August (Taylor Swift song)

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

"August"
Song by Taylor Swift
from the album Folklore
ReleasedJuly 24, 2020 (2020-07-24)[note 1]
Studio
GenreDream pop
Length4:21
LabelRepublic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Lyric video
"August" on YouTube

"August" (stylized in all lowercase[2]) is a song by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, from her eighth studio album Folklore (2020). The song was written and produced by both Swift and Jack Antonoff, with additional production by Joe Alwyn. It is a dream pop ballad with guitars, strings, vocal reverberation, and key changes. Alongside album tracks "Cardigan" and "Betty", the song constitutes a fictitious love triangle involving three characters: Betty, James, and an unnamed character. The song is written from this character's perspective, depicting her sorrow over her derailed romance with James.

Critics lauded the song's instrumentation and lyrics, with some of them picking it as a highlight on Folklore. In the United States, "August" peaked at number 23 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number five on the Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs. The song entered the top 20 on singles charts of Australia, Canada, Malaysia, and Singapore. At the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards on March 14, 2021, Swift performed it as part of a medley with "Cardigan" and "Willow"—a song from her album Evermore (2020).

Background and production[edit]

Taylor Swift and producer Jack Antonoff had written and produced songs for Swift's previous studio albums 1989 (2014), Reputation (2017), and Lover (2019). They collaborated again on Folklore, which Swift surprise-released amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.[3] Folklore was released on July 24, 2020, through Republic Records.[4] Swift wrote or co-wrote all songs on the album, and Antonoff produced six, including "August".[5] For the song, Antonoff produced the instrumental first, and sent it to Swift who wrote the lyrics "on the spot; it just was an intuitive thing". As with other tracks of Folklore, Swift created "August" based on a fictional narrative with imagined story arcs and characters.[3]

Lyrics and composition[edit]

Swift wrote "August" as part of three Folklore songs (together with "Cardigan" and "Betty") that explore a love triangle between James, Betty, and an unnamed teenager.[6] It was the first song of the three that Swift wrote.[3] According to Swift, she wanted to explore the idea of a girl in an undefined relationship: the lyrics are in the viewpoint of "August", who falls in love with James, who is already in a relationship with someone else.[3][7] The song was inspired by what Swift described as the image of "the sun drenched month of August, slipped away like a bottle of wine".[8] Throughout the song, imagery of late summer is prevalent: "Your back beneath the sun / Wishing I could write my name on it."[6] Set in a suburban area with "salt air", "August" captures feelings of a teenage girl who goes through an unrequited love in the summer.[6] She naively believes that she is in love, pondering on her summer romance: "August slipped away like a bottle of wine / Because you were never mine."[6][9]

While the narrators of "Cardigan" and "Betty" are explicitly named, the narrator of "August" is never mentioned by name, which Vulture's Nate Jones considered a highlight of her "relative unimportance in her lover's life".[6] Swift said that she did not determine a name for the protagonist of "August", calling her "Augusta" or "Augustine" inside her head.[7] As the summer romance progresses, the narrative is portrayed as unassertive and inexperienced, recalling the times when she "canceled my plans just in case you'd call".[6] Though she knows James and her will never become a couple, she tells herself that it was enough "to live for the hope of it all".[6] She attempts to run away with James: "Remember when I pulled up and said 'Get in the car' / And then canceled my plans just in case you'd call?"[8] Finally, when the summer ends, so does the romance, and the narrator is left with a revelation: "You weren't mine to lose."[6] Swift explained that after this summer romance, James and Betty later return to each other, while the "August" protagonist is left with the song.[7]

Compared to the overall folk-inspired sound of Folklore, "August" displays more pop-oriented elements. Aaron Dessner, a producer on Folklore, characterized it as the album's "closest thing to a pop song. It gets loud. It has this shimmering summer haze to it."[11] Musically, "August" is a gloomy dream pop ballad incorporating 1990s-influenced guitars, vocal reverberation, and key changes.[12][13][14] In The A.V. Club, Annie Zaleski noted the song features "shivering" string instruments, keyboards, and minimal synthesizers, and "subtle splotchy grooves".[15] Writing for The Guardian, Laura Snapes wrote: "Her vocal trademarks remain in the yo-yoing vocal yelps."[16]

Reception[edit]

Critics praised the song's production and Swift's songwriting, and opined that the lyrics — a departure from Swift's trademark confessional narratives inspired by her personal life — showcased her maturity as a songwriter.[17][18] Valerie Magan from Clash remarked that the lyrics feel "vouyeristic, as we lean in to hear all the stories that 'innocent-era' Swift would've kept secret".[19] Jody Rosen, in a review for the Los Angeles Times, appreciated the shift from "pure first-person subjectivity" to fictional narratives.[20] Rolling Stone critic Rob Sheffield picked "August" as one of the album's highlights, calling the song "the album's most plainly beautiful ballad".[9] In a similar vein, Ellen Johnson from Paste labeled the track one of the best in Swift's discography.[21]

The A.V. Club's Annie Zaleski and Under the Radar's Caleb Campbell both selected the song as one of Folklore's best and compared the production to the music by Scottish dream pop band Cocteau Twins.[15] The latter commented that the track serves as a testament to Swift's abilities of "writing the undeniably catchy hooks that make for a great pop song".[22] While acknowledging Swift's indie reinvention on Folklore, Pitchfork's Jillian Mapes opined that "August", along with other songs produced by Antonoff, are not really radical transformations, however still display signs of maturity.[23] On behalf on Consequence of Sound, Katie Moulton was somewhat disappointed that the song's theme is not far from Swift's trademark "pop-culture tropes", but found certain lyrics original enough to "refresh the clichés".[24] The Observer's Kitty Empire provided a negative review, writing that the song does not succeed in experimenting beyond Swift's comfort zone.[25]

"August" featured on lists of the best songs of 2020 by publications including Rolling Stone (#5),[26] the Chicago Tribune (unranked),[27] and Yahoo! (unranked).[28] Complex's Edwin Ortiz ranked it second on his year-end list.[29] In Vulture's list ranking all songs in Swift's discography, Jones wrote about "August": "Even in fiction, Swift's ability to capture the wistful ache of nostalgia remains unmatched."[30] Sheffield picked it among the best five songs of Swift's discography: " 'August' feels like such a simple tune, yet it's one of the craftiest creations in the Swiftian Multiverse."[14]

Commercial performance[edit]

In the United States, upon the release of Folklore, "August" debuted at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated August 8, 2020.[31] It stayed on the chart for two weeks.[32] The song simultaneously debuted and peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs,[33] where it stayed for 20 weeks.[34] "August" peaked within the top 20 on singles charts of Malaysia (11),[35] Singapore (12),[36] Australia (13),[37] and Canada (16).[38]

Live performance[edit]

At the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards on March 14, 2021, Swift performed "August" as part of a medley with "Cardigan" and "Willow", the latter was taken from her album Evermore. The performance was accompanied by the Folklore producers Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, marking the first time the three performed together.[39] She began with "Cardigan", singing while laying atop a cottage, before performing "August" on a guitar inside the cottage, accompanied by instruments from Antonoff and Dessner.[39][40] The trio then stepped outside the cottage to perform the last song, "Willow".[41]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[42]

Charts[edit]

Weekly chart positions for "August"
Chart (2020) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[37] 13
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[38] 19
Malaysia (RIM)[35] 11
Portugal (AFP)[43] 94
Singapore (RIAS)[36] 12
Swedish Heatseekers (Sverigetopplistan)[44] 9
UK Streaming (OCC)[45] 29
US Billboard Hot 100[32] 23
US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)[34] 5
US Rolling Stone Top 100[46] 8

Year-end charts[edit]

Year-end chart performance for "August"
Chart (2020) Position
US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)[47] 24

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "August" was not released independently, but was released as part of the album Folklore on July 24, 2020.
  2. ^ The song was recorded at Kitty Committee and Rough Customer studios; mixed at Long Pond studio in Hudson Valley, New York; and mastered at Sterling Sound studio in New York City. Instruments were recorded at Rough Customer, Long Pond, Pleasure Hill Recording in Portland, Maine, and Sound House Recording in Lakeland, Florida.[1]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "folklore (deluxe version) by Taylor Swift". Apple Music. Archived from the original on March 27, 2021. Retrieved March 13, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b c d Suskind, Alex (December 18, 2020). "Taylor Swift broke all her rules with Folklore — and gave herself a much-needed escape". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on March 12, 2021. Retrieved February 21, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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