Joe Alwyn Really Did Help Write Taylor Swift’s Best Song Off folklore

Photo: Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images.
It's a running joke that Taylor Swift fans can get carried away reading too much into everything the singer says and does. But once again, Swift's overly cryptic clues proved no match for her fandom of sleuths. They solved folklore's biggest mystery.
In her Disney+ special, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, which premiered on Wednesday, November 25, Swift revealed the identity of William Bowery, a mysterious and unknown co-writer credited on her most recent eighth full-length album. As fans guessed, it was indeed her boyfriend Joe Alwyn (after his composer great-grandfather William Alwyn, and the Bowery Hotel, where one of the couple's first public outings took place), who wrote under a pseudonym.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about William Bowery and his identity because it’s not a real person,” Swift explained to her other folklore collaborators, Jack Antonoff and The National’s Aaron Dessner. “So, William Bowery is Joe, as we know.”
The actor is credited on two of the album's tracks: "exile," her duet with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon, and "betty," both fan and critical favourite. Similarly to Swift, it seems her boyfriend is also casually good at everything, as the singer revealed that "betty" had basically come to Alwyn out of thin air. “I just heard Joe singing the entire, fully formed chorus of ‘betty’ from another room. And I just was like, ‘Hello,’” Swift said. “He was singing the chorus of it and I thought it sounded really good from a man’s voice, from a masculine perspective, and I really liked that it seemed to be an apology,” she added. This, unfortunately, debunks our beloved theory that James, the fictional character in folklore's teen love triangle who's dedicating this song to Betty, is not a queer woman. Sigh.
"exile," sung from the perspectives of two people who muse over where their relationship went wrong, came about in a similar way. “[Joe] was just singing it the way that the whole first verse is,” Swift said. “I was entranced and asked if we could keep writing that one.” According to Swift, Alwyn "plays piano beautifully" and is "always just playing and making things up and kind of creating things,” including the "entire piano part" of "exile."
Even though Alwyn is apparently musically-inclined, neither of them had thought about collaborating before. And in the era of COVID, it dawned on the singer that now would be as good a time as any to try it. “It was a step that we would never have taken because why would we have ever written a song together?” she said. “This was the first time we had a conversation where I came in and I was like, ‘Hey, this could be really weird and we could hate this, so could we just, because we’re in quarantine and there’s nothing else going on, could we just try to see what it’s like if we write this song together?’
Most people who "tried something out" in quarantine ended up with five half-baked loaves of sourdough bread. Swift and Alwyn "try" something out and get nominated for five Grammys. We are not the same.

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