Betty (Taylor Swift song)
From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
Live version cover artwork
|Single by Taylor Swift|
|from the album Folklore|
|Released||August 17, 2020|
|Taylor Swift singles chronology|
"Betty" (stylized in all lowercase) is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, from her eighth studio album, Folklore (2020), which was released on July 24, 2020, through Republic Records. As the fourteenth track on the album, it was written by Swift and Joe Alwyn (under the pseudonym William Bowery), and was produced by Swift, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. It impacted country radio as the third single on August 17, 2020. "Betty" is a country and folk rock tune steered by a harpsichord and a variety of guitars, with a dominant harmonica intertwining throughout. Lyrically, it depicts James apologizing to Betty for his infidelity; James and Betty are two of the three core characters involved in a fictitious love triangle described in Folklore.
"Betty" garnered universal acclaim from music critics, who welcomed Swift's return to her country roots and praised the song's storytelling and key change. The song debuted at number 6 on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and number 42 on the Hot 100, scoring Swift her twenty-second top-10 hit on the former. Elsewhere, the song reached the top-40 in Australia, Canada and Singapore. "Betty" received its debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry House as part of the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards on September 16, 2020; this live version was released to all music platforms the next day.
Background and release
"Betty" is the only song on Folklore that involves both the producers Swift picked for the album—Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner—every other track was either produced by Antonoff or Dessner. For the song's sound, Swift used Bob Dylan's albums The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963) and John Wesley Harding (1967) as reference points.
William Bowery, who is also credited as a songwriter, appeared to have no online presence, and was presumed to be a pseudonym. Swift later confirmed that Bowery was in fact an alias for British actor Joe Alwyn. She states that prior to the composition of "Betty", she heard Alwyn "singing the entire, fully formed chorus...from another room" and asked if they could write a song together while in quarantine, which eventually became "Betty". Swift cited "Top of the World" (2004) by Patty Griffin as her inspiration to write from a male perspective.
On July 23, 2020, Swift revealed the track listing of Folklore, where "Betty" placed fourteenth, and released the album on July 24, 2020. On August 17, 2020, the song was made a single to US country radio.
Composition and lyrics
Like the majority of Folklore, "Betty" displays vivid storytelling. It is one of the three tracks on the album that depicts a fictitious storyline, what Swift refers to as the "teenage love triangle", along with "Cardigan" and "August". These three tracks narrate the story of the same love triangle from the perspectives of each of the characters involved, at different times in their lives. "Betty" is the tale from the perspective of the cheating boyfriend James, whose girlfriend is Betty, as he involves himself in a "summer fling" with the unnamed female narrator of "August". Therefore, James debates "show[ing] up" at Betty's party to reconcile with her. He apologizes about his past mistakes but does not fully own up to them, citing his disdain of crowds and Betty's "wandering eye" as excuses.
"Betty" has been described as a country and folk rock tune, propelled by an interlacing harmonica, a multitude of guitars: acoustic, electric, pedal steel, lap steel, high string and bass guitars, and other instruments such as a harpsichord, vibraphone, saxophones, drums, percussions, Mellotron and a Wurlitzer electric piano. Swift explained the song as follows:
[James] has lost the love of his life basically and doesn't understand how to get it back. [...] This is a song that I wrote from the perspective of a 17-year-old boy. I've always loved that in music you can kinda slip into different identities and you can sing from other people's perspectives. So that's what I did on this one.
Written in the key of C major, "Betty" has a moderate tempo of 96 beats per minute. Swift's vocals in the song span between a range of G3 to G4. The lyrical structure of "Betty" is characterized by a dramatic shift from the verses' past tense, to conditional sentences in the chorus, to the present tense in the climax, where a key change occurs between its bridge and final chorus. Inez is an additional character named in the song, who is portrayed as a gossiping neighbor. James confesses that, even though Betty does not usually believe Inez because her gossips are mostly false, Inez is right this time about him. The characters—James, Betty and Inez—are named after the daughters of actors Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively.
Due to the lack of mention of James's gender anywhere in the album, "betty" is also interpreted as a queer anthem. When Dessner was asked about the song's potential queerness, he replied: "I can't speak to what it's about. I have my own ideas. I also know where Taylor's heart is, and I think that's great anytime a song takes on greater meaning for anyone".
Hannah Myrlea of NME called "betty" a sweet tune that evokes a nostalgia for Swift's older country sound. Likewise, Time's Raisa Bruner also opined that the song sees Swift returning to her country roots. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone compared the harmonica in "betty" to that in Bruce Springsteen's 1975 song "Thunder Road". Pitchfork's Jillian Mapes commended "betty" as "youthful hope of a song" like the Chicks' 1998 single "Wide Open Spaces", but is notably wiser and "queerer" than the high school romances Swift generally wrote about during her teenage years. Also writing for Pitchfork, Vrinda Jagota stated that the song exemplifies the maturity and nuance that Swift has gained since her teens.
Rob Harvilla of The Ringer thought that the "semi-buoyant" song recalls Swift's 2006 debut into the country music scene, prompting her sensitive but sly songwriting, and lauded on how "betty" interweaves with other tracks on Folklore. The Atlantic writer Spencer Kornhaber opined that the suspenseful storytelling made him "stand up and put my hands on my head while waiting for it to end", and pointed out that the song first felt like a tale of same-sex desire before arriving at its bridge. Jonathan Pertile of The Duke Chronicle praised its key change, calling it the most effective since Swift's 2008 hit, "Love Story", and her "skilled" manipulation of perspective, painting a wise Betty in "Cardigan", but a hapless James, who resorts to excuses of "I'm only seventeen, I don't know anything". In agreement, Dave Holmes of Esquire also compared the key change to that of "Love Story", designating "betty" the centerpiece of Folklore.
Zachary Kephart of Country Universe dubbed the song a "full-circle moment" and "fitting" return for Swift, because it is told from a younger perspective. He complimented the instrumentals and thought that "betty" works better as a deep cut than a radio single. Ellen Johnson of Paste named the track as one of the best country songs of 2020, stating that it proves Swift's empathy "truly knows no bounds", being written from the point of view of a "regretful" teenage boy. The New York Times listed "betty" in the top 15 of their ranking of best songs of 2020.
Upon release of Folklore, "betty" debuted at number 6 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, both dated August 8, 2020. It is Swift's twenty-second top-ten hit on the former—her first since "Soon You'll Get Better" (2019) and her highest debut since the Tim McGraw duet "Highway Don't Care" (2013); it also marked the highest debut for a woman since Bebe Rexha's "Meant to Be" (2017). The song debuted at number 60 on the Country Airplay chart, marking Swift's thirty-sixth entry on the chart and the first since her Sugarland collaboration "Babe" (2018). "betty" also arrived at number-one on the Billboard Country Streaming Songs chart with 14.5 million streams collected. It sold 3,000 downloads and opened at the fifteenth spot of Billboard Country Digital Song Sales chart.
When it was released as a single to US country radio on August 17, 2020, "betty" debuted at number-one on the format's add-board of the week, gaining support from 58 Mediabase-monitored country radio stations. Asserting Swift "the biggest star in music" who transcends formats, the KKBQ Houston program director, Johnny Chiang, stated that country music is "lucky, because at Taylor's core, she's a singer-songwriter and her music has meaning. Isn't that what country is all about? "betty" fits perfectly".
Elsewhere, "betty" peaked at number 22 on Australia's ARIA Singles and Singapore's Top 30 Digital Streaming charts, number 32 on the Canadian Hot 100, and number 92 on UK Downloads chart. Upon the release of its live version, the song opened at numbers 58 and 88 on Scottish Singles and Irish Singles charts, respectively. Following the inauguration of the Billboard Global 200 chart seven weeks after Folklore's launch, "betty" appeared on the chart at number 180, dated September 19, 2020.
Live acoustic version
"betty" received its worldwide debut performance at the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry House on September 16, 2020, marking Swift's first performance at a country show in seven years. Seated in front of a glowing stage light, Swift performed the clean version of the song on an acoustic guitar, accompanied only by a harmonica player. The singer was dressed in Stella McCartney, wearing a burgundy sequined turtleneck and khaki pants, and did her own hair, makeup and styling for her attire. The live version was released onto music streaming and digital platforms on September 18, 2020.
Swift auctioned off the black Gibson acoustic guitar she used in the performance (as seen in the cover art), autographed by her, at Christie's auction house, as part of Academy of Country Music's COVID-19 relief fund.
Credits and personnel
- Taylor Swift – vocals, songwriter, producer
- William Bowery – songwriter
- Aaron Dessner – producer, recording engineer, percussion, piano, bass, high string guitar, electric guitar
- Jack Antonoff – producer, recording engineer, drums, percussion, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, organ, Mellotron
- Josh Kaufman – recording engineer, harmonica, electric guitar, lap steel
- Laura Sisk – recording engineer
- Jonathan Low – recording engineer
- Serban Ghenea – mixer
- John Hanes – engineer
- John Rooney – assistant engineer
- Randy Merrill – mastering engineer
- Mikey Freedom Hart – Mellotron, pedal steel, Wurlitzer, harpsichord, vibraphone, electric guitar
- Evan Smith – saxophones, clarinet
|Canada (Music Canada)||Gold||40,000|
sales+streaming figures based on certification alone
|United States||August 17, 2020||Country radio||Original|||
|Various||September 18, 2020|| ||Live Acoustic||Republic|||
- Blistein, Jon (July 24, 2020). "How Aaron Dessner and Taylor Swift Stripped Down Her Sound on 'Folklore'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 29, 2020. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
- Gerber, Brady (July 27, 2020). "The Story Behind Every Song on Taylor Swift's folklore". Vulture. Archived from the original on July 28, 2020. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
- Blistein, Jon (July 23, 2020). "Hear Taylor Swift's New Album 'Folklore'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 25, 2020. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
- Kaufman, Gil (July 23, 2020). "Taylor Swift Was Bummed About Her Summer Plans Not Panning Out, So She's Releasing A New Album... Tonight". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 23, 2020. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
- "Taylor Swift confirms boyfriend Joe Alwyn is mystery Folklore co-writer". BBC. November 25, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- "Taylor Swift reveals beau Joe Alwyn is mysterious 'Folklore' contributor William Bowery". USA Today. November 25, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- Suskind, Alex (December 8, 2020). "Taylor Swift broke all her rules with 'Folklore' — and gave herself a much-needed escape". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
- "Future Releases for Country Radio Stations | New Music Artist Free Song | AllAccess.com". All Access. Archived from the original on July 30, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
- Jagota, Vrinda (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift — Betty". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
- Kaplan, Ilana (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift Is at Her Most Emotionally Raw On Surprise New Album 'Folklore'". British Vogue. Archived from the original on July 25, 2020. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
- Sheffield, Rob (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift Leaves Her Comfort Zones Behind on the Head-Spinning, Heartbreaking 'Folklore'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
- Carsom, Sarah (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift, Folklore, review: a dazzling, timeless surprise album". i. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
- Antar, Adam (July 24, 2020). "Folklore: a review and analysis of Taylor Swift's new surprise eighth album". Medium. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
- Mylrea, Hannah (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift's eighth album 'Folklore' – the NME review". NME. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
- Mizoguchi, Karen (August 6, 2020). "Taylor Swift on Blake Lively's Daughter in 'Betty': 'I Named the Characters After My Friends' Kids'". People. Archived from the original on August 7, 2020. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
- "Key & BPM for betty by Taylor Swift". TuneBat. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
- "Taylor Swift "bBtty" Sheet Music in C major". Musicnotes.com. July 24, 2020. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
- Pertile, Jonathan (August 11, 2020). "Surprise album 'Folklore' is Taylor Swift's best yet". The Duke Chronicle. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
- Igoe, Katherine J. (August 7, 2020). "Taylor Swift Talks Using Blake Lively & Ryan Reynolds' Kids' Names for 'Folklore'". Marie Claire. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
- Mapes, Jillian (July 27, 2020). "Taylor Swift: folklore". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
- Kircher, Madison Malone (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift's 'betty' Is Queer Canon. I Don't Make the Rules". Vulture. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
- Bruner, Raisa (July 24, 2020). "Let's Break Down Taylor Swift's Tender New Album Folklore". Time. Archived from the original on July 31, 2020. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
- Sheffield, Rob (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift Leaves Her Comfort Zones Behind on the Head-Spinning, Heartbreaking 'Folklore'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 24, 2020. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
- Harvilla, Rob (July 27, 2020). "Taylor Swift Is Singing About More Than Taylor Swift—and Rediscovering Herself in the Process". The Ringer. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
- Kornhaber, Spencer (July 28, 2020). "Taylor Swift Is No Longer Living in the Present". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
- Holmes, Dave (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift Folklore Album Review - Best Songs on Taylor Swift's New Album". Esquire. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
- Zachary, Kephart (July 31, 2020). "Single Review: Taylor Swift, "betty"". Country Universe. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
- "The 20 Best Country Songs of 2020 (So Far)". Paste. August 7, 2020. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
- Pareles, Jon; Caramanica, Jon; Zoladz, Lindsay (December 7, 2020). "Best Songs of 2020". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
- Trust, Gary (August 3, 2020). "Taylor Swift Charts 16 Songs From 'Folklore' on Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Archived from the original on August 3, 2020. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
- Asker, Jim (August 3, 2020). "Janson's Work Is 'Done' With Country Airplay Coronation; Swift, Shelton & Stefani Debut In Hot Country Songs Top 10" (PDF). Billboard Country Update: 4. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
- Asker, Jim (August 4, 2020). "Taylor Swift Is Back in the Hot Country Songs Top 10 With This 'Folklore' Track". Billboard. Archived from the original on August 6, 2020. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
- "Taylor Swift Chart History - Global 200". Billboard. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
- Willman, Chris (September 13, 2020). "Taylor Swift Will Sing 'Betty' on ACM Awards, Her First Performance on a Country Show in Seven Years". Variety. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
- Willman, Chris (September 17, 2020). "Taylor Swift Sings Solo Acoustic 'Betty' on ACM Awards (Watch)". Variety. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
- Shaffer, Claire (September 17, 2020). "Watch Taylor Swift Perform 'Betty' for the First Time at the 2020 ACM Awards". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
- Warner, Denise (September 16, 2020). "Taylor Swift Showed Up at the 2020 ACM Party With 'Betty'". Billboard. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
- ".@TaylorSwift13 was #InStella last night at the #ACMawards, wearing one-offs designed for her by #StellaMcCartney – with more collaborations to come. Rare and sustainable pieces like this feature in our new #23OldBond collection, coming soon. #StellaCommUnity #TaylorSwift". Twitter. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
- Tracy, Brianne; Chiu, Melody (September 17, 2020). "Taylor Swift Did Her Own Hair, Makeup and Styling for the 2020 ACM Awards — See Her Final Look". People. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
- Aniftos, Rania (September 18, 2020). "Taylor Swift Releases 'Betty' Live From the 2020 ACM Awards". Billboard. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
- Kaufman, Gil (October 19, 2020). "Taylor Swift Auctioning Signed ACMs 'Betty' Guitar For COVID-19 Relief". Billboard. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
- Strauss, Matthew (July 24, 2020). "Taylor Swift Releases New Album folklore: Listen and Read the Full Credits". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
- "Australian-charts.com – Taylor Swift – Betty". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
- "Taylor Swift Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
- "IRMA – Irish Recorded Music Association". www.irma.ie. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
- "Portuguesecharts.com – Taylor Swift – Betty". AFP Top 100 Singles. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
- "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
- "RIAS International Top Charts Week 31". Recording Industry Association (Singapore). Archived from the original on August 5, 2020.
- "Official Singles Downloads Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
- "Taylor Swift Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
- "Taylor Swift Chart History (Country Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
- "Taylor Swift Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
- "Top 100 Songs, July 24, 2020 - July 30, 2020". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
- "Hot Country Songs – Year-End 2020". Billboard. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
- "Canadian single certifications – Taylor Swift – exile (Ft. Bon Iver)". Music Canada. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
- "Single Releases : MusicRow". MusicRow. Archived from the original on August 3, 2020. Retrieved August 17, 2020.