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Updated on Jul 30, 2020. Posted on Jul 27, 2020

This Fan Theory About Taylor Swift's "Folklore" Will Completely Change How You Listen To The Album

I need to see this movie.

On Friday, the newly crowned queen of surprise releases* Taylor Swift dropped her eighth album, Folklore, in a significant departure from her usual monthslong buildup to an album.

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

*Obviously, Beyoncé is also queen of this. We can have two queens!

Of course, as soon as the album dropped, Swifties around the world began analysing the songs and decoding their lyrics to figure out exactly what they were about.

This album, however, was different from Taylor's previous works: In a prologue posted to her Twitter and Instagram accounts, Taylor said many of the songs were written from the perspectives of other people, both real and fictional.

YouTube / youtube.com

"In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result," she wrote in the prologue. "A collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness. Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory."

And, in a YouTube Q&A prior to the release of the music video for "Cardigan", Taylor revealed the album contains a trilogy of songs about a "teenage love triangle", each from the perspective of a different person in the triangle.

It's been widely assumed by fans that "Betty" and "Cardigan" are two of the songs in the triangle, and there's been some debate over whether the third song is "August" or "Illicit Affairs".

ik each track of #folklore has story to tell but can we talk abt these 3 songs? same story that explores different perspectives “teenage love triangle” -cardigan (betty’s pov) -august (inez, 3rd party pov) -betty (james pov) its like reading a nicholas sparks book but in music

It all stems from "Betty", a song told from the perspective of a person named James who is dating or in love with Betty, but has a summer fling with another girl.

Genius / genius.com

But in an extremely detailed and extremely mind-blowing post on Reddit, user tswiftconspiracist13 argues that the story goes deeper — and, in fact, every single song on the album connects to tell it.

ABC / giphy.com

The album, they argue, explores a fictionalised version of the life of Rebekah Harkness — the previous owner of Taylor's house in Rhode Island, who coincidentally went by "Betty" — and ends with Taylor taking over the house and its legacy.

Let's take a look at the theory, song by song...

It all begins with "August", which is told from the perspective of the girl James cheats with. It tells the story of a short-lived summer love, and just like "Betty", this song makes reference to the storyteller asking someone to get in their car.

Genius / genius.com

It also makes reference to the affair being "summer love", and it's clearly about people of school age, because at one point it says, "Will you still call me when we're back at school?"

The Redditor then suggests the story goes on to "Mirrorball", where Taylor sings about a person doing everything they can to keep the object of their affection interested in them.

Then, of course, there's "Betty", where James comes back to school after his summer fling and finds out Betty knows he cheated.

Genius / genius.com

The song is all about James wanting to win Betty back by turning up at her house, kissing her on the porch, and "patching her broken wings", although we don't actually find out if they get back together in the end.

The outro also references Betty "standing in her cardigan", which is obviously important for the next part of the story...

Because then comes "Cardigan", which fans have theorised is from the perspective of Betty finding out about James' affair, and deciding to continue their relationship.

Republic Records

In the song, Taylor sings about someone chasing two girls and losing the one, implying they got back together with the chorus of "you put me on and said I was your favourite".

The outro also makes reference to the chorus of "Betty": "I knew you'd miss me when the thrill expired / And you'd be standing in my front porch light / And I knew you'd come back to me."

Most fans agree that "Betty", "August", and "Cardigan" are the songs Taylor was referring to when she said the Teenage Love Triangle was a collection of three songs. But Redditor tswiftconspiracist13 argues it goes further than that...

Like, we can't discount "Illicit Affairs", which could also be told from the perspective of the same ~other woman~. After all, it says their affair ended "with meetings in parking lots", and in "August", the storyteller asks their lover to "meet them behind the mall".

Genius / genius.com

Then there's also "Exile", which the Reddit user argues can be interpreted as Betty and James singing to each other at the eventual end of their relationship, and "The 1", which is Betty coming to terms with the fact that their love is over.

They go on to say songs like "This Is Me Trying" and "Peace" can be read from the perspective of James, who regrets the way their relationship ended and decides "the only way for for both him and Betty to find peace is to leave town".

After leaving town, James enlists in the military, which is where "Epiphany" comes in. (Bear in mind that, if this is a fictional version of Rebekah Harkness's life, it would be taking place in the mid-1900s.)

Then, the theory goes, "My Tears Ricochet" tells the story of James's funeral, which Betty attends despite the demise of their relationship.

Genius / genius.com

Sidenote: This song is definitely about Taylor's battle with her old record label for the master recordings of her first six albums. But it's also music and is therefore up for interpretation, and this interpretation is really cool!

After that comes Betty dealing with the aftermath of James's death in "Hoax", and moving to the house in Rhode Island in "Mad Woman" after remarrying and escaping her old town, which is referenced in "The Last Great American Dynasty". It's all connected!

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In fact, that's where we're introduced to the character of none other than Taylor Swift, who moves into the Rhode Island house fifty years after the James/Betty/other woman love triangle plays out.

Genius / genius.com

And on the remainder of the album, we get to know the new character in the context of her childhood — in "Seven" — and her adulthood and relationships in "Invisible String", which makes reference to the whole thing being connected by fate.

Genius / genius.com

Now, I think we can agree the songs have other meanings, and this is just one interpretation. But IT IS A REALLY DAMN COOL ONE.

ABC / giphy.com

And it's safe to say Swifties agree, with a tweet about the theory racking up more than 35,000 likes over the weekend.

TAYLOR'S MIND IS LITERALLY UNMATCHED OMG

A huge shoutout to Reddit user tswiftconspiracist13. You can read their theory in full here!

Ellie Bate is a celebrity reporter and talent coordinator at BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.

Contact Ellie Bate at eleanor.bate@buzzfeed.com.

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