Taylor Swift's surprise album Folklore has been out for less than 24 hours, and the internet is already obsessively dissecting every facet of it, as the internet is wont to do. Amid all the usual Easter eggs and elliptical references, one persistent mystery has emerged: Who is William Bowery?
Swift named Bowery among her collaborators in her Instagram post announcing the album, and he's credited as a co-writer on two songs, "Exile" and "Betty." But strangely, no other songwriting credits seem to exist for someone by that name, leading many to believe "William Bowery" is a pseudonym. Such a thing would not be unprecedented; Swift used the name "Nils Sjöberg" as her co-writing credit on Calvin Harris' "This Is What You Came For" in 2016. But who could this so-called Bowery be?
Swiftie sleuths are pointing to a few potential candidates, including Joni Mitchell, which seems, shall we say, a tad unlikely. The evidence here consists of longstanding speculation that Swift's song "The Lucky One" is about the "Both Sides, Now" songwriter, and the fact that one of Mitchell's paintings is called "Bowery Bum." That's what we in the journalism world call thin.
someone said WILLIAM BOWERY might actually be JONI MITCHEL'S pseudonym??? there were speculations that taylor's song the lucky one is about her. she's a famous— a folkWHORE (@taylowkey13) July 23, 2020
FOLK singer & songwriter. she has a painting called BOWERY bum. her father's name is WILLIAM anderson — pic.twitter.com/JmdtJTl92m
Far more convincing is the more widely held theory that Swift's boyfriend Joe Alwyn is the concocted co-writer. Swift has been dating the London native since 2016, and one of their first meetings was evidently at a party at New York's Bowery Hotel in October of that year. What's more, Alwyn's great-grandfather was a composer and conductor named William Alwyn. A bit convoluted, perhaps, but not as altogether unlikely as the Mitchell theory.
WILLIAM BOWERY theory— a folkWHORE (@taylowkey13) July 23, 2020
on oct 2016, taylor (w her squad) & alwyn were spotted in BOWERY hotel. (smth special mustve happened here, that's why she used d name "BOWERY" i guess?)
WILLIAM alwyn is literally joe alwyns great-grandpa. he was was composer, conductor, and music teacher pic.twitter.com/pDOaBieGgL
Other users deduced that Alwyn's mother's name is Elizabeth, hence the song title "Betty." Though, incidentally, there is also speculation that "Betty" was Swift's cryptic way of revealing the name of Ryan Reynolds' and Blake Lively's third child, who was born last year and whose name has not been revealed to the public.
Um guys I think it's 100% confirmed that "William Bowery" is pseudonym of Joe who is cowriter of song "Betty" and another song .— Centi | BUY FOLKLORE (@Lorde_IsComing) July 23, 2020
Since Joe's great-grandfather name is William Alwyn and Bowery hotel is where Taylor and Joe met first time 🥺🙂 pic.twitter.com/vol1O8kJzb
Representatives for Swift did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment. (We imagine they're a little busy today.) But if Alwyn is indeed the mysterious songwriter, he's run doubly afoul of that ancient axiom: Neither a Bowery nor a Londoner be.