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Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” Love Triangle Explained

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

Every Swiftie knows that Taylor Swift is a master at carefully placing “easter eggs” in her songs. As one of the largest fan bases existing today, millions of people analyze albums made throughout Swift’s career to make connections between different lyrics, some written years apart. She is known for breakup songs, love songs and telling stories through her genius writing skills.

I have always been a Taylor Swift fan. One of my favorite concerts I ever attended was a show from her Reputation tour at Metlife Stadium in 2018, but I was never a die-hard over-analyzing every album fan until this summer.

This summer, I found myself needing to find some songs to have a dramatic cry to (for the vibes of course). Naturally, I stumbled across “August,” a song from Taylor’s 2020 album Folklore. When August began, all the Swifties posted the song on their Instagram stories. I really related to the song as it seemed to convey feelings similar to ones I was having about my situation, making it a perfect summer fling anthem. I then fell into the Folklore rabbit hole and learned that my new song of the month was part of a larger story than just the song itself.

The Folklore Love triangle

There are three main characters in the triangle: Betty, James, and Augustine.


Cardigan is sung from the point of view of Betty. She is left heartbroken after she finds out that her boyfriend (James) left her and has been seeing another girl. “Chase two girls, lose the one.”


August is sung from the point of view of Augustine, James’ summer fling. She reminisces about her time with James and the romantic feelings she develops for him over the summer. Although she has such strong feelings for him, she recognizes that they were never in a serious relationship. There is nothing she can do about it: “August slipped away into a moment in time because you were never mine.”


Betty is sung from the point of view of James. He sings to Betty, asking for her forgiveness for essentially cheating on her with Augustine. “In the garden would you trust me if I told you it was just a summer thing?” He tells her that he’s sorry and that he missed her all summer long. After being away from her, he knows that she’s the one for him. “I’m only seventeen. I don’t know anything, but I know I miss you.”

The similarities and references to all three songs’ lyrics make it nearly impossible to deny the theory that the three songs are part of a musical teenage love story. I love that the songs are told individually from each character’s point of view so that everyone’s story and feelings are expressed unbiasedly. It’s easy to be on Betty’s side because, in “Cardigan”, it seems like James was two-timing her when they had this epic love story and he just left her for another girl.

In “Betty,” we realize that the relationship may have been more complicated than we thought. “Betty, I know where it all went wrong, your favorite song was playing from the far side of the gym. I was nowhere to be found. I hate the crowds, you know that plus, I saw you dance with him.” To me, this line reveals that they might not have been officially together over the summer. The lines seem to be a bit blurred, so we don’t know if James cheated on Betty per se. But, he was with someone else over the summer and she has every right to feel hurt.

 No one is ever on the side of “the other woman,” but Augustine’s feelings for James were real. Since they were never official, she knew that he wasn’t her boyfriend. “August” is so relatable to anyone who has ever had a summer fling or a situationship because the feelings are there, but the label is not. So, the whole relationship is based on the “hope of it all.” The outcome of the story is up to interpretation and I’ll leave that up to you as the listener/reader.

It is debated whether this album is a summer or fall album. I believe it is more specifically a September album. The story may begin during the summer, but it ends in September when summer comes to an end and everyone settles back into school. Plus, the music just screams fall to me. The intricacy and thought put into Folklore further the argument that Taylor Swift is one of the most talented songwriters of our generation and affirms her title of“Artist of the Decade”.

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Hi, my name Is Sophie Sietz! I am a third-year International Affairs major at Florida State University from Rockland County, NY. If I'm not writing or studying, I enjoy singing, dancing, playing the ukulele, thrifting, taking pictures, and traveling!