All the Taylor Swift Songs Ex-Boyfriend Joe Alwyn Has (Probably) Inspired
News broke on April 10 that Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn had quietly called it quits this spring after six years together. Though the pair were together for a long time, both were mostly tight-lipped about their connection and life together — except, that is, when it came to Swift's songwriting.
The pair first connected while Swift was working on her 2017 album "Reputation," and fans believe quite a few songs on the record are about her then-new boyfriend. Many of the songs on her "Lover" album, released in 2019, are all about falling deeper in love with her longtime beau. Her single "Lover," which includes quite a few wedding references, even sparked major engagement rumors for the pair.
When Swift released "Folklore" and "Evermore" in 2020, not only were a few of the songs about her romance with Alwyn, but she teamed up with her partner to write some of them as well. Alwyn was credited on the songs "Exile," "My Tears Ricochet," "August," "This Is Me Trying," "Illicit Affairs," "Betty," "Champagne Problems," "Coney Island," and "Evermore" using the pseudonym William Bowery. Because of this, he actually has an album of the year Grammy for "Folklore."
The actor is also credited as a songwriter on Swift's 2022 album, "Midnights," specifically on the song "Sweet Nothing." Other songs on Swift's album, like "Snow on the Beach" and "Mastermind," also appear to reference their relationship.
Swift and Alwyn's breakup made headlines as the singer began her Eras Tour, and fans thought she made some set list tweaks because of the news. Many of the most romantic songs about Alwyn didn't make the main setlist, and she didn't perform them as surprise songs until August. In May, Swift released the non-streaming track "You're Losing Me," which seems to be the first song to directly address their split.
Ahead, revisit the songs that Swift wrote about Alwyn during their relationship and the aftermath.
— Additional reporting by Victoria Edel
". . . Ready For It?"
Swift made it pretty clear that this song is about Alwyn when she dropped hidden Easter eggs about the actor in her ". . . Ready For It?" music video. Not only did she include his name in Chinese characters on one of the walls, but the code she uses in the beginning of the video just so happens to be his birthday. There are some clues in the lyrics as well. She sings, "Younger than my exes but he act like such a man." Alwyn is 10 years younger than Tom Hiddleston and seven years younger than Calvin Harris, both of whom she dated before connecting with Alwyn.
Right off the bat, Swift sings in "End Game" about wanting to be with this person forever, which is a common theme in her other songs about Alwyn. The music video also ends in London, which is where Alwyn is from, and has a few Easter eggs about their under-the-radar romance throughout. Swift would explore the idea of being with Alwyn forever in more detail on "Lover," but she lays the seeds of songs like "Lover" and "Paper Rings" on this "Reputation" track. The lyric "I don't wanna miss you / like the other girls do" also echoes other lyrics Swift has about other girls missing out on Alwyn.
"Don't Blame Me"
"Don't Blame Me" seems to be a tongue-in-cheek love song about Alwyn. Even though she admits she's been "breakin' hearts a long time, and toyin' with them older guys," she adds that something "happened for the first time" in "their darkest little paradise." Shortly after her publicized romances with Harris and Hiddleston ended and her "Reputation" came crumbling down, Swift ran away with Alwyn to stay out of the public eye. Unlike her past romances, Swift seems to hint that this one is the real deal. She also sings, "My name is whatever you decide," which she also alludes to in "Call It What You Want."
In the beginning of the song "Delicate," Swift reveals that the relationship she's referencing began after her infamous feud with Kanye West as she sings, "My reputation's never been worse, so you must like me for me." She also talks about the guy wearing "dark jeans and Nikes" and getting lost in that "color blue." On one occasion when the pair were leaving her apartment in NYC, they were spotted wearing matching Nike sneakers, per The Daily Mail. Not to mention, Alwyn's eyes are a "gorgeous" shade of blue. It's also rumored that Alwyn and Swift's first date was at the dive bar she references.
"So It Goes . . ."
While there aren't too many telling lyrics in "So It Goes . . .," she does talk about wearing this guy "like a necklace." In her song "Call It What You Want," she talks about wanting to wear his initial on a chain around her neck. Her lyrics about all their pieces falling right into place could signal how she found love during one of her darkest hours. She also references meeting the subject of the song in a bar, which Swift references as well on "Delicate."
The flirty lyrics in "Gorgeous" are all about Swift falling for a new guy while she's already dating somebody else. While many fans initially assumed the song was about Hiddleston, those who attended her private listening sessions say it's about Alwyn, which would make sense given that Swift reportedly first met Alwyn at the 2016 Met Gala when she was dating Harris. Swift also has a lot of other songs that reference how handsome she thinks Alwyn is. "And I got a boyfriend, he's older than us / He's in the club doing, I don't know what" also seems to reference Alwyn and Harris's decade age gap and Harris's job as a DJ.
"King of My Heart"
Not only does Swift make a reference to the title "King of My Heart" in her ". . . Ready For It?" music video, which has tons of hidden references to Alwyn, but she also talks about how "all the boys and their expensive cars with their Range Rovers and their Jaguars" never took her quite where he does. According to fans on Genius, Harris drove a Range Rover and Hiddleston drove a Jaguar (and she even pronounces Jaguar the British way). She also talks about wanting to keep this love a secret for as long as she can, as she and Alwyn did for the beginning of their relationship.
"Dancing With Our Hands Tied"
While "Dancing With Our Hands Tied" has major EDM vibes like her ex Harris's music, it's likely she's talking about Alwyn in this track. In one lyric, she mentions the age he was when she first met him (25 years old), and there are multiple references to being blue painted golden like in "Delicate." Swift and Alwyn also allegedly met while dancing together at the Met Gala — unable to touch because Swift was still with someone else. It all adds up to one of Swift's sexier tracks.
There's one telling line that alludes to Alwyn in this song. She sings that when they first met, he had a buzz cut and she had bleached hair, which was sometime around May 2016, when they reportedly met at the Met Gala. "Our secret moments in your crowded room" also alludes to the secret nature of their relationship before they went public. Like "Dancing With Our Hands Tied," it also references being close to each other but not being able to touch. Swift also makes another reference to them being together through her "worst times."
"Call It What You Want"
Even though Swift has been extremely private when it comes to her relationship with Alwyn, she gives a closer look at their romance on "Call It What You Want." The most revealing lyric is when Swift sings, "I recall late November, holdin' my breath / Slowly I said / You don't need to save me / But would you run away with me?" The lyric appears to be a nod to when Swift attended the screening of Alwyn's film "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" in November 2016. Like "Delicate," it references the early stages of a relationship, when you're too afraid to put a label on it.
"New Year's Day"
Not only does "New Year's Day" talk about wanting to stay with someone "forevermore," but the holiday also might hold special significance for the lovebirds. As Swift points out in her song "Call It What You Want," she asked Alwyn to run away with her in November 2016. Seeing that she didn't return to the spotlight until February 2017 for her DirecTV Now Super Bowl concert performance in Houston, it can be assumed that she spent the time in between then — aka December and January — hanging out with Alwyn. "I want your midnights" of course now feels like a reference to her 2022 album.
While Swift described "Me!" as "a song embracing your individuality and really celebrating and owning it," while talking to "Good Morning America" in 2019, the lyrics about being in a committed relationship with someone also seem to be about her ex-boyfriend. Not to mention, the music video includes quite a few Easter eggs about London, which is where the actor is from. The song's upbeat tune actually distracts from how sad some of the lyrics are; "I know that I'm a handful, baby, uh / I know I never think before I jump," Swift sings, adding later, "I never leave well enough alone / And trouble's gonna follow where I go." That's pretty similar to sentiments she shared on "Reputation" about her role in her relationship.
"The Archer" is an emotional track in which Swift covers a wide range of topics, including anxiety and feeling insecure, but she also sings about letting down her walls and loving someone fully. After dating Alwyn for almost three years, Swift could have been alluding to how their romance had gotten even more serious at the time. "Help me hold on to you," Swift begs in the lyrics.
Unlike some of the other singles from the "Lover" album, the title track includes some very pointed references to her romance with Alwyn. One lyric in particular is when she talks about loving someone for three summers now but wanting them all. Swift and Alwyn first met in May 2016 at the Met Gala, so this could be her way of saying it was love at first sight when they first met. The song is a tribute to the romantic life they were building together, where they played by their own rules and block out the naysayers.
"I Think He Knows"
"I Think He Knows" chronicles the early days of Swift and Alwyn's relationship and how she quickly fell head over heels for him. Rhythmically, the song is also reminiscent of "King of My Heart." Swift sings, "He got that boyish look that I like in a man," which is not only a fairly accurate description of what Alwyn looks like but also another reference to how much younger he is than her recent exes.
This song was Swift's sweet way of telling Alwyn she wanted to commit to him longterm as she sings, "I like shiny things, but I'd marry you with paper rings." She even makes reference to some of their personal relationship moments, like when they painted his brother's room blue together. Swift also admits that after they first met, she "went home and tried to stalk you on the internet," a reference both to Alwyn's fame and the fact that he's pretty private and hard to get info on. She also calls him "baby boy," another reference to his boyish charm. Combined with "Lover," these two songs had fans convinced the couple were engaged or even secretly married, though neither ever confirmed the speculation.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this London-inspired track is about Alwyn, who is English. In the lyrics, she talks about running away with Alwyn to his hometown and completely immersing herself in UK culture. The voice at the beginning of the song, though, isn't Alwyn's — it's Swift's "Cats" costar Idris Elba saying the word "scooter" in a very delightful way. In recent years, Swift spent more and more of her time in Britain, though she was still spotted in Nashville and New York and kept her house in Rhode Island, too.
Swift lived on Cornelia Street while her Tribeca apartment was being renovated in 2016, right around when she met Alwyn, making this song a chronicle of the early days of their relationship. Swift says that if they ever broke up, her memories of the block in Greenwich Village would be ruined (though hopefully she wasn't being quite so literal). Vulture spoke to the landlord of that apartment back when the song came out in 2019, and he admitted that he didn't know who she was at the time. "She was an absolute delight to deal with," the landlord, David Aldea, told the outlet.
He also explained that he was honored by the track. "I put my heart and soul into building, designing, and decorating this house, and for somebody like Taylor to come along and see what I saw and love what I loved, love what I created, it was a total compliment and I will always be grateful to her for that," he said. "And when I heard the song came out, I just thought to myself, 'Wow, that is the most incredible sort of thank you and nod that anyone could ever get.'"
In this vulnerable track, Swift sings about trying to self-sabotage a relationship and, in turn, asking for forgiveness for her past mistakes. "It's all me in my head," she says, taking the blame for starting the fight. The song also has another reference to the color blue, though this time it's because she "made" him blue. "Afterglow" is a beautiful track about true love and shows just how much Swift has grown and matured over the years.
This track is about how Swift felt her relationship with Alwyn was the real deal after everything she's been through. She references some of the bad situations she'd been in before: "Luck of the draw only draws the unlucky / And so I became the butt of the joke / I wounded the good and I trusted the wicked." That's acknowledging some of the drama she caused by writing songs to get back at her exes and, of course, her feud with West and Kim Kardashian. But now it's in the past.
On the title track of her 2012 album "Red," Swift sings that "loving him was red," and her 2017 album "Reputation" was themed with the colors black and white. "Daylight" is about how much she's lived and learned. "I once believed love would be burning red," she sings at one point. She also sings, "I once believed love would be black and white." Both times, she admits she was wrong: "But it's golden / Like daylight."
"Peace," one of the tracks from 2020's "Folklore," is actually very lyrically similar to "Me!," though the two songs couldn't sound more different. On "Peace," Swift wonders if being with her is worth all the drama that comes with it: "Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?" She adds later, "I'd give you my sunshine, give you my best / But the rain is always gonna come if you're standing with me." She never answers her own question, instead mulling over the difficulty of the problem. Being with Swift means never having privacy, and she's aware of that price that Alwyn paid to be with her.
"Invisible String" is a romantic song about Swift and Alwyn being tied together even before they met. When he first arrives in LA, he hears "Bad Blood" on the radio and goes to her favorite restaurant for dinner. When they go on vacation in England's Lake District, a "bold" waitress says she looks like "an American singer." In the end, Swift brings Alwyn to the park in Nashville where she used to imagine she'd meet someone and fall in love.
In some ways, "Gold Rush" feels like another take on the ideas presented in "Gorgeous." Alwyn is so good-looking that Swift wonders what it must be like to go through life looking like him. "Everybody wonders what it would be like to love you," she sings. She calls their love "pure" and sings about her Eagles T-shirt hanging from the door — and during the Philadelphia stop of the Eras Tour in May 2023, she confirmed that she meant the Eagles football team, not the band.
Swift confirmed that the first track on "Midnights," "Lavender Haze," is about Alwyn in an Instagram video she shared about the song, which addresses her frustration about all the speculation about her and Alwyn's relationship status. "Like my relationship for six years, we've had to dodge weird rumors, tabloid stuff, and we just ignore it," she said in the video. "And so this song is sort of about the act of ignoring that stuff to protect the real stuff." Swift has since deleted the video.
In typical Swift fashion, she expertly turned those feelings into song lyrics. "All they keep asking me is if I'm gonna be your bride," she sings. "The only kinda girl they see is a one-night or a wife."
"Snow on the Beach"
Swift also provided some background context for "Snow on the Beach" on Instagram. "The song is about falling in love with someone at the same time as they're falling in love with you, in this sort of in this cataclysmic, faded moment where you realize someone feels exactly the same way that you feel, at the same moment," she said. "And you're kind of looking around going, 'Wait, is this real? Is this a dream? Is this for real? Is it really happening?' Kinda like it would be if you were to see snow falling on a beach."
While she didn't clarify that the song is about Alwyn, given she wrote it during their relationship, fans think it is.
Alwyn is listed as a cowriter on this song under his pseudonym, William Bowery, and it contains some distinct references to their relationship.
"I spy with my little tired eye, tiny as a firefly, a pebble that we picked up last July," Swift sings at one point. "Down deep inside your pocket, we almost forgot it. Does it ever miss Wicklow sometimes?"
Wicklow is a county in Ireland, not far from Belfast, where Alwyn filmed "Conversations With Friends" in 2021. Swift paid him a visit in 2021, per the BBC, stopping by a bar to meet Alwyn and thrilling locals in the process. While the documented Belfast visit took place in September, not July, it's possible that Swift paid a more covert visit to Wicklow at some point.
If "Mastermind" is about Alwyn, as it seems to be, it provides some new insight about the start of their relationship. In the song, she confesses that she orchestrated the beginning of the romance. "So I told you none of it was accidental and the first night that you saw me nothing was gonna stop me," she sings. But she reveals that the subject of the song always knew their meeting wasn't by chance. "I laid the groundwork and then saw a wide smirk on your face / You knew the entire time," she continues. "Mastermind" feels like a response on "Invisible String," an admission that it wasn't the full truth.
"The Great War"
"The Great War" is maybe the track fans have been revisiting the most since news of Swift and Alwyn's breakup broke. Like "Afterglow," it documents an all-out fight between a couple where Swift thought everything was going to fall apart once and for all. She "vowed not to cry anymore" if they made it to the other side of the fight, to plant a "memory garden" to keep its memory alive so they never fight so badly again. The song even references "Lavender Haze," as Swift sings, "Somewhere in the haze, got a sense I'd been betrayed," which makes it clear the track is about Alwyn. Swift vows in the song that she'll stay with her partner "always," but there's a sense of doom about their future (the real Great War, of course, was not the last). Now that they've split, it seems the prediction has come true.
"You're Losing Me"
"You're Losing Me" isn't available on streaming yet, but this "vault" track from "Midnights" was released by Swift as part of "Midnights (The Late Night Edition)" — which fans could only buy in person at her Eras Tour shows in New Jersey on May 26, 27, and 28, or as a limited-time digital release over that weekend (presumably the track will eventually appear on streaming).
In "You're Losing Me," Swift seems to address the end of her relationship with Alwyn. The repeated refrain of "You're losing me" evokes the lyrics of "Cornelia Street," where she sings, "I hope I never lose you."
Swift also sang in previous songs about Alwyn about how she wanted to marry him. In the new track, she says, "And I wouldn't marry me either." She also uses some of the same fighting metaphors from "The Great War," singing, "And all I did was bleed as I tried to be the bravest soldier / Fighting in only your army, frontlines." Ultimately, she begs her lover to "do something," "lose something," "choose something," but her pleas are ignored.