Taylor Swift has never shied away from the big and the bold. She is known for her infamous relationship status and her heartbreak tunes. Yet when Swift dropped her new album, Folklore, fans were certainly surprised by her lack of bold introduction to the album, and not disappointed by her songs filled with love, lust, heartbreak and… a love triangle?
Swift’s new album follows the story of Betty and James. Fans quickly confirmed Taylor had connected tracks; “betty,” “cardigan” and “august.” The song “cardigan” is about Betty finding out about the affair James is having behind her back. In “betty” we hear James’ attempts to win Betty’s forgiveness from his reckless actions sung in his point of view. Finally we hear from the final person involved, the woman James has been having an affair with in “august,” also told from her point of view. Although these songs connect the story fairly well, leaving you feeling the angst, disappointment and love from the characters, some fans have gone as far as to say Swift’s entire album tells the story of Betty and James.
Each song is believed to be told in either James, Betty or the other woman’s point of view. Although all of the songs tell the story of an affair from another couple, Swift swoops in and sings of her own connections to the feelings in the album. Even though it’s not quite chronological to the album order, here is how the plot arises through Swift’s album. “august” and “mirrorball” tell listeners the run down of the affair. We understand there was once love between two characters that soon turned dark. From there we have a detailed story from the other woman in “illicit affairs.” Betty finds out in “cardigan” and James tries to show his regrets in “betty.” In typical Swift fashion, the story is then followed up with an emotion-filled break up song that the couple is singing to one another titled “exile.” Betty tries to move on from James in “the 1” after high school. By this point we have a pretty clear understanding of the hurt Betty feels and the regret James feels.
We learn more about how James feels on the ninth track of the album with “this is me trying.” This is told from James’ perspective on how he tried to make things right with Betty. “peace” describes the feeling felt when James leaves town to join the military and they can both find the much needed space and peace from one another. A dark turn approaches the story with James’ death in “epiphany” when he dies in battle. Betty attends his funeral with “my tears ricochet,” and we understand how affected she was by his death in “mad woman” and “hoax.”
Finally Swift steps in herself with “seven” to recall her childhood and “invisible string” to tell her adult love story, think about past relationships, and connect those to her current boyfriend. Finally with the last song to tie in the story; “the last great american dynasty” Swift connects her life to Bettys. Swift connects her tragic past relationships with the chaos that is James and Bettys love, creating the emotions and storyline of Folklore. Although this storyline has not been confirmed by Swift herself, it makes for a heartbreaking story to consume ourselves in during the strange times of quarantine. Folklore is one of Swift’s best works in my opinion. This is not necessarily an original storyline from Swift, heartbreak and tragedy, but she told it in a refreshing way that’s keeping fans listening.