The past year has brought quite a few changes for Taylor Swift. The 30-year-old singer has slowly but surely shared insight into her relationship with Joe Alwyn, and even (sort of) opened up in a documentary, Miss Americana. She even made the extremely vulnerable move of sharing a video of herself crying over a banana with the public. Still, it came as something of a shock on Thursday when Swift announced that in less than 24 hours, she would be releasing an entire new album, without all the usual bells and whistles. (Though she did do enough behind-the-scenes calculations to create merch like a cardigan, in a nod to Folklore’s second track.)
But it wouldn’t be Swift if she didn’t throw in a few Easter eggs—the first of which came in her album announcement. “I wrote and recorded this music in isolation but got to collaborate with some musical heroes of mine,” the singer posted on Instagram, tagging Aaron Dessner (of The National), Jack Antonoff (“who is basically musical family at this point”), and Bon Iver. Amidst those familiar names, there was another “musical hero” Swift didn’t tag: William Bowery, who apparently co-wrote the songs “Exile” and “Betty.”
Even the most die-hard Swifties didn’t recognize Bowery’s name. Naturally, investigations commenced immediately. When Google betrayed them, they came together to speculate. After all, Swift has used a songwriter pseudonym in the past; she was credited as “Nils Sjöberg” on her ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris’s song “This Is What You Came For” in 2016.
Some are of the opinion that Bowery is Swift’s younger brother Austin, who was recently thought to be behind the fake band Jack Leopards and the Dolphin Club’s cover of Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.” Others think it’s much more likely that the “musical hero” in question is Joni Mitchell, who once made a painting titled Bowery Bum and has long inspired Swift.
Those connections seem tenuous, at best. Much more plausible is the idea that Bowery is in fact Alwyn, who figured prominently in Swift’s last album, Lover. The actor’s great-grandfather was a composer named William, and one of the first times the couple hung out was at a Kings of Leon concert after-party inside New York City’s Bowery Hotel. Plus, they’re famously private about their relationship.
There’s also the fact that Alwyn’s mother is named Elizabeth, which could have been referenced in the title of “Betty.” Then again, it doesn’t seem likely that Alwyn and Swift would name a forlorn romance song about his mom. And, as E! points out in a so-called “BFF Fun Fact,” the song could nod to two entirely people in Swift’s life: James and Inez, whose names also figure prominently in the lyrics, also happen to be the names of Swift’s pal Blake Lively’s kids.