In a stroke of marketing genius,Taylor Swift dropped a surprise album with 17 hours notice on Friday. Swift’s 8th studio album titled Folklore proves that even as the world is in the midst of a pandemic, the music doesn’t have to stop. Fans went wild upon hearing the news of the lengthy 16-track explicit album with a bonus track to drive physical sales on all CD’s, vinyl, and cassettes purchased. Swift showcases her songwriting and storytelling abilities, drifting away from the radio pop that was 2019’s Lover with Folklore being her first album labeled alternative, consisting mainly of piano, acoustic guitar, and strings. Swift collaborated largely with Aaron Dessner from The National and Jack Antonoff to produce this rich sounding and rough-around-the-edges record that came from a place of isolation.
As someone who grew up listening to Taylor Swift since her beginning, her last few albums left me wanting more of her classic storytelling abilities. Evidently quarantine brought that back, but this time in her 30s with more relaxed, honest, and mature writing. I knew I was in for something new upon hearing the first line of the first song “the 1” : “I’m doing good/I’m on some new shit”. In Swift’s statement about the album she said, “I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I’ve never met, people I’ve known, or those I wish I hadn’t… In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result, a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness.” Folklore shows the world through many different sets of eyes, giving the lure of mystery into each song.
Swift also released a music video for the song “cardigan” that she directed; the song is a part of a trio on the album alongside “betty” and “august” that tells the story of a teenage love triangle gone wrong. “the last great american dynasty” gives an entire history lesson of the late composer Rebekah Harkness, who previously owned Swift’s Rhode Island home. Bon Iver is featured on “exile” in a duet about two exes seeing each other unexpectedly for the first time in a long time : “I can see you staring honey/Like he’s just your understudy/Like you’d get your knuckles bloody for me”.
Swift shows self-growth in this album as well with the track “invisible string” with lines like “Cold was the steel of my axe to grind / for the boys who broke my heart / now I send their babies presents”. Swift tells the narrative of her grandfather’s time in World War II with “epiphany”, describing the hard experiences of soldiers. One of my favorite tracks “seven” tells the story of a childhood friend who had a tough upbringing, “And I’ve been meaning to tell you / I think your house is haunted / your dad is always mad and that must be why”.
This is the type of album that makes you feel like you’re dreaming in the middle of the woods and her rich character development for each song left hundreds of tiny details laying between every line of each song. Swift’s meaningful lyrics and new sound have opened up a new door for her as an artist and creative genius, and these stories are sure to be passed down. The haunting Folklore is her best to this date and has opened up a whole new side of growth in Swift.
Jess Adelina L’Hommedieu
The University of Georgia | Class of 2022
Entertainment and Media Studies (A.B.J.)
Music Business Certificate | New Media Certificate