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5 Taylor Swift Songs with Sapphic Imagery

Taylor Swift is easily one of the best lyricists of all time, and, as many have pointed out, a good handful of her songs have some pretty Sapphic lyrics. This tends to range from references to historical queer events, to using language that has been used for queer flagging, and beyond.

1. Welcome To New York

Album cover of Taylor Swift's 1989 Album
Source: Taylor Swift on Spotify

The first track of 1989 has some pretty queer-coded lyrics! The most obvious of these is “And you can want who you want, boys and boys and girls and girls.” Many fans of hers have also noticed the theme of leaving behind who you once were to become who you are. This theme is one that many queer people can relate to, especially in the context of moving to a new place to gain freedom and leave behind a façade that isn’t authentic.

2. You Need To Calm Down

A still from Taylor Swift's You Need To Calm Down music video where seven individuals lay in a row sunbathing with metal screens outside of a trailer. Just in front of them is a small crowd of angry protestors holding up signs, though the sunbathers cannot see the crowd past their metal reflectors. One of the signs reads "Get a brain Morans" with "morons" spelt incorrectly.
Source: Taylor Swift's You Need To Calm Down Music Video

The music video for “You Need to Calm Down” features quite a few LGBTQ+ icons, such as Hayley Kiyoko (dressed in lavender, might I add), RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants, and RuPaul himself. Lyrically, this song is also pretty queer! Swift sings, “Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD,” a play on words referencing GLAAD, a queer media advocacy organization. There’s also “Shade never made anybody less gay,” which could mean two different things. For one, she may have been restating the idea that hatred won’t “fix” anyone’s queerness, while another interpretation is that those in the shade (in the closet) aren’t any less valid in their identities. Harassment and hiding will never take away from who we are.

3. Hits Different

The album cover art to Taylor Swift's album "Midnights." It features Taylor holding up a lighter as she surveys the flame.
Source: Taylor Swift's Midnights Album on Spotify

“Hits Different" -- that Midnights bonus track that only a few of us can fully listen to. Through this track, listeners learn the heartbreaking story of a breakup that hit the narrator just a little too hard. It also contains quite a few lyrics that suggest it could relate to a Sapphic relationship. “I used to switch out these Kens, I’d just ghost,” contrasts harshly to the narrative of a breakup that can’t be overcome. This line seems flippant, like leaving these other men was something that was done without second thought. It should be noted that it’s not uncommon for Taylor to take the perspective of people that aren’t herself in many of her songs. However, in combination with the many other Sapphic-seeming lyrics, I don’t think it’s unfair to assume this song’s narrator is also a woman. That being said, the lyric "Bet I could still melt your world, argumentative antithetical dream girl," then quite obviously alludes to Sapphic love. This narrator is pleading with her muse, saying that despite their past troubles, she believes she can still charm this dream girl. “It hits different cause it’s you.”

4. The Very First Night

The album cover to Taylor Swift's album "Red" featuring Taylor in a brownish red hat and a tan coat.
Source: Taylor Swift's "Red" Album on Spotify

This song, a vault track, has been quite popularly talked about in queer Swiftie circles. Taylor sings, “Didn’t read the note on the Polaroid picture. They don’t know how much I miss you.” Multiple times in this song, the singer builds a constant rhyme that sounds like it should end with “her.” Many have pointed out that it would be improper grammar to actually say, “No one knows about the words that we whisper, no one knows how much I miss her,” if the narrator is talking to and about their love interest. However, this is likely on purpose. It is jarring to hear “you” instead of “her.” The rhyme scheme is deliberately set up to lead the listener to wish they were hearing “her,” or another lyric that fits. But maybe that’s the point. The lyric is written this way so it feels like something is missing. She is missing. This person the narrator wrote secret notes to, and whispered over the phone with, someone she loved, is gone. This relationship between the singer (maybe Taylor herself, or maybe another narrator, that’s all up for interpretation) and the lover is described as having broken a “status quo.” Generally speaking, a relationship between a man and a woman isn’t all that revolutionary. Something like a queer relationship, however, would fit this description more appropriately.

5. Seven

The cover art to Taylor Swift's Album "Folklore" featuring Taylor standing at the very bottom of frame in the distance, looking up at towering trees above her. The image is in black and white and mist hangs in the air, adding atmosphere.
Source: Taylor Swift's Album "Folklore" on Spotify

“Seven” is quite a heavy song from Taylor’s eighth studio album, Folklore. The narrator sings to a summer love, one who experienced some heavy things (presumably as a young person). She also includes quite a few different references to queer concepts. First is the lyric, “I think you should come live with me… then you won’t have to cry, or hide in the closet.” This lyric directly follows a line about this lover’s house being haunted by an angry father. Being “in the closet” is a phrase that is so commonly heard in queer spaces that many have suggested that it can’t just be a coincidence that hiding in a closet is used by this character as a mechanism of escaping their parent’s anger. Taylor (or the song’s narrator) also sings the line “… and we can be pirates.” Pirates and queerness are two things that have been historically very closely connected. Like the last example, it would be hard to believe that a writer so attentive to detail as Taylor Swift would only make this connection by chance. This song has also had such a way of explaining the experience of growing up being queer. It captures that unique feeling of wanting to feel bigger than your situation. Of wanting this internal feeling to be something that feels as beautiful and free as all of the other romances you’ve been raised seeing.

Final Thoughts

Dissecting these songs through a queer lens really creates a brand-new perspective of each story being told. It’s allowed me to see a deeper story than the one sitting closer towards the surface. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful things about Taylor’s songs is how inclusive they are of so many different types of experiences. Any relationship, any kind of pain, any moment you want to celebrate, mourn, or otherwise acknowledge -- there’s at least a small handful of songs that will describe how you feel in such scarily accurate detail.


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