Last week Taylor Swift’s 9th studio album, evermore, turned one year old. With many of us home for winter break, evermore has been the perfect album to listen to as we endure the long trip home, and the subsequent drives around our quaint hometowns. Additionally, it was recently announced that evermore has been nominated for the grammy’s Album of the Year award. With all this in mind, in very Taylor Swift fashion, we’re going to talk about folklore. More specifically, the love triangle that unfolds within it, and particularly, the track “august.”
The love triangle in folklore follows three characters, in three different songs that tell a different perspective of the same story. When I first listened to “august,” I thought it was musically and lyrically beautiful. It has a dreaminess that makes you feel warm and comforted. However, upon further listening, I realized that it was much more than that. “August” is about heartbreak, lost hope, and reflection. It tells a unique story, from a perspective that is often overlooked. This is “On Being The “August” Girl.”
There are two principles that I feel are important to talk about before we get into the analysis of why this song is so sad, beautiful, and tragic. The first is that affairs in the media are romanticized. There are countless TV shows, movies, and songs that tell the thrilling, dramatic, and emotional stories of illicit affairs. Despite the general consciousness that cheating is wrong, we as a society love to watch it unfold in other characters’ lives. This obsession with cheating has desensitized us to the real-life effects that it has on all parties involved.
The other aspect that is important to touch on is the notion that “the other woman” is often portrayed as a villainous, and conniving person, who is solely at fault for the infidelity. It is also very likely for the resolution of these stories to be forgiveness—for the man who cheated, not for the woman whom he cheated with. The other woman’s feelings are rarely even addressed. That is what makes “august” different from other songs of this variety. It not only tells the story from the other woman’s perspective, but it humanizes her, and shows that she is not the villain of this story.
Despite the fact that “august” sheds light on this girl’s feelings and experiences with James, it leaves her nameless. This is not an accident. James and Betty, who each tell their perspective in the songs “betty” and “cardigan” respectively, are given names because it’s their story. It’s a story about how James went off and had this summer with this other girl, but in the end, he goes back to Betty. The august girl is left alone at the end—just a naive girl, who fell for a boy.
The most heartbreaking part of this story comes from listening to James’ point of view. It’s clear from the perspective told in “august” that the girl fell hard for James. She wished that she could have written her name on his back. She canceled her plans just in case he decided to call her. And despite knowing that James wasn’t hers, the hope that one day he could be was enough to keep her holding on. Our unnamed narrator sings, “so much for summer love and saying “us”, ‘cause you weren’t mine to lose.”
James, on the other hand, had a very different recollection of what happened between our august girl and himself that summer. For starters, he says that the affair he had with her was the worst thing that he ever did. He also says that the whole time he was with her, he was dreaming of Betty; and perhaps the most gut-wrenching part is when James asks, ”would you trust me if I told you it was just a summer thing?”
“Just a summer thing.”
“So much for summer love.”
It’s natural to crave love—the kicker is, sometimes we crave love from the wrong places and the wrong people. The august girl loved James. Was she wrong to do so? That’s tricky to say. What’s clear is that she gave her all to someone, and they left her. And that hurt. I’m sorry, august girl. I’m sorry that you were hurt. I’m sorry that you weren’t who he chose. But know this, James not choosing you had nothing to do with you. I know it hurts right now, but I promise one day it’ll feel better. One day you’ll have the love story that you deserve.