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invisible string

folklore (2020)

“invisible string” is track eleven on Taylor’s eighth studio album, folklore (2020). It references an east Asian folk myth about a red (or in this case gold) thread of fate tying two soulmates together.
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Background and Release

folklore was conceived by Taylor as figments of mythopoeic visuals in her mind, a result of her imagination “running wild” while isolating herself during the Covid-19 pandemic. One such imagery was of “a single thread that, for better or for worse, ties you to your fate”. This concept gave birth to “invisible string”.

Taylor penned “invisible string”, and composed and it with Aaron Dessner, who had created the instrumental for the song, called “stella”, in April 2020. On July 23, 2020, she announced folklore and revealed its track listing where “invisible string” placed at number 11. The album was released a day later, on July 24, 2020. As a reference to the song, a golden thread was featured in the music video for “willow” (2020), the lead single of Taylor’s ninth studio album and folklore‘s “sister”, evermore (2020).

Lyrical Theme

As the title suggests, the song centers on an invisible “thread of gold” that connects two soulmates and ushers them together in life. It is an airy folk tune with country elements, set to plucked strums of rubber-bridge guitar, fingerpicked acoustics, and back beats. Its lyrics depict Taylor’s perspective of fate and destiny, using specific details that entwine select moments from her life and her lover’s, the twists and turns that led the two former strangers to find each other, and narrates the pursuit of emotional healing and happiness through time. In the documentary/concert film folklore: the long pond studio sessions, Taylor detailed what inspired her to write the song:

«When I first heard the track that [Aaron] sent me I thought, ‘I have to write something that matches it’. And pretty quickly I came upon the idea of fate. ‘Cause sometimes I just go into a rabbit hole of thinking about how things happen and I love the romantic idea that every step you’re taking, you’re taking one step closer to what you’re supposed to be, guided by this little invisible string. I wrote it right after I sent an ex a baby gift and I just remember thinking, 'This is a full signifier that life is great!'»

The song is an allusion to the East Asian folk myth called The Red Thread of Fate, which originated from Chinese mythology. According to the belief, an invisible red cord (colored golden in Taylor’s interpretation) is tied around the finger of those that are destined to meet one another in a certain situation as they are “their true love”.

Connections to Taylor's Personal Life

The lyrics in “invisible string” give glimpses into Taylor’s relationship with English actor Joe Alwyn, who also co-wrote and co-produced a few tracks on folklore; it recounts the “invisible” thread existing between the two former strangers that they were not aware of until they met and fell in love.

Taylor employs a distinct passive writing style in the song, and uses colors to paint memories. She incorporates ultra-specific details, such as: her affinity to Nashville’s Centennial Park, Alwyn’s time spent working at a London frozen yogurt shop before venturing into acting, and Taylor mailing gifts to the expectant child of her ex-boyfriend Joe Jonas and wife Sophie Turner.

There are also allusions to her older songs in “invisible string”: the lyric “Bad was the blood of the song in the cab on your first trip to L.A.” referring to “Bad Blood” (2014), the dive bar in “Delicate” (2017), and golden hues – the color of love according to Taylor – in “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” (2017) and “Daylight” (2019). “invisible string” further mentions her three-year trip with Alwyn to the Lake District, England, which is the narrative setting of “the lakes“, the bonus track of folklore‘s deluxe edition.

Production

Regarding the song’s production, producer Aaron Dessner told Vulture: “That was another one where it was music that I’d been playing for a couple of months and sort of humming along to her. It felt like one of the songs that pulls you along. Just playing it on one guitar, it has this emotional locomotion in it, a meditative finger-picking pattern that I really gravitate to. It’s played on this rubber bridge that my friend put on [the guitar] and it deadens the strings so that it sounds old. The core of it sounds like a folk song. It’s also kind of a sneaky pop song, because of the beat that comes in. She knew that there was something coming because she said, ‘You know, I love this and I’m hearing something already.’ And then she said, ‘This will change the story,’ this beautiful and direct kind of recounting of a relationship in its origin.”

Live Performances

Taylor first performed “invisible string” as part of the concert film and documentary folklore: the long pond studio sessions (2020), together with Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. On “The Eras Tour” (2023), “invisible string” was part of the regular setlist for the shows in Glendale and Las Vegas. Taylor replaced it with “the 1” when the tour reached Arlington. One week later news broke that she and Joe had broken up.

Critical Reception

Pitchfork critic Julian Mapes praised “invisible string” as one the “loveliest” songs on folklore for its “delightfully plucky” instrumentals and standout lyricism, which Mapes paralleled with lines from classic English novels Jane Eyre (1847) and The Sun Also Rises (1926). Insider critics agreed that “invisible string” is “Taylor Swift at her most Taylor Swift”; Callie Ahlgrim wrote that the song “is a feast of Easter eggs and callbacks” with a “sprightly and sparkly” musicality, meanwhile Courtesy Larocca remarked it as “a rosy, wide-eyed ode to love”, accentuated by plucky strums and Taylor’s soft vocals.

NPR placed “invisible string” at No. 22 on its ranking of 100 best songs of 2020, for “all the beautiful detail, all the muscular melody and immaculately placed acoustic production details” takes a mature perspective in celebrating of “the fact that love doesn’t have to paint the entire world to change your life; one tiny thread of gold can be enough.”

Commercial Performance

Upon the release of folklore, “invisible string” debuted at No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the chart week of August 8, 2020. It charted two weeks before its exit. It further reached No. 19 on the Singapore Singles chart, No. 19 on Australia’s ARIA Singles Chart, and No. 29 on the Canadian Hot 100.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Green was the color of the grass
Where I used to read at Centennial Park
I used to think I would meet somebody there
Teal was the color of your shirt
When you were 16 at the yogurt shop
You used to work at to make a little money

[Chorus 1]
Time
Curious time
Gave me no compasses
Gave me no signs
Were there clues I didn’t see?
And isn’t it just so pretty to think
All along there was some
Invisible string
Tying you to me?

[Verse 2]
Bad was the blood of the song in the cab on your first trip to LA
You ate at my favorite spot for dinner
Bold was the waitress on our three-year trip getting lunch down by the Lakes
She said I looked like an American singer

[Chorus 2]
Time
Mystical time
Cutting me open, then healing me fine
Were there clues I didn’t see?
And isn’t it just so pretty to think
All along there was some
Invisible string
Tying you to me?

[Bridge]
String that pulled me out of all the wrong arms right into that dive bar
Something wrapped all of my past mistakes in barbed wire
Chains around my demons
Wool to brave the seasons
One single thread of gold tied me to you

[Verse 3]
Cold was the steel of my axe to grind
For the boys who broke my heart
Now I send their babies presents
Gold was the color of the leaves when I showed you around Centennial Park
Hell was the journey but it brought me heaven

[Chorus 3]
Time
Wondrous time
Gave me the blues and then purple pink skies
And it’s cool
Baby with me
And isn’t it just so pretty to think
All along there was some
Invisible string
Tying you to me?

[Outro]
(Ah-ah-ah)
(Ah-ah-ah)

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
Albumfolklore
ReleasedJuly 24, 2020
RecordedMay–July, 2020
StudiosKitty Committee (Los Angeles, CA)
Long Pond (Hudson Valley, NY)
Gaite Lyrique (Paris, France)
GenreIndie Folk
Length4:13
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Aaron Dessner
ProducerAaron Dessner
FOLKLORE CHRONOLOGY
illicit affairsinvisible stringmad woman
Single Certification
"Platinum" certification by the Recording Industry Association of America. Signifying 1,000,000 units sold.
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Official Live Audio