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A lot of people have had Taylor Swift’s brand new album folklore on repeat since it dropped and while certain songs like “Exile” and “August” have been some of the real standouts with the fanbase, there’s been a lot of attention placed on “Betty” given it allegedly outed the name of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s third daughter. Now, Taylor Swift has confirmed that’s exactly what she did as she and her creative team on the album have revealed more about the process behind creating it.
In a fairly recent radio interview, Taylor Swift talked a bit about “Betty,” telling country radio after her album started charting that the song is about mistakes, written from the perspective of a 17-year-old boy, though it name drops all three of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s girls: James, Inez and Betty. This publicly confirmed the speculation that had been rampant since the album dropped on July 24:
Everyone makes mistakes, everybody really misses up sometimes. This is a song that I wrote from the perspective of a 17-year-old boy. I named all the characters in this story after my friend’s kids, and I hope you like it!
The name dropping of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s kids had previously seemingly been proved when Lively posted a tribute to her pal Taylor Swift a few days ago. But her music collaborator, The National’s Aaron Dessner, extrapolated out on the concept of the folklore album a little further, noting that it was super important to Taylor Swift that the songs on the album share a narrative and connect through the characters she created based on the names of her famous pals' kids. Dessner told Rolling Stone,
So there are different characters in the songs that appear in others. You may have a character in 'Betty' that’s also related to one in 'Cardigan,' for example. And I think that was, in her mind, very, very important. It doesn’t seem like, for this record at least, that she was inspired to write something until she really knew what it was about. And I think I’m used to a more — at least lately — impressionistic and experimental world of making stuff without really knowing what it is. But this was more direct, in that sense. That was really helpful, to know what it was about and it would guide some of the choices we were making.
Fans caught on to this really quickly when folklore initially came out, trying to figure out the myriad connections as they listened to the album over and over. It’s been fun for fans to tie the characters to real life people and come up with crazy theories including of the “Who is William Bowery” bent, but folklore is grounded in a lot of ways too. Aaron Dessner told the outlet Taylor Swift even had Freewheelin Bob Dylan in mind when “Betty” was being written.
So not everything’s a mystery to unravel, though Dessner did also tell Rolling Stone ideas left to untangle are things Taylor Swift enjoys creating for her fanbase. He said of William Bowery:
No, no, no. I mean, I don’t know — she didn’t tell me there was a 'Cardigan' video until literally it came out, and I wrote the song with her [laughs]. So I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure he’s an actual songwriter. She enjoys little mysteries.
At the end of the day it’s clear there’s still a lot more to uncover with folklore, and as August slips away like a moment in time we hope to learn more.