The 30-year-old Grammy winner surprised fans on July 23 when she announced plans to drop a new album at midnight.
“Folklore; an entire brand new album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears and musings into,” she wrote via Instagram. “Most of the things I had planned this summer didn’t end up happening, but there is something I hadn’t planned on that DID happen. … I wrote and recorded this music in isolation but got to collaborate with some musical heroes of mine.”
After the clock struck midnight on July 24, Swift shared the liner notes with her fans.
“It started with imagery. Visuals that popped into my mind and piqued my curiosity,” the singer explained. “Stars drawn around scars. A cardigan that still bears the scent of loss 20 years later. Battleships sinking into the ocean, down, down, down. The tree swing in the woods of my childhood. … Pretty soon these images in my head grew faces or names and became characters. I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I’ve never met, people I’ve known, or those I wish I hadn’t.”
Swift noted that the “lines between fantasy and reality blur and the boundaries between truth and fiction become almost indiscernible” in folklores.
“In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result,” she wrote. “Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history and memory. I’d told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder and whimsey they deserve.”
Swift concluded that the stories were up to her fans to pass on — and they have happily accepted the job. She also gave them more insight into her writing process during a live chat on YouTube as the “Cardigan” video premiered on July 24.
“One thing I did purposely on this album was put the Easter eggs in the lyrics, more than just the videos,” Swift wrote. “I created character arcs & recurring themes that map out who is singing about who.”
Scroll through for a breakdown of the lyrics and theories for every song from Folklore: