Unpacking the Hidden Teenage Love Triangle in Taylor Swift’s New Album “folklore”

Taylor Swift dropping her surprise eighth studio album folklore over the summer was QUITE the experience. From country guitar tracks reminiscent of her early days to her first foray into alternative music, Swift left fans and critics alike completely shocked… in the best way possible. As the unofficial/official resource on all things Taylor Swift, one of my favorite parts about this album is Swift’s storytelling. She has slipped in three songs on the album all from different perspectives of three teenagers caught in a love triangle. From cheater, to lover, to mistress, here is a comprehensive guide to the three songs in the folklore teenage love triangle.

Taylor Swift / YouTube

Let’s begin our journey at the album’s fourteenth track betty. This song is from the perspective of James, a seventeen year old boy who cheated on his girlfriend Betty. James sings about how he made a stupid mistake, but begs Betty to forgive him. He explains, “I’m only seventeen. I don’t know anything, but I know I miss you.” The song details James’s affair with another girl, but he assures Betty that she is his true love.


So, does Betty ever take him back? We get to hear her side of the story in cardigan. Betty sings about how badly James hurt her. She says, “chase two girls, lose the one.”


One of my favorite characters in this trilogy is the nameless “other girl.” She sings in august about how she loved James and felt blindsided when she found out James was in love with Betty. The “mistress” reminisces, “I remember thinking I had you.”

Taylor Swift folklore Republic

The three characters in these three songs actually sing about the same stories, so listeners can experience these same memories from all three different perspectives. The characters mention cobblestones, driving, cardigans, streetlights, and a porch at a party. Try to figure out what happens!

Taylor Swift / YouTube

Bonus fun fact: Swift’s close friends Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds have two daughters, James and Inez. In the trilogy, Inez is a character in the song betty who ultimately tells her friend Betty that James was cheating on her. When folklore came out, fans wondered where the name “Betty” came from, if James and Inez are Lively and Reynolds’s kids. Days after betty came out, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds announced the name of their future daughter Betty. I’m living for this adorable homage to Blake and Ryan’s three children James, Inez, and Betty!

In the end, listeners piece together that James and Betty do end up together, but Betty never forgets what James did. The nameless girl singing august is just left brokenhearted. I love listening to cardigan, august, and betty because I always figure out a new part of their story with each new listen. folklore really is a complex storytelling album, so I’d like to thank Taylor Swift for giving me something to do over quarantine this summer!