Is Taylor Swift's 'Cardigan' Inspired By a Harry Styles TikTok Trend?
I’ve never been more certain that Taylor Swift is on TikTok than I am after seeing the announcement for her surprise new album Folklore. I mean, first of all, she dyed her hair pink during quarantine—an extremely TikTok mood. Then there’s the whole vibe of the album itself, which seems to be directly inspired by the genre of videos on the app called “cottagecore” (things like baking, pottery, walking through the woods). However, the real smoking gun is the single “Cardigan,” which drops tonight along with a (socially distanced) music video. Because if Taylor Swift were on TikTok, then she would know that’s the name of an extremely popular trend involving none other than her ex, Harry Styles.
The “cardigan” challenge was born out of a particularly colorful sweater Styles wore during a performance back in February. The sweater, made by designer JW Anderson and costing over $1,560, is no longer available. But the fibrecrafts side of TikTok rose to the challenge, crocheting and knitting their own versions of the garment to over 25.2 million views, per the #cardigan tag on TikTok. One of the earliest videos of the trend was posted on June 15. When you’re stuck inside, a month is plenty of time to write a song.
As Swift stans are well aware, the artist rarely dabbles in coincidences. Even the number of holes in a chain link fence in an early 2019 Instagram photo ended up being a clue about her most recent album, Lover. And the fact that the single drops on the eve of One Direction’s 10-year anniversary? Why compete with that musical milestone unless you, too, had something to say?
Styles and Swift dated in 2012, and the former One Directioner has already had some songs dedicated to him, including “Style” and “Out Of The Woods.” However, as anyone who’s listened to even a second of Lover knows, Swift is head over heels for actor Joe Alwyn now. It would be a bizarre turn to suddenly sing about an ex from eight years ago, but Swift’s fans are convinced this album isn’t going to follow any of her traditional rules.
For one, they had no idea it was coming. While Lover was pieced together via Easter eggs on Instagram, and Reputation slithered its way into our brains with snake motifs months before its release, Folklore is basically like Swift “got a basket full of eggs and chucked them at us,” per one fan account on Tumblr. She’s also working with some new producers, like The National’s Aaron Dessner and the mysterious, possibly non-existent William Bowery. Now we just need to find Swift’s secret TikTok account—but if I know one thing about Swifties, it’s that they’re already ten steps ahead.
Update 7/14: Folklore has arrived and Swift’s inspiration for “Cardigan” is still unconfirmed. While she makes no obvious TikTok or even Harry Styles references in the single, it’s the music video that has people convinced the song is still dedicated to her 2012 fling.
“The song is about a lost romance and why young love is often fixed so permanently within our memories, why it leaves such an indelible mark,” Swift said in a Q&A ahead of the premiere.
Once it arrived in its moss-covered, waterfall-laden glory, fans quickly noticed the similarities between the music video and the video for Styles’s “Falling.” Both feature the singers alone at grand pianos, and both singers are eventually submerged underwater as they play.
At the very least, I’m going to need a TikTok conspiracy video to break this down.