folklore/evermore analysis with English Teacher KP

Meet KP, YouTube’s favorite English teacher. She taught English in the classroom for 7.5 years before transitioning to teaching English online. The purpose of her channel is to share her love for English in a fun and engaging way— by analyzing popular music/literature. I was first introduced to English Teacher KP on Reddit after viewing one of her countless analyses of Taylor Swift songs. My initials are also KP, so right away, I knew we had a lot in common. I couldn’t wait to chat with her more.

Kristina: What originally drew you to Taylor Swift music?

English Teacher KP: I have been an Taylor fan since I was in 10th grade and Taylor’s first album came out. Teardrops on my Guitar and Tim McGraw are a few of my favorite songs. I’ve always liked how Taylor is unapologetic about writing and her own life experiences. She has never been afraid to put it all out there.

Kristina: Have you continued to relate to Taylor’s lyrics as you’ve gotten older?

English Teacher KP: Yes, but I also have love how she has matured. I feel like I have grown up with Taylor Swift. Now, Taylor’s not just writing from her own perspective, but she’s actually telling stories. It’s so beautiful and amazing… it’s what I love about folklore and evermore. She plays around with perspective. These two albums tell stories from multiple perspectives and show that nothing is one-sided. There is a grey area in life and love. folklore/evermore also show that perspective is reality.

It is very much like literature. Perspective is everything in literature.

Kristina: Agreed. Taylor has such a unique human perspective. She seems to be the pinnacle of fame, fortune, and even the American Dream. Taylor’s work can be so meaningful and inspiring because she’s sharing the perspective of someone who, deep down, many of us wish we could live like.

KP: For sure. Have you ever read the poem, The Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy?

Kristina: I haven’t!

KP: You need to! It reminds me so much about Taylor Swift. It talks about how she was born, perfect and beautiful… but also has so many expectations because of her beauty. My favorite line of the poem (and maybe one of my favorite similes in literature) is: “Her good nature wore out like a fan belt.” If you’ve ever seen Miss Americana, the Taylor Swift documentary, that’s what she talks about. Miss Americana shows that Taylor had all this pressure on her to be skinny, to stay out of politics… but now, it seems that she is working to shed the expectations and just be who she is. I love it, because I think many artists are scared to do that.

Kristina: I mean, it is scary to bare yourself to the world and be authentic… even in your day-to-day life, not to mention on a world stage. Taylor is unique in that way. What do you think that knowing more about the artist behind the music/ author behind the story contributes to your interpretation of the piece of art?

KP: I honestly try to leave that out of it. I love literary criticism. I love the idea that once the text is written, it’s alive. It’s living and breathing… it’s totally separate from the author. There was a whole movement in literature called “Death of the Author.” Now, the text can mean whatever you want it to mean, as long as you have textual evidence to back it up. Sometimes that is difficult, but I try to leave what I know about Taylor out of it… because her work is art and it means so much to so many different people.

Kristina: I watched your mirrorball analysis video and wrote down a similar sentiment, which was followed by “art and literature is a direct reflection of the society around it.” I like the idea of folklore and evermore being pieces of pandemic art… I think that these two albums will be studied for years to come as a part of this crazy time we all just experienced, a period of collective trauma.

KP: I completely agree. I’ve said this countless times, and people probably think I’m crazy, but I believe that Taylor Swift’s music will be studied the way Shakespeare is studied. His sonnets were written during a time that theaters were shut down and people couldn’t go out because of plague. When you go back and look at his sonnets, you can see that. I think that is going to happen with folklore and evermore, exactly like you are saying. Taylor is just so good. I can’t imagine more teachers not jumping on the Taylor Swift train. When I was in the classroom, I used her lyrics all the time. You can do the same thing with a Taylor Swift song that you can with a sonnet.

Kristina: Absolutely! There’s so much deep meaning and complex references in her music that an entire college course could be taught about one album! Especially folklore/evermore. What would you say are some of the biggest themes you see in these albums? We can talk about them individually or them linked, because there are obviously a lot of shared connections between the two.

KP: If we are talking about “theme” as a “universal takeaway”— that is the definition we would use in literature— I think the idea is that love is a gray moral area. Life, and love, are not black and white situations. Take the love triangle from folklore… that is a perfect example. In betty, James gets a lot of hate. But if you honestly listen to it, you feel bad for him because you’re seeing HIS perspective. In august, you see another perspective, and so your feelings change. Perspective is everything. People are not good, or bad, or right, or wrong. Taylor does such a good job depicting that as another theme throughout both albums. Like in exile… you get both perspectives in a dissolving relationship. No one’s right or wrong. It’s gray.

Kristina: That reminds me of art being a reflection of the society around us. How many of us have been taught that there IS a “right path” and that there is a “good way” to act? “Be careful if you end up on the “wrong path”,” we’re warned, “because of the monsters lurking in the shadows.”

I was an essential healthcare worker during the pandemic who worked in a nursing home as an SLP. My nursing home got hit hard with COVID at the beginning of the pandemic. Right then, I noticed shift in my own perspective. I used to think that, by being a healthcare worker, I was doing the “right thing” or the “good thing.” But then, as the pandemic played out and I realized that I didn’t get hazard pay or sick time to cover me in the case I got COVID, I ultimately quit my job and began to focus on writing full time. That is not something I would have been able to do without the realization that doing the thing that you think is “right or good” isn’t always the right thing for you to do.

KP: We talked about mirrorball earlier, which symbolizes reflection. Really, both albums are filled with reflection. You can see with many songs, such as long story short and closure, how Taylor has gone through a journey of self reflection, revelation; then how she moved on. There’s this “hero journey” archetype throughout, and I think Taylor’s own journey plays out in both albums.

Kristina: Oh yeah. There are some deep themes related to mythology throughout the albums as well. The idea of the “hero archetype” goes back to mythology. I discovered something similar as I was writing my book. I talk about the idea of the hero, villain, and rescuer… and how those are three roles you can see in the stories around you. Being the hero is fine and dandy, but there is a fine line because the line between good and evil. You don’t want to be the victim. And then with the rescuer, the line between being the hero and victim is very thin again.

KP: I love that, because it also begs the question: you may be the hero in YOUR story, but what are you in someone else’s story? You may be the villain, or the victim. It again goes back to perspective. That’s what I love about these albums… there is so much interconnected. You peel back layer after layer and uncover a masterpiece.

Kristina: It’s true… and perspective is reality. Another theme I noticed that you kept coming back to in your lyric analysis videos is the idea of death and rebirth, of new beginnings. I notice that, throughout folklore and evermore, and even in Taylor’s entire discography, are allusions to a “cycle of life.”

KP: I think the music video for willow is a great example of that. In willow, she goes into a dark place, some may call it the abyss of the hero’s journey… everyone’s wearing hoods and looking kind of sketchy. She follows the golden thread out, and that’s the idea of “rebirth”. This reminds me of the hero’s journey archetype. Part of that story is when the hero goes through something really bad or dark, leading to transformation and atonement. Afterwards, the hero is reborn.

Kristina: If you think about Taylor’s entire collection of music, you see that. Taylor was so celebrated at the beginning of her career… and then we had the album, reputation. Taylor wrote some great poetry during that era, like Why She Disappeared. “And in the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive.” I would imagine this idea has been on Taylor’s mind since about then.

KP: Yes, I think reputation was a huge turning point for her. You can see that it was a huge turning point in her music and the themes you were seeing in her music… that was a time of incredible transformation for her.

Kristina: I think our entire world needs transformation right now, and that may be why Taylor’s music is resonating with people so deeply.

Part 2 is coming soon, where KP and I talk more folklore/evermore themes including: fate, death/rebirth, cycle of life, seasons, legacy and more!

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