- Taylor Swift dropped a music video for her new song “Cardigan,” the lead single from her surprise 8th studio album “Folklore.”
- The music video is full of Easter eggs for other songs on “Folklore,” including “Invisible String,” “The 1,” and “The Last Great American Dynasty,” as well as for past work like “Delicate” and “Out Of The Woods.”
- “Cardigan” also appears to reference the classic children’s story “Peter Pan.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a full transcript of the video.
Narrator: Taylor Swift dropped an enchanted music video for her new song “Cardigan,” the lead single from her surprise eighth studio album, “Folklore.” Both the lyrics and video for “Cardigan” reminisce over a past relationship, following through its different stages. Here’s all the hidden meanings and messages you might’ve missed.
Before the video’s release, Swift revealed in a YouTube Premiere chat that the song is about “lost romance” and part of the three songs she refers to as “The Teenage Love Triangle.” Fans quickly theorised that the songs “Betty” and “August” make up the other two. Swift also said that many of the songs on “Folklore” are written from the perspective of fictional characters. And although “Cardigan” sounds like one of these songs, there’s still plenty of Easter eggs of her own past.
The video begins with Swift playing a piano in what looks like a cabin. The keys are dirty and broken, which suggests it’s been a while since they have been played. This could be a hint to the three-year period between her “1989” and “Reputation” albums, the longest break from music in her career so far. The image also suggests a return to something old and forgotten, which fits with the reminiscing lyrics of the song. In the first verse, Swift sings of “high heels on cobblestones” and “dancin’ in your Levi’s, drunk under a streetlight.” These lyrics sound similar to a scene from her music video for “Me.”
Next to the piano is a framed photo of an older man who appears to be her grandfather, Archie Dean Swift. The photo is likely a nod to the “Folklore” track “Epiphany,” which she wrote was inspired by her grandfather landing in Guadalcanal in 1942.
According to the clock on the wall, it’s 1:15, which adds up to seven, and “Seven” is also the name of the album’s seventh track. The clock’s hands also point to one and three, indicating Swift’s lucky number, 13, which she’s been known to hide throughout her past music videos.
There’s a painting of a house by the ocean, which looks pretty similar to Taylor’s house in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, called Holiday House. She also name-drops the house on track three of “Folklore,” “The Last Great American Dynasty.” “Holiday House sat quietly on that beach… And then it was bought by me.”
We get a glimpse of some of the other paintings above the piano. The collection of artwork could be an Easter egg for this line from the song “Peace”: “you paint dreamscapes on the wall.” This painting with a sunset could be a nod to the “Invisible String” lyrics, “Time, wondrous time, gave me the blues and then purple-pink skies.” Those purple-pink skies could be a nod to Taylor’s last album cover for “Lover.” And this painting with trees could be a reference to the lyrics from the song “Seven.” “Please picture me in the trees.” It also matches the album’s overall imagery as seen in its various covers and promotional images.
Golden sparkles start to waft out of the piano, which could be a reference to the pixie dust from “Peter Pan.” But more on that later. The effect also looks a lot like the note Taylor received in her “Delicate” music video. Just as the note seemed to take “Delicate” Taylor on a journey where no one could see her, “Cardigan” Taylor follows the piano glitter on another adventure. She climbs into the piano, which seems to symbolise how music can transport you, especially into the past. And we see Taylor literally be transported to relive a past relationship. Before the music video premiere, Taylor also shared that the song is about “why young love is often fixed so permanently within our memories.” And the video seems to follow a metaphorical memory of young love.
Taylor emerges from a piano seat into a jungle paradise. It looks sunny and peaceful, which could represent how people tend to romanticize the past, but also how relationships start out feeling perfect, especially when you’re young. Taylor starts playing the piano and sings, “chase two girls, lose the one,” which sounds like a reference to the first track on “Folklore,” “The 1.”
As Taylor continues playing, we can see a waterfall flowing out of the piano, which some fans have been quick to point out looks similar to Harry Styles’ “Falling” music video. The two artists dated back in 2012 and are thought to have written several songs about each other since. In “Falling,” Harry plays a piano dripping with water as he sings, “And I can’t take it back, I can’t unpack the baggage you left,” which could be interpreted as Harry struggling to deal with the aftermath of a failed relationship. In contrast, in “Cardigan,” when Taylor is shown playing a piano with a waterfall flowing out of it, she’s smiling as she sings about remembering what a past relationship was like.
Taylor sings about “your heartbeat on the High Line,” which Taylor confirmed in an Instagram post was part of a fictional storyline about “Lovestruck kids wandering up and down the evergreen High Line,” a park in New York City. Taylor has referenced New York in a lot of her songs since moving there in 2014.
The water coming out the piano could symbolise memories or the relationship itself, especially when Taylor sings about how her lover was “running like water.” When the golden glitter starts to come out of the piano seat again, we see Taylor step into it and emerge in the next stage of the relationship she’s singing about.
She pops out in rough waters and appears to be struggling to stay afloat as a storm rages. It looks similar to her music video for “Out of the Woods,” a song which Taylor has described as being about a relationship where she felt a lot of anxiety, and another music video where we see Taylor go through a metaphorical journey where the wilderness represents a relationship and its aftermath. The teaser photos Taylor posted for her surprise announcement also showed her in the woods, which seem to symbolise a relationship that’s not yet in the clear.
Taylor appears to be searching for something in the water as she sings, “‘Cause I knew you, steppin’ on the last train.” The lyrics could be a reference to her song “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” which is about a love coming to an end that mentions standing by train tracks and a train running off its tracks. Taylor also described her “Folklore” album as “Sad, beautiful, tragic” in her YouTube Premiere chat.
We then see Taylor swim to her piano and cling to it for safety. It’s a powerful image and could symbolise how Taylor has always used music to work through emotions and difficult situations. In a 2019 Vogue interview, Taylor shared that making music was the only way she could survive the public turning on her. The rough waters and stormy weather also seem to be a metaphor for the tumultuous end of a relationship, but also what it’s like to be burdened by the memories of a lost romance.
The song’s lyrics continue to describe this downturn, which Taylor compares to “Peter losing Wendy.” She makes references to the story of Peter Pan several times throughout the song and video. “Peter losing Wendy” evokes the song’s theme of losing a young love, as Peter had to lose Wendy since he couldn’t really love her, and she went to grow up without him. The lyrics, “when you are young they assume you know nothing,” could also refer to how, although Peter Pan and the Lost Boys could never grow up or fall in love, they still knew the magic of Neverland and its fairies, pirates, and all sorts of things that adults never could. And remember the golden glitter she’s been following from scene to scene? It looks just like the pixie dust Peter uses to help Wendy fly off to Neverland.
Taylor pulls herself out of the water and the past when the golden glitter starts to come out of the piano again, and she climbs back in. We see her return to present day, or the cabin the video started in. The close-up shots of her footsteps draw parallels to the scene in the “Peter Pan” movie where Peter teaches Wendy and the children how to fly. Taylor’s loose dress also looks similar to Wendy’s nightgown, strengthening the connection. These resemblances could mean that in the same way Wendy learned from Peter how to fly, Taylor has learned from her own journey through the past relationship that “Cardigan” details.
Taylor ends the video by wrapping herself in a cardigan that’s now on the piano bench. It’s the same cardigan from her new merch line released with the album. The cardigan has star patches on it, which seems to reference the song’s lyric, “you drew stars around my scars.” This line sounds similar to Taylor’s “Call It What You Want” lyric “starry eyes sparkin’ up my darkest night.” Both lines suggest healing, despite whatever’s happened in the past. And as Taylor sits, wrapped in the cardigan, back from her trip down memory lane, it’s clear that despite the ups and downs of past relationships, she’s made it to the other side just fine.
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