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Why Everyone’s Debating the Meaning of Olivia Rodrigo’s New Song ‘Lacy’

6 minute read

No pop album these days comes without speculation about certain lyrics, and Olivia Rodrigo’s latest is certainly no exception. Some would argue that this kind of lyrical analysis was popularized by the era of Taylor Swift, with her sharp songwriting that alludes to past relationships, prompting fans to search for breadcrumbs to help solve the “mystery” of who each song is about. We’ve seen the breathless theorizing that Swift’s “All Too Well” was about actor Jake Gyllenhaal. The world also saw how Rodrigo’s breakout single “driver’s license” was boosted by rumors about a love triangle between her and her former High School Musical castmates Joshua Bassett and Sabrina Carpenter. Each of them released songs that seemingly alluded to their relationships, and the search for meaning in the text drove even more streams.

Fans have been itching for a follow-up from Rodrigo since her 2021 debut album SOUR, and when she released the lead single off her sophomore album, GUTS, it came with a hefty amount of theorizing. Some believed “vampire” was about Zack Bia, a music producer with whom Rodrigo had a short-lived relationship, while others argued it was about an alleged feud with Swift. The release of GUTS today has provided more fodder for fans and social media users to debate the hidden meanings behind lyrics. One song in particular stood out to listeners: “lacy.” In the album’s fourth track, Rodrigo sings about a woman she feels inferior to and goes on to describe how beautiful she is, thematically evoking Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” This has raised eyebrows as people argue over whether the breathy ballad is about Swift, Carpenter, or a secret, third, very gay, thing.

Theory One: Taylor Swift

One camp of Rodrigo’s fans have convinced themselves that the song is about Swift because of the way she describes this woman. “Eyes wide as daisies” and “dazzling starlet, Bardot reincarnate” in particular stood out as potentially Swift-like descriptors. To back up a bit: When Rodrigo released SOUR, she noted Swift as an inspiration and even credited her on “1 step forward, 3 steps back,” because the song interpolated Swift’s “New Year’s Day.” Swift and her co-writers Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent were retroactively added as co-writers on “deja vu” after Rodrigo mentioned the song was inspired by Swift’s track “Cruel Summer.”

The two singer songwriters, who at first had a seemingly friendly relationship, seemed to begin speaking less about each other during the advance promotion for GUTS. In an interview with The Guardian, Rodrigo was explicitly asked if “vampire” was about Swift, and she responded, “I mean, I never want to say who any of my songs are about. I’ve never done that before in my career and probably won’t.” She also told the New York Times she didn’t have a chance to go to the Eras Tour, which some interpreted as a slight toward Swift, but then in a different interview with Interview Magazine called it the “tour of all tours.” The two artists have been compared a fair amount in the media, and Swift’s fans interpreted a vault track from Swift’s re-recorded Red (Taylor’s Version) to be a response to those comparisons. In the song “Nothing New,” she sings about her fear of being replaced by someone younger, giving way to the rumored feud between the two musicians.

“LACY is heavenly, and it's absolutely about Taylor Swift,” one person wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Idolizing Taylor was a nightmare dressed like a daydream. She is just too popular. Olivia couldn't stand the constant media scrutiny and comparisons anymore.”

Theory Two: Sabrina Carpenter

Rodrigo’s debut single was rumored to be about Carpenter, and the lyrics of that song plainly state, “You’re probably with that blonde girl/ that always made me doubt/ she’s so much older than me/ she’s everything I’m insecure about.” Fans hypothesized that a new song about feeling insecure about another woman meant she was again talking about Carpenter. “I think lacy is about [Carpenter] because she’s envious of her looks maybe??” a social media user posted to X. Her fans also used the Bardot line to justify their speculation. However, these rumors have less traction given that all three parties have seemingly moved on from the drama and Rodrigo has been particularly tight-lipped about revealing the true subject of her music. 

Theory Three: An Unnamed Woman

The overall message of the song suggests that Rodrigo is insecure about her looks as she compares them to those of a woman named “lacy.” But the way she sings it suggests, to some listeners, a homoerotic tinge. There are descriptions of how beautiful this woman is, with her skin “like puff pastry” and how the perfume she wears “lingers all the time.” Also in the outro of the song, she sings, “I just loathe you lately/ And I despise my jealous eyes and how hard they fell for you.” Users on social media took the song as Rodrigo’s coming out: “if you are denying [Rodrigo’s] sexuality after she released lacy, YOU ARE DOING THE SAME THING THAT OUTED KIT CONNOR,” one person posted on X, comparing the situation to the star of Heartstopper, who was accused of queerbaiting and then felt the need to come out as bisexual given all the public conversation.

Another person wrote that the song is “for every girl that had to go through doomed homoerotic toxic friendship.” The discourse has continued, but one user made a salient point about debating the sexuality of public figures, writing, “My only contribution to this Olivia/lacy discourse is why do so many people treat everyone (especially celebs) as ‘straight until proven gay’ the same way the justice system is ‘innocent until proven guilty.’”

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Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com