Brow Beat

Taylor Swift’s “London Boy” Is Raising Eyebrows Among Actual Londoners

Taylor Swift performs onstage at British Summer Time Hyde Park in London on June 27, 2015.
Taylor Swift says she enjoys nights out in Brixton. Londoners are skeptical. Dave Hogan/Getty Images for TAS

Christmas (Swiftmas?) has finally arrived for the legions of Taylor Swift fans anxiously awaiting her latest album, Lover. The new album comes complete with a whopping 18 new songs for fans to pore over, a brand new music video, and four deluxe versions of the CD, each with unique books of “authentic” journal entries for Swifties to further decode and analyze. Even though Lover has only been available for less than a full day, a lot of work has already been done to get to the meanings behind some of Swift’s songs. For instance, fans have established that the album’s 11th track, “London Boy,” is in reference to time Swift has spent in the British capital with her boyfriend, Crouch End’s own Joe Alwyn. According to a timeline of their relationship reconstructed by Cosmopolitan, Swift has been spending more time in the city, often “using wigs, scarves and hats as a disguise,” and the two have been rumored to be house hunting there since at least 2017. (That’s also when, according to diary entries Swift posted on Instagram, Swift wrote that she was “essentially based in London” and had been for months.)

“London Boy” is ostensibly a loving dedication to her relationship with Alwyn and her new adopted city, beginning with a sample of Idris Elba talking to James Corden about riding his scooter around London. But, on Twitter and elsewhere, some Londoners are already casting doubt on how much Taylor Swift really knows about the places she’s singing about. The song’s lyrics, and especially the neighborhoods she mentions, are raising eyebrows among locals. It’s a red flag, for example, when Swift says, “I enjoy walking Camden Market in the afternoon,” and two lines later turns up in Highgate with her beau to meet “all of his best mates” in a pub, where they watch rugby and tell “stories from uni” and “the West End.”

In another chorus, Swift boldly declares her enjoyment of “nights in Brixton” and “Shoreditch in the afternoon,” before asking her metaphorical lover to “please show me Hackney.” It’s not the most probable itinerary for a brief jaunt, and left some Londoners struggling to imagine why Swift or her boyfriend would be spending any time in Brixton or Hackney.