Why Swifties Are Convinced ‘The Alchemy’ Is About Travis Kelce

5 minute read

For most of The Tortured Poets Department, Taylor Swift puts the focus on her breakups with longtime partner Joe Alwyn and short-term boyfriend Matty Healy. But on “The Alchemy,” one of the (first part of the) double album’s final tracks, she seems ready to get back in the dating game. No surprise, fans are convinced “The Alchemy” is about Swift’s new love, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. And it’s hard to argue with them; the track is basically 50 percent sports metaphors and football analogies.

Some initially assumed the song’s title was a reference to Alwyn. Swifties have pointed out that he has been lyrically linked to the color gold (a precious metal alchemists of yore falsely claimed to be able to make from lead) throughout the billionaire pop star’s discography. But here, the alchemy of which Swift speaks feels more in line with another one of Merriam-Webster’s definitions for the word: “the discovery of a universal cure for diseases.” And what is heartache if not a disease? Stress cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome is a heart condition brought on by stress and extreme emotions, both of which could definitely be described as symptoms of an especially bad split with someone who leaves his typewriter at your apartment.

Read more: ‘So Long, London’ Is a Classic Taylor Swift Track 5 Song

On the album’s title track, Swift talks about a crazy, stupid kind of love that binds her to a guy (all signs point to Healy) who is equally head over heels. She describes them as “modern idiots” who are mindlessly debating becoming artists-in-residence at the Chelsea Hotel. (“You’re not Dylan Thomas,” might be the most casually cruel lyric Swift has ever written.) By the time we get to “Alchemy,” we know that this over-the-top relationship of which she speaks has lost its luster, but she’s ready to fight again with this new one-of-a-kind guy. “These blokes warm the benches,” she declares, dissing those London boys she used to date. “We’ve been on a winning streak.” 

Chugging white wine like Gatorade, Swift rushes towards the end zone singing, “So when I touch down/ Call the amateurs and cut ‘em from the team.” She notes that it’s been a while since she’s been in this position, but, when it comes to relationships, it’s win or go home for her and she’s all in. She implies, though, that she really has no choice: “Honestly, who are we to fight the alchemy?” (Fans seemed excited for this pivot too, with one tweeting, “Getting to ‘The Alchemy’ and realizing we are free of the moody Brits.”)

But “The Alchemy” is more than platitudes tailor-made for a motivational locker room poster. Fans believe there are Easter eggs throughout the track that reference her relatively new relationship with Kelce. On the song’s bridge, when she sings, “Shirts off, and your friends lift you up, over their heads,” Swifties believe it is a nod to the viral Super Bowl moment when Kelce’s brother and New Heights podcast partner, former Philadelphia Eagle Jason Kelce, went shirtless to root on his little brother. 

Others think the line “I circled you on a map” was a cheeky reference to those who have joked that Swift put Kelce on the map with their relationship. Even Kelce has had fun with this notion, big upping the Swifties for their clever Halloween costumes despite the fact that they’re gently mocking him. Meanwhile, the line, “He jokes that ‘It's heroin, but this time with an E,’” has many applauding Kelce’s comic timing on a clever, if not a tad cold-blooded, shot at Healy, who has been open about his past heroin addiction.

It’s another lyric in “The Alchemy” bridge, though, that has fans fully in their feelings: “Where’s the trophy? He just comes running over to me.” Many assume this is a reference to Swift’s sweet on-the-field moment with Kelce before he picked up the Vince Lombardi Trophy for winning his second Super Bowl in three years. “We'll all remember where we were when we realized ‘The Alchemy’ was about Travis Kelce,” a fan tweeted. (The track might also be her way of telegraphing to fans that she has heard the deepfake AI track that recently went viral for its chorus, “So happy that my Travieee made it to the big game.” Seriously, her mind.)

Others think the song’s tracklist placement is all too fitting, knowing Swift’s interest in numerology, if it’s about the baller who wears number 87. “Someone on TikTok just pointed out ‘The Alchemy’ is track 15 and 8 + 7 = 15,” a fan tweeted. “BYE.” Another wrote excitedly in all-caps, “THE ALCHEMY IS A TRAVIS SONG WE WON.”

The track describes an unexpected comeback, perhaps, a nod to Kelce for sweeping her off her feet when she thought she was down for the count. But it also could be about Swift getting back to herself. She has finally found the kind of all-consuming love she pines for throughout The Tortured Poets Department. Except this time, it’s with someone who she believes actually deserves it. Clear eyes, full hearts, Swift can’t lose.

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