2020 has been a year filled with many surprises, mysteries and unknowns – especially within the music industry. With the absence of concerts and festivals, many creatives have been stuck in the rut of deciding their next move.
However, for Taylor Swift, this seemed to be the perfect time for a moment of reflection – and inspiration – to craft her surprise eighth album, folklore.
The already smash hit record, which managed to already sell 1.3 million copies within its first 24 hours, features Swift at her most vulnerable and mature. Being a sharp detour from her bubbly and dreamy Lover, folklore is a storytime collection of alternative/folk songs co-written and produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, long-time collaborator Jack Antonoff, Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) and a mysterious William Bowery.
For an album’s sonic range being as experimental – for Taylor Swift’s sound – folklore truly succeeds in transporting the listener to the music’s frame of mind. These heavier emotional moments, – the Bon Iver duet “exile,” lead single “cardigan” and childhood love “seven” – prove just how talented a songwriter Swift is. No matter the situation – whether belonging to her or a character in her storybook – these tales and situations feel all too relatable to listeners of all ages.
Except the delicious F-bombs she has finally intricately laced into key tracks, including the vengeful “mad woman.”
“august” – one of the album highlights – shares of a summer fling worth reminiscing. Allegedly one of the numbers describing the “teenage love triangle,” Swift divulges the hopes and dreams of love found and lost, being reduced to hookups behind the mall. This song is similar in vein to the acoustic wonderland of “illicit affairs,” detailing the downfall of a fling after several “clandestine meetings.”
Two songs that feel reminiscent of Taylor’s previous works include “the last great american dynasty” and “betty.” In the first of the two, Swift describes the story of Rebekah Harkness, the previous owner of her “Holiday House” in Rhode Island. Reminiscent of Red’s “All Too Well,” the track shares the chaotic and impressionable mark Harkness left in her time in the residence. “betty” echoes the charm and artistic style of Speak Now and Fearless, sharing the desperate plea of a lover begging for another’s devotion.
However, in an album filled with barbed wires and broken hearts, Taylor Swift manages to find a harmonious balance in minimal tracks – see “epiphany,” “invisible string” and “peace.” These calm moments manage to pack some of the album’s biggest emotional punches. “epiphany” shares the perspective of her grandfather, Dean’s experience on Guadalcanal in 1942, and touches on experiences of pain – perhaps even hinting towards the current global COVID-19 pandemic. The track’s elaboration of finding peace in your dreams in a world on fire truly shows why Swift is a true tour de force in songwriting.
In Taylor Swift’s surprise release, she weaves tales of love, pain and reflection in its most vulnerable form. After her previous two albums, the question lingered on where Swift’s music could travel after becoming major forces in the pop industry. She has covered the highs and lows of her life, romances and everything in between. But, with folklore, it shows us – yet again – she has plenty of stories left to tell.
You can stream folklore here.
Standout tracks: august, the 1, epiphany and invisible string