On Thursday, Taylor Swift shocked fans once again with her second surprise album in four months, Evermore.
The sister record to her critically-acclaimed Folklore, Taylor describes her new album as the latest installment in the Folklore universe that she created for herself— with both imaginary and non-imaginary tales— during quarantine.
“To put it plainly, we just couldn’t stop writing songs. To try and put it more poetically, it feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice: to turn and go back or to travel further into the forest of this music. We chose to wander deeper in,” she wrote in her announcement. “I’ve never done this before. In the past I’ve always treated albums as one-off eras and moved onto planning the next one after an album was released. There was something different with folklore. In making it, I felt less like I was departing and more like I was returning.”
In addition to the release of her 9th studio album, the songstress dropped her first music video for the song ‘Willow.’ And in true Taylor Swift fashion, it’s filled with hidden Easter eggs and references to Folklore, leading fans on a mythical adventure to uncover the rest of the story.
Here are the hidden messages in ‘Willow’ that you might have missed.
The name represents a holiday destination for Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn.
The Easter egg hunt begins with the song’s name, ‘Willow.’ Though Taylor seemingly leaves little to dissect as she croons about willow trees, two music video thumbnails from the live YouTube premiere indicate that the name actually represents a vacation the singer took with longtime partner Joe Alwyn to Willow Lake, Utah back in August.
It starts with references Folklore‘s ‘Cardigan, ‘Invisible String,’ and ‘Exile.’
‘Willow’s’ opening scene is exactly where the ‘Cardigan’ music video left off, with Taylor kneeling on the floor sopping wet donning the album’s signature cardigan. Taylor holds a glowing, golden string which is likely a reference to Folklore‘s ‘Invisible String’— a song about an invisible string that ties Taylor to her lover and features the lyric, “One single thread of gold tied me to you.”
This string resembles the golden pixie dust from ‘Cardigan’ and as Taylor follows the string through the piano, she finds herself back at the enchanted forest featured in ‘Cardigan.’
Some believe this could be a reference to a lyric from Folklore‘s ‘Exile’ in which Taylor sings, “I think I’ve seen this film before.” Taylor revealed to fans during the video’s YouTube premiere pre-show that it would reference ‘Exile.’
‘Invisible String’ acts as a motif throughout the video.
Taylor continues to follow the glowing, golden string throughout the video as she travels from past to present following the love story between herself and on-screen love interest Taeok Lee, a former backup dancer from her Red tour. The string ties these moments together.
The childhood tent scene references Folklore‘s ‘Seven’ and Lover‘s ‘It’s Nice To Have A Friend.’
Around the 1:00 mark, Taylor follows the string into a childhood memory of herself and her love interest as children playing in a tent. Fans believe this is a reference to Folklore‘s ‘Seven’ in which Taylor remembers a friendship from her childhood and sings about their loss of innocence.
This could also be a reference to the track ‘It’s Nice To Have A Friend’ from her 7th studio album Lover, which contains the lyrics, “Sleeping in tents, it’s nice to have a friend.” Taylor notoriously wrote the Lover album while she was falling in love with Joe Alwyn.
Taylor reveals how she really feels about fame.
Adult Taylor then steps into a glass box as she performs for a crowd of couples in love. Taylor’s hair and outfit resemble her ‘Love Story’ aesthetic from Fearless while the glass box “represents how I feel about fame,” Taylor revealed in the YouTube premiere live chat. This visual mimicks Folklore‘s ‘Mirrorball’ in which the 31-year-old sings about feeling like a disco ball spinning alone above the crowd for everyone to see, as well as the pressure Taylor feels to constantly reinvent herself as a performer— something she spoke at length about in her 2020 Netflix documentary Miss Americana.
In this same scene, Taylor’s love interest approaches her in the box and they touch hands through the glass. Taylor attempts to exit the glass box only to find out that she’s trapped. This could be a metaphor for Taylor’s struggle with finding love— and keeping love— while remaining trapped in fame.
Taylor fights through her Reputation to escape the box fame put her in.
There are several subtle references to her Reputation album after Taylor’s seen trapped in the glass box. ICYMI, Reputation was Taylor’s triumphant comeback after Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West attempted to “cancel” her in 2016 when Taylor accused Kanye of including a rude lyric about her in his song ‘Famous’ that she did not approve of. After being forced into hiding for a full year, Taylor returned with her Reputation album which was edgy, dark, and a totally different Taylor.
In the ‘Willow’ music video, Taylor finds a hatch to escape the glass box, followed by visuals that hint at Reputation— including a scene where Taylor is seen walking through the woods wearing a cloak and hood.
It references witches— a theme Taylor has played on in recent years.
The music video then follows Taylor to a group of hooded figures in the woods who appear to be casting a spell upon glowing, golden flames.
Following her cancellation, Taylor began referencing witches frequently throughout her music. This seemingly indicates how Taylor felt about the public turning on her, as the historic American witch hunts had a pattern of accusing strong, powerful women of sorcery. First, on Reputation‘s ‘I Did Something Bad,’ Taylor sings about the public and/or media “burning all the witches, even if you aren’t one.” Then on Folklore‘s ‘Mad Woman,’ she croons, “women like hunting witches, too.”
Taylor shared in the YouTube premiere chat that the song ‘Willow’ “sounds like casting a spell to make someone fall in love with you.”
The ending comes full circle
As Taylor follows the glowing, golden sting back out of the woods, she climbs out of the piano just like in ‘Cardigan.’ She picks up the invisible string and finds her lover on the other end of it.
The two walk out together holding hands into a forest drenched in sunlight, a reference to the Lover song ‘Daylight’ where the artist sings about throwing away her cloaks and daggers to “step into the daylight.”
And that’s on Taylor Swift being the most powerful storyteller of our generation.