Compared to most fans, I didn’t start listening to Taylor Swift until about three years ago. I didn’t have anything against her, but pop music was never my favorite choice of music genre. It wasn’t until 2020, when the world went into quarantine, that I was doing homework one night and “exile” by Taylor Swift feat. Bon Iver came on shuffle. What struck me was the fact that this ballad sounded nothing like the type of music I would associate Taylor with. I listened to that song over and over again until one day I decided to listen to the whole album, folklore. This record is what gave me a new perspective and respect for Taylor as an artist; her songwriting and lyricism were what ultimately intrigued me. As a first-time listener, I appreciated the nuance of her lyrics and the space she leaves for the listener’s interpretation, allowing a foundation to develop that connects the listeners to the writer.
I decided to write this article from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know Taylor Swift because, at the time when I first listened to folklore, I really didn’t. I hope that this article isn’t only read by Swifties, but also some non-Swifties, at least to provide some understanding and appreciation from an objective standpoint.
But in this article, I chose not to focus on the lyrics most known, instead, focused on the ones that randomly visit me while I’m doing laundry or walking to class. I won’t be discussing fandom easter eggs that Taylor likes to place in her music for her fans to dissect like the “teenage love triangle” throughout the record. Though, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should definitely investigate and listen to the album again. It’s a whole different experience.
I knew you…
Tried to change the ending
Peter losing Wendy, I,
I knew you…
“Cardigan” is a very popular song on the album for many reasons, especially for its bridge, which I adore. To me, these specific lines embody what young love essentially feels like, which is the purpose of the whole song. But the idea of a young and naive Peter and Wendy not wanting to grow up and live in a world where they’re young forever with no “responsibility” can be just as detrimental to their relationship as growing up and facing the reality of how young love often goes. These lines can be interpreted in many different ways and I could write a whole article devoted to this one lyric, but I digress.
“The Last Great American Dynasty”
There goes the last great American dynasty
Who knows, if she never showed up, what could’ve been
There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen
She had a marvelous time ruining everything…
I love “The Last Great American Dynasty”! This song was inspired by Rebekah Harness, a socialite and philanthropist in the 1900s. Swift bought a house once owned by her, which is revealed at the end of the song. She tells the story of Harness while also telling her own. “She had a marvelous time ruining everything,” has to be my favorite line ever because the whole song talks about Rebekah’s life and at this point in the story, the line represents the idea of a woman stepping outside of her box and doing what she wants even if it’s frowned upon or taboo because she’s too in her freedom to care.
“The Last Great American Dynasty” (again)
And in a feud with her neighbor
She stole his dog and dyed it key lime green
I think about this a lot actually because I didn’t know these were the lyrics until maybe last year. When I first heard this song, I thought the lyrics were, “She stole his dog and it died a key Lyme green.” I thought it was a play on words for Lyme Disease…I don’t really know but I’m glad the dog didn’t die like I thought was being said.
I’m still on that tightrope
I’m still trying everything to get you laughing at me
And I’m still a believer but I don’t know why
I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try ,try
I’m still on that trapeze
I’m still trying everything to keep you looking at me…
This one hurt and that’s kind of all I have to say. Are you kidding me, Taylor?
Time, mystical time
Cutting me open then healing me fine
Were there clues I didn’t see?
And isn’t it just so pretty to think
All along there was some
Tying you to me?
This song makes me want to fall in love with everyone I meet. The plucking of the harp is my favorite thing ever. I definitely recommend listening to this song on a lovely brisk walk. The first two lines mentioned above are such lovely things to remember, that as time goes on, it essentially heals everything.
Please picture me in the weeds
Before I learned civility
I used to scream ferociously
Any time I wanted
These lyrics are the ones that visit me most as a woman in her twenties. It’s the trenches, as Suki Waterhouse said. I mean, it’s a common theme, where any sort of emotion exuded from a woman other than patience, gentleness and warmness might be compared to craziness. I think about these lyrics as a woman looking back on her childhood tantrums or when we used to climb trees and just be loud and playful.
And you know that I’d swing with you for the fences
Sit with you in the trenches
Give you my wild, give you a child
Give you the silence that only comes when two people understand each other
Family that I chose now that I see your brother as my brother
Is it enough?
I really enjoyed this song from Taylor because it was really vulnerable. By the time I got to this song, I had become a Swiftie. These lyrics are about what a romantic or platonic relationship is like to me. I think we all worry to some extent about being a nuisance or burdening others with our problems, but still give our best because no one is perfect. The line where she talks about the silence between two people is key to me in all of my relationships. Someone’s company is enough for me sometimes, and it’s usually the closest people to me who understand the silence too.
There are plenty of lyrics on the album that keep me up at night, in a good way. I think folklore is almost one of Taylor’s “saddest” albums. Granted, I listened to folklore at a time when I was really sad, and listening to these lyrics made me feel seen. There’s a certain euphoria that comes from discovering music that can so easily encompass unexplainable feelings. I think this album did that for me and made me respect Taylor as the wonderful and talented artist that she is.