Why Taylor Swift's Cozy 'Cardigan' Is The Best Song On 'Folklore'

City of Lover Taylor Swift ABC
Image by Dave Hogan / 2020 TAS Rights Management

In a surprise that still has me reeling in the best way, Taylor Swift released her latest album, ‘Folklore,’ still hot on the heels of her dreamy delight, ‘Lover.’ Thus, breaking the two-year wait that has usually preceded the release of an album, and gifting fans with “Cardigan.”

As someone who found themselves entranced by Taylor Swift’s ABC concert special to support ‘Lover’ (“City of Lover”) there was something that sparked about the way she broke down each song. No matter what instrument or beat per minute she used, it all sounded "Taylor"-made for the music.

Taylor Swift knows her way around a wonderous love song, and that remains true in ‘Folklore.’ In truth, the strength of Swift’s writing often falls within the songs about love still present yet long-gone. Nowhere on ‘Folklore’ is there a more prime example of this than “Cardigan,” which is the best song from her latest album. Take a listen:

There are remnants of Taylor Swift’s “Enchanted,” “Clean,” and “Wildest Dreams,” in the sumptuous track that transports listeners through a myriad of memories. Those surrounding a deep and passionate love story. Swift’s descriptive lyricism is in full display in “Cardigan,” and so is one of her most underrated skills – her singing performance.

Throughout the years, Taylor Swift has stunned by doing more than reciting lines in the robotic and perfectly tooled way her peers have. Swift lives each line like an actress playing every scripted word with all of its cutting and romantic meaning. All of which hits a resounding echo with her now-signature vocal flourish, reaching for those high notes in a sultry fashion.

It is the yearning that Taylor Swift captures in “Cardigan” and in many other songs that sets her apart so startlingly. You can feel her desire for this person, and it permeates the entire piece. Every time she says, “I knew you,” her voice quivers and changes. The phrase is never uttered the same way twice during the moody ballad.

Taylor Swift never pushes the melody in “Cardigan” either. Every word seems to fit perfectly in place. At the point when Swift begins to croon, “You drew stars around my scars,” the song hits a new high. The way Swift’s voice falls on “Tried to change the ending/Peter losing Wendy” ushers in the tune’s earworm status.

It is more than just hearing Taylor Swift sing the line. You can feel it too. Swift’s vocal wave continues to build with the rendering of “But I knew you’d linger like a tattoo kiss/ I knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs.” It is that part that easily secures “Cardigan" play on an infinite loop.

If you have watched the Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana,” the chance to appreciate Swift’s gifts as an artist reverberates most in “Cardigan.” The movie documents the readying of ‘Lover,’ but the same rules most assuredly apply to ‘Folklore.’ According to what producer Aaron Dressner told Vulture, he sent the melody to Swift, who sent back the lyrics an hour later.

You can practically hear the free flow of streaming conscious in “Cardigan.” It has a confidence and complexity emblematic of Taylor Swift’s ability to wrap elegant lyrics around a marvelous melody, in this case, Dressner’s. While the critical melody was provided for her, it does not take away from Swift’s achievement. It only heightens it.

No other words seem right for the melody. It is tough to imagine anything else fitting into it with the symmetrical ease that Taylor Swift’s do. It is a mish-mash of storytelling that does not count on a single narrative. At the heart of “Cardigan” is a love song comprised of a lyrical collage that’s meaning shifts from moment to moment. A warm reminder of Swift’s skill.