Brow Beat

A Guide to Taylor Swift’s New Cats Song for People Who’ve Never Seen Cats

A lounging Taylor Swift has whiskers and cat ears and is covered in fur.
Taylor Swift in Cats.
Universal Pictures.

I heard Taylor Swift just released her new song for the Cats movie. What’s it called, again?

“Please Please Please Oh God Please Give Us an Oscar.”

Is it really?

No. It’s called “Beautiful Ghosts.” Swift wrote it with Andrew Lloyd Webber specifically for the movie.

Why is it called “Beautiful Ghosts”? Are there ghosts in Cats? Are they ghost cats? Cat ghosts?

There are no ghosts in the original musical Cats, but there are ghosts in other Taylor Swift songs. On “Ready for It,” she sings “But if he’s a ghost, then I can be a phantom.” On “Bad Blood,” she sings “If you live like that, you live with ghosts.” On “The Archer,” she sings “I wake in the night, I pace like a ghost.”

I get it. But what about these ghosts? What makes them so beautiful?

They seem to be metaphorical ghosts of the past. Have a listen.

I’m sorry, did Taylor Swift just sing the word “chahnces”?

All that time living in the U.K. will do that to a person.

Some of these other lyrics sound … familiar …

Here’s where Swiftologists are rewarded for paying close attention. “All that I wanted was to be wanted” is similar to a lyric, “When all that you wanted was to be wanted,” from “Fifteen.” And Swift isn’t the only one getting self-referential. There are apparent allusions to Webber’s other work in there, too, like “phantom of nights.”

So when does Swift sing this song in Cats?

Actually, she doesn’t. “Beautiful Ghosts” was written for the lead character, Victoria, a kitten who is abandoned at the beginning of the movie and is now getting to know the Jellicles. She’ll be played by newcomer Francesca Hayward, an English ballerina. In the original musical, Victoria is a dance part. Hopefully Hayward can sing!

Then who is Swift playing?

She plays a different cat in the movie, the flirtatious Bombalurina, who has plenty of songs of her own. But this version of Swift singing “Beautiful Ghosts” will play when the movie is over, during Cats’ end credits.

Real missed opportunity to call it “Don’t Cry for Me, Bombalurina.”

You’re telling me.

How does “Beautiful Ghosts” compare to the songs that are already in Cats?

Webber has said that the song is an answer to “Memory,” sung by Grizabella, the once-glamorous outcast cat played by Jennifer Hudson. “What she’s saying is, ‘OK, it’s all very well for you. But you’re looking back on a life where you did have something wonderful in your life. You were glamorous. You had beautiful ghosts. I’ve had nothing at all. I’ve been abandoned,’” Webber told the Hollywood Reporter.

So he tried to write a Cats song that’s even sadder than “Memory”?

It seems so! When it comes right down to it, though, “Beautiful Ghosts” is no “The Rum Tum Tugger.”