It’s been more than a decade since Taylor Swift released her Grammy-winning sophomore album, Fearless. But Late Show host Stephen Colbert is still grappling with an age-old query: Is the song “Hey Stephen” about him? On Tuesday night, he invited Swift, who recently unveiled Fearless (Taylor’s Version), to set the record straight.
Prior to Swift joining Colbert for her rare late-night appearance, he played a 2009 Colbert Report clip in which he claimed the track was about him. “I stand by that theory. ‘Hey Stephen’ has got to be about me,” the host said. “Just like ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ has got to be about Lucille Ball flying in an airplane with all her jewelry. To believe anything else, you’d have to be high on acid.”
Alas: When the singer was asked point-blank about the origins of her song, she denied any association. “No, Stephen. I mean, I first recorded that song in 2008. I think I was 18,” Swift explained. She does, however, seem to know a lot about the host, including his exact age at the time of the song’s original recording (“about 44 years, 179 days old, give or take”) and the specific address for his Colbert Report offices (“513 West 54th Street, New York, New York, 10019, second floor office, facing the street”).
After rattling off a few key Colbert facts, Swift revealed a mood board full of images of the host’s face, which allegedly helped her return to the “right headspace” when rerecording the song. “‘Hey Stephen’ is not about you, any more than my album 1989 is about that year you spent waiting tables on the lunch shift at Scoozi, an Italian restaurant, in the river north area of Chicago that, by the way, serves a really incredible slice of pizza,” Swift explained.
As it turns out, the musical ode was actually about another famous Stephen. “I’ve never revealed this before to anyone, but ‘Hey Stephen’ is about Stephen King,” Swift declared. “He’s amazing. The Dark Tower series changed my life, plus The Shining, The Stand, and don’t even get me started on his short stories. Absolutely luminescent.”
Still, Colbert asserted that Swift’s vast knowledge of his history proved him correct. “I think you should take that feeling that you’re feeling, and just shake it off!” Swift joked, referencing her single from 1989. “And that song is about you.”
In the hours since Swift’s Late Show bit aired, fans have become convinced that the segment was a de facto announcement of her next rerecorded album. The verdict: It’s 1989, Swift’s fifth studio album, a year she also mentioned during her appearance. Swifties have even predicted that it will be released on May 13, which just so happens to be Colbert’s birthday. It continues to be Taylor’s world—and we’re all just living in it.
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