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Gracie Abrams & Taylor Swift’s “Us” Lyrics Meaning, Explained

The category is “past relationships and exes.”

by Carson Mlnarik

Gracie Abrams didn’t expect to release her sophomore album The Secrets of Us this soon, the “Close to You” singer told Billboard. But after touring with Taylor Swift, the 24-year-old found herself so taken with the idea of “unrequited love so strong it ‘felt like a sickness’” that she was unable to put down the pen. Fittingly, a cornerstone of the record is track no. 5, “Us” — a reference to the titular group whose secrets are being spilled — which was co-written by none other than Swift herself.

On the intimate, synth-y ballad — which sounds like a sonic sister to Folklore, thanks to production flourishes from Taylor mainstays Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff — the singers reflect on past relationships and question if their exes miss the connection as much as they do. The Swiftian lyrical influence is strong from the very first pre-chorus, as Abrams admits, “What seemed like fate becomes ‘What the hell was I doin’?’ / Babylon lovers hangin’ lifetimes on a vine / Do you miss mine?” The Hanging Gardens of Babylon was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a remarkable feat of engineering and gardening that many historians believe never existed. It’s also a reference Swift made on 2020’s “Cowboy Like Me” and a hint as to the secret nature of the intimacy Abrams is singing about.

Lyrically, the track seems to deal with a relationship dynamic similar to Swift’s “All Too Well.” Abrams told Billboard that the two singers were listening to instrumentals from Dessner when inspiration for the song struck. “Something caught our ear at the same time very hard and fast,” she said. “So we ran to the piano and started writing this song … I used to fantasize about that kind of thing as a kid.”

Perhaps one of the most telling lyrics about the secret affair comes in the second verse, as Abrams recounts the relationship’s holy feeling. “You’re twenty-nine years old / So how can you be cold when I open my home,” its lyrics go. The line seems to point towards actor Dylan O’Brien, who was 29 when he and Abrams were rumored to be dating in early 2022. (He coincidentally also starred in Swift’s All Too Well: The Short Film.) The man in question also seemingly left a book by “Robert Bly on my nightstand.” The controversial poet’s work has been associated with toxic masculinity and male maturity, making it all the more “ironic” that this ex apparently acted immaturely in ending their relationship.

The idea of “chemical” and “incomparable” connections are front of mind throughout the rest of the record, which might have inspired Abrams to name the album after one especially nostalgic lyric: “Wonder if you regret the secret of us.” (As Dessner told Billboard, “[This song] just brought everything [about Gracie’s album] into focus in a beautiful way.”) And it seems to reflect levels of secrecy Abrams — and by extension, Swift — are no longer willing to put up with in their relationships. “This album has meant so much to me because it supported me through a period of transitions,” Abrams told Billboard. “I’ve learned about how I like to spend my time, about what works for me or doesn’t in relationships, about how having friends is ultimately the priority for me.”