It’s (allegedly) official: Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn have broken up. Though neither have commented on the news yet, rumors have been swirling with sources close to the couple stating that the split had already happened weeks ago. So what does this mean for Taylor’s eras – and the new era of her personal life that she’s embarking on? How do you start again in your 30s, when maybe you, and everyone else, expected you to be done with dating and new romantic experiences?
It’s official: Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn have broken up. Though neither have commented on the news yet, rumors have been swirling with sources close to the couple stating that the split had already happened weeks ago. So what does this mean for Taylor’s eras – and the new era of her personal life that she’s embarking on?
The sadness that has met this news comes from the fact that this one felt like the one. Taylor has always dotted her music with easter eggs about the men coming and going in her life, but Joe has been firmly entwined in the Taylor Cinematic Universe since the Reputation era — not a special guest, but a main character.
As she moves on from what she believed was a permanent union, it’s a difficult experience many can relate to, especially in this era of life. So, how do you start again in your 30s, when maybe you, and everyone else, expected you to be done with dating and new romantic experiences?
Here’s our take on the end of the Taylor and Joe era, and where she might go next.
Taylor Swift is in the middle of her eras tour: a three hour plus career retrospective that takes each of her albums as its own unique era, with its own unique style, color palette, and theme. But within those eras, we could say that there’s been a wider Joe Alwyn era, one that started with Reputation, lasting through to now.
What was so interesting was how immediately different this era felt from that which preceded it. The Reputation Era was Taylor almost leaning into being the villain, metaphorically killing off “the old Taylor” and crafting a record all about drama, fame, and conflict. It also included a number of love songs to Joe. When Lover came out, it was clear she was in a different space, exemplified by the sunny, summery lightness of London Boy, the song most explicitly about Joe and their burgeoning relationship.
This signaled a period of creative evolution for Taylor. Her pandemic-influenced albums Folklore and Evermore were by the same score a return to her storytelling songwriter roots, but also a push beyond her comfort zone. The vulnerability that she showed in the lyrics on Lover was now present in the music too. She was more stripped back than ever. And Joe was now not simply a character in her songs, but a collaborator in her creative process.
Comparatively, this era has lasted a long time. Lover, Folklore, Evermore and Midnights may all be distinct albums, but they each have this touch of the ‘new Taylor’ about them. The exhuming and re-recording of her older records also happened during this era, and have seen her push beyond simply being a songwriter. After directing the video for All Too Well, she’s now developing her first feature as a writer / director.
All of these creative swings have Joe’s fingerprints on them in some way. That’s not to give him credit for Taylor’s songwriting genius, but rather to illustrate how intertwined they became. Often with artists it’s drama and sadness that are lionized as the great muses. But here, perhaps it was the safety offered by the stability of being in a long term, loving relationship — one that was rumored to be headed for the altar — that allowed her to try all these different ideas and take these big swings. By all accounts their breakup was mutual, and amicable, but the question still remains: what next?
Taylor Swift isn’t the only high profile woman now having to navigate this romantic re-beginning in the public eye. Emily Ratajkowski and husband Sebastian Bear-McClard abruptly split in 2022, and with them, there’s a baby in the mix as well. But in talking about her break-up, we can begin to glean what this reset might feel like. Speaking to Variety, Emrata said: “I’m newly single for basically the first time in my life ever, and I just feel like I’m kind of enjoying the freedom of not being super worried about how I’m being perceived.”
Culture tells us that break-ups are difficult at the best of times. But break-ups in your 30s, particularly for women, are often seen as a completely separate kind of tragedy. We’ve talked about the 30 crisis before, and how much of that is brought on by this cultural pressure to settle down and start a family. According to Match.com, most women meet their “soul mates” when they’re 25. Taylor met Joe when she was 27, but still, you’re often made to feel like you’ve hit a shoot and gone right back to square one, just when the finish line was in sight.
But isn’t this attitude kinda old fashioned now? The idea of meeting your partner in your mid-20s, and settling down in your 30s, harks back to a day when women weren’t afforded the freedoms they are now. Taylor and Joe’s break-up will undoubtedly be sad, and something they’ll mourn, but the relationship may have simply run its course. That doesn’t mean that the last six years of her life gets erased, or that those songs from that era get swept away. They may now be imbued with even greater emotion — their life may be even longer.
So rather than break-ups in your 30s being endings, maybe they should be thought of as new beginnings. This might be the first time that a break-up really feels like it matters. But also, it’s the first time when you have the clarity and certainty of self to really see it from all angles, to reflect on the relationship, and take what was good from it into who you become. We as fans might be wondering “where could she possibly go from here?”. But maybe that wondering should be imbued not with fear, but with curiosity, and maybe even some excitement.
Taylor’s eras tour is a celebration of her career, but you could also see it as an ending itself. Rolling Stone described it as a “victory lap”, so in that sense, she was already preparing for her next race.
What’s maybe quite exciting is that Taylor knows how to write a killer break-up album. i-D’s Tom George called Taylor’s Red Gen-Z’s first big break-up album. And announcing the re-release of the record, Taylor wrote: “Musically and lyrically, Red resembled a heartbroken person. It was all over the place, a fractured mosaic of feelings that somehow all fit together in the end.” And it’s telling that amongst Swifties, All Too Well is perhaps the most beloved of Taylor Swift’s songs — an almost operatic break-up narrative full of textbook Taylor flourishes, that then took on a whole new lore when the 10-minute version was released, complete with short film accompaniment. Lindsay Zoladz writes: “All Too Well” is…about a young woman’s attempt to find retroactive equilibrium in a relationship that was based on a power imbalance that she was not at first able to perceive.” So rather than being simply about the break-up, it’s about what you can learn from a break-up.
The other thing about Red is that it’s seen as a kind of transitional phase — from the country tinged singer-songwriter to the stadium-filling pop artist, and critical acclaim that emerged with 1989. Are we about to see a similar transition? We’ve seen artists like Rihanna and Beyonce approach their 30s and pause music altogether to move into other arenas. It’s tempting to think of new phases like break-ups as a spoke in the wheel of progress. But this doesn’t fit with the Taylor we know. Yes, it’s heartbreaking. Yes, it’s unexpected. Yes, it’s an ending. But it’s a beginning too.
The creative sparks that come from being an established artist in your 30s, combined with Taylor’s preternatural ability to capture and distill difficult emotions into her music, means that whatever she does next, it could be her most interesting era yet.
Aramesh, Waiss David. “Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour Is a 3-Hour Career-Spanning Victory Lap.” Rolling Stone, 18 Mar. 2023 https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-live-reviews/taylor-swift-the-eras-tour-glendale-review-1234699496/
Zoladz, Lindsay. “Taylor Swift’s ‘All Too Well’ and the Weaponization of Memory.” New York Times, 17 Nov. 2021 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/15/arts/music/taylor-swift-all-too-well.html
Maitland, Hayley. “Taylor Swift Is Turning Hollywood Director.” Vogue, 9 Dec. 2022 https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/taylor-swift-directing-film
Eglis, Nikita. “Emily Ratajkowski and Sebastian Bear-McClard’s Relationship Timeline.” People, 30 Mar. 2023 https://people.com/style/emily-ratajkowski-sebastian-bear-mcclard-relationship-timeline/
Framke, Caroline, “Emily Ratajkowski, Freer Now Than Ever, Gets Candid on TikTok, Britney Spears and What Her New Podcast Has in Common With Joe Rogan’s.” Variety, 12 Oct. 2022 https://variety.com/2022/digital/news/emily-ratajkowski-podcast-tiktok-britney-spears-1235399441/
Clift, Cortney. “This Is the Average Age Most People Meet Their Soulmate.” Brit, 20 Jan. 2016 https://www.brit.co/average-age-soulmate/
George, Tom. “How Taylor Swift’s Red became Gen Z’s first big breakup album.” i-D, 11 Nov. 2021 https://i-d.vice.com/en/article/qjbpnx/red-taylors-version