Taylor Swift’s ‘Carolina’ stays true to folk


Photo courtesy of Genius

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift releases new single, “Carolina,” two weeks before the film “Where the Crawdads Sing” on June 24.

By Kylie Corral, Summer Managing Editor for Reporting

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has brought fans yet another song this summer after the release of “Folklore,” “Evermore” and the 10-minute “All Too Well” short film, starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien.

Her newest song “Carolina,” which dropped two weeks before the recent screening of the movie “Where the Crawdads Sing,” is one that accompanies the film in theme and feeling.

Based on Delia Owen’s novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing” follows a young woman’s life after she was abandoned by her family to survive in a marsh by herself, where she is later accused of a murder that occurs in the same town she was exiled from. 

“Carolina” transforms North Carolina into an avenue of narration for both the singer and the fictional character of Kya Clark. Swift explained in an interview that her song personifies North Carolina with the help of Kya’s voice.

Swift said her inspiration for the song came from the book, which she read before she started her project. After working on the song with Aaron Dessener, who also contributed to Swift’s album “Folklore,” she pitched the song to the movie producers of “Where the Crawdads Sing.”

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She said she was happy that fans could finally hear the song that she’s been waiting for more than a year to release.

“I made a wish that one day you would hear it,” Swift said.

Swift has dabbled in the folk genre before, and this is no different in “Carolina.” 

Folk music can be traced back to many cultures and, in today’s music, it’s often mixed with pop music, known as folktronica music. Particular styles of folk music are known for their ballads, songs that tell a story, further emphasized by acoustic instruments and regional authenticity. 

“Carolina” stays closer to what original folk music is via Swift’s lyrics, acoustic instruments and the regional elements of North Carolina. With lyrics such as “Carolina stains on the dress she left / Indelible scars, pivotal marks / Blue as the life she fled,” Swift takes a storytelling approach the song while still taking up the narrative of Kya Clark. 

As the song progresses, so does the story, creating a connection between the audience, songwriter and fictional narrative, something that is traditional in folk music history.

Swift’s lyrics manage to create a solid narrative in which the song develops, but she doesn’t stop there. She also adds specific regional details that contribute to the folk elements that she has worked into the writing of her song, such as the personification of North Carolina.

Lyrics like “Oh, Carolina creeks running through my veins” and “Carolina knows why for years I roam” give the song specificity on where the story is taking place, another factor that’s seen in cultural folk music. Swift furthers the narrative with the voice of North Carolina while also giving a setting to the song.

As Swift expands her songs to venture out into the genre of folk music, with cultural elements that have been passed down from generations of music, she manages to appeal to fans who aren’t familiar with the genre while still being true to the cultural legacy folk music has always left behind.


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