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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.

Background and Lyrical Theme

“invisible string” is a restrained love song, without blatant references to romance. Its lyrics 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. 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

Taylor employs a distinct passive writing style in the song, and uses colors to paint memories. It incorporates ultra-specific details, such as: Taylor’s 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” also mentions her three-year trip with Alwyn to Lake District, England, which is the narrative setting of “the lakes“, the bonus track of folklore‘s deluxe edition. In the documentary/concert film folklore: the long pond studio sessions, Taylor said 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!'»

Taylor Swift
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 album, evermore.

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 Performance

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.

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 sixteen at the yogurt shop
You used to work at to make a little money

[Chorus]
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?
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

[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]
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?
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

[Bridge]
A 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]
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?
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
Me
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

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

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
Albumfolklore
ReleasedJuly 24, 2020
RecordedMay–July, 2020
StudioKitty Committee (Los Angeles)
Long Pond (Hudson, NY)
Sterling Studio (NYC)
Gaite Lyrique (Paris, France)
GenreIndie Folk
Length4:13
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Aaron Dessner
ProducerAaron Dessner
FOLKLORE CHRONOLOGY
illicit affairsinvisible stringmad woman
Single Certification
RIAA 1
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Official Live Audio