Lyrics interpretations of Taylor Swift’s songs make them even more heartfelt and amazing. The master lyricist and talented musician moved our hearts yet again with another album. Her 2020 release, folklore, may come in lowercase letters but it certainly offers a high degree of nostalgia, melancholy, and passion. Together, they form a masterfully written story. Part of the fun in any Swift-written track is finding the hidden messages they have. The easter eggs behind each lyric and rhyme give them even more meaning and emotion.
The American artist has made a reputation for being a cunning songwriter. The reason? She never fails to mingle secrecy and mystery with her lyrical masterpieces. In the past, she has hidden secret phrases in the physical copies of her Fearless album, among many others. Swift also notoriously incorporates interesting elements and significant props into her music videos. These either stitch them together or show their distinction from one another. Indeed, folklore is no exception when it comes to Taylor Swift’s lyrical genius. Dissecting each song does not only portray moving messages. This also unearths an intriguing story that Taylor Swift herself has urged fans to discover. Read on to learn the inspiration, meaning, and lyrics interpretations of each folklore track.
Lyrics Interpretations of Every Folklore Track
Let’s tackle each song in chronological order. Most albums should be appreciated from start to end, after all. In this case, we’ll be leaving out three folklore tracks due to their distinct purpose and connection. We won’t be spoiling why (for now). So, make sure to prepare your hearts as we analyze the inspiration and message of each song in folklore. Be warned: you might also need to ready your tissues if you easily cry like most of us. These will surely take you on a journey through young love, heartbreak, relationship woes, and everything in between. Let’s dive right in.
If the phrase “what if” was converted into a song, this would certainly be it. the 1 starts off with a clear-cut swear word that would surprise you if you kept Taylor Swift’s reputation album on your skip list. Only since 2017, the American singer started throwing in a few curse words here and there to give her songs more character and emotion. In the 1, starting with this crucial detail is a great indication of how folklore is set out to be a brutally honest and distinct creation by Swift.
the 1 paints a delusional daydream of what could have been and a painful nightmare of what is not. As the protagonist starts by saying everything is good, confessions of regret or remorse start to spill one by one. Lyrics meaning to exude pain such as “you know the greatest loves of all time are over now” and “if my wishes came true, it would’ve been you” are just the tip of the iceberg. Notably, the hook: “it would’ve been fun if you would’ve been the one” wraps what the song is about in just one sentence.
the last great american dynasty
Staying true to folklore’s intention of passing down stories, the last great american dynasty was inspired by Rebekah Harkness. She is the former owner of Holiday House, a luxurious mansion in Rhode Island. Taylor Swift purchased the beachfront home and threw her iconic Fourth of July parties there. This song tells Harkness’ story as a woman that society unfairly and exceedingly condemned due to her social status and gender. Among the worst accusations mentioned in the song was how people even blamed her for her late husband’s death.
the last great american dynasty highlights the many ways that people criticized Harkness as a widow and as a woman. The blatant prejudice among women was then highlighted by the lyric change in the latter part of the song, particularly on the line of “I had a marvelous time ruining everything”. As Taylor Swift has her share of controversies and scandals, she took this chance to send a significant message. Indeed, we can observe how society reproached women in the past and still unjustly condemns them in the present. Citing Harkness’ life and relating it to her own proves her point and conveys a strong message of unjust treatment to females who become targets of gossip and criticism.
exile (feat. Bon Iver)
Parallelism with Swift’s Previous Work
As the popular saying goes, “communication is key”—and exile did a wonderful job in depicting the importance of trust and understanding between a couple. Aside from the heartbreaking song meaning in this track, Taylor Swift added even more flair by featuring Bon Iver. This American indie band is also known for their distinct folk sound and heartfelt songs such as Skinny Love and Holocene. Their collaboration led to one of the most evocatively beautiful tracks from folklore. One would argue that exile is also one of the best tracks from Swift’s entire discography. Notably, exile is very reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s The Last Time track. In that song, she also featured and dueted with the notable artist, Gary Lightbody. Similarly, both tracks possess verses that convey failed relationship woes and the corresponding viewpoints of each member.
In exile’s first verse, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver’s frontman) graces us with his raspy voice that sings lyrics of confusion with a hint of anger. His persona acknowledged the presence of his ex-lover’s new man, noting their physical closeness as he remains unimpressed of his joke that was “not funny at all”. The lyrics: “it took you five whole minutes to pack us up and leave me with it” show where the bitterness is coming from. This perspective utterly depicts the hurt that people feel from being left behind so quickly and replaced easily. The second verse was arguably even more heartbreaking as Swift’s persona expressed how so many chances were given and wasted. She proceeded with the iconic lyric changes in the chorus such as “you’re not my homeland anymore” to “I’m not your problem anymore”. These highlighted the stark differences in opinions and feelings of each character.
exile also underlines a back-to-back bridge where the two characters voice out their contrasting sides and individual sentiments from their past relationship. They sing the same lines from the bridge’s beginning up to the line, “we always walked a very thin line”. This notable duet shows how both parties agree on their relationship’s problems. When it comes to the succeeding lines, the contrast in their perspective is even accentuated with lines such as “you never gave a warning sign” with a second-voice singing, “I gave so many signs”. Somewhat, this song gives a feel of how the two parties argue before they decided to split. Looking back on their failed relationship showed no trace of love left, as well. Only bitterness and blame-shifting were evident in the track.
my tears ricochet
Avid fans of Taylor Swift are no strangers to songs with deep meaning and relatable messages. At first glance or listen, my tears ricochet paints a funeral scene in mind. This track offers a bleak difference from how mourners typically grieve from loving memories of their departed. my tears ricochet strikingly conveys the grudge and bitter feelings of a person who is long gone. One of the most distinct yet hauntingly beautiful lines from the track is “if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake?” which just adds salt to the wound.
Interestingly, Swifties are quick to point out that my tears ricochet venture beyond the aforementioned lyrics interpretations. Just like how people begrudge enemies or unwanted visitors, fans think this track relates to Swift’s personal experience. In particular, people believe that she expressed her personal feelings regarding the dispute with Scott Borchetta—her ex-boss in Big Machine Records. Swift took a stand against the label boss for selling the master list from her first six albums along with his company for a hefty sum of $300 million. Due to this, fans theorized how elements in the song such as the “jewels” and “stolen lullabies” refer to her original masters. The chorus opener line, “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace” was also speculated to refer to Taylor’s departure from Big Machine Records while hedging herself from the controversy.
The term, mirrorball, also refers to a disco ball. It typically serves as the center or life of a party as it shines brightly and sets a festive mood. Swift started the song in that same note by expressing how a mirrorball makes someone “shimmering beautiful”. However, the tone almost instantly changed with the line “and when I break, it’s in a million pieces”. This depicts the fragility and delicate qualities of a mirrorball that could be related to a person’s weaknesses, as well.
Some elements made people speculate that Taylor Swift refers to herself as the mirrorball. We can observe how some lines in the song comprise of changing one’s self. Some people relate this to Swift’s tendency to alter herself as she deems fit for the sake of pleasing other people and projecting a better version of herself. “I’m still trying everything to keep you looking at me” could also be a reference to Swift’s previous statements regarding women artists’ struggle in proving themselves and exerting more effort in their work.
On another note, there’s probably no more relatable Taylor Swift lyric than “I’ve never been a natural… all I do is try, try, try.” Thank the heavens for mirrorball as average joes and people who are barely getting by could find more symbolic songs to express their true selves. mirrorball certainly serves as an inspirational piece that could help you reflect on what you do to fit in or be more likable. More importantly, it could inspire you to strive to be better and aim for the freedom that you ultimately wish.
Leave it to Taylor Swift if you need a little flair of nostalgia in your music or personal life. seven is a track that takes us back to the persona’s childhood memories. It starts with “please picture me in the trees” which sets the wistful and nostalgic feel of the song. This track portrayed innocence at seven years old through the imagery of swinging over the creek, drinking sweet tea, and having braided hair. “Love you to the moon and to Saturn” is also reminiscent of Swift’s lyrics in the Ronan track, “I love you to the moon and back”. This line refers to lasting love that ventures beyond space and time.
From innocent childhood years, their ugly parts were then gradually conveyed in seven’s bridge. The track depicted these with lines stating that the protagonist’s friend cries or hides in the closet. There were also mentions of their father being always angry. From hints of the lyrics, we can infer that they denote child abuse or trauma. Despite these, the everlasting love that transcends time and inevitable change stood its ground. The track manifested this as the protagonist reassures their friend and compares their love to a folk song that will be passed on. Essentially, seven is a testament to folklore’s way of recollecting memories and celebrating a connection that eventually becomes prized treasures.
this is me trying
This folklore track could just be another anthem for people who feel remorse for their past mistakes. this is me trying is all about, well, trying again and taking initiative in fixing what was broken. The first verse painted feelings of regret, fear, and signs of a tainted relationship. Despite these piled-up emotions, the chorus then emphasizes how the protagonist aims to resolve issues and patch everything up. Indeed, they showed initiative in attempting to make things better again.
The second verse highlights the persona’s awareness of their flaws and mistakes. These include self-made cages that hold them back and lashing out when infuriated. The song continues to the bridge which conveys feelings of longing and pain as they keep hurting over the failed relationship and seeing their ex-lover everywhere. Notable parallelism with exile serves as the cherry on top as the line, “you’re a flashback in a film reel on the one screen in my town” was then stated. It’s another way to say “you’re the love of my life that I could never forget or replace”.
Over the years, various artists crafted lyrical interpretations about cheating, adultery, and extramarital relationships. In turn, many people related to and found solace in them. Notably, Taylor Swift is well-known for expressing disapproval towards cheating. These were evident in her infidelity-related songs such as Better Than Revenge and Should’ve Said No. In contrast to her previous works, however, illicit affairs puts the limelight on the eventual pain and heartbreak that the cheater and enabler feel during and after their relationship. Indeed, having illicit affairs isn’t for the fainthearted and this song shows the levels to it.
The track laid out the deliberate actions made by people in secret relationships. These include intentional lies about where they’re going and skipping the use of a perfume that could potentially reveal their affair. More importantly, the challenge of remembering that their illicit relationship is nothing but a “dwindling, mercurial high” is highlighted in the second verse. From there, the bridge expressed the inevitable anger towards their secret lover. “Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me” was wittingly changed into “look at this idiotic fool that you made me” which is equally devastating and painful. Still, illicit affairs continue to depict the frustration over not having the same connection or feelings with any other person. The track also didn’t express any remorse or guilt for doing something wrong. illicit affairs only conveyed pain from attachment and untoward actions.
The track, invisible string, has undoubtedly plucked the heartstrings of every Swiftie in the world. Beyond its catchy tune, one might also begin to wonder: what is the meaning of the song? Notably, invisible string is a track that acknowledges how past experiences led to a beautiful love. There are lots of clues and lines in the track that made people believe that Taylor Swift wrote this song for her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. These include Alwyn’s previous yogurt shop occupation, “first trip to LA”, and visiting Lake District in the United Kingdom where the couple was said to have had a vacation.
As such, invisible string represents the destiny of the pair to meet and inevitably fall in love. Despite personal issues, haunting scenes from the past, and pain from previous relationships, the track highlights how it was all worth it as it led her towards the love of her life. Without a doubt, it is one of the best love songs in Swift’s discography that offers a heartfelt and highly relatable message.
Song meanings in folklore do not merely revolve around love-provoked emotions, some involve fury and madness. Indeed, mad woman shows the crazed thought process and intense feelings of someone who has felt wronged and betrayed. There are two general lyrics interpretations of this song, the first being that it refers to Rebekah Harkness who was initially mentioned as “the maddest woman this town has ever seen” in the track, the last great american dynasty. The other speculation was that Taylor Swift took inspiration from her feud with Scott Borcheta, Scooter Braun, and Kanye West. Many fans know these men for constantly bullying and defaming her. As such, mad woman’s significant message is that there are triggers and meaningful reasons behind a person’s anger or seemingly acquired insanity. In turn, seeing where they’re coming from can significantly help you comprehend their feelings and reasoning better.
Among the remarkable song facts about epiphany is that Taylor Swift drew inspiration from the memories of Dean, her grandfather. Swift shared that these experiences specifically occurred in Guadalcanal. She further mentioned that this was where her grandfather served his time in the military during the Second World War. The sudden realization of life and death was highlighted in epiphany as it cites scenes from wars and “some things you just can’t speak about”.
Since Taylor Swift wrote this track in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, many fans formed lyrics interpretations that relate to the public health crisis. For instance, holding hands “through plastic” was related to the precautionary measures observed to avoid the risk of COVID transmission. Soldiers in battle were mirrored with health professionals who also experienced tiredness from having “only twenty minutes to sleep” or so. Similarly, they witness deaths and fatalities that make their professions even more challenging.
On the surface, peace wishes to convey how someone feels their love won’t be enough to make up for their flaws and shortcomings as a person. “Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?” is a heartbreaking line that was remarked over and over in the track, thus highlighting its essence. Much like other songs with hidden meanings in folklore, Taylor Swift stated that this track has particularly adopted aspects of her life and personal experiences. In peace, Swift expressed how her fame and status affect her relationship. As a celebrity, there are lots of interruptions that she cited as “robbers to the east, clowns to the west” in the song. Despite these, peace stressed the importance of how love and commitment always prevail over any kind of external disturbance or challenge.
This is also among the songs with meaning that was featured in Taylor Swift’s masterfully written album, folklore. The recurring theme of pain and heartbreak made a reappearance on hoax. The line, “your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in” just about sums up the primary message of the song. Indeed, it circles around toxic aspects of an ill-fated and toxic relationship. These include fighting, treachery, and utter sadness. The bridge highlights the lover’s knowledge of internal conflicts and pain that the persona experiences. Despite these, the protagonist stressed that what their lover did “was just as dark”—conveying the high degree of emotional pain that they are in. Still, they chose to look past all the aforementioned problems as “no other sadness in the world would do”, signifying blinded love and showing the harsh reality of toxic relationships.
Teenage Love Triangle in Folklore
Saving the best for last, let’s now move on to the iconic love triangle plot in folklore. Taylor Swift truly went above and beyond as she hid a whole plot into her songs in an album—holding true to the whole mystical folklore agenda. Taylor Swift didn’t initially indicate which tracks in particular hold the legendary love triangle story. However, she did say that three songs have parallel themes and connecting elements that surround the same plot. Of course, avid fans did their best and solved the easter egg that Swift laid out. As a result, we acquired profound feelings and through-provoking emotions. The puzzle pieces form the big picture that intrigued a lot of people. This entails the connection of three teenagers who were entwined, appeased, and eventually hurt by love.
This track serves as a great way to start explaining the love triangle in folklore. This is due to how it holds the most elements and details of the plot. First, we unearthed the names of the people involved in the infamous story: James and Betty. People still have divided opinions on whether or not Inez is the other woman in the story. Some people refer to her as someone who merely passed down rumors to Betty about James’ infidelity. Still, it’s worth noting that Taylor Swift drew inspiration from people in real life for the characters’ names. She particularly stated that she adopted them from the names of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ daughters. As such, some people speculate that the love triangle involves three women. However, Taylor Swift did say that James is a teenage boy in the plot.
On another note, this track speaks from the perspective of James who’s young, naive, and hurting from losing Betty. Essentially, he wishes to make up for what he did and rekindle their relationship. From this song, we can infer that what James had was “just a summer thing” and that it’s Betty who he truly loves after all. We can also observe lyrics about skateboard riding and having a dance in the gym. These elements painted teenage love imagery in mind. Mentions of cobblestones, driving, and standing in a cardigan were relevant components that help people tie betty with august and cardigan, as well.
In a similar fashion done in betty, august was also founded on the perspective of the paramour in the tragic love triangle in folklore. We can recall how James said their secret relationship was just a fling for him. However, august reveals that the other woman has felt something much more than that. In the song, she makes a reference to their summer love with salt air and August, the month of summer. She goes on to express the heartbreak that comes from the entanglement with someone she deems special. At the same time, the track conveys the pain of yearning for someone to be yours.
The line, “remember when I pulled up and said ‘get in the car’” is one of the most important details that tied august into the teenage love triangle in folklore. This serves as a reference to the “she said ‘James, get in, let’s drive’” line in betty. Probably the biggest clue would be the lyrics: “you were never mine”, which was echoed throughout the song. It was even shifted to “you weren’t mine to lose”, confirming that the song isn’t just about losing your partner. These lyrics interpretations show that the heartbreak comes from looking back on a secret affair, unofficial relationship, or lost love. These certainly align with the folklore love triangle plot that could inspire you to feel the pain, move on, and completely let go.
Heartbreak continues to pierce our hearts with cardigan. This time, the track shows Betty’s point of view. Notably, this track has mentions of cobblestones and kissing in the car. These are remarkably present in the lyrics of betty, as well. Such elements further confirmed the connection of the two songs in the love triangle story in folklore. “When you are young, they assume you know nothing” is also mentioned multiple times in cardigan which paints a young love turned heartbreak that could have occurred in the persona’s teenage years. This, again, reflects the teenage plot that Swift crafted from the beginning.
The lyrics “standing in your cardigan” of the betty track were also mirrored in this song with “when I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed”—indicating the significance of this clothing item to James and Betty’s past relationship. James’ apparent infidelity can also be inferred in the second verse’s line: “chase two girls, lose the one”. Most importantly, cardigan concludes the story as it revealed the side of Betty. In the song, she expressed her pain and haunting memories from their relationship.
Yet, she showed strength and confidence in herself by saying “I knew you’d come back to me”. This inspirational twist in the story serves as a great reminder to keep faith in yourself. It also promotes the avoidance of self-blame when it comes to being cheated on or hurt by someone else. Ultimately, self-love is an important aspect of one’s life and eventual growth. This will help you towards reaching your goal of how to be happy and fulfilled without depending on anything or anyone else.
Iconic Lyrics Interpretations from Taylor Swift
From the sweetest wedding songs to the most heartbreaking tracks, Taylor Swift never fails to move hearts and inspire us with her music. Just like a legendary tale, folklore allowed Swift to pass down lyrics interpretations and a masterful tracklist that tugged at the heartstrings of people around the world. These iconic lines and quotable lyrics go beyond captivating attention, they also captured the reality of life, relationships, and society. Their significant messages and relatable themes let them evolve from merely being catchy songs. Indeed, these transformed them into relevant lessons that could help us cope with both the good and bad aspects of life.