Taylor Swift has always been revered for her masterful songwriting skills, but one fan theory about her new album indicates that she took her storytelling to a whole new level. There's a Taylor Swift Folklore theory that the whole album is one big story. And if the fan that crafted this is even just a little bit right, Swift might have basically written her fans an entire feature-length film.
Right as she released Folklore at midnight on Friday, July 24, the singer explained in a statement posted on social media that many songs on the album were written from the perspectives of real people, including her own, and fictional characters. Additionally, in a YouTube comment, Swift said that she referred to three songs on the album as the "Teenage Love Triangle," which "explore a love triangle from all three people's perspectives at different times in their lives."
Fans quickly figured out, and Variety later confirmed, that those three connected tracks are "Cardigan," "August," and "Betty." "Cardigan" is about Betty discovering her lover James' affair; "Betty" is sung from James' point of view as he tried to win Betty's forgiveness; and "August" tells the story of said affair from the POV of the other woman. Producer Aaron Dessner also acknowledged to Vulture that "Betty" connects back to "Cardigan," as evident by the mention of said cardigan in "Betty." But fans think there's more to the tale. In fact, one fan thinks the entire album tells James and Betty's story — and it's a tragedy.
Originally posted on Reddit, then shared on Twitter by Swiftie @SwiftCamzz, the Folklore theory proposes that the album tells a fictionalized story of Rebekah Harkness (who went by Betty), the previous owner of Swift's Rhode Island house. Each song is told from either James, the other woman, or Betty's (aka Rebekah's) point of view, before Swift herself comes in and takes over the house's legacy, relating her own story back to the love triangle. The songs are a bit out of order, but, to help make things clearer here's the basic rundown: "August" and "Mirrorball" tell the overall story of the affair, with the other woman detailing the tryst on "Illicit Affairs." Then, Betty finds out on the track "Cardigan," and James tries to apologize on "Betty." "Exile" would then be a breakup ballad where the couple directly sing to each other, while "The 1" is about Betty's attempt to move on for good after graduating high school.
Another arc of the album would be told from James' perspective, with "This Is Me Trying" telling how James failed to make things right with Betty and "Peace" seeing him leave town to join the military so he and Betty can both find peace. "Epiphany" sees him die in battle, with "My Tears Ricochet" telling the story of Betty attending his funeral and "Hoax" and "Mad Woman" exploring how she was affected by his death. Swift herself then steps in on "Seven," which recounts her own childhood, and "Invisible String," which tells her adult love story, with connections to both past relationships and her current boyfriend, Joe Alwyn.
The only song left on the album, then, is, "The Last Great American Dynasty," which Swift has all but confirmed to be about Harkness, summing up her life story before Swift draws comparisons to their lives at the end. And given how Swift clearly specified writing about fictional characters, it's not a stretch to say that the singer could have dramatized Harkness' story with new people and interconnected it with her own experiences. This would be the song that really connects Swift's story to the tragedy of James and Betty. And that's Folklore.
Regardless of whether this narrative story was actually Swift's intent, it makes for one pretty heartbreaking story.