Taylor Swift

“betty” touches on the aftermath of “august,” which describes a summer love that was doomed from the start. Listeners learn that while the summer affair was going on, the speaker, James, was still dating their classmate, Betty.

The song takes a more feminist approach, portraying the narrator as a person named James who can’t own up to their mistakes, all while Betty flourishes on her own and recognizes her worth.

Sonically, the song exudes a strong sense of nostalgia, delivering production and instrumentals reminiscent to Taylor’s earlier projects like Fearless and Speak Now, both of which were records written by Taylor in her similarly naïve adolescence.

“betty” is believed to be the third part of folklore’s “Teenage Love Triangle,” told from the point of view of James. The storyline is preceded by “cardigan” and “august.”

Interestingly, James' gender is never explicitly stated—James and Inez (mentioned in the pre-chorus) are, in fact, the names of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds‘ eldest daughters—leading some to believe that James could be a girl and that the Teenage Love Triangle is, in fact, a sapphic love story.

However, Taylor confirmed James' gender while explaining the song on country radio:

[James] has lost the love of his life basically and doesn’t understand how to get it back…Everybody makes mistakes, everybody really messes up sometimes and 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–and I named all the characters in this story after my friends' kids."