For more than a decade, Taylor Swift fans have been convinced that her song “Hey Stephen” is about Stephen Colbert… actually that’s not true at all, but it was the conceit for a bit on the late night host’s show Tuesday night that featured the singer.
Using last week’s release of Swift’s re-recorded version of her 2009 album “Fearless” (which includes the song) as the peg, Colbert brought the singer onto the show via Zoom to address the question. Swift played along by insisting the song is not about him, but then revealed a series of exceedingly detailed stan-level facts about his life.
“No, Stephen, I first recorded that song in 2008. I think I was like 18. And you were 44 years old” and a very specific number of days. Colbert pretends to get increasingly creeped out as Swift reveals more and more facts about his life, adding, “I’m a big fan.”
Swift then pulled out a mood board for “Hey Stephen,” which is covered in pictures of Colbert and little hearts. “Don’t flatter yourself,” Swift insisted. “‘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.”
The bit concluded with Swift revealing that “‘Hey Stephen’ is about Stephen King,” she said. “He’s amazing.”
Not to disappoint both Colbert and King, but the true subject of “Hey Stephen” has long been known. In the printed lyrics for the song, Swift capitalized the letters LOVE AND THEFT, making clear it was about Stephen Barker Liles of the country duo Love and Theft. At the time Swift only publicly said that it was “actually about a guy who I had a crush on and never told him. So I wrote everything that I was thinking down in the song instead of telling him.” But the Love and Theft-er confirmed that he knew it was about him, calling it “the nicest thing a girl has ever done for me.”
After Swift’s appearance, the show featured musical guest Lucy Dacus, who on Tuesday revealed that her next album, “Home Videos,” will be out on June 25. She appeared on the show to perform a self-directed video of the album’s first single, “Hot & Heavy.”