Home » Albums » folklore » Songs on folklore » the lakes

the lakes

Bonus Track | Promotional Single | folklore (2020)

“the lakes” is the only bonus track from Taylor’s eighth studio album, folklore (2020). It is an indie ballad, set to acoustic guitar and strings, with themes of introspection and escapism, reflecting on Taylor’s fantasy of retiring in the Lake District, England. An orchestral version of “the lakes”, which was the original demo, was released as a promotional single on July 24, 2021, to commemorate the first anniversary of folklore.
Per the unforeseen announcement of folklore and the subsequent release of the album’s track list, “the lakes” is the featured bonus track on the eight physical deluxe editions of the album. It was previously unavailable on digital sales or streaming platforms until Taylor officially released the deluxe version of the album on these platforms on August 18, 2020.

«I thought it would be the perfect way to slot the last puzzle piece in. Right when people were least expecting it. Because ‘hoax’ is the ending song for the record which I thought was interesting for a couple of weeks but then I actually wanted to come in with the real last song of the record, which is ‘the lakes’. It shows you the overarching theme of the whole album of trying to escape, having something you wanna protect, trying to protect your own sanity and saying ‘Look, they did this hundreds of years ago. I’m not the first person who’s felt this way.’»

Taylor Swift

Background and Release

Initially, “the lakes” was exclusively featured as a bonus track on physical deluxe editions of folklore, which were issued on August 7, 2020. The song was made available on digital and streaming platforms on August 18, 2020, along with a lyric video published to Taylor’s YouTube channel. The producer of “the lakes”, Jack Antonoff, said the song was a “big orchestral version” before Taylor told him to make it smaller. This version was released to all music platforms on July 24, 2021, the first anniversary of folklore. It is a few seconds longer than the album version.

«On one of my favorite songs on folklore, "the lakes," there was this big orchestral version, and Taylor was like, 'Eh, make it small.' I had gotten lost in the string arrangements and all this stuff, and I took everything out. I was just like, 'Oh, my God!' We were not together because that record was made [remotely], but I remember being in the studio alone like, 'Holy shit, this is so perfect.'»

Jack Antonoff
On August 20 2020, Taylor introduced a subdivision of the folklore album in thematical chapters. “the lakes” is featured in the first group, folklore: the escapism chapter, together with five other songs.

On April 23, 2022, for the Record Store Day, limited-edition vinyl records of songs by various artists were exclusively sold in independent record shops; it included 7-inch copies of “the lakes”, containing both the album version (on the A-side) and the original demo (B-side). Taylor was the event’s Global Ambassador.

Composition and Lyrics

The poetic lyrics see Taylor introspecting on her semi-retirement in Windermere, the largest lake in England, located in the Lake District of the country. She fantasizes about a red rose growing out of tundra “with no one around to tweet it”, indicating her idea of a utopia free of social media, feuds and urban settings, getting away from the society, her critics and detractors, and finding solace with her lover in the wilderness, like the Lake Poets did. In a conversation with producer Jack Antonoff, Taylor told him about a trip she and her partner, Joe Alwyn, took some years ago, which inspired her to write the song during quarantine:

«We’d gone to the Lake District in England a couple years ago. In the 19th century you had a lot of poets like William Wordsworth and John Keats who’d spend a lot of time there. And there was a poet district, these artists that moved there. They were heckled for it and made fun of for being these eccentrics and kind of odd artists who decided that they just wanted to live there. I remember thinking, ‘I could see this.’ You live in a cottage and you got wisteria growing up the outside of it…of course they escaped like that. And they had their own community of other artists who’d done the same thing. I’ve always, in my career since I was probably about twenty, written about this cottage backup plan that I have. I have been writing about that forever.»

Taylor Swift
The songwriting exudes a depressive tone coupled with escapism, with references to Wisteria, a genus of aquatic flowering plants, and William Wordsworth, the 19th-century English poet who is recognized for his Romantic works. Aaron Dessner, Taylor’s collaborator on folklore, stated the song uses hints of tragic Greek poetry, and feels like getting “lost in a beautiful garden”.

«I went to William Wordsworth’s grave and just sat there and I was like, ‘Wow. He went and did it.’ And you kept writing but you didn’t subscribe to the things that were killing you. And that’s really the overarching thing that I felt when I was writing folklore: I may not be able to go to the lakes right now – or to go anywhere – but I’m going there in my head. The escape plan is working.»

Taylor Swift

Critical Reception

“the lakes” received widespread acclaim from music critics, who complimented the poetic lyricism and mellow instrumentals, with many naming it a highlight on folklore and one of the best songs Taylor had ever penned. Hannah Mylrea of NME opined that “the lakes” is more poetic and romantic than any song on the standard edition of folklore, and praised the song as “allusive”. Rolling Stone‘s Brittany Spanos wrote that the song channels Romantic-era poetry, by depicting unconditional love “within a controversial life and painful experiences”. Sammy Andrews of Redbrick stated that the song demonstrates “exceptional” lyrical sophistication and maturity, attesting to Taylor’s “talent and craftsmanship as a songwriter”.

Commercial Performance

After three days of tracking, “the lakes” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Digital Song Sales chart, and at No. 18 on Billboard Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart. It also reached the top-20 on New Zealand Top 40 Singles and Canadian Digital Song Sales charts, and the top-30 on Hungarian Singles, Scottish Singles and the UK Downloads charts.

Lyrics

General Information
Albumfolklore
ReleasedAugust 7, 2020 (album version)
July 24, 2021 (original version)
RecordedMay–July, 2020
StudioKitty Committee (Los Angeles)
Rough Customer (New York City)
GenreIndie Folk
Orchestral
Length3:41 (album version)
3:47 (original version)
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
ProducersJack Antonoff
Taylor Swift
FOLKLORE CHRONOLOGY
hoaxthe lakes
Song Artwork
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Official Audio
Official Live Audio
Original Version Visualizer
Original Version Audio