peace

folklore (2020)

“peace” is a calm song on Taylor’s eighth studio album, folklore (2020). It channels the balance Taylor striked between her private and public lives, more rooted in her personal life unlike the fictional majority of folklore.

Background and Lyrical Theme

Taylor conceived folklore as a set of mythopoeic visuals in her mind, a result of her imagination “running wild” while isolating herself during the Covid-19 pandemic. “peace” is one of her most personal songs on the album. She wrote it upon hearing an instrumental track composed by Aaron Dessner and felt an “immediate sense of serenity” that provided the tranquil feeling of at being peaceful. However, Taylor thought it would be “too on-the-nose” to sing about finding peace; she hence wrote about complex “conflicted” feelings in contrast to the calming sound of the track. The song structure of “peace” is an ode reminiscent of a prayer. Its lyrics discuss the effects of Taylor’s hectic superstardom on her private life, and is directly addressed to her lover, Joe Alwyn, warning him of the challenges that come with him being a part of her hyper-publicized life. She recorded it in one vocal take. In 2020, she told Aaron Dessner in folklore: the lond pond studio sessions:

«I think this is a song that is extremely personal to me. There are times when I feel like with everything that’s in my control, I can make myself seem like someone who doesn’t have an abnormal life and I try that every day. It’s like, 'How do I make my friends, and family, and my loved ones not see this big elephant that’s in the room for our normal life?' Because I don’t want the elephant in the room. If you’re gonna be in my life I feel like there’s a certain amount that comes with it that I can’t stop from happening. I can’t stop from you getting a call in the morning that says, ‘The tabloids are writing this today.’ I can’t help it if there’s a guy with a camera two miles away with a telescope lense taking pictures of you. I can’t stop those things from happening. And so this song was basically like, ‘Is it enough? Is the stuff that I can control enough to block out the things that I can’t?' So it makes me really emotional to hear this song.»

Taylor Swift
After witnessing the dissection and blemish of her personal life by the press for over a decade, especially tabloid media, Taylor has been tight-lipped and private about her boyfriend since 2016, who co-wrote and co-produced select tracks on folklore. Still, some notable personal details in the song’s lyrics include Taylor’s mention of Alwyn’s younger brother in the lyric “Family that I chose now that I see your brother as my brother”, the second time she mentions him in her discography, after the track “Paper Rings” from her 2019 album Lover.

Production

“peace” is producer Aaron Dessner’s favorite song on folklore, as he said multiple times. But to him it has a different meaning. With Taylor, he shared the following: I have in my life suffered from depression and I’m a hard person to be in a relationship with or be married to because I go up and down. And I can’t help this, it’s like a chemical thing that happens sometimes. And music is a way of dealing with that for me. And somehow this song captures the fragility of what’s that like, of being in a relationship with someone who may or may not have peace.”

«To know that a lot of people related to it who aren’t talking about the same things that I’m talking about. They’re talking about human complexity. It’s about someone who you wanna provide with peace, someone you love, so you want them to have as much peace in their life as possible and reconciling the fact that you might not be their best option for that. But is it still a deal they wanna take?»

Taylor Swift

Critical Reception

Variety critic Chris Wilman called “peace” the “champion romance song”, and along with fellow track “invisible string“, found it a suitable addition that contrasts the overaching sadness of folklore. Writing for Vulture, Nate Jones felt that “peace” is “more clearly autobiographical than much of the album”, having Taylor apologize to her partner for “the stress that comes with dating one of the world’s most famous women”. Writing for Insider, Courteney Larocca admired the song’s “gut-wrenchingly vulnerable” lyrics, “stunning” musical composition, and Taylor’s “crisp” vocal performance. WRVU stated that “peace” is one of the “most exquisite” songs Taylor has ever written, representing a love song in “the absolute purest and most devoted sense”, with some of the “lushest” lyrics she has ever written. The review praised the “improvisational” song structure of “peace”, deviating from standard pop structures of “a regular verse-chorus-bridge”, and pinpointed that the song’s central theme is a derivative of Taylor’s sixth studio album, reputation (2017).

Commercial Performance

Upon folklore‘s release, all of the album’s tracks debuted on both the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs and the all-genre Hot 100 charts; “peace” entered at No. 12 on the former, and at No. 58 on the latter. It further reached No. 33 on Australia’s ARIA Singles Chart and No. 46 on the Canadian Hot 100.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Our coming-of-age has come and gone
Suddenly this summer, it’s clear
I never had the courage of my convictions
As long as danger is near
And it’s just around the corner, darlin’
‘Cause it lives in me
No, I could never give you peace

[Chorus]
But I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm
If your cascade, ocean wave blues come
All these people think love’s for show
But I would die for you in secret
The devil’s in the details, but you got a friend in me
Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?

[Verse 2]
Your integrity makes me seem small
You paint dreamscapes on the wall
I talk shit with my friends, it’s like I’m wasting your honor
And you know that I’d swing with you for the fences
Sit with you in the trenches
Give you my wild, give you a child
Give you the silence that only comes when two people understand each other
Family that I chose, now that I see your brother as my brother
Is it enough?
But there’s robbers to the east, clowns to the west
I’d give you my sunshine, give you my best
But the rain is always gonna come if you’re standin’ with me

[Chorus]
But I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm
If your cascade, ocean wave blues come
All these people think love’s for show
But I would die for you in secret
The devil’s in the details, but you got a friend in me
Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?
Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?
Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?

General Information
Albumfolklore
ReleasedJuly 24, 2020
RecordedMay–July, 2020
StudioKitty Committee (Los Angeles)
Long Pond (Hudson Valley)
Sterling Studio (NYC)
GenreIndie Folk
Length3:54
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Aaron Dessner
ProducerAaron Dessner
FOLKLORE CHRONOLOGY
bettypeacehoax
Single Certification
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Official Live Audio