Folklore by Taylor Swift



Taylor Swift – Folklore

On July 24, 2020, Taylor Swift released her eighth studio album, titled “folklore.” Made during quarantine, Swift describes it as “a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness.” Influenced by the loneliness of quarantine, “folklore” is an album very different from those before it; the songs are melancholic, and explore themes of sorrow, nostalgia, and loneliness, just to name a few. Each song is powered by heartfelt lyrics, backed up by some of the most capturing and emotional production I’ve heard on an album to date.

Track one, ironically titled “the 1,” is one of the more musically upbeat songs on the album. The lyrics, however, are about the nostalgic remembrance of those Swift has loved and lost. She grieves about all that could have been – and what her life would have been like if she ended up with her past loves. This song is perfect for anybody who likes reflecting on their past a little too much – like myself – and provides comfort as well, with the message that even if you reminisce on old memories, moving on is still possible. “If you never bleed, you’re never gonna grow / and it’s alright now.”

Track two, titled “Cardigan,” is one of the songs included in Swift’s teenage love storyline. “Cardigan” follows the character Betty. Betty has seemingly found the love of her life: James, a man that left a big mark on her – a mark that would eventually go far too deep. After the ultimate betrayal, she has to deal with the fact that the one she loved the most is the one who caused her the most pain: “You drew stars around my scars / But now I’m bleedin.’”

Track three, “The Last Great American Dynasty,” touches on an event in Swift’s personal life. In 2013, Swift bought a Rhode Island Mansion called “Holiday House” that once belonged to Rebekah Harkness. The song touches on all the memories and events that took place in the house before her time – before she came and “had a marvelous time ruining everything.” Swift showcases her great story-telling abilities in this song especially; she’s able to write stories and turn them into incredibly catchy songs, and that’s another thing that makes this album so incredible.

Track four, “Exile,” is one of my personal favorites on the album. Featuring Bon Iver, the song tells a story of two ex-lovers seeing each other post break-up, and all the raw emotions that come with it. Their combined vocals in multiple parts of the song almost makes it feel as if you are right in the middle of their painful separation. The lyrics, melodies, and vocals all do an amazing job at conveying the pure pain each person is feeling: “There is no amount / Of crying I can do for you / All this time / We always walked a very thin line.”

Swift describes track five, “my tears ricochet,” as being about “an embittered tormentor showing up at the funeral of his fallen object of affection.” Fan speculation has led to the conclusion that the song may be about Swift’s departure from Big Machine Records and drama with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, although it is yet to be confirmed. Instrumentally, this song is my favorite; her consistent background vocals paired with the enchanting intro makes it feel like a song straight out of a fantasy movie, and evokes an emotion I can’t quite explain.

“Mirrorball,” the album’s sixth track, shows a much more vulnerable (as if the whole album isn’t vulnerable in itself) and relatable side of the singer. Swift discusses changing herself for the sake of others – ‘reflecting’ their personalities back at them like a mirrorball. “Shining just for you / I want you to know, I’m a mirrorball / I can change everything about me to fit in.”

Track seven, titled “Seven,” is tied for my favorite song on the album. It touches on topics of childhood nostalgia, innocence, and the beauty of it all. I feel that the song does an amazing job at capturing just what reflecting on your childhood innocence is like: “And I’ve been meaning to tell you / I think your house is haunted / Your dad is always mad, and that must be why.” It has some of my favorite lyrics out of Swift’s entire discography, and, in my biased opinion, some of the most beautiful lyrics.

Track eight, “August,” is the second song in Swifts’ storyline. This song follows the perspective of Augustine, the mistress of Betty’s lover. Augustine has also found a safe place in Betty’s lover, but, eventually, he leaves her hurt too: “So much for summer love, and saying ‘us’ / ‘Cause you weren’t mine to lose.” James eventually abandons Augustine as first did to Betty, leaving her nothing but memories.

Track nine, “this is me trying,” is definitely one of the sadder songs on the album. It discusses a person going through a very rough healing process: healing from hurting those she loves. She’s feeling tired and hopeless – but she is taking the steps to admit her faults and right her wrongs. “My words shoot to kill when I’m mad / I have a lot of regrets about that.”

Track ten, “Illicit Affairs,” discusses a very harsh topic: infidelity. While not directly correlated with the James – Betty – Augustine storyline, it has a lot of parallels. In this song, Swift recognizes the high that both people receive during such a scandal, a high that will eventually crash into the lowest of lows and inevitably result in heartbreak and destruction. This track is responsible for one of my favorite bridges of all time, a bridge that is emotionally unmatched in any other song I’ve ever listened to: “And you wanna scream, don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby / Look at this godforsaken mess that you’ve made me / You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else.”

In track eleven, “Invisible String,” Swift provides us with a little break from all the heartbreak and pain. Instead, she provides us with a very cute song expressing gratitude for the one she loves. She reflects on all the failed romances she’s had, grateful for going through them as they’ve paved the way for her current one. “All along there was some invisible string / Tying you to me / A string that pulled me / Out of all the wrong arms right into that dive bar.” This song is definitely a breath of fresh air from all the sorrowful songs, but still fits with the vibe of the album, which I think is impressive.

Track twelve, “Mad Woman,” touches on the overall disapproval society has at women’s anger. Swift connects this idea to her own experiences in her life, and makes another powerful activism song much like “The Man” off of her 2019 album “Lover.”

“Epiphany,” the album’s thirteenth track, is one of those songs that is really relevant to the time it came out. It tells the tale of a very confusing, devastating world caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I honestly have nothing more to say other than this: it is a devastating song that really captured what quarantine felt like to an unsuspecting person: “Hold your hand through plastic now / Doc, I think she’s crashin’ out / And some things you just can’t speak about.”

Track fourteen, “Betty,” is the last song in the James -Betty – Augustine storyline, this time from James’ perspective. Swift does a great job at capturing the mindset of a very young and ignorant 17 year old; James, who just cheated on his partner, begs for forgiveness using his age as an excuse. “I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything / But I know I miss you.” This song brings back the country feel of her early albums, with the harmonica intro and the slight southerness to her voice – something this album definitely needed.

The last two tracks, “Peace” and “Hoax,” are both about love: two different sides of it. “Peace” is about Swift’s worry that her lack of privacy will drive her partner away. She’s found love and doesn’t want to lose it. “Hoax,” on the other hand, is about being in a toxic relationship. Despite being torn apart, she can’t bring herself to leave. Both songs have very similar, simple productions, with complex lyrics.

“Folklore” is arguably one of Swift’s best albums. From the poetic storytelling to haunting and emotional production on each and every song, she provides her audience with a much more vulnerable side of her. Along with creating something entirely different from her prior albums, she gives her audience more relatability than ever; and for that, this album will always hold a special place in my heart.