seven

folklore (2020)

Track seven on Taylor’s eighth studio album, folklore (2020), is fittingly called “seven”. 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.

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.»

Taylor Swift
“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.»

Aaron Dessner

Live Performance

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.

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.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Please picture me in the trees
I hit my peak at seven
Feet 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]
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

[Verse 2]
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

[Bridge]
Please picture me in the weeds
Before I learned civility
I used to scream ferociously
Any time I wanted
I, I

[Chorus]
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
Albumfolklore
ReleasedJuly 24, 2020
RecordedMay–July, 2020
StudioKitty Committee (Los Angeles)
GenreFolk
Length3:29
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Aaron Dessner
ProducerAaron Dessner
FOLKLORE CHRONOLOGY
mirrorballsevenaugust
Single Certification
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Official Live Audio