Cardigan (song)

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

A black-and-white-filtered picture of Swift looking towards the camera while hugging her knees
Single by Taylor Swift
from the album Folklore
WrittenApril 27, 2020 (2020-04-27)
ReleasedJuly 27, 2020 (2020-07-27)
  • Kitty Committee (Los Angeles)
  • Long Pond (Hudson Valley, New York)
Producer(s)Aaron Dessner
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"The Man"
Music video
"Cardigan" on YouTube

"Cardigan" (stylized in all lowercase) is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was the lead single of her eighth studio album, Folklore (2020), which was surprise-released on July 24, 2020, through Republic Records. Swift co-wrote the song with its producer Aaron Dessner. "Cardigan" is a slow-burning folk, soft rock and indie rock ballad with stripped-down instrumentals of tender piano, clopping drums and melancholic violins. Lyrically, it sees Swift singing about a comforting romance lost in memories, from the perspective of a woman named Betty, one of the several fictitious characters narrated in Folklore.

The song received critical acclaim, with praise towards the poetic songwriting and laid-back sound. It received nominations for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. Upon release, "Cardigan" debuted at number one on the global Spotify songs chart, receiving over 7.742 million streams, garnering the biggest opening-day for a song by a female artist in 2020. An accompanying music video for the song—written, directed, and styled by Swift—was released alongside album launch. The dreamy video presents a cottagecore aesthetic and features Swift in three different settings: a cozy cabin in the woods, a magical moss-covered forest and a dark stormy sea, representing different phases of a relationship and her career simultaneously. An acoustic version of the song, titled "Cabin in Candlelight", was released on July 30, 2020.

With the song's debut at the number-one spot of the Billboard Hot 100, Swift scored her sixth number-one single in the United States. Along with Folklore debuting at number-one on the Billboard 200 the same week, Swift became the first artist ever to debut atop the Hot 100 and Billboard 200 simultaneously. The song further topped the Billboard Hot Alternative Songs, Hot Rock & Alternative Songs, Streaming Songs and Digital Song Sales charts, making Swift the first act in history to garner twenty chart-toppers on the latter. "Cardigan" also debuted at number one in Australia, in the top five in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Panama and Singapore, the top 10 in Guatemala and the United Kingdom, and the top 20 in Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and Scotland.

Background and composition[edit]

"Cardigan" is a wistful, slow-burning, folk,[1] soft rock[2] and indie rock[3] ballad driven by a stripped-down arrangement of a tender piano and a clopping drum sample, over a moody atmosphere.[4][5] The song is written in the key of C minor and has a moderately fast tempo of 130 beats per minute.[6] Swift's vocal range in the song spans from E3 to A4.[7] The production also encompasses melancholic violins and a buoyant Mellotron riff.[8] The lyrics display confidence, but are also "slightly embittered".[9] Swift told her fans that "Cardigan" is about "a lost romance and why young love is often fixed so permanently within our memories".[10] It is one of the three of the tracks on the album that depict the same love triangle from three different perspectives at different times in their lives (the other two being "August" and "Betty").[11]

In the song, Swift sings from the perspective of a fictional character named Betty, who recalls the separation and enduring optimism of a relationship with someone named James. Swift also mentions Peter Pan and the High Line in the song, and uses a cardigan as a metaphor for a "lingering physical memento" of the relationship.[12][8] While promoting the limited edition version of the single, Swift told fans on her Instagram Story that she sent the original songwriting voice memo to Aaron Dessner on April 27, 2020 after hearing the instrumental tracks he created.[13] Dessner said "Cardigan" was the first song written in their collaboration,[14] and was the first song written from the album altogether. According to Dessner, Swift wrote the lyrics to his music in around five hours.[15]

Critical reception[edit]

The song received widespread critical acclaim upon release. Callie Ahlgrim of Insider dubbed the lyrics of "Cardigan" as an "effective way" to "evoke young love and innocence lost", describing them as simple, sharp and extremely poignant.[16] Pitchfork's Jillian Mapes wrote that the song's "overlapping details and central framing device—of a cardigan forgotten and found without a second thought—are pure Swift".[17] Courteney Larocca of Insider opined that the song has cues of Lana Del Rey.[16] Laura Snapes of The Guardian described the song as "cavernous and shimmering as a rock pool in a cave".[18] Jill Gutowitz of Vulture characterized "Cardigan" as "adorable, and yet, again, hurtful".[19]

NME writer Hannah Mylrea defined the song as a "swirling amalgam" of gleaming production, swooning strings, flickering piano, and lyrics that exude pain from young love, and praised Swift's ability to "stunningly" convey complex mixed emotions of hurt, jealousy and heartbreak in a "gorgeous" folk tune. Mylrea placed "Cardigan" at number four on her NME list ranking all 161 Swift songs so far.[20] Caragh Medlicott of Wales Arts Review deemed the song as "a resurgence of self-worth discovered, somewhat ironically, through the love of another".[21] Uproxx's Philip Cosores stated that "Cardigan" is "rooted in the vivid details and melodic warmth that characterizes much of [Swift's] music".[22] Entertainment Weekly's Maura Johnston termed the song's lyrics as "confident" but "slightly embittered".[9] Roisin O'Connor of The Independent compared the song to "Call It What You Want" from Swift's sixth studio album, Reputation (2017),[23] while Spin's Bobby Olivier compared it to "Wildest Dreams" from her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014).[4]

Year-end lists[edit]

Cardigan on year-end lists
Critic/Publication List Rank Ref.
Billboard The 100 Best Songs of 2020 11 [24]
Cleveland Best Songs of 2020 6 [25]
Complex Waiss Aramesh's Best Songs of 2020 3 [26]

Commercial performance[edit]

Upon the release of Folklore, "Cardigan" reached top-tier positions worldwide. On the global Spotify Top 200 songs chart, "Cardigan" debuted at number one with over 7.742 million streams, garnering the biggest opening day for a song by a solo artist or a female artist in 2020.[27] It remained atop of the chart for four consecutive days, as of July 27, 2020.[28] Following the inauguration of Billboard Global 200 chart seven weeks after the release of Folklore, "Cardigan" appeared at number 77 on the chart, dated September 15, 2020.[29]

On the Billboard Hot 100, "Cardigan" debuted at number-one, dethroning "Rockstar" by DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch from the top spot, earning Swift her sixth number-one single in the US and second number-one debut following "Shake It Off" (2014). This made Swift the first artist ever to debut at number-one on both the Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts in the same week. The single was joined in the top-ten by "The 1" and "Exile", and increased Swift's number of top-ten hits to 28. Moreover, it extended her record as the woman with the most top-ten debuts to eighteen. In its opening week, "Cardigan" earned 34 million US streams, 12.7 million radio impressions and sold 71,000 digital downloads, debuting atop the Streaming Songs and Digital Song Sales charts dated July 30, 2020, further extending Swift's all-time record as the artist with the most number-one hits on the Digital Song Sales chart to twenty.[30][31] The song also topped the Alternative Streaming Songs, Alternative Digital Song Sales, Hot Alternative Songs and Hot Rock & Alternative Songs charts.[31]

In Australia, "Cardigan" debuted at number one on ARIA Singles chart, becoming Swift's sixth chart-topping single in the country, and her first since "Look What You Made Me Do" (2017). It was one of five songs that debuted in the top ten in the country, making Folklore the album with the most top-10 songs of 2020 in the country.[32] It also debuted at number two on New Zealand's Top 40 Singles, along with "Exile" and "The 1" in the top ten, increasing Swift's sum of top-ten hits in the country to 19.[33]

On the Canadian Hot 100, "Cardigan" opened at number three, while in Ireland, the song debuted at number four on the Irish Singles Chart, accompanied by Folklore tracks "Exile" and "The 1" in the top ten, bringing Swift's total Irish top-ten hits to 15.[34] In the United Kingdom, the song entered at number six on the Official Singles Chart, opening with over 35,000 units.[35] "Exile" and "The 1" also debuted in the top ten, taking Swift's total UK top-ten hits to sixteen[36] and making her the first woman in UK history to debut three top-ten songs simultaneously.[37]

Music video[edit]


A scene in the music video, where Swift plays a moss-covered piano, from which a waterfall emerges.

An official music video for "Cardigan"—written, directed, and styled by Swift—was released alongside the album and the song.[38] The "homespun" and "dreamlike" video starts out with Swift sitting in a candlelit cottage in the woods, wearing a nightgown and playing a vintage upright piano. This scene also features a photograph of Swift's grandfather, Dean, who fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, and a painting that she painted during the first week of isolation.[39] When the soundboard starts glowing, she climbs into it and is magically transported to a moss-covered forest, where she plays the song on a grand piano producing a waterfall.[40][41]

The piano bench starts to glow and she climbs into it. She gets transported to a dark stormy sea, where she holds on to a floating piano.[42][41] The piano soundboard glows and she climbs in, and she returns to the cottage, where she dons a cardigan. According to a video posted to her Vevo account, the forest scene "represents the evergreen beginning of a relationship where everything seems magical and full of beauty", while the ocean scene "represents the isolation and fear involved while a relationship is breaking down." The video also states the ending scene "signifies returning to a sense of self after experiencing love loss", discovering one's true self; Swift's soaking-wet nightgown signifies how the relationship changes the individual.[39] The music video is characterized by a prairie, cottagecore aesthetic.[40]


She had the whole storyline—the whole notion of going into the piano and coming out into the forest, the water, going back into the piano.

The music video was inspired by the period and fantasy films that Swift watched in isolation during the COVID-19 lockdown.[39] She contacted cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto in early July to work on the video; Prieto had previously worked on the music video for "The Man", Swift's official solo directorial debut.[41] As the director, Swift worked with assistant director Joe Osborne and set designer Ethan Tobman.[41] Swift developed the concept for the video, which Prieto described as "more ambiguous", "more personal", and "more of a fantasy" than "The Man".[41] Ahead of filming, Swift drafted a shot list of the video, detailing the video's scenes with specific time sequences in the song, and sent visual references to Prieto and Tobman to communicate her vision of the video.[41]

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges to filming, and extensive safety standards were enacted. All crew members underwent COVID-19 testing, wore masks at all times, and practiced social distancing as much as possible.[41] An onsite medical inspector supervised COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.[43] As Swift had to remain unmasked for large amounts of time while filming, crew members wore color-coded wristbands to denote those allowed to come within close contact with her. Additionally, the entire video was filmed from a camera mounted to a robotic arm controlled by a remote operator, a technique usually reserved for crane shots and establishing shots.[41]

Aside from directing and acting, Swift also did her own makeup, hair, and styling for the video.[43] To keep the song from being leaked, Swift wore an earpiece and lip-synced to the song. The video was filmed indoors over a day and-a-half.[41] Swift and the video's editor, Chancler Haynes, "worked simultaneously from two separate locations on set in order to edit the video on time".[39]


Accompanying the release of Folklore and "Cardigan", Swift sold "folklore cardigans", the replicas of the cardigan she wears in the song's music video—a cream-colored cable knit, with silver embroidered stars on the sleeves' chunky elbows, and navy blue piping and buttons—on her website.[44] Swift also mailed the cardigans to celebrity friends and well-wishers.[45] W Magazine thought that the cardigan was the pièce de résistance of the album's cottagecore-centred merchandise.[46] Teen Vogue briefed that the cardigan aids in making "the perfect framework for understanding the role clothing plays in our lives", which initiates a different way in thinking fashion, and a perspective that traces back to fashion's "sentimental value".[47] Refinery29 deemed that Swift returns to her "truest self", both musically and stylistically", bolstered by the merch cardigan and prairies dresses,[44] and found the singer's looks in the music video similar to that of a "classic English Rose".[48] Irish Independent described the cardigan as a bulky, "Clancy Brothers-style" Aran sweater, and added that Swift "at this rate, [will] be playing a bodhrán and belting out 'The Auld Triangle' on Hill 16".[49] RTÉ thanked Swift for putting cardigans "back on the map once more", following James Thomas Brudenell, Coco Chanel, Kurt Cobain and Elizabeth II.[50] The cottagecore aesthetic was met with resurgence on internet following the release of the video and the album.[51]

Awards and nominations[edit]

At the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, "Cardigan" garnered two nominations: Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance; it marks Swift's fifth song to be nominated for Song of the Year, and the fourth in Best Pop Solo Performance.[52]

Awards and nominations for "Cardigan"
Ceremony Year Award Result Ref.
MTV Video Music Awards 2020 Song of Summer Nominated [53]
UK Music Video Awards 2020 Best Visual Effects in a Video Nominated [54]
American Music Awards 2020 Favorite Music Video Won [55]
Gold Derby Music Awards 2021 Best Music Video Nominated [56][57]
Song of the Year Won
Record of the Year Won
Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards 2021 Favorite Song Nominated [58]
Grammy Awards 2021 Song of the Year Nominated [52]
Best Pop Solo Performance Nominated
MVPA Awards 2020 Best Visual Effects in a Video Nominated [59]
ADG Excellence in Production Design Award 2021 Short Format: Web Series, Music Video or Commercial Pending [60]
iHeartRadio Music Awards 2021 Best Lyrics Pending [61]

Cover versions[edit]

English singer Yungblud covered "Cardigan" as part of his segment for BBC Radio 1's annual Live Lounge month. He mashed-up the song with Avril Lavigne's "I'm with You" (2002), accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar, joined by a cellist and two violinists, resulting in a cheerful, strings-laden performance. Swift responded to the medley affirmatively.[62][63]

Track listing[edit]

  • Digital download and streaming[64]
  1. "Cardigan" – 3:52
  • CD, 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl and picture disc[65]
  1. "Cardigan" – 3:52
  2. "Songwriting Voice Memo" – "4:33"
  • CD, digital download, streaming, 7" vinyl and 12" vinyl (cabin in candlelight version)[65]
  1. "Cardigan" (cabin in candlelight version) – 3:48
  2. "Cardigan" – 3:52

Credits and personnel[edit]

Song credits[edit]

Credits adapted from liner notes.[66]

  • Taylor Swift – vocals, songwriting
  • Aaron Dessner – producer, songwriter, engineer, recording engineer, drum programming, bass, electric guitars, Mellotron, piano, percussion, synthesizers
  • Jonathan Low – recording engineer, mixing
  • Laura Sisk – vocal engineer
  • Bella Blasko – engineer
  • Randy Merrill – mastering
  • Bryce Dessner – orchestration
  • Benjamin Lanz – modular synthesizer
  • Dave Nelson – trombone
  • James McAlister – drum programming
  • Yuki Numata Resnick – violin, viola
  • Kyle Resnick – engineer
  • Clarice Jensen – cello

Music video credits[edit]

Credits adapted from YouTube.[67]

  • Taylor Swift – director
  • Jil Hardin – producer
  • Rebecca Skinner – executive producer
  • Rodrigo Prieto – director of photography
  • Chancler Haynes – editor
  • Ethan Tobman – production designer
  • Joe Osborne – 1st associate director
  • Grant Miller – visual effects
  • David Lebensfeld – visual effects
  • Josh Davis – gaffer
  • Ryan Mcquire – key grip
  • Vincent Lucido – storyboards


Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[111] Platinum 80,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[112] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Cardigan"
Region Date Format Version Label Ref.
Various July 27, 2020 Original Republic [65]
Italy Contemporary hit radio Universal [113]
United States Hot adult contemporary Republic [114]
July 28, 2020 Contemporary hit radio [115]
Various July 30, 2020
  • Digital download
  • streaming
  • CD
  • 7-inch vinyl
  • 12-inch vinyl
Cabin in Candlelight [116][117]
United Kingdom July 31, 2020 Contemporary hit radio Original EMI [118]
August 15, 2020 Adult contemporary radio [119]

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