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Why lyrics from Olivia Rodrigo’s 'The Grudge' are fueling Taylor Swift feud rumors

The singer won't reveal the inspiration behind the songs off her new album, so fans are reading between the lyrics.
Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift
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/ Source: TODAY

Do you get déjà vu? Once again, the internet is in a frenzy trying to identify the inspiration behind an Olivia Rodrigo hit.

Despite Rodrigo not sharing any public details about the inspiration behind the songs from her sophomore album "Guts," fans have taken things into their own hands and shared their theories on social media.

In addition to several rumored beaus, another name has popped up as a potential subject of the songs "Vampire” and “The Grudge": Taylor Swift.

Fans think lyrics like "You built me up to watch me fall / You have everything and you still want more" point to the duo's alleged copyright spat.

Rodrigo, 20, addressed the fan speculation in an interview with Rolling Stone published on Sept. 12.

“I don’t have beef with anyone,” Rodrigo said. “I’m very chill. I keep to myself. I have my four friends and my mom, and that’s really the only people I talk to, ever. There’s nothing to say.”

She added: “There’s so many Twitter conspiracy theories. I only look at alien-conspiracy theories.”

And when Rodrigo was asked by The Guardian earlier this month if Swift, 33, was the inspiration behind "Vampire," Rodrigo whispered, “How do I answer this?” 

“I mean, I never want to say who any of my songs are about,” she replied. “I’ve never done that before in my career and probably won’t. I think it’s better to not pigeonhole a song to being about this one thing. I was very surprised when people thought that.”

Rodrigo elaborated further to TODAY's Willie Geist during Sunday Sitdown on Sept. 10, saying, “I think explanation is never good for art.”

“Why would I pigeonhole a song into being about this one thing in my life, when everyone has their own interpretation? It just makes me feel less alone in my feelings when I write this song about some specific instance where I felt this really strong way,” she told Willie. “And then I look out into the crowd and I see some girl who felt exact same way. It just makes me realize that we’re all so much more alike than we are different.”

The fan theories largely stemmed from the fizzling out of the public friendship between Rodrigo and Swift, which began after the success of “Drivers License” in January 2021. 

But after giving Swift a retroactive writing credit on one of her songs, their relationship seemingly fizzled, with the two rarely interacting online anymore.

Read on for everything to know about Rodrigo and Swift’s relationship.

Rodrigo called Swift the 'kindest individual in the whole world' in 2021

Rodrigo — who earned comparisons to Swift after the release of “Drivers License” — has named the singer one of her influences as an artist. In March 2021, Rodrigo called Swift the “kindest individual in the whole world” during an interview with SiriusXM.

“I feel so lucky that I was born at the right time to be able to look up to someone like her,” Rodrigo added. “I think she’s incredible and all of her support and genuine compassion and excitement for me has just been so, so surreal.”

Rodrigo also credited Swift as being one of her songs' 'primary influences'

Swift’s music helped inspire Rodrigo on two “Sour” tracks in particular.

Rodrigo said on the Zach Sang Show in May 2021 that she had interpolated Swift’s song “New Year’s Day" for her song “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back."

Interpolation is when an artist records another artist's existing music in a new song, rather than a sample, which preserves the original recording.

“I came up with the ‘1 step forward’ concept and I wrote a verse and a chorus, and when I got home ... I decided to sing it over the chords of ‘New Year’s Day,’” she explained. “I think they’re really beautiful chords and I was lucky enough to get that approved, and it’s on the record now.”

Rodrigo shared during Rolling Stone’s “The Breakdown” in April 2021 that she had also drawn inspiration from Swift’s tune “Cruel Summer” for the last bridge of her song “Deja Vu.”

When it came to writing the bridge, Rodrigo said she wanted it to be “really high energy” to juxtapose the rest of the song, which was “serene and eerily calm.”

“But I wanted the last bridge to go crazy and I love ‘Cruel Summer,’ it’s one of my favorite songs ever,” she said, “I love the yell-y vocals in it, the harmonized yells that she does. I feel like they’re super electric and moving, and so I wanted to do something like that.”

Swift supported Rodrigo after the release of 'Drivers License' in 2021

Swift publicly celebrated Rodrigo on Instagram after the singer shared a screenshot showing that the song reached the No. 3 spot on iTunes, following two of Swift’s “Evermore” bonus tracks. In the comments, Swift wrote, “I say that’s my baby and I’m really proud.”

In the months that followed, Swift sent Rodrigo and singer Conan Gray two of her re-recorded songs from “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” ahead of the album’s re-release, including “You Belong With Me” and “White Horse.”

Swift and Rodrigo even took a sweet photo together at the BRIT Awards in May 2021, which Rodrigo shared on her Instagram.

Later, though, Rodrigo gave Taylor Swift a retroactive writing credit on several songs from ‘Sour’

Less than two months after the release of her album “Sour” in May 2021, Rodrigo quietly gave Swift and her producers Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent songwriting credit on the track “Deja Vu” after the album's release.

But because they were credited as songwriters for an interpolated track, the Recording Academy later removed them as Grammy album of the year nominees for “Sour,” per NBC News.

This was the second time Swift was given a writing credit on “Sour.” Swift and Antonoff were given credit on the track “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back” from the jump. (Swift herself dabbled in interpolation, notably giving Right Said Fred a writing credit for her use of "I'm Too Sexy" in "Look What You Made Me Do.")

Rodrigo ended up giving several additional artists writing credits after the release of “Sour,” including Hayley Williams from Paramore for “Good 4 U.”

Then, while some online also argued her album opener “Brutal” sounded similar to an Elvis Costello rhythm, the musician defended Rodrigo.

“It’s how rock and roll works. You take the broken pieces of another thrill and make a brand new toy. That’s what I did,” Costello tweeted.

Rodrigo addressed the retroactive credits in December 2021 during an interview with Time, explaining, “It was really frustrating to see people discredit and deny my creativity.”

When speaking to The Guardian in September 2023, Rodrigo looked back at that time and said she was “so green as to how the music industry worked,” adding, “I feel like now I know so much more about the industry and I just feel … better equipped in that regard. It wasn’t something I thought about too much.”

Rodrigo also spoke about adding the credits with Rolling Stone, saying she was “a little caught off guard.”

“It’s not something that I was super involved in,” she said. “It was more team-on-team. So, I wouldn’t be the best person to ask.”

Why do fans think 'Vampire' and 'The Grudge' lyrics are about Taylor Swift?

Since the release of “Guts,” Rodrigo’s lead single “Vampire” isn’t the only song fans are theorizing is about Swift.

On social media, some fans are saying they believe the track “The Grudge” is also about the “Anti-Hero” singer.

“The drama. The anger. I wasn’t on board with vampire being about Taylor swift. But convinced by the lyrics of the grudge. And now I think Taylor really started beef with a literal teenager. Will be on repeat," one fan wrote.

The lyrics to "The Grudge" open with a life-changing phone call.

"I have nightmares each week ‘bout that Friday in May / One phone call from you and my entire world was changed / Trust that you betrayed, confusion that still lingers."

The song goes on to describe one-way arguments and things left unsaid: “The arguments that I’ve won against you in my head / In the shower, in the car, and in the mirror before bed,” Rodrigo sings in the second verse. “Yeah, I’m so tough when I’m alone, and I make you feel so guilty / And I fantasize about a time you’re a little f-----’ sorry.”

The bridge indicates someone "building her up" to "watch her fall": "Ooh, do you think I deserved it all? / Ooh, your flowers filled with vitriol / You built me up to watch me fall / You have everything and you still want more."

Others are not convinced by the lyrics and their connection to Swift.