Taylor Swift’s 2019 Saturday Night Live performance was highly anticipated, especially after she revealed her setlist earlier in the week on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: “Lover” and a song she has never performed live, “False God.” But while Swift was playing for the in-studio audience and the viewers at home, there was an audience of one that she was most interested in — her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn.
Alwyn was in New York City to accompany Swift to the SNL after-party, and he probably sat in the audience to watch her set during the live broadcast as well. She performed entirely new renditions of her songs: on “Lover,” Swift transformed the song into stripped-down piano arrangement with a slower tempo so she could draw out the lyrics. And while she sang the words “I've loved you three summers now, honey, but I want 'em all,” she turned towards one specific point in the audience and smiled broadly. Was she singing directly to Alwyn in the audience? Maybe!
Next, Swift sang “False God,” which was her first time performing the song live. It had a jazzier vibe, with a live saxophonist and drummer. Swift sang amid low-wattage light bulbs, making the set feel like a quiet nighttime walk through Central Park, especially when she sang, “I'm New York City, I still do it for you, babe.” The song itself is about the ups, downs, and, uh, horizontal polkas in a relationship; almost as if Swift was nodding to the fact that here she was, in her beloved New York City, trying to make a relationship work with someone who lives in London.
There’s no denying that Lover is an explosion of romance and all-consuming love. But the SNL performances of “Lover” and “False God” make it clear that her new music is about Alwyn, for Alwyn, and because of Alwyn. It’s a side of Taylor Swift that we rarely get to see.