When she first announced 1989 (Taylor’s Version) back in August, Taylor Swift wrote on social media that the project was her “most FAVORITE re-record” she’s ever done because “the 5 From The Vault tracks are so insane.”
“I can’t believe they were ever left behind,” she added at the time. “But not for long!”
Flash forward to Oct. 27, and it’s clear that the 33-year-old pop star wasn’t kidding. The five “From the Vault” tracks have got to be some of the most detailed, vulnerable and visceral previously unreleased songs that Swift has retroactively put out, arguably beating out Vault songs from July’s Speak Now re-release and 2021’s Fearless and Red. (Well, maybe aside from “All Too Well (10 Minute Version).”)
As Swifties have been quick to notice, the singer-songwriter’s newly uncovered tracks — originally written circa 2013-2014 — appear to be riddled with references to Swift’s life, relationships and past work. Namely, the vault songs feel especially reminiscent of the wavy-haired, Gucci suit-wearing elephant in the room: Harry Styles, who dated Swift in 2012 and is the rumored muse behind many of the songs on the original 1989 (cough cough, “Style”).
As prominent as the themes of romantic love and loss are on 1989, its most important lasting effect is perhaps the artistic renaissance it meant for Swift, who made a sharp pivot from country to pop and claimed a newfound independence with the album in 2014. “I was born in 1989, reinvented for the first time in 2014, and a part of me was reclaimed in 2023 with the re-release of this album I love so dearly,” she wrote on Instagram following the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version). “This moment is a reflection of the woods we’ve wandered through and all this love between us still glowing in the darkest dark.”
Keep reading to see all of the hidden Easter eggs Billboard could find in Swift’s 1989 vault tracks, mostly co-written and produced by Jack Antonoff, below:
Swift has long been open about the public slut-shaming she’s faced over the course of her career, specifically in the years leading up to 1989‘s original release in 2014. The lyrics on “Slut!” find the star falling in love with someone while staying keenly aware of the misogynistic consequences she’ll face once the world finds out.
- “Love thorns all over this rose”: A possible reference to the “Blank Space” line “Rose garden filled with thorns.”
- “I’ll pay the price, you won’t”: Swift seems to call out how only the woman in a relationship will be scrutinized for a romance gone awry, while men make it out scot-free.
- “The sticks and stones they throw froze midair/ Everyone wants him, that was my crime”: Fans may remember the hate Swift used to get from some One Direction fans who weren’t keen on her dating their favorite heartthrob.
- “In a world of boys, he’s a gentleman”: Possibly a cheeky nod to Styles’ profession at the time Swift dated him — a singer in a “boy” band.
“Say Don’t Go”
This track, co-written with master songwriter Diane Warren, is full of unrelenting anxiety that mirrors “Out of the Woods” and “I Know Places.”
- “The waiting is a sadness/ Fading into madness”: A possible callback to a lyric from “Wonderland,” a deluxe 1989 track about someone with “green eyes” (like a certain former boy bander) and a “Cheshire Cat smile” — “And in the end, in Wonderland, we both went mad.”
- “I’m standin’ on the sidewalk alone … I’m tryna see the cards that you won’t show”: This parallels lyrics from Speak Now‘s “Spark’s Fly” — “The way you move is like a full on rainstorm, and I’m a house of cards … Kiss me on the sidewalk, take away the pain.”
“Now That We Don’t Talk”
“Now That We Don’t Talk” is a song full of things Swift wishes she could say, but can’t — similar to sister 1989 tracks “I Wish You Would” and “How You Get the Girl.”
- “You part the crowd like the Red Sea”: Though clearly a Biblical reference, invoking the color red could also connect this song to Midnights‘ “Maroon,” which many fans believe is also about Styles.
- “You grew your hair long … And from the outside/ It looks like you’re tryin’ lives on”: The “Watermelon Sugar” singer sported long hair in 2014.
- “I don’t have to pretend I like acid rock/ Or that I’d like to be on a mega yacht/ With important men who think important thoughts”: This line calls back to lyrics on “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” — “Find your peace of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine”; as well as “I Bet You Think About Me” — “I tried to fit in with your upper-crust circles … They sit around talking ’bout the meaning of life/ And the book that just saved ’em that I hadn’t heard of.”
- “And the only way back to my dignity/ Was to turn into a shrouded mystery”: This feels like an allusion to Swift’s self-admitted attempt to shake off media scrutiny into her love life. “I swore off hanging out with guys, dating, flirting or anything that could be weaponized against me by a culture that claimed to believe in liberating women but consistently treated me with the harsh moral codes of the Victorian Era,” she writes in the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) prologue.
“Suburban Legends” proves that Swift has been stewing on small-town high-school metaphors long before Lover‘s “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” or many of the songs on Folklore and Evermore.
- “I had the fantasy that maybe our mismatched star signs/ Would surprise the whole school”: Swift and Styles have differing Zodiac signs — Sagittarius and Aquarius, respectively. This stands in contrast to someone like, say, Jake Gyllenhaal, who is also a Sagittarius and is rumored to have inspired the “State of Grace” lyric “Twin fire signs, four blue eyes.”
- “You’d be more than a chapter in my old diaries”: Given that Swift has shared she’s kept dozens of diaries over the course of her life and even released pages from a few of them to promote Lover in 2019, this line probably isn’t merely a metaphor.
- “I am standin’ in a 1950s gymnasium”: This line parallels Folklore‘s “Betty” –“Your favorite song was playing/ From the far side of the gym.”
- “When you told me we’d get back together”: A possible reference to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
- “Waves crash on the shore, I dash to the door”: Water is a recurring theme throughout 1989, from “This Love” (“Clear blue water/ High tide came and brought you in”) to “Clean” (“Rain came pouring down/ When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe”).
“Is It Over Now?”
This might just be the most talked-about of all the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) vault tracks, thanks to the way fans almost immediately clocked that the lyrics are seemingly filled to the brim with Harry Styles references:
- “Once the flight had flown”: An apparent reference to Swift and Styles’ paper airplane necklaces.
- “You dream of my mouth before it called you a lying traitor”: Swift has hinted at infidelity in many of her songs rumored to be about Styles, namely the cheekily-titled “Style” — “I heard that you’ve been out and about with some other girl.”
- “Whеn you lost control/ Red blood, white snow”: A possible nod to the snowmobile accident Swift divulged in a Rolling Stone cover story and seemingly sang about on “Out of the Woods” — “Remember when you hit the brakes too soon? Twenty stitches in a hospital room.”
- “Blue dress on a boat”: A not-so-coincidental description of that iconic paparazzi photo of Swift leaving her 2013 Caribbean vacation on a boat, rumored to be taken in the hours after she and Styles broke up.
- “Your new girl is my clone”: Swift implies that her ex went on to date someone who looks just like her, which parallels Styles’ own lyric on “From the Dining Table” — “Woke up the girl who looked just like you/ I almost said your name.”
- “If she’s got blue eyes, I will surmise that you’ll probably date her”: Swift is known for her ocean eyes.
- “You search in every model’s bed for somethin’ greater, baby”: Styles has been rumored to have dated a few models following his split from Swift (Kendall Jenner and Camille Rowe are probably the most famous examples).
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