Taylor Swift normally leaves it up to Swifties to decode her legendary Easter eggs. But in a new video for the Vevo Footnotes series, she describes all the inspirations for her “Cardigan” video, breaking down the behind-the-scenes details of the video she directed for the song from her surprise Folklore album.
The four-and-a-half minute clip features pop-up factoids that illuminate the inspirations, hidden codes and subtle messages that Swift sprinkled throughout the fantastical video, including the reveal that the aged photo of a man on the wall at the beginning of the clip is her grandfather, Dean, who landed on the beaches of at the Battle of Guadalcanal in WWII.
Not far from that image is a pastoral painting of a white house that the singer cooked up during the first week of quarantine.
Oh, and of course the hands on the clock above her magical piano are set to 1 and 3, because, duh, 13 is her favorite number. And if you’re a true Swiftie you’ll know that unlike in the past, when her Easter eggs were typically just in videos, Folklore also has them embedded in its lyrics, woven into the character arcs and recurring themes to help you figure out who is singing about whom.
That includes what she calls the “Teenage Love Triangle” set of songs at the heart of the album, which “explore a summer love triangle from all three people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.” And if you couldn’t figure out how she ended up collaborating with Aaron Dessner from rakish New York band The National, she says that they met a year ago when she went to one of their shows in Brooklyn.
“I started asking him about what their writing process is. He told me they work remotely a lot because they all love all over the world,” she explains of the band whose members are spread all over the U.S. and Europe. “When quarantine hit and I found myself wanting to write, I reached out and he was really wanting to create too. It’s been one of the most effortless collaborations and I’m very lucky to have met him.”
Swift also breaks down the various naturalistic scenes in the video, explaining that the forest represents “the evergreen beginning of a relationship where everything seems magical and full of beauty,” while the ocean stands in for the “isolation and fear involved while a relationship is breaking down.”
Though Taylor directed and wrote the story for the “Cardigan” video, she worked with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, who also lent a hand on the clip for “The Man.”
Because of the social distancing required due to COVID-19, Taylor did her own hair and make-up and wore her own nightgown, and a health inspector was on site, using UV lights and disinfectant spray on the piano keys in between every take. Since the album’s release was top secret, Swift also wore an earpiece during filming to avoid anyone hearing the song out loud, lest they spoil the surprise drop of the album that has topped the Billboard 200 for three straight weeks (so far).
Check out the “Cardigan” footnotes video below.