A detailed guide to ‘Folklore’s’ love triangle, explained through some of Taylor Swifts ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ songs

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Taylor Swift performs “Folklore” and “Evermore” medley at the 2021 Grammy Awards.

Reagan Russell, Coeditor-in-Chief

Taylor Swift surprise dropped her eighth album “Folklore” on July 24, 2020. For the first time in her career, Swift created multiple songs with overlapping storylines that were not related to her life. Her songs “august,” “cardigan” and “betty” tell the story of a high school relationship that ends due to a forbidden affair and an unloyal boyfriend. 

 

There are three characters within the songs all with different perspectives. Betty, the popular sweetheart, is the main character. She was in a relationship with James, the popular guy, until he cheated on her with Augustine, the rebellious new girl. 

 

Shortly after “Folklore” came out, Swift surprisingly dropped another album “evermore” five months after. The two sister albums showed many similarities and many fans were excited to have even more songs after Swift had been quiet before both albums were released. 

 

Fans quickly began theorizing other songs that could fit into the “Folklore” love triangle, including songs from both albums. Although there are only three songs confirmed to follow the story, there are many others that fit into a bigger storyline. 

 

For the bigger picture, follow the explanations listed below. The songs go in order of the story, beginning with James and Betty’s relationship and ending with the aftermath of everyone’s emotions. 

 

tolerate it

“tolerate it” is the fifth song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. This song tells a story about a girl who puts all the love she hopes to see into her relationship only to not get anything in return. She feels her love is tolerated,not appreciated and that James does not respect her love or their relationship. She asks James to reassure her that none of this is true and that she is simply in her head, but she comes to the conclusion that her love will forever just be tolerated by James. 

 

illicit affairs 

“illicit affairs” is the 10th song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells a story about a forbidden relationship. Two people lying to their friends so they can meet up in private. It describes the feelings they get when they are cheating, and the emotional damage it does to relationships. Augustine finds herself in a secret relationship with James. She knows it’s wrong, but James has a way of making her feel a way she had never felt before and wants to continue seeing him. 

 

august

“august” is the eighth song off of “Folklore” and is from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells a story about a girl chasing after a guy she knows is not hers. She wants to be in a relationship with this guy and assumes he would want to be with her, however once his intentions change she finds herself slipping away from him. Augustine, the girl who is supposed to hate relationships and feelings finds herself longing for a guy she felt vulnerable with. As summer comes to an end, Augustine finds herself slipping away from James because he was never hers to lose, a part of James always belonged to Betty. 

 

mirrorball

“mirrorball” is the sixth song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song compares someone to a mirrorball. A mirrorball is something for people to look at and admire but in reality what makes a mirrorball so beautiful is how broken it is. Betty is someone who puts on a brave face for everyone and constantly holds herself on this high pedestal so people don’t know how low she feels on the inside. Betty constantly looks happy and glowy but if people took the time to get close to Betty they would realize how much she is hurting and how broken she really is. 

 

betty 

“betty” is the 14th song off of “Folklore” and is from James’ perspective. 

The song tells a story about what ultimately led James to cheating on Betty, and how he plans to win her back. It describes someone who doesn’t know anything because they are still young. James likes to avoid crowds and people and when Betty’s favorite song came on, Betty chose to dance with another guy because James was nowhere to be found. James felt betrayed so he left the prom, which is where he ran into Augustine. He is talking to Betty throughout the song apologizing for what he has done and claims that all he wants to know is to be with Betty. He plans an elaborate plan to win her back and show Betty how much he cares.  

 

cardigan

“cardigan” is the second song off of “Folklore” and is from Betty’s perspective. This song describes someone reflecting on their past partner and how they knew they were wrong for them but they had a way of making them feel like they are wanted. It describes someone who is young but knows everything. Betty trusted James despite the fact that he was immature. She no longer felt tossed aside or used when she was with James, which is why she stayed. After James cheated, it was no surprise to Betty. She knew James would eventually do this to her but is unsure if she can ever trust him again because he treated her like everyone else has. 

 

gold rush

“gold rush” is the third song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song describes someone longing over someone who is extremely beautiful and is loved by many. She adores this man but doesn’t like she is feeling this way and ultimately decides that her and this guy could never work out. Augustine finds herself falling in love with James, this beautiful guy that has many other women interested in him. She wants nothing more than to be with him but she doesn’t like how he is making her feel. Since James is adored by many she knows that it would never work out between them. 

 

exile (feat. Bon Iver)

“exile” is the fourth song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from both Betty and James’ perspective. The song tells the story of a guy who is confused about his feelings for a girl. He is unable to move on from her and wants to return to what they previously had but instead is greeted to an unfamiliar world where he has to learn how to live without her. The other side of the story is about a girl who is angry with her ex-boyfriend that is unable to move on. Just as the girl is beginning to grow, her ex is unable to be happy for her because he assumes they will eventually get back together. James continues to long for Betty and does not like adjusting to a world where she is not with him. Betty wants to be able to move on from James and she feels it is unfair for him to miss her just as she is moving on because she gave him several chances. 

 

the 1

“the 1” is the first song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone longing for their first love and reminiscing on what they could have been. Augustine is speaking to James and explaining how good they could have been together if he had given her a fair chance. She knows they were never meant to be, but still she wishes they could have been together because she knows they would have been something truly special. 

 

cowboy like me

“cowboy like me” is the 11th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells the story of a thief who never planned on falling in love until she found a fellow thief like her. She knows what they are doing isn’t perfect but she knows this is a feeling she hasn’t felt before and will never feel again. Augustine fell in love with James when he was cheating on Betty. She knew that she was falling in love with a fellow rebel but it was worth it to pursue something she never intended on feeling for someone. 

 

coney island (feat. The National)

“coney island” is the ninth song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty and James’ perspective. The song tells a story of two people realizing their relationship is coming to an end and they are no longer meant to be a part of each other’s lives. Betty is reflecting on what they once were and is apologizing for not doing more in the relationship to get James to stay. James agrees with Betty that it could have been something but still wants Betty to reconsider while she is moving on. 

 

this is me trying

“this is me trying” is the ninth song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from James’ perspective. The song tells a story of someone who is lost in the new world they have found themselves in. They are trying their best but they never feel validated in what they are doing. James is pleading to Betty to try to explain to her that he is trying his best and is trying to prove to her that he still cares. He comes back to Betty without really knowing what to say but wanting her back. 

 

closure

“closure” is the 14th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is on the receiving end of multiple apologies, and although they are doing better, they do not forgive them. Betty is explaining to James that she has been listening to him and understands he is trying to make up for cheating on her but she still does not forgive him. She has made peace of the situation for herself and does not want James to get the same closure she got. 

 

evermore (feat. Bon Iver)

“evermore” is the 15th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is reflecting on their past relationship trying to figure out exactly where they went wrong, and are trying to determine what they originally sought to get out of said relationship. Betty is questioning if she did anything wrong that would have caused James to cheat on her. She assumes that this feeling will stay with her forever but comes to the realization that this pain is temporary. 

 

peace

“peace” is the 15th song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is looking to be with their love, but they know they will always lack a sense of comfort. Augustine knows James is longing for Betty but wants to prove to him that she is willing to die for their love, she wants to be enough. She knows that she can never bring him the peace that Betty gave him but is asking if her love will ever be enough. 

 

ivy

“ivy” is the 10th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song is about someone who tries to stand alone and be independent but finds themselves entangled in this forribedden relationship. Their partner is in a relationship but they are willing to cheat simply to be with each other. Augustine tells the story of how she slowly becomes entangled with James. To her, it doesn’t matter who else is around or judging them, she wants to be with him and doesn’t know herself without him. 

 

my tears ricochet 

“my tears ricochet” is the fifth song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song is telling the story of a funeral. At the funeral the last person you would expect to be there is the one who is mourning her death the most. The speaker is explaining how she loved him until he “killed” her. Betty is asking James why he is wanting her back and wanting to be with her when he was the one to kill their relationship and hurt her. Betty does not want to take James back because she feels dead when she is with him. Betty explains to James that she loved him until he cheated on her. 

 

hoax

“hoax” is the 16th song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song is about someone who spends their time believing in a faithless love. Her partner is not fully devoted to her but she still believes in their love and wants to be with them despite the emotions involved. Augustine still continues to believe in the love she has for James and wants him to know that she is still committed if he is. 

 

mad woman

“mad woman” is the 12th song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song is about a girl talking about her emotions. She is angry with the people who have hurt her but she is talking to her previous lover explaining that it is his fault, if he didn’t like her mad he shouldn’t have made her this way. Betty is angry with both Augustine and James. She believes her emotions are not being respected by either of them, and assumes they hate her because of what they have done. She also explains that Augustine should be just as angry but knows James would not be with her if she was mad. 

 

it’s time to go – bonus track

“it’s time to go” is a bonus song on “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song is about someone deciding to separate themselves from a relationship and following their gut. Betty found it hard to originally separate herself from James. She didn’t want to walk away from someone she loved but she knew that leaving would lead her to much better. James wasn’t understanding why Betty was leaving him behind but Betty knew it was the right thing for her. 

 

happiness

“happiness” is the seventh song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone getting over a hard breakup by finding ways to be happy. They sing about how they were once happy in the relationship but will be happy now that they have left. Betty is getting her emotions in check and is happy because James is no longer a problem. 

 

long story short

“long story short” is the 12th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is reflecting on their past to their new partner. They explain how they always found a way to get themselves in bad relationships and to sum it up they just weren’t with the right person, but they have found the right person now. Betty is in a new relationship and is all about her new partner. She explains to him her prior relationships but assures her new partner she is all about him and could not be happier.  

 

right where you left me – bonus track

“right where you left me” is a bonus track off of “evermore” and is considered to be from James’ perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is unable to move on from their partner and the fact that they are no longer together. The speaker wants to move on but is unable to process everything. James is unable to move on from Betty. When he learns about Betty’s new partner he is essentially crushed and knows he still feels frozen in time while she did not seem to be affected. A part of James will always remain in that moment hung up on Betty.