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Carolina

Where The Crawdads Sing (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) | 2022

“Carolina” is a song written and recorded by Taylor for the 2022 mystery drama film Where the Crawdads Sing. It was released via Republic Records on June 24, 2022. The film follows the life of a young woman named Kya who grew up in a marsh in North Carolina and becomes a suspect in the murder of a man who once romantically pursued her. The song title therefore refers to the Carolinas region in the United States.
“Carolina” was the first all-new material from Taylor since she had issued her ninth studio album evermore at the end of 2020. Between those releases, she had had her attention on the expansive rollout campaigns for the re-recorded (Taylor’s Version) editions of Fearless and RED.

Background and Release

Where the Crawdads Sing is a mystery drama film starring Daisy Edgar-Jones in the lead role, directed by Olivia Newman and produced by Reese Witherspoon. It is a film adaptation of the 2018 novel of the same name written by American author Delia Owens. The story revolves around a young girl who grew up in a marsh in North Carolina in the 1950s and becomes a suspect in the murder of a man who once romantically pursued her.

The first trailer for the film was released on March 22, 2022, and featured “Carolina” being played in the background. The trailer also revealed that the song was written and performed by Taylor. Another snippet of the song was revealed through a longer trailer of the film on May 22, 2022. The release date of the song was teased by the film’s official Instagram account, when they made a series of posts on June 22 with captions that had capitalized letters, spelling out “Carolina This Thursday” together. The next day, the song’s release date was confirmed as June 24, 2022. A lyric video on YouTube accompanied the release.

Writing and Lyrical Theme

Taylor had read the book the movie is based on and loved it so much that she felt compelled to write a song for it. “Carolina” was written solely by Taylor and produced by her and Aaron Dessner, with whom she collaborated on her 2020 studio albums folklore and evermore. The lyrics are heavily inspired by nature. According to Witherspoon, Taylor wrote the song while working on folklore in early 2020 but did not reveal that she had written “Carolina” until after she finished the song. Taylor stated on Instagram:

«Where The Crawdads Sing is a book I got absolutely lost in when I read it years ago. As soon as I heard there was a film in the works starring the incredible Daisy Edgar Jones and produced by the brilliant Reese Witherspoon, I knew I wanted to be a part of it from the musical side. I wrote the song “Carolina” alone and asked my friend Aaron Dessner to produce it. I wanted to create something haunting and ethereal to match this mesmerizing story.»

Taylor Swift
When Olivia Newman, the film’s director, heard the song, she was amazed by how tonally perfect it is. She told News Express US, “It is so beautiful. Every time the movie ends and that song comes on, it captures the feeling where you need to sit and digest what just happened. The song is the perfect vessel for those feelings. It sets exactly the right tone. But [Taylor writing a song] was very serendipitous because we hadn’t shot the movie yet. For it to be such a perfect match was a gift. What a gift.”

Production

“Carolina” plays over the ending credits. It incorporates elements of Americana and Appalachian folk music, was recorded in one take and only features instruments available before 1953 — around the time when Where the Crawdads Sing takes place: acoustic instruments, such as mandolin, fiddle, gentle guitar strums and “sweeping” strings. Producer Aaron Dessner shared on Twitter, “It’s one of my favorite songs Taylor Swift has written and it was an honor to help her record and produce it. We played old acoustic instruments and channeled the eery beauty of the North Carolina marsh where the story is set. It sounds fittingly like this recording could have been made a long time ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.” Among the song’s release Taylor also posted on Twitter, saying:

«About a year & half ago I wrote a song about the story of a girl who always lived on the outside, looking in. Figuratively & literally. The juxtaposition of her loneliness & independence. Her curiosity & fear all tangled up. Her persisting gentleness & the world’s betrayal of it. I wrote this one alone in the middle of the night and then Aaron Dessner and I meticulously worked on a sound that we felt would be authentic to the moment when this story takes place. I made a wish that one day you would hear it.»

Taylor Swift

Critical Reception

“Carolina” received acclaim from music critics. Variety critic Chris Willman felt the song is stylistically reminiscent of the music in folklore and evermore “at their most folky and subdued.” Emily Zemler and Kat Bouza reviewed the song for Rolling Stone, noting that the “haunting” song evokes the film’s backwoods setting and the “elegiac” tone of Appalachian folk ballads and praising Taylor’s “otherworldly and siren-like” vocals. In a glowing review for Clash, Robin Murray called the song a timeless “grand achievement” and the greatest example of Taylor’s ability to “suggest inner movement, the passing of time and emotion in only a few words.” He praised the “innate” instrumentation, Taylor’s “minimalist yet potent” vocals, and the lyrics “somehow distilling Delia Owens’ work—in all its breadth and depth—into a song of real brevity and power.” Sam Sodomsky of Pitchfork said “Carolina” is an understated song, one that stems from the “darker corners” of folklore and evermore, abandoning the “language and texture of pop music in favor of old American folk songs”. He further complemented the synergy between Taylor’s musical approaches in the song: the “ghost story-writing” of the lyrics, and the deep and slow vocals.

Commercial Performance

Upon release, “Carolina” debuted at No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the chart week ending of July 9, 2022. It also charted on the Billboard Global 200 chart at No. 45. The song also entered the main charts in Australia (No. 62), Canada (No. 49), Ireland (No. 42), Netherlands (No. 30), New Zealand (No. 5), the United Kingdom (No. 63), and Vietnam (No. 51).

Lyrics

General Information
ReleasedJune 24, 2022
Written2020
Recorded2020-2022
GenreAmericana
Appalachian Folk
Length4:24 (Full Edition)
2:44 (Video Edition)
LabelRepublic Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducersAaron Dessner
Taylor Swift
Lyric Video
Visualizer
Official Audio
Official Audio (Video Edition)