Another Taylor Swift album, another set of lyrics full to the bursting with possible references to actual people. Much of the album contains love songs addressed to a current beau, but there are a few proper diss tracks in there as well. Here’s who the new album’s songs seem to be targeting.
1. ‘…Ready For It?’
This track is understood by fans to mainly be about Taylor’s new boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, but it throws in a reference to her past lovers.
Lyrics: “Younger than my exes, but he act like such a man, so I see nothing better, I keep him forever”
What they mean: At 26, Taylor’s new bf is younger than her exes Tom Hiddleston (36), Jake Gyllenhaal (36) and Calvin Harris (33). Apparently Harry Styles (23) isn’t included in this group.
2. ‘End Game’
‘End Game’ is probably referencing Swift’s long-running beef with Kanye West. The only collaboration on the album, it features big-name appearances from bestie Ed Sheeran and rapper Future, who both wax lyrical about their trials of being constantly in the spotlight.
Lyrics: “We tried to forget it, but we just couldn’t, and I bury hatchets, but I keep maps of where I put ’em… and I can’t let you go, your hand prints on my soul””
What they mean: Swift and Kanye tried to get over their disagreements, but even after they buried the hatchet, the feud reignited.
3. ‘I Did Something Bad’
One of the few tracks on ‘Reputation’ about a feud (or multiple feuds), this one appears to throw lines at Kanye West, Kim Kardashian – and, perhaps more prominently, her ex, Calvin Harris.
Lyrics: “If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing. I don’t regret it one bit, ’cause he had it coming.”
What they mean: The last few lines of verse one of the song appear to be about Kanye West, who called Taylor “that bitch” on his 2016 song ‘Famous’ and restarted a long feud that ultimately made both look bad (at the end of it, Swift concluded: “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I never asked to be a part of, since 2009.”)
Lyrics: “I never trust a playboy, but they love me, so I fly ’em all around the world and I let them think they saved me… He says, ‘Don’t throw away a good thing’, but if he drops my name, then I owe him nothin’, and if he spends my change, then he had it comin’.”
What they mean: Elle has suggested the entire song is about ‘playboy‘ Calvin Harris. The lines about namedropping could be about the way he dealt with his breakup with Taylor: while she dived into a whirlwind and very public new relationship with Tom Hiddleston, he was writing about her on social media. And the lines on spending Taylor’s change have been connected to ‘This Is What You Came For’, the song she co-wrote with Harris under a pseudonym. But does that really make sense?
Lyrics: “They got their pitchforks and proof, their receipts and reasons”
What they mean: In Taylor’s line about being the subject of a witch-hunt, “receipts” is almost certainly a reference to how Kim Kardashian leaked footage of the conversation between Taylor and Kanye about his song ‘Famous’, as shown below:
4. ‘Don’t Blame Me’
The gospel-infused ‘Don’t Blame Me’ has Taylor talking about being properly head-over-heels, so is probably about boyfriend Joe Alwyn.
Lyrics: “I’ve been breakin’ hearts a long time, and toyin’ with them older guys”
What they’re about: This seems to allude to her previous relationships with older men, before settling down with Joe Alwyn.
6. ‘Look What You Made Me Do’
‘LWYMMD’ is full to the brim with Taylor chucking shade at everyone and anyone who has ever wronged her; but especially appearing to call out Kimye. Most regard it as the ultimate diss track to Kim and Kanye, with tons of the lyrics alluding to their ongoing beef – but there are other references to lesser feuds in there too.
Lyrics: “I don’t like your little games. I don’t like your tilted stage”
What they mean: They could either be a reference to Kanye’s tilted stage on his Saint Pablo tour, or alternatively, they could be about her old nemesis Katy Perry, who used a tilted stage in her Grammy performance.
Lyrics: “The role you made me play, of the fool – no, I don’t like you”
What they mean: A likely reference to Taylor and Kanye’s on going beef, and how Kim Kardashian attempted to make Taylor look guilty by leaking the video of Taylor on the phone to Kanye, talking about his song ‘Famous’.
Lyrics: “I don’t like your perfect crime/How you laugh when you lie/You said the gun was mine”
What they mean: These could refer to the afore mentioned Kanye feud, and how they tried to point the blame on Taylor. Alternatively, it could be a reference to her lawsuit against DJ David Mueller, where a jury unanimously found him guilty of assault and battery, following an incident at a fan meet-and-greet in 2013, when he groped Swift. Throughout the lawsuit Mueller denied these allegations.
Lyrics: “I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined/I check it once, then I check it twice”
What they mean: This could be a reference to Katy Perry. In the midst of the ongoing Katy-Taylor drama, Katy tweeted comparing Taylor to Mean Girls character Regina George.
Watch out for the Regina George in sheep's clothing…
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) September 9, 2014
In the film Regina George keeps a “burn book”, a volume filled with bitchy comments about her fellow highschoolers. In Mean Girls we see Regina George writing in the book using a red pen, and underlining parts – which could be what Swift is alluding to in her lyrics.
This story, probably about falling for Joe Alwyn in a club, contains a possible reference to Tom Hiddleston.
Lyrics: “I got a boyfriend, he’s older than us. He’s in the club doing I don’t know what. You’re so cool, it makes me hate you so much“
What they mean: Probably that Taylor was still dating Tom Hiddleston – the ‘older’ boyfriend of the lyrics – when she unwillingly fell for her current boyfriend Joe Alwyn (26). She makes her reluctant attraction to him clear later in the lyrics, when she says: “I’m so furious at you for making me feel this way” before concluding: “There’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have“. The next song on the album is understood to be about her relationship and breakup with Hiddleston.
9. Getaway Car
Fans are speculating that ‘Getaway Car’ is about Swift’s brief relationship with Tom Hiddleston. The lyrics are about embarking on a fling after breaking out of a long-term relationship – reminding fans of Taylor’s brief dalliance with Hiddleston, after she broke it off with long-term bae Calvin Harris.
Lyrics: “The ties were black, the lies were white”
What they mean: This could refer to when Taylor met and danced with Hiddleston at the 2016, black-tie Met Gala event.
Lyrics: “I wanted to leave him/I needed a reason”
What they mean: It could be Taylor referencing her desire to end her long-term relationship with Harris.
Lyrics: “You were drivin’ the getaway car, we were flyin’, but we’d never get far”
What they mean: The high-profile relationship took them all over the world, all the while followed by paparazzi and appearing on the front page of gossip sites – but it only lasted a few months over the summer of 2016.
Lyrics: “I’m in a getaway car/I left you in a motel bar/Put the money in a bag and I stole the keys/That was the last time you ever saw me”
What they mean: This is where the track takes a turn, and Swift seems to reveal she dumped Tom Hiddleston sharpish, poor lad.
10. King of my Heart
Musically calling on the Swift-step from Taylor’s fourth album ‘Red’, ‘King of My Heart’ is a sweet, candid electro-ballad that seems to be about how much she loves her current boyf.
Lyrics: “All the boys and their expensive cars, with their Range Rovers and their Jaguars, never took me quite where you do.”
What they’re about: Fans have been quick to point out that Calvin Harris drove a Range Rover and Hiddleston a Jaguar – which seems like just too much of a coincidence not to be intentional.
13 This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Alongside ‘I Did Something Bad’ and ‘LWYMMD’, this is the most out-and-out diss track on the album, and is likely to be about – you guessed it – the ‘Famous’ Kimye feud of 2016, with a particular focus on Kanye himself.
Lyrics: “It was so nice being friends again, there I was, giving you a second chance, but then you stabbed my back while shaking my hand, and therein lies the issue”
What they mean: Kanye and Taylor first fell out in 2009, when he interrupted her MTV VMA Award acceptance speech to say that she shouldn’t have won. They became friends again properly in 2015, when Taylor presented him with the VMA Vanguard Award, but soon enough Kanye’s track ‘Famous’ put them at loggerheads once more when he called her “that bitch”. Swift was publicly unhappy with the track but had agreed to most of its lyrics in a phonecall recorded – and then leaked by – Kim Kardashian. That’s probably what the ‘back-stabbing’ of the lyrics is talking about.
Lyrics: “Friends don’t try to trick you, get you on the phone and mind-twist you, and so I took an axe to a mended fence”
What they mean: Here she appears to underline that Kanye and she are no longer friends.
Lyrics: “But I’m not the only friend you’ve lost lately. If only you weren’t so shady”
What they mean: Assuming it’s Kanye she’s talking about already, then this line would be about Jay Z, whose relationship with Kanye has recently been under strain.
Lyrics: “Here’s a toast to my real friends – they don’t care about that he-said-she-said“
What they mean: This is almost certainly a reference to Kanye’s 2010 song ‘Runaway’, an apology song that included references to his infamous encounter with Swift at the 2009 VMA Awards. Swift is specifically subverting his lyrics: “So I think it’s time for us to have a toast, let’s have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the assholes, let’s have a toast for the scumbags”. The difference is that Taylor will only toast “real friends“.
14. ‘Call It What You Want’
A probable paean to new bf Joe Alwyn, this lovely song contains a little swipe at the antagonists of her biggest beefs.
Lyrics: “My castle crumbled overnight, I brought a knife to a gunfight, They took the crown, but it’s alright”
What they mean: Another likely reference to Swift’s public spat with Kanye West in early 2016 over the lyrics of ‘Famous’, in which Swift’s reputation emerged very much scathed.
Lyrics: “All the drama queens taking swings, all the jokers dressing up as kings”
What they mean: This could be a reference to any of Swift’s nemeses, but among them are probably Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
Words: Larry Bartleet & Hannah Mylrea Hemmings