folklore (2020)

“seven” is fittingly track seven on Taylor’s eighth studio album, folklore (2020). It is a story about a childhood friend who seemed to have an unhappy life at home. Taylor reflects back on her innocence when she was seven years old, and how she thought that all problems could be easily solved.
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Background and Lyrical Theme

All tracks of folklore were conceived by Taylor as imageries and visuals from her deep subconscious, a result of her imagination “running wild” while isolating herself during the Covid-19 pandemic. “seven” was the second song that Taylor and her co-writer and producer, Aaron Dessner, wrote for the album, following “cardigan“. Dessner recalled that “cardigan” and “seven” laid out the roadmap for writing the rest of the album. He classified the song as “wistful and nostalgic”, a contrast to its “hazy” predecessor “mirrorball” and the following track “august“, which he viewed as the most pop song on the record. He feels that “seven” is as a defining moment of folklore, commemorating friendship and nostalgia. Taylor herself said the following in the 2020 documentary folklore: the long pond studio sessions:

«With ‘seven’ I was looking back. When I see a kid throwing a massive tantrum in a grocery store, part of me is like, ‘Man, I feel you. When did I stop doing that when I was upset? When did I stop being so outraged that I would throw myself on the floor and throw the cereal at my mom?' So the idea is, ‘Please, picture me in the trees before I learned civility. I used to scream anytime I wanted.’ Obviously, we can’t be throwing tantrums all the time and we learn that that’s not the right thing to do. But there’s something lost there, too.»

“seven” is a nostalgic and “wistful” folk song innocently presenting the pureness of childhood friendship being dragged out of a seven-year-old Taylor by her inability to comprehend the emotional and physical abuse of her friend from their parents. Two little girls in the Pennsylvania woods, trying and failing to understand each other. It’s a lost childhood bond, from the perspective of a kid too young to recognize that her friend’s angry dad is the ghost in their family’s haunted house. (The traumatizing fathers on folklore are a plotline in themselves.) The little girls dream of escaping, running away to be pirate twins, but there’s no resolution — just a mystery that gets more confusing as she tries to live with it. Aaron Dessner told Vulture in 2020:

«It’s kind of looking back at childhood and those childhood feelings, recounting memories and memorializing them. It’s this beautiful folk song. It has one of the most important lines on the record: 'And just like a folk song, our love will be passed on.' That’s what this album is doing. It’s passing down. It’s memorializing love, childhood, and memories. It’s a folkloric way of processing.»

Live Performances

Taylor first performed “seven” 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), “seven” serves as a spoken interlude, introducing the “folklore act” of the show. On June 17, 2023, Taylor chose it as the first surprise song for her “The Eras Tour” show in Pittsburgh. Aaron Dessner was the surprise guest and accompanied her on piano. Taylor introduced Aaron and the song by saying:

«Oh look, Aaron Dessner is here! [...] This is what I would categorize as a 'soulmate collaborator'. He is the most incredible musician, instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, and without him folklore wouldn't have happened. [...] And I wanna say something really quick: All night, I'm looking out into this crowd and there are so many amazing dads here, who brought their kids (or they have kids but they didn't bring them). Anyway, there's a lot of people who are either fathers or father figures. To me, it counts exactly the same. So, tomorrow is Father's Day, and you [Aaron] are a really good one. And I was thinking about the song we're gonna play. I'm not trying to brag, but I actually have a really, really incredible dad! He's just the best and I love him so much. And the song we're about to play has to do with really fond memories of childhood and growing up in Pennsylvania. It also mentions a friend's father and how, you know, when somebody doesn't have a good dad and how hard that can be for them. So, if anyone here has a complicated relationship with their dad...or if you wanna think of the people who have played a father figure role in your life tomorrow and tonight. I'm just really grateful for my dad, for you [Aaron], and for anyone out there who has spent hours and hours to be at this show with their kid. Thank you for that.»

Critical Reception

Several critics pointed to the song as highlight on folklore. Rebecca Karpen of PopMatters described the song as “heartbreaking” and found its narrative “horrifying”, with a young Taylor failing to understand her friend’s abuse, stating that it made her “cry in the middle of 4th Avenue in broad daylight.” Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone ranked it as the 19th best song in Taylor’s catalogue at the time, praising the “mystery that gets more confusing she (sic) tries to live with it.” In a review published in The Guardian, Laura Snapes described the loss of innocence depicted in “seven” and the self-interrogation it reflects as “devastating.” Slate‘s Carl Wilson opined that “writing of child abuse with this lightness of touch is a feat”. In an NPR critics roundtable, Ann Powers chose “seven” as a standout on folklore, arguing it defined folklore‘s underlying web of memory. Ryan Leas of Stereogum wrote that it “leveled [him] each listen” and ranked it as his 4th favorite song of 2020.

Commercial Performance

Following the release of folklore, “seven” debuted at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart alongside the album’s 15 other songs and at No. 11 on the Rolling Stone Top 100. Additionally, the song debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. The song reached the top 20 in Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore.


[Verse 1]
Please picture me
In the trees
I hit my peak at seven
In the swing
Over the creek
I was too scared to jump in but I, I was high
In the sky
With Pennsylvania under me
Are there still beautiful things?

[Chorus 1]
Sweet tea in the summer
Cross your heart, won’t tell no other
And though I can’t recall your face
I still got love for you
Your braids like a pattern
Love you to the moon and to Saturn
Passed down like folk songs
The love lasts so long

And I’ve been meaning to tell you
I think your house is haunted
Your dad is always mad and that must be why
And I think you should come live with me and we can be pirates
Then you won’t have to cry
Or hide in the closet
And just like a folk song
Our love will be passed on

[Verse 2]
Please picture me
In the weeds
Before I learned civility
I used to scream
Any time I wanted, I, I

[Chorus 2]
Sweet tea in the summer
Cross my heart, won’t tell no other
And though I can’t recall your face
I still got love for you
Pack your dolls and a sweater
We’ll move to India forever
Passed down like folk songs
Our love lasts so long

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
ReleasedJuly 24, 2020
RecordedMay–July 2020
StudiosKitty Committee (Los Angeles, CA)
Long Pond (Hudson Valley, NY)
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Aaron Dessner
ProducerAaron Dessner
Song Certification
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Official Live Audio
Spoken Interlude (Poem)