Taylor Swift's New Album Features a Nod to Former Hollywood Actress Clara Bow

Sara Belcher - Author

Feb. 6 2024, Published 12:09 p.m. ET

Taylor Swift at the 2024 Grammys, Clara Bow
Source: Getty Images

During the acceptance speech for her 13th Grammy, Taylor Swift announced to the audience that her 11th studio album, "Tortured Poets Department," will be released on April 19. After Swifties spent months dissecting easter eggs that they thought indicated "Reputation (Taylor's Version)" was on its way, this surprise announcement has fans already picking apart the new album's aesthetic and tracklist.

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Though the titles of many of the album's songs seem to reference her breakup with former boyfriend Joe Alwyn, many have paused over a track titled "Clara Bow." What is the possible meaning of this upcoming track? Let's break down Taylor's reference to the former Hollywood star.

Clara Bow
Source: Getty Images
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Who was Clara Bow?

On an album clearly inspired by literary icons and academic aesthetics, it's no surprise that Taylor's newest album already has references to some historic figures.

Clara Bow was an actress in the 1920s, becoming one of the few women capable of transitioning from silent films to "talkies," or films with synchronized sound. She was known as the original "It Girl," inspired by her role in the 1927 film It, becoming an icon for the Roaring Twenties.

Though Clara retired from acting at age 33, her personal life was greatly elaborated on in the media. Much of her press coverage sensationalized her rough upbringing before eventually shifting focus to her love life.

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Clara was one of the earliest sex symbols in Hollywood, becoming synonymous with the flapper look as it dominated screens in the 1920s. According to various biographies and interviews, she often donned more androgynous looks, and her fearlessness for standing out was part of what made her so popular.

Clara Bow in 'Call Her Savage'
Source: Getty Images
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She eventually married actor Rex Bell and retired to his ranch in Nevada, though after having two sons she suffered from a psychiatric illness that was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia, though she did no experience hallucinations. After a stay in a psychiatric hospital, she left her family and her life in the public eye, living alone until her passing in 1965.

What does Clara Bow have to do with Taylor Swift?

Anyone who is familiar with Taylor's discography knows she often takes inspiration from historic and literary references. Her track "the lakes" from "folklore" references the The Lake Poets William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey. Similarly, "the last great american dynasty" follows the tale of Rebekah Harkness, who previously owned one of Taylor's properties, and "marjorie" reminisces of her grandmother's own career in the opera.

Though Clara is not thought to have a direct connection to Taylor, it's likely that Clara's time in the public eye is what inspired the song. We don't yet know the lyrics to the track, as the album won't be released until April 19, but it's possible Taylor has drawn parallels between her own media scrutiny as she's transitioned between music genres and Clara's own career.

Unfortunately, we won't know for sure what the meaning behind this song is until "Tortured Poets Department" releases in April.

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