Whether we like it or not, fall has once again befallen our general collective consciousness. Since none of our schedules are based on the Farmer’s Almanac anymore, we rely on a series of deeply cultural benchmarks that inform us of a season’s wax and wane. But like many other things we used to hold as certainties, the coronavirus outbreak has completely changed our understanding of the passage of time.
Even without COVID-19, the beginning of fall has always been one of the most drastic and psychological shifts of all the seasons. During any normal summertime, your body is tan, shiny and full from the bacchanal-filled vacation months that you enjoyed, which brings up feelings of dread the first time you notice the sky beginning to darken. But in the era of the coronavirus, it’s clear that responsible people stayed alone and home, the absolute opposite of a Hot Girl Summer. So instead of simply adding months to an already never-ending year, it seems only fitting that as we welcome the next season, we also welcome a new change of attitude.
Welcome to Sad Girl Fall. I’m thinking gloomy, rainy, pour whiskey into a steaming cup of tea, “when will my husband return from war” look out your window, buy a record player just to break it and use your bluetooth speaker instead kind of vibe. The sit and contemplate “normal life” but like you’re the main character of a coming-of-age indie movie kind of vibe. Sad Girl Fall is less about a physical time of the year and more about an utter commitment to drama above all else. It means the dichotomy of wearing a robe that looks like you murdered your second husband for clout and baking a warm loaf of rosemary bread all on the same day.
But just like Hot Girl Summer’s name belied its ever-inclusive terms and conditions, Sad Girl Fall isn’t the snoozefest people consider it. Instead, its long-term existence is only tolerated through one thing — an absolutely banger playlist. So take all of the despair you feel over not being able to dance to WAP in a dark, sticky and frankly disgusting room and listen to these songs instead.
1) “the 1,” Taylor Swift
What better way to start off Sad Girl Fall right than with the first song on folklore, Taylor Swift’s certified Sad Girl Fall album? Besides its eye-catching prose (“and if my wishes came true/it would’ve been you”) these lyrics go far and beyond passing the vibe check. Rather, with eye-catching visuals for every single song and plenty of established indie collaborators, Swift doesn’t just set Sad Girl Fall as the backdrop for the entire album — she calls Sad Girl Fall back into existence.
2) “cardigan,” Taylor Swift
Tell me Sad Girl Fall doesn’t scream artfully draped cardigan? As much as the time is about drama, Sad Girl Fall cannot be accomplished without the proper aesthetics. In folklore, the aesthetics of heartbreak are once again personified in a specific attire. In past albums, the articles of Swift’s emotions have all been different kinds of dresses — dresses on bedroom floors, white dresses picked out and brand new dresses that cause you to spin. So it’s an entirely new field for Swift to so decisively declare a sweater of all things the essential wardrobe of her new aesthetic.
3) “the last great american dynasty,” Taylor Swift
There is no song that encapsulates the real-life drama of Sad Girl Fall quite like “the last great american dynasty.” Based on the very real life of the eccentric heiress who used to live in Taylor Swift’s Rhode Island mansion, the song manages to capture the magic of trips to the coast, rainy afternoons and the type of life that can only be displayed on sea-soaked cliffs. Rebekah Harnkess, the Rhode Island heiress whose infamous stories inspired the song, was nothing short of the patron saint of Sad Girl Fall.
4) “exile (feat. Bon Iver),” Taylor Swift
If a song featuring Bon Iver doesn’t immediately make you want to move to a cottage in the woods and mourn the lost love of your life, you’re clearly reading the wrong article. “exile” manages to combine both the feel and sound of Sad Girl Fall by using the original Sad Boi to create one soaring ballad that you can play again and again. Special points if the song comes out of a crackling set of speakers and is paired with fairy lights that somehow don’t look childish.
5) “my tears ricochet,” Taylor Swift
What??? You’re starting to see a pattern in my song choices? I would absolutely never write an article about the best songs to listen to during Sad Girl Fall and then just list the entire tracklist for folklore. How rude would that be?
6) “mirrorball,” Taylor Swift
If you’ve never imagined dancing with the love of your life under a spinning disco ball, who are you? There’s something about spinning in a dress, shining under artificial light and tightly grasping to a relationship you’ll never have again that celebrates the season in such an apt way. For every senior who never got their prom this year, put on your dress again, turn off the lights and spin in your living room. It might feel just as good.
7) “seven,” Taylor Swift
Not only is seven the perfect number, but it’s also about to be the amount of months we’ve spent social distancing. So pull up your mask, make sure it’s decorative and get to singing.
8) “august,” Taylor Swift
Do you see what I mean? What else could be more showing of Sad Girl Fall than the month of August? Even in quarantine, the general melancholy combined with wonder marks not only the changing of the season, but the instatement of the new vibe.
9) “this is me trying,” Taylor Swift
This is me trying to convince you that Sad Girl Fall needs to be cherished for the perfect aura it brings to us. Let’s think about how often we can all agree on a general collective aesthetic? Winter, spring and summer all have vibes surrounding love, rebirth or happiness, most of which are antithetical to the weather we associate with those seasons. But Sad Girl Fall isn’t just aesthetically the best, it’s also the best weather. When else could people feel cool and chilly enough to wear both velvet shorts and a full fur robe?
10) “illicit affairs,” Taylor Swift
Think infidelity, but make it sexy. Sad Girl Fall can still be a continual Hot Girl Summer, just a lot less hot and way more metaphorical.
11) “invisible string,” Taylor Swift
This song is the quintessential way to bring the ghosts of your past, empty present and future lovers along with you into Sad Girl Fall. Whether they come along willingly, or you physically drag them with you into your new vibe, your lovers make the perfect theme to dwell on for Sad Girl Fall. And for entanglements? Well, that’s what the invisible string is for.
12) “mad woman,” Taylor Swift
Yes, this is still another folklore song. But what do you expect? That lowercase just looks so good. I can imagine it everywhere, as the font I use to write my lover a Shakespearean goodbye; the writing on my chateau sign that is both a Victorian gothic attic and a Park Slope brownstone overgrown with ivy.
13) “epiphany,” Taylor Swift
Are you having an epiphany about what the rest of this article is going to be?
14) “betty,” Taylor Swift
Hello Sad Girl stans, let me introduce you to one of Swift’s most empathetic and poignant love stories. While “betty” is written from the viewpoint of a teenage lover apologizing for his mistakes, the spirit of Sad Girl Fall has led to another prominent stan theory — one where Swift is a sapphic lover apologizing for staying in the closet. While Swift has since confirmed that “betty,” “cardigan” and “august” are all a part of the Taylor Swift cinematic universe, and all feature stories about the other, “betty” can easily stand alone as an imagined love story about young queer pining.
15) “peace,” Taylor Swift
If you’re like most people who adore the summer season, spending what should be a time of happiness, frivolity and sun inside like a kid allergic to UV rays has really taken a toll on your mental health. But as we move into the latter part of the year with no end to the virus in sight, it’s clear it’s going to take more than the hope of a mask-free Fourth of July to get us through the next round of quarantines. Peace is exactly what Sad Girl Fall holds in spades. You can’t be dramatic and fully present, so instead, take an attitude of peace. Light a candle, pick an outfit and dream about a time when your teacher friends don’t have to make wills. Trust me, you’ll feel better.
16) “Life in the City,” The Lumineers
17) “hoax,” Taylor Swift
Well, I did promise you this wasn’t just an article about folklore. If you’ve already played the album too many times in a row, then a quick Lumineers breather might have been just what you needed. But to finish welcoming the season correctly, we’ve gotta bring it back to the final song of folklore.
What? You feel betrayed? This list feels like the entire tracklist for folklore with one Lumineers song thrown in for variety? Gasp. I would never. And even if I did, that’s part of what Sad Girl Fall is all about. The season is absolutely chock-full of benefits. Regardless of your age, background, socioeconomic status or general hate for all things boring, the season is always gender neutral. For the girls and the gays, you’re probably already celebrating. And the best part is that Sad Girl Fall doesn’t even have to be sad: There may be some tears, but at the end of the day, Sad Girl Fall is always about reflection. And what better time, when we’re stuck at home, than to sit back and reflect on how romantic the world could be, and what we could do to make it so.
Anyway, stream folklore, and welcome back, Sad Girl Fall.
Oh how we missed you.