It’s widely viewed as a reference to the phone call she had with West about his song “Famous” that was later posted on Kim Kardashian West’s Snapchat. Those aren’t the only shots that Swift fired at West. Another lyric reads “I’m not the only friend you’ve lost lately/if only you weren’t so shady,” which could be read as a pointed dig at the public falling-outs West has had recently, like with Jay Z, who seemed to call out West on his most recent album, 4:44.

She also may have also winked at her feud with Katy Perry

But “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” has one line that might subtly point to her longtime association with fellow pop princess Katy Perry, which was whipped back into the limelight during Perry’s media tour for her album Witness. In interviews, Perry addressed the origins of the conflict (apparently a dispute over tour dancers) saying she was “ready to let it go” and forgive” Taylor. One of Taylor’s closing lines on this song is “here’s to you because forgiveness is a nice thing to do,” before scoffing at the prospect with a laugh.

Taylor Swift also might have drawn inspiration from her time with Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris and Taylor’s breakup made headlines again after it was revealed that Taylor ghostwrote his song “This Is What You Came For” under the pseudonym Nils Sjoberg. And on the song “Dancing With Our Hands Tied,” Taylor sings about meeting someone when she was 25, who “painted her golden” even though her “love was frozen, deep blue.” When she was 25, she began her relationship with Harris; the song also appears to reference the locket that he gave to her during their romance, in the line about how she could have stayed in a relationship and kept a “picture of your face in an invisible locket.”

Taylor Swift addresses chatter about her romantic life head on

Swift has faced criticism for appearing to mine her love life as inspiration. She even responded with her subversive “Blank Space” video). It looks like she’s not finished addressing this on Reputation. In “Don’t Blame Me,” she emphasizes that “love made me crazy” — a seeming parallel to when she talks about her lovers calling her “insane” in “Blank Space” and that “if it doesn’t, you ain’t doing it right.”

Swift also made headlines for lending her private jet to her friends and specifically her beaus to meet her at places like her private Rhode Island residence, which she seems to obliquely reference in a line on “I Did Something Bad” where she talks about how when it comes to men, she will “fly them all around the world.”

Her romantic songs reflect the joy of a newfound love

Since the bulk of this album explores themes related to her personal love life, it’s only natural that we’d get an idea of what her current relationship with Joe Alwyn is like. On “Don’t Blame Me,” she seems to playfully reference her romantic state of mind before getting together with Alwyn: “I’ve been breaking hearts a long time, toying with them older guys.” Fans have gleefully noted that her exes before Alwyn (Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston) were older than Swift, but Alwyn is two years younger. In fact, many of the songs seem to reference her joy in her new relationship, but “New Year’s Day” could hint at Swift’s desire for this to be a long-lasting romance, with the memorable adage that this will be “You and me forevermore.”

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com