First and foremost, happy August to all Swifties out there! As August starts every year, Taylor Swift fans from around the world listen to her all-famous song, “August.” With such great lyrics, the song has a deep story behind it. In this article, we are going to explore the story that this song narrates.
In Swift’s 2020 album “Folklore,” Taylor put a collection of 3 songs that we could definitely call the “teenage love triangle.” Those three songs explore this love triangle from the point of view of all three parties involved at different points of their lives. Those songs are: “Betty,” “Cardigan,” and “August.” It’s important to note that our love triangle’s names are Betty, August (or Augustine), and James. Basically, James was dating Betty then had an affair one summer with Augustine.
Starting off with folklore’s lead single. This song is narrated by a woman named Betty, looking back on an intense relationship from her youth that had an impact on her life. According to Swift, she was inspired by the image of “a cardigan that still bears the scent of youth twenty years later.” Basically, the lyrics show it all; how lost she felt in that relationship because of her ex-boyfriend, James. How he made her feel loved but ended up cheating on her, which led to the end of that relationship. Betty also explains how the scars of that relationship with James are still there and how she knew James would end up missing her after his affair’s “thrill” is over. And by the end of the song, that seems to be what happened. He was at her doorstep, trying to win her back.
“And when I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed/ You put me on and said I was
“Chase two girls, lose the one.”
“Playing hide-and-seek and giving me your weekends.”
“I knew you’d miss me once the thrill expired.”
“To kiss in cars and downtown bars/Was all we needed.” It is important to note the similarity in lyrics between cardigan and betty (check below in betty’s part.)
This song is from James’s other woman, Augustine’s perspective. She narrated the end of a short-lived affair. We can see in the lyrics it was a summer fling and how young and naive August was. Her unimportance in James’s life could be reflected by the fact that she doesn’t even get a name; but Taylor Swift’s fans called her that because of the song-name overlap and how the lyrics seem to tell a story from another woman’s point of view. With cardigan and betty being in folklore, it was obvious who August was. Even if the affair has taken place in the eighth month of the year and the song narrates how the story happened in summer. However, August is also called Una (short for “unnamed narrator of ‘August.”) Una wished her relationship with James was real, not just a secret affair, but deep down she was just living “for the hope of it all.” Eventually, August ended, ending with it James and Una.
“Salt air. and the rust on your door.”
“August slipped away into a moment in time/Cause it was never mine.”
“Will you call when you’re back at school?”
“To live for the hope of it all.”
“Canceled plans just in case you’d call/And say ‘Meet me behind the mall.’” There’s a theory claiming that this line is also “Meet me behind them all.”
In betty, it seems like it’s James’s account of how the affair started. august and cardigan are both songs where the narrators are looking back on everything, but betty takes place in the present. Everything starts after a school dance, where James actually ditches Betty after seeing her dance with a different guy. He leaves the dance, but as he walks home, Una pulls up in a car, and things start from there on. Betty found out what happened through Inez (who’s a gossip.) Then, James wonders how to get Betty back. The song ends similarly to cardigan, with James on Betty’s doorstep, trying to get her back.
“You heard the rumors from Inez.”
“But if I showed up at your party/Would you have me?”
“Would you trust me/ If I told you it was just a summer thing?”
“Standing in your cardigan/Kissing in my car again.” The resemblance between betty and cardigan proves James and Betty’s relationship, as told from both perspectives.
Writer: Ghadier Ahmed
Editor: Habiba Sullieman
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In case you want to give those songs a listen, and grasp a lot more: