Taylor Swift and Notre Dame: The undoubtable truth of ‘champagne problems’
Ryan Israel | Friday, December 18, 2020
This article / comprehensive investigative piece / invaluable entry into the rich canon of Notre Dame was made possible by the Twitter user @archi_trashfire or “ethan” who, on December 13, 2020, clued the vibrant Notre Dame Twitter community into a gripping rumor. By way of one @jackie_weinrich, “ethan” learned that “champagne problems,” track number two on superstar Taylor Swift’s latest album “evermore,” is about “an ND couple gone wrong that austin [sic] told her about.”
For context, “evermore,” Swift’s “folklore” follow-up, is full of mini-stories, a series of creative writing exercises turned into songs, and “champagne problems” is, as Swift describes it, “the one where longtime college sweethearts had very different plans for the same night.” But what says this college story is a Notre Dame story?
The first and strongest indication is noted in “ethan’s” tweet when they refer to Austin, who, for those of you who are painfully unaware, is Austin Swift, younger brother of Taylor and a 2015 graduate of Notre Dame. He’s the pop star’s most substantial connection to Our Lady’s University, and it’s this connection that has brought Taylor onto campus more than once and resulted in some of the best Notre Dame celebrity photos — up there with you, Leo — such as “ND Loves T.S.” and “Taylor Swift brings Selena Gomez to a football game.” As a side note, that game was Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame debut and led to the revelation that he too “loves T.S.” — Go Irish, beat Clemson.
Taylor herself never went to college, so who could she possibly get the inspiration from for a story about “longtime college sweethearts” other than Austin? Nobody, that’s who.
So the “invisible string” between Swift and Notre Dame is now visible — and yes, we’d really love it if she’d come perform at Notre Dame Stadium — but there has to be more to support the thesis that “champagne problems” is a Notre Dame story in order for it to enter our history books. This is where a close reading of the text and an incredibly large amount of hypothesizing and conjecture is necessary.
“Because I dropped your hand while dancing / Left you out there standing / Crestfallen on the landing.”
The most famous landing at Notre Dame is often referred to by a more distinguishable piece of its architecture, the arch. That is the Lyons Hall arch of course, known for its scenic view and, more importantly for this story, the legend which holds that any couple who kiss under the arch are bound to marry in the future. The “champagne problems” pair leave a dance on the quad, surely an SYR, pass under the arch and onto the landing overlooking the lake, where Mr. Notre Dame’s misguided proposal leaves him crestfallen. Irrefutable, but maybe there’s more.
“Your mom’s ring in your pocket.”
A Notre Dame mother, the type of Notre Dame mother who would have her son propose with her ring — a traditionalist — maybe even someone who would, say, find a problem with leggings?
“Dom Perignon, you brought it.”
Dom Perignon has a high price tag and so does tuition at Notre Dame.
“‘This dorm was once a madhouse.’”
This reference to a dorm is one of the clearer points in the argument that “champagne problems” is a Notre Dame story because, definitively, no other college students form the same loyalties, memories and bonds to their dorms. And while every men’s dorm could veritably be called a madhouse, there is one dorm — or rather, house — which one stands out above the rest — Zahm.
“How evergreen, our group of friends.”
Notre Dame friend groups are special and no doubt last forever. Also, evergreen — green, Notre Dame’s color.
“And soon they’ll have the nerve to deck the halls / That we once walked through.”
Notre Dame dorms love to go over the top when decorating for Christmas, decking the halls. But these are the halls that the narrator and her boyfriend “once” walked through, as in no longer do. So they’re seniors, off-campus seniors. Austin Swift — back to him again — was a senior in 2014-15 and a resident of Duncan Hall. In 2013-14, Duncan won the men’s hall of the year award, meaning they’d have a Dome Dance the following year, Austin’s senior year. That Dome Dance was held on the last day of the classes.
“She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred.”
There is one notable tapestry on Notre Dame’s campus, and it’s in the main building, exactly where Dome Dance takes place. Starting to see the picture?
Austin and his group of friends — evergreen, of course, because of those green blazers — are going to Dome Dance to celebrate the beginning of the end of their time at Notre Dame. One of these friends, the misguided and hopeless romantic, plans to propose to his girlfriend — ring by spring, exactly when Duncan’s Dome Dance occurred, of course. The landing? A landing in the main building, perhaps, because there are more than a few. And the Dom Pérignon? Well, there’s a tradition among fraternities — and therefore also Notre Dame men’s dorms — known as champagne and shackles, and this tradition may well have taken place the very night of Duncan’s Dome Dance.
Google it if you must, but know that this is the piece which completes the puzzle and also the story which Austin told to Taylor and which she filled in with other small bits of flowery fiction — bits which, even if they contradict this Notre Dame “champagne problems” narrative, we can easily dismiss.
Thus this story, the story of “champagne problems,” a cautionary tale of love and miscommunication which is indispensable to our very identity, must enter into the body of Notre Dame lore and legend, to be passed on from generation to generation until the end of time.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misspelled @archi_trashfire’s Twitter handle. The Observer regrets this error.