Betty

Album: Folklore (2020)
Charted: 42

Songfacts®:

  • "Betty" is part three of a trilogy of songs on Folklore about a doomed summer romance between two classmates, Betty and James. The relationship ended because James was seeing another girl called Inez. "Cardigan" is from Betty's perspective, "August" from Inez' point of view, and this song from James.'

    We learn here that James wants Betty back in his life, but Betty has moved on and there's little likelihood of a reconciliation.
  • Swift penned the song with a little-known songwriter named William Bowery, whom some fans believe to be a pseudonym for her actor boyfriend Joe Alwyn.
  • This is the one track on Folklore where both of Swift's principal collaborators on the album are credited: The National's Aaron Dessner and frequent Swift producer Jack Antonoff. Dessner told Vulture, "Both Jack and I worked on it. We all kind of passed it around."
  • According to Dessner's interview with Vulture, Swift was interested in cultivating an early Bob Dylan vibe for this folk song, such as Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The two producers "pushed it a little more towards John Wesley Harding, since it has some drums."
  • This is the only song out of the trilogy that names all three characters in the lyrics. The trio may be the named after the children of Swift's close friends, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. The Hollywood stars' oldest two daughters are named James and Inez, and supposedly Swift named Betty after the couple's baby daughter, but the couple hadn't publicly revealed her name at the time.

    Taylor Swift later confirmed in a press release that she named all the characters "after my friends' kids." Though she didn't specify which friends, its likely she's referring to Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.

    If this is indeed the case, it throws up the possibility that the "James" in this song is female and Swift is singing of a lesbian love triangle.
  • Swift has featured James Reynolds before. She provided the intro on the Reputation track "Gorgeous."
  • This was sent to American country radio on August 17, 2020. Since 2014, when Swift dropped her first full pop record, 1989, most of her singles have only been serviced to pop stations. Swift's previous single released to country radio programers as well as pop was her Reputation track "New Year's Day." Sent on November 27, 2017, it peaked at #33 on the Country chart.
  • Swift drops the F-bomb during the track, making it one of five Folklore tracks deemed explicit by Spotify.

    The songstress' people edited the offending line on the country radio version to, "Would you tell me to go straight to hell."
  • Here's what Swift said about the single in a press release: "So, the song 'Betty' is about a 17-year-old named James learning to apologize, because James has lost the love of his life basically and doesn't understand how to get it back. I think we all have these situations in our lives where we learn to really, really give a heartfelt apology for the first time. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody really messes up sometimes, and this is a song that I wrote from the perspective of a 17-year-old boy. And I always loved that in music you can kind of slip into different identities and you can sing from other people's perspectives."
  • Taylor Swift took to the legendary Grand Ole Opry House stage to sing this song at the 2020 ACM Awards. The pop megastar's world premiere performance of "Betty" was her first appearance at the ACMs in seven years. She kept her rendition low key, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar and wearing a burgundy sequined turtleneck and khakis. It marked the first time Swift had performed any Folklore song live.

    According to The Sun newspaper, Swift made a point of wearing trousers because of the overwhelming dominance of male artists in country music.

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