. . .
Both a throwback to Taylor Swift’s pre-Red country roots but also far less produced than those records, “betty” was one folklore’s most enduring songs as she slipped into character yet again, this time as a 17-year-old boy named James, who is singing the song to the titular Betty. It’s basically one long apology letter, as James tries to own his cheating on her.
You heard the rumors from Inez
You can’t believe a word she says
Most times, but this time it was true
The worst thing that I ever did
Was what I did to you
Accompanied mostly by acoustic guitars, organs and harmonica, “betty” mostly gets over on its breathless, lilting chorus, rising and falling just like James’s hopes for Betty’s forgiveness.
But if I just showed up at your party
Would you have me? Would you want me?
Would you tell me to go fuck myself
Or lead me to the garden?
In the garden, would you trust me
If I told you it was just a summer thing?
I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything
But I know I miss you
As the song progresses, it gets bigger without ever fully going big and staying there. This is mostly because what percussion exists never bothers to drive the song, mostly rising and falling with the melody. The closest it gets is during the bridge, where James basically confesses all of his sins.
I was walking home on broken cobblestones
Just thinking of you when she pulled up like
A figment of my worst intentions
She said “James, get in, let’s drive”
Those days turned into nights
Slept next to her, but
I dreamt of you all summer long
Uh, I’m not sure that’s going to work, dude.
In the end, there’s a nice modulation and one last fantasy from James that’s also a throwback to the song “cardigan,” to which “betty” (and the song “august”) are related. Speaking of related, apparently “James” and “Inez” were the names of Taylor’s friends Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s daughter, and apparently when they had a third daughter in late 2020, they were obligated to name her “Betty.” OK, maybe they were probably already going to.
“betty” was the final single from folklore, peaking at #42 on the Hot 100 but #6 on the Hot Country Charts, which from what I can tell was her first appearance on those charts since 2013, even though it probably sounded further away from the songs around it than her pre-Red singles did.
“betty” Official Lyric Video
“betty” Live at the 2020 Academy of Country Music Awards
“betty” from the long pond studio sessions
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