Quite honestly, if I had to pick a soundtrack to my life, it would just be Taylor Swift’s entire discography. I clearly remember listening to her debut album with my friend on our way to Girl Scout meetings in first grade, saving up to buy the Fearless and Speak Now albums, and the pure happiness that came from the Red, 1989, and Reputation concerts I went to. When Lover came out, some of my best friends and I crammed into a small dorm for a midnight listening party. I’ve dedicated too much of my time and money to Miss Swift, but, you know what, I’ve never been more honored to pay someone’s bills. Needless to say, to me, her newest album, folklore, is a complete masterpiece. Straying away from her pop sound and into a more mature, folk vibe, this album has garnered more and more new fans, and in turn, more and more new attention.
Never one to shy away from an extravagant spectacle, Swift typically starts announcing an album with sly Easter eggs hidden throughout her social media, outfits, even previous albums. However, the surprise drop might have missed the leading surprises, but the album does not come without countless fan theories. Here are just a few of my favorites, which I have super strong feelings about…
The Last Great American Dynasty
This song! It immediately caught my eye, even when it was midnight and I was listening to folklore after an emotionally exhausting "Ten Years of One Direction" day (which is another article on its own…). Even those who aren’t fans of Swift have to admit she’s one of the most talented songwriters we’ve seen in a while, and this song lives up to that. It wasn’t until I learned about the story behind the song that I truly realized how beautiful it was. "The Last Great American Dynasty" is recounting the true story of Rebekah Harkness, a widowed, middle class, divorcée who previously owned Swift’s Rhodes Island mansion until she passed in 1982 (Harkness affectionately named the home “Holiday House”). Harkness was known for her extravagant parties, mischievous, playful nature (one line states that she dyed her neighbor's dog key lime green, and while in reality, she dyed her neighbors cat green, the story still holds true), and general disdain she received from the neighbors.
The real kicker in this song is how Swift so tastefully manages to connect her life with that of Harkness. When she purchased the Rhode Island home in 2013, she was met with complaints from the neighbors and residents of the town, who were upset with the constant security around the area, Swift’s extravagant Fourth of July parties (much like the house’s previous owner), and turning the historic, quaint beach town into a tourist trap. “Holiday House sat quietly on that beach, free of women with madness, their men and bad habits; then it was bought by me,” Swift sings. “There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen — I had a marvelous time ruining everything.” Although this song is paying homage to Rebekah Harkness, it is also doing what Miss Swift does best: poking fun at the reputation society and the media have made for her.
Just warning all Memphis right now, if you see me driving down Sam Cooper screaming this song, don’t talk to me. I’m obviously going through something. Part of the chaotic teenage love triangle that includes "August" and "Cardigan", "Betty" is sung through James’ perspective, pining after his girlfriend, Betty, who he supposedly cheated on with the narrator of "August". Theories have popped up about this song everywhere, from it predicting the name of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynold’s third daughter, to it actually being about a teenage girl pining after a teenage girl. Although Swift has shown support for the LGBTQ+ community, she has stated she does not identify as a member; however, this has not stopped any sort of fan theories. Many believe that Karlie Kloss and Taylor, previously best friends, were in a relationship (Ahem, "Cruel Summer"), and also that Swift and Diana Agron were once romantically involved ("Wonderland", anyone?). Swift has been known to refer to herself as “James” in songs, as she was named after James Taylor, so many speculated that this song was the singer opening up about her sexuality and having dated women before. Even if this is not the case, it is still refreshing and a step in the right direction to hear a female artist sing from a male perspective about pining for another woman without shame.
Harry Styles Parallels
Listen, this one might get a little heated. Many believed that Taylor announcing folklore on the tenth anniversary of One Direction was a way to get back at ex-boyfriend, Harry Styles. This theory grew further attention as visual parallels were seen in the "Cardigan" music video and Styles’ "Falling" video. This made many fans upset, mad that Swift was taking attention away from the band, mad that she "wouldn’t let Harry Styles go" (I wouldn't be over him either, Taylor), and mad that she was supposedly stealing his ideas.
As a huge Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and One Direction fan, I violently disagree with the fact that Swift released folklore as a spiteful way to ruin "Ten Years of 1D Day". I also violently disagree with the idea that she is using his success and ideas from the "Falling" music video to get ahead for her own gain. If anything, this perception undermines the success and barriers women in the music industry constantly go through. Both videos feature pianos and water, Styles does not have a monopoly on either of these. Taylor is in a long, happy relationship with Joe Alwyn, and she and Styles dated for maybe two months in 2012: this was not a dig at Styles and their previous relationship. All in all, I don’t believe Swift and Styles had anything to do with each other on their albums. However, if we’re talking about a collab between the two….just imagine.
If I don’t stop writing about Taylor Swift soon, I WILL start crying. Anyways, go stream folklore! And her entire discography while you’re at it!