In her October Rolling Stone interview with Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift said, "when I was making folklore, I went lyrically in a total direction of escapism and romanticism. And I wrote songs imagining I was, like, a pioneer woman." 1 A month later, in Entertainment Weekly, Swift described folklore's cover as "this girl sleepwalking through the forest in a nightgown in 1830 . . . a pioneer woman," 2 an aesthetic present in the "cardigan" music video, set in a cabin replete with approximate period detail. evermore's lead video "willow" picks up where "cardigan" leaves off, positioning itself as a sequel or companion piece at the levels of plot and aesthetic. Both videos begin with Swift opening the lid of her piano and traveling to and through mythical and historical scenes. The period visuals, alongside Swift's idea of the pioneer woman, create a historical fiction, presenting a particular idea of the past without being beholden to fact.

Despite her apparent commitment to historical fiction, the cottagecore aesthetic of the "cardigan" and "willow" videos rarely bleeds into either album's lyrics. Instead, the lyrics assert their contemporaneity in the "cardigan" video, Swift sings "dancing in your Levi's / drunk under a streetlight" 3 over images of a pioneer cabin. In the "willow" video, "I come back stronger than a '90s trend" 4 plays over a nineteenth-century fair. evermore lyrics like "Tuesday night at Olive Garden" 5 or "the mall before the internet" position the speaker in the long present. The friction in temporality between the album's visuals and lyrics suggests myth, as though the stories of history or the past recur in the present in transmuted forms.

In the "cardigan" and "willow" videos, the "dancing in your Levi's" and "'90s trend" moments visually rhyme. Both lyrics play as Swift discovers a doorway (in "cardigan," the lid of a piano; in "willow," a trapdoor in a glass cage) that she travels through. These travels read, then, not only as spatial, but as temporal as well. But the time travel evacuates the past of its particularity. Throughout evermore, Swift repeatedly invokes nostalgic Americana, from The Great Gatsby to cowboys to Coney Island, deployed to describe twenty-first-century relationships. In evermore's third track, "gold rush," the idea of a gold rush operates as a metaphor. The title's historical denotation disappears, referring instead to a love interest that "everybody wants."6 It buttresses the song's animating conceit ("everybody wants you / but I don't like a gold rush")7, but the nineteenth-century US gold rush is far beyond the song's scope, even as Swift uses it for her loose historical aura. Like other historical references in Swift's lyrics, "gold rush" works because the metaphor becomes both meaningful and meaningless. The quick and dirty use of the past enables Swift's myth-making, announced by the albums' titles folklore, evermore within which personal dramas can be enacted, from infidelity ("ivy") to emotional healing ("evermore") to mourning the death of a beloved grandmother ("marjorie").

The friction between evermore's vaguely historical visuals, contemporary lyric references, and dehistoricized allusions construct a mythic idea of America, both made possible by and evacuated of historical particularity. Everything, for Swift, is subsumed by the personal. History becomes fashion. What, really, could be more American?

Olivia Stowell (@OliviaStowell) is an M.A. student in English at Villanova University. She is currently working on a project exploring racial discourse and stereotype in reality TV cooking competitions.


  1. Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift, "Musicians on Musicians: Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift." interview by Patrick Doyle, Rolling Stone, Penske Business Media, LLC, November 13, 2020.[]
  2. Taylor Swift, "Taylor Swift broke all her rules with Folkloreand gave herself a much-needed escape," interview by Alex Suskind, Entertainment Weekly, Meredith Corporation, December 2020.[]
  3. Taylor Swift, "cardigan," track 2 on folklore, Republic Records, 2020.[]
  4. Taylor Swift, "willow," track 1 on evermore, Republic Records, 2020.[]
  5. Taylor Swift, "no body no crime," track 6 on evermore, Republic Records, 2020.[]
  6. Taylor Swift, "gold rush," track 3 on evermore, Republic Records, 2020.[]
  7. Ibid.[]