There’s a case to be made for story-telling in music.
To be a bit more specific, there’s a case to be made for fictional tales in pop music. Stories that aren’t ours to experience, but are instead, ours to tell. Stories that flourish solely due to someone’s imagination running amok while, I don’t know, being locked up at home while a deadly, highly contagious, virus prowls the streets. Tales that we enjoy not because they’re relatable, but rather specifically because they aren’t. Tales that, for a short moment, can distract you from the grievances of reality.
Taylor Swift’s eighth album folklore is filled with such lores. Stories that, despite only being a few days old for most of us, exude the same kind of intrigue as fables recited by our grandparents. And nothing on folklore showcases this better than the love triangle conceived on august, betty, and cardigan.
On august, Taylor Swift sparkles in the coastal sun like broken glass. The space between the lines is just wide enough for you to feel the salinity of the air. Having been in the business for over a decade, Swift had perfected the art of recollecting a relationship. This time, however, she was neither the love-consumed poet nor the grief-strucken songwriter. Instead, she dissolves effortlessly into the role of the other woman.
Taking place right after a certain illicit affair falls apart, august serves as a scrapbook by which to recollect a summer that burnt as quickly as it blossomed. A fever dream soaked in fatalism. Swift documents the fateful interaction between a boy and girl seeking to fill a void in themselves. Yet, for events that seem so personal, we never hear this woman’s name. Coupled with the resignation in Swift’s airy vocal performance, august tells the story of a faceless woman.
A woman who, at the end of the day, knew that her legacy in the big picture was destined to be a silhouette of her body in the background, stripped of her identity. Because that’s what it means to be the other woman. To be the stained toy that’s only every played with under the cover of nightfall. To know that, despite wanting to write her name on this man’s back, despite wanting to change for the better, the writing was on the wall. He was never hers, and you can’t lose something that was never yours to begin with.
You see, that’s the thing about glass. It’s well known not only for its beauty, but for its weakness as well. It was a relationship that was destined to die, and Swift does a remarkable job of showcasing the fragility of this sinful relationship while also evoking the apathy that comes with the dirty job of being the other woman.
Like the rest of folklore, august breezes past the listener like a cautionary fable. A story that thrives in the “what-ifs” that come when love is in the air.
Broken hope is the name of the game on august, and Taylor is its ace player.
“So much for summer love and saying “us” // ’Cause you weren’t mine to lose // You weren’t mine to lose” (source: Genius)