Breaking down the Easter eggs in Taylor Swift's 'Willow' music video
It wouldn't be a Taylor Swift album release without an Easter egg hunt.
Luckily, after taking some time off in that regard with Folklore's lone music video for "Cardigan," which didn't really feature many knots to untangle, Swift is back to form with "Willow." The new music video, which comes by way of her surprise ninth studio album Evermore that released Thursday night, is chock-full of references to Swift's older music, in particular Evermore's sister album, Folklore.
Here, EW breaks down all the little Easter eggs, throwbacks, and familiar faces you might have missed, complete with timestamps for easy reference.
A familiar costar
Swift joined fans on YouTube before the debut of the video to answer some questions. It was there that she revealed that "you've seen my co-star in this video somewhere before." Turns out, Taeok Lee, who plays the singer's love interest in the vid, was a backup dancer for Swift on her Red tour back in 2013. After the video debuted, Lee thanked the pop star on Instagram. "Surprise guys! Thanks Tay for bringing me back again for this project. It means a lot to me & it was great working together again," he wrote.
"Cardigan" and "Exile," :00
The video starts with an easy one: It picks up exactly where the "Cardigan" music vid left off, with Swift soaking wet, sitting at a piano, wearing a — you guessed it! — cardigan. The set appears to be the same in both videos, but this time, Swift is holding a glowing, golden thread. Since the opening shot is basically the exact same between the two videos, one could argue that it's also a reference to Folklore's "Exile," which features the lyrics "I think I've seen this film before, and I didn't like the ending."
"Invisible String," :13
This brings us to the next most obvious reference, which is the gold string that appears throughout "Willow." On the Folklore track "Invisible String," Swift croons about an invisible string that all along tied her to her lover, which more or less seems to be used as a motif throughout this video, as it goes from the past to the present of a young couple's love with the thread tying all of the moments together. In the aforementioned track, the singer even refers to the string as "one single thread of gold tied me to you," which seems like a pretty clear reference here.
Folklore's "Seven" sees Swift pondering an old friendship from her childhood, and here, a young version of the lovers as children pops up around the one-minute mark.
"Mirrorball" and "Love Story," 1:26
After leaving the childhood segment, Swift walks through the tent only to step into a glass box on a stage, ready to perform for a crowd. The romantic off-white dress and headpiece she's wearing harken back to her "Love Story" music video, which is very fitting considering she just released the first look at the newly recorded version of that Fearless song. Also during the YouTube chat with fans, Swift revealed that one scene in the "Willow" video "represents how I feel about fame." Folklore track "Mirrorball" is pretty much a treatise on that subject, with Swift comparing herself to a disco ball spinning alone for everyone to ogle at, which feels like how she's being presented in this scene.
"...Ready For It?," 2:08
After the glass cage incident, Swift and a group of people head out into the woods, donning capes. The look and feel of the cape and the way the camera follows Swift's face is a dead ringer for the "...Ready For It?" music video from the Reputation era. Watch the beginning of that video here for reference.
"Mad Woman" and "I Did Something Bad," 2:19
Turns out there's some witchy stuff going on in those woods, and Swift has made several references to witches in recent years. On Reputation's "I Did Something Bad," the bridge features the lyrics, "They're burning all the witches even if you aren't one." And more recently on Folklore, the pop star sings on "Mad Woman" that "women like hunting witches, too." Here, she lets that witchy flag fly high.
Ah, finally a Lover reference! Swift seems to end things here on a Lover-approved high note with a reference to the final track on that album, "Daylight." In "Willow," after the cloaks and witches scene, Swift's character returns to the cabin from the beginning of the video to find her man waiting for her at the end of the golden thread. The two hold hands and walk out into a golden ray of sunlight. In "Daylight," Swift sings about throwing out her cloaks and daggers and — most importantly! — how she has to "step into the daylight and let it go," which is exactly what she does here. Case closed.