- Taylor Swift released her eighth studio album, “Folklore,” on Friday.
- We listened straight through the 16-song tracklist and wrote down our first impressions of each one.
- We were forced to reckon with the fact that “Folklore” might be Swift’s best album yet – potentially better than “Red,” which previously seemed like it couldn’t be topped.
- This is a mature, poetic, truly remarkable body of work. The tracklist flows seamlessly, and Swift weaves details and stories throughout the album that make it feel alive.
- Out of 16 songs on the album’s standard edition, just one was labelled “background music” (“Epiphany”), and not one was ruled a “skip.”
- The best tracks on the album are “The 1,” “Mirrorball,” “Seven,” “August,” “Illicit Affairs,” “Mad Woman,” and “Betty.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Taylor Swift released her eighth studio album, “Folklore,” on Friday.
Swift surprised fans by announcing its release just one day in advance – and less than one year after the release of her acclaimed seventh album “Lover.”
“Most of the things I had planned this summer didn’t end up happening, but there is something I had planned that DID happen,” she wrote on social media. “And that thing is my 8th studio album, folklore. Surprise!”
She described “Folklore,” stylised in all lowercase, as “an entire brand new album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into.”
Much of the 16-song tracklist – 17 on the deluxe edition – was cowritten and produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner. Smaller pieces were cowritten by Bon Iver, Jack Antonoff, and someone named William Bowery. Antonoff also produced five songs.
Almost immediately, we were forced to reckon with the fact that “Folklore” might be Swift’s best album yet – potentially even better than “Red,” which previously seemed like it couldn’t be topped. We were stunned with the mature, poetic, stunningly understated collection of new songs.
Here is what we thought of each song on “Folklore” upon first listen. (Skip to the end to see the only songs worth listening to and the album’s final score.)
“The 1” is the best album opener Swift has had in years.
Ahlgrim: “I’m doing good, I’m on some new s—” is a wild way to begin a new Taylor Swift album. This is going to be different.
This is easily the best intro song she’s released in years. “The 1” far surpasses “I Forgot That You Existed” on “Lover,” “…Ready for It?” on “Reputation,” and “Welcome to New York” on “1989” in terms of sheer quality.
It’s also an engaging scene-setter; I find myself gently rocking back and forth, eyes closed, smiling without realising. It’s only the first song and so far, I am totally grasping the woodsy aesthetic of this album. I’m already ready for more.
Larocca: I would argue that there hasn’t been a strong album opener on one of Swift’s albums since “State of Grace” on “Red” in 2012. “The 1” breaks that curse.
I was vibing from that very first piano note, but when Swift comes in and warmly delivers the first line of the album – “I’m doing good, I’m on some new s—” – it became evident this project wouldn’t be anything like the rest of her discography.
As far as “The 1” goes as a standalone song, it’s incredibly solid. Swift has a breezy attention to rhythm as she paints a tale of a the-one-who-got-away romance. I truly, truly love it. This might end up being an all-time favourite track.
“Cardigan” is beautifully influenced by Lana Del Rey.
Ahlgrim: I heard “Cardigan” first because I watched the music video before I listened to the album.
Right off the bat, I was struck by the Lana Del Rey melody in the chorus; I jotted down “folksy ‘Blue Jeans.'”
Swift has actually cited Del Rey as an inspiration in the past, so this makes sense – and that particular shade of nostalgic, haunting glamour really works for Swift’s voice, so I’m overall very impressed with this direction. I am more than amenable to a “Red” meets “Norman F—ing Rockwell!” album experience.
On my second time around listening, sans music video, “Cardigan” already feels richer coming after “The 1.”
This time, I’m struck by small lyrical details like “Sequined smile, black lipstick,” a clear callback to her past eras, and “Tried to change the ending / Peter losing Wendy,” an effective way to evoke young love and innocence lost.
I also think the song’s central refrain, “When you are young they assume you know nothing,” is simple and sharp and – especially given Swift’s public struggles with sexism and years-old contracts – extremely poignant.
Larocca: I had the thought that Swift listens to Lana Del Rey after hearing “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” on last year’s “Lover,” but now I know for sure that Del Rey is an influence on Swift.
While “Cardigan” isn’t what I thought this album would be like sonically, I’m overjoyed at how clearly singer-songwriter this album already is. I’ve been waiting years for Swift to make a lyrical marvel set to acoustic, warm, folksy instrumentals and it’s here.
(And while I expected something different sonically, I am not mad at all by the backing instrumental choices here.)
“The Last Great American Dynasty” proves Swift is a natural storyteller.
Ahlgrim: Personally, I love Storyteller Taylor, so this is quite literally music to my ears.
There are so many delicious details here to unpack. The first verse, with its subtle sexist whisperings about Rebekah Harkness (“How did a middle-class divorcée do it?” and “It must have been her fault his heart gave out”), is a truly savvy way to set up for the song’s eventual reveal.
Rebekah spent her time partying with friends, funding the ballet, playing card games with Salvador Dalí, somehow “ruining everything” – and her Holiday House was “free of women with madness” until Swift herself moved in.
That twist in the bridge is poetic genius. When the final chorus adjusts to the present day, underscoring the parallels between Rebekah and Swift, I’m forcefully reminded of an iconic bridge when Romeo finally proposed and changed everything – but Swift has evolved past daydreams of pure white dresses and fathers giving permission.
Larocca: I’m immediately taken back to 2012’s “Starlight” when “The Last Great American Dynasty” starts. Thankfully, this song ends up being a lot better than “Starlight,” which always felt more like a filler track on “Red” to me.
I love a lot here: the casual use of “b—-,” the acute attention to detail (“She stole his dog and dyed it key lime green”), and every version of this line: “There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen.”
I had a marvellous time listening to this song.
“Exile,” featuring Bon Iver, is one of Swift’s most successful duets to date.
Ahlgrim: Swift and Bon Iver, aka Justin Vernon, are two of the best songwriters alive today, so this song was destined to be breathtaking.
Swift has historically had difficulty allowing her voice and vision to coexist with a featured artist; her collaborations often leave me feeling like she should have just delivered the whole song herself.
But Swift and Vernon were able to weave their lyrics together so gracefully, I was left feeling grateful for his presence. His rich, rustic tone and those iconic hummed harmonies lent the regretful song an added coat of sincerity.
The production here is generally fine, but the layered instrumentals in the ending really bring the song together. I love a dramatic exit.
Larocca: When I see a “featuring Bon Iver” on a track, I instantly assume Vernon is going to come in with his high falsetto. So it was almost jarring that the song starts with Vernon sounding like a lumberjack dad who hasn’t left the woods in a decade.
That didn’t end up being a detriment, though. Swift sounds delicate on her verse, and their vocals contrast nicely later on the track.
This one also brings to mind her collab “The Last Time” with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody. The line “I think I’ve seen this film before and I didn’t like the ending” is also reminiscent of “If This Was a Movie.”
I’m obsessed with the clear influences Swift’s previous discography had on these tracks, which have also so far felt completely unique to her catalogue.
“My Tears Ricochet” is an extraordinary display of Swift’s songwriting powers.
Ahlgrim: First of all, “My Tears Ricochet” is an incredible song title. Let’s take a moment to appreciate that.
In fact, pretty much every line of this song is arresting.
Much of it feels both familiar and rare, like you know exactly what Swift is singing about, but hadn’t thought to put it in those words before – which is, in my opinion, the mark of any good piece of writing but especially a breakup song. You can relate to the emotion, if not the particular details. You can hear the pain. It almost plays like a funeral march.
What a gift it is, what an exhilarating experience, to feel like you’re listening to a poem being recited in real-time.
Larocca: Any true Swiftie knows that track five is reserved for the most vulnerable moment on the record, so I went into “My Tears Ricochet” ready to be sad.
I am endlessly impressed with how Swift managed to bake the word “ricochet” into this song so effectively. She also ditched her traditional song structure for this one, and instead built the track from peak to peak, utilising clever lyrics along the way to tell an epic, devastating story, almost obviously calling back to the most beloved track five of “All Too Well.”
I’m calling it now – this one is going to age like a fine wine. As all of Swift’s best breakup ballads do.
“Mirrorball” is several strokes of genius.
Ahlgrim: This song gives me intense Clairo vibes, and I mean that as a very high compliment.
It’s so fun and refreshing to hear Swift slip into different musical styles, and this shimmery take on alternative-bedroom-pop highlights her soft vocals and nuanced songwriting supremely well.
Also, my Leo sensibilities are fully under attack by this bridge: “I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try / I’m still on that trapeze / I’m still trying everything to keep you looking at me.” Oof! Just tag me next time.
Larocca: This one is so pretty! Swift’s vocals sound better than ever as she spins on her highest heels across a glittery daydream.
“I’m a mirrorball / I’ll show you every version of yourself tonight” might be the thesis statement of this entire album. So far, “Folklore” feels both diaristic and vague; detailed and completely anonymous.
Fans will be debating for years whether this album is about Swift’s own life, or if it’s simply really great storytelling pulled directly from her own mind. In the end, it doesn’t really matter.
Because as all of Swift’s best songs do, these songs will attach themselves to listeners in completely new ways, showing them elements and stories from their own lives.
“Seven” is pure whimsical magic.
Ahlgrim: This is playing make-believe in the garden when you’re too young to feel self-conscious; it’s poetic and nostalgic and full of awe in such an unpretentious way.
I wouldn’t change one thing about this song. Swift’s whispery high register sounds divine, and at this point in the tracklist, her rhythmic delivery in the chorus hits like a shot of espresso.
Right now, I’m wondering if it’s possible for Swift to maintain this intrigue and momentum for another nine songs. There hasn’t been a misstep to speak of, and I remain wholly beguiled. Can it last?
Larocca: The beginning of “Seven” sounds like Swift listened to Marina’s “Orange Trees” on repeat before showing up to her songwriting session. Fortunately, “Orange Trees” is the only song I like on Marina’s “Love + Fear” so I will gladly accept this inspiration.
Swift continues to impress with both her vocals and her sense of rhythm on “Seven.” I also personally love space imagery so the line “Love you to the moon and to Saturn” is a standout line.
“August” will go down as one of the best songs in Swift’s extensive repertoire.
Ahlgrim: I’m immediately catching hints of Phoebe Bridgers and girl in red in Swift’s delivery. And I simply adore the idea that Swift has spent the last few months sitting at home, daydreaming about summertime humidity and listening to music by queer indie-pop girls.
In an album full of songwriting expertise, this song has some of Swift’s best lines yet: “August sipped away like a bottle of wine / ‘Cause you were never mine” actually hurts me.
In my notes, there simply sits this valuable insight (yes, in all-caps): “WANTING WAS ENOUGH. FOR ME IT WAS ENOUGH TO LIVE FOR THE HOPE OF IT ALL.” This song has my favourite bridge on the album so far.
In terms of production, “August” is exquisite. It’s lush and layered without feeling overwhelming at any point. It builds to the perfect level then recedes, like a wave.
Also worth mentioning: It can now be considered a historical fact that any time Swift mentions a car or driving in one of her songs, it’s a perfect song.
Larocca: While listening to “August,” I texted Callie and said, “I can’t wait to finish the album so I can relisten to ‘August.'” It’s an instant favourite.
This is also the first track on the album that seems directly inspired by our current state. Not because she’s expressing fear or singing about being bored at home, but because she so easily slips into a reflection of a relationship that ended years ago with a newfound wave of wistful nostalgia.
When quarantine started, it seemed like a million lifestyle articles came out explaining why everyone suddenly felt compelled to text their exes and why we’re so invested in looking back instead of forward right now.
“August” validates those feelings with zero judgment, letting its listener know that yes, it’s totally normal for you to be overanalyzing that quasi-relationship you were in back in college that never made it past graduation. Am I projecting? Maybe, but that’s debatably what Swift’s music is best utilised for.
I’m also going to be thinking about this song’s bridge and outro for the rest of my life.
The National’s influence can be felt on the stunning “This Is Me Trying.”
Ahlgrim: “This Is Me Trying” quickly strikes a more sinister tone than its predecessors – still nostalgic and wistful, but carrying an edge, like a threatening secret.
Ironically, this one was co-written and co-produced by Jack Antonoff, not Aaron Dessner, though I can really hear The National’s influence here. I’m getting strong wafts of songs like “Pink Rabbits” and “Dark Side of the Gym.”
Based on Swift’s own words, we can speculate that “This Is Me Trying” is a fictional tale, built around the image of “a 17-year-old standing on a porch, learning to apologise.” And, as previously stated, I’m a big fan of Storyteller Taylor, so I’m into it.
The song’s darker tone mingles really well with Swift’s imagery; when you’re a teenager, and you made a mistake, it can feel like the end of the world.
Larocca: “This Is Me Trying” is precisely what I imagined this album sounding like when I found out Swift collaborated with the National’s Alex Dessner and Bon Iver.
But I’m glad she was strategic about her use of echo and also finally paid attention to the tracklisting from a sonic standpoint. This haunting soundscape is reminiscent of 2014’s “This Love” and comes in right when you need it after the yearning daydream of “August.”
I’d also like it to be on the record that the line “I got wasted like all of my potential” ruined me and this song is a win for that lyric alone.
“Illicit Affairs” is a glowing example of what sets Swift apart from her peers as a songwriter.
Ahlgrim: The expert songwriting on “Illicit Affairs” reminds me of the as-yet unseated queen in Swift’s discography: “All Too Well.”
Swift is a master of wielding specific details like weapons: “What started in beautiful rooms / Ends with meetings in parking lots,” she sings. “Leave the perfume on the shelf / That you picked out just for him.” These are the sorts of images that set Swift apart, and they’re especially strong when she punctuates their delivery with a little growl in her voice.
This song has real power. I have chills.
That power is magnified in the third verse, similar to how “All Too Well” builds to a crescendo: “Don’t call me ‘kid,’ don’t call me ‘baby’ / Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me.”
Certainly, “Illicit Affairs” is more restrained than Swift’s iconic arena rock ballad, but goddamn that last verse hits hard.
Larocca: The way that she says “him” in the second verse shook me out of my skin in the very best way. And “Don’t call me ‘kid,’ don’t call me ‘baby’ / Look at this idiotic fool that you made me” will go down as one of her best breakup lines of all time.
It’s been a minute since Swift delivered a painstakingly beautiful breakup ballad, and the fact that this album is littered with them is, simply, a gift.
“Illicit Affairs” has growing power and will likely become one of those tracks that fans form a strong emotional attachment to over time.
“Invisible String” is Taylor Swift at her most Taylor Swift.
Ahlgrim: “Invisible String” is a feast of Easter eggs and callbacks.
“Teal was the colour of your shirt” reminds me of the line about Joe Alwyn’s blue eyes on “Delicate,” and her reference to a dive bar is similarly familiar. “Gave me no compasses, gave me no signs” recalls the push-and-pull on “Exile.”
“Bad was the blood of the song in the cab” is undoubtedly a reference to Swift’s 2015 single “Bad Blood,” while “One single thread of gold / Tied me to you” feels like a nod to Swift’s description of love’s “golden” hue on the “Lover” album closer “Daylight.”
This song is sprightly and sparkly and certainly nice to listen to, but its real strength lies in these details.
Swift is weaving many different stories on this album, many connected by a sort of “Invisible String,” tying different pieces of her life and your life and other lives together. It ends up feeling like a growing plant with far-reaching roots, or a sentient treasure map.
Larocca: I’d be lying if I said there weren’t multiple points throughout this album where I worried that Swift and her boyfriend Joe Alwyn had broken up.
Thankfully, “Invisible String” is a rosy, wide-eyed ode to love. The plucky guitar paired with Swift’s soft vocals is a sound I want to live in, which is fitting since this track feels like coming home.
Every small detail, from the nod to Alwyn’s time spent working at a frozen yogurt shop in his youth, to the colour imagery that paints every inflection of Swift’s adoration (especially the single thread of gold) come together to lay the holy ground Swift’s relationship walks on.
Also, the image of Swift mailing Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner gifts for their expectant first child brings about an unbridled sense of joy.
“Mad Woman” is yet another highlight.
Ahlgrim: Every time I think I’ve heard the peak of this album’s songwriting potential, Swift manages to surprise me.
Case in point: “Do you see my face in the neighbour’s lawn? / Does she smile? / Or does she mouth, ‘F— you forever?'” Woah.
And another, for good measure: “It’s obvious that wanting me dead / Has really brought you two together.” I texted Courteney, “Did she really just say that??”
This song is sublime on its own, but the way it ties back into the perception of female freedom and “madness” on “The Last Great American Dynasty” makes it even better. “Mad Woman” is definitely a personal favourite so far on this album, if not in Swift’s entire catalogue.
Larocca: “Mad Woman” will forever hold the honour of being the first song in which Swift says “f—” and for that, we should all be thankful.
I was also so wrapped up in the storytelling of this album, that it took a minute for this to even register that this is likely about the Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta / Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West ordeals of Swift’s past. These callouts used to be so obvious, that I greatly appreciate the subtlety and restraint here.
It almost feels like these feuds were a lifetime ago, but this track does an excellent job at showcasing how anger and pain can leave an indelible mark on you. Swift went mad years ago, and that’s just an accepted part of her narrative now.
But for the first time, her rage sounds like freedom.
“Epiphany” doesn’t stand out.
Ahlgrim: There are some really interesting vocal moments on “Epiphany,” but so far, this is the only song I haven’t felt captivated by. It’s a bit snoozy, and a bit too long.
This song clearly references war, the loss of a loved one, and the coronavirus pandemic, which makes it lyrically intriguing at best – but distressing at worst. I don’t mind letting the overall effect waft over me, but this won’t be a song I revisit outside the context of the album.
Larocca: “Epiphany” is the only track on “Folklore” that didn’t immediately grab me. It’s essentially a war drama in song format, so some people might like it, but I truly couldn’t care less about war movies or war songs! So it’s not my favourite, but it makes for pretty background music.
“Epiphany” does have another benefit though: Now, whenever some random dude erroneously claims Swift “only writes songs about her exes,” fans have a clear song in her discography that they can point to and be like, “That’s not true. This one’s about war.”
That’s not to say Swift needed that – anyone who has been paying attention understands she’s quite possibly the best songwriter of her generation.
This just happens to be further proof of that fact.
“Betty” is a charming callback to Swift’s country roots.
Ahlgrim: “Betty” is like the best, sauciest song from Swift’s 2006 debut country album that no one got to hear. It has sonic and lyrical similarities to hits like “Our Song” and “Tim McGraw,” plus some name-dropping stuff like 2008’s “Hey Stephen,” plus a little harmonica thrown in for good measure! I love that for us.
“Betty” also appears to complete a three-song story, recalling details from “Cardigan” and “August” to close the loop on Betty and James, a couple in high school with some infidelity issues.
Looking back, it feels like “Cardigan” was told from Betty’s perspective, while “August” was told from the perspective of a sort of “other woman” character. Now, we get James’ side of the story. This is high art, folks! This is peak Storytelling Taylor!
“Betty” is also, like, very gay? I know it’s easy to assume that James is a male character, but Swift herself was named after James Taylor, so she could be referring to herself. The song also references someone named Inez; James and Inez are the names of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s daughters.
Plus, in retrospect, the idea of whispering “Are you sure? Never have I ever before” during a summer fling seems pretty gay to me.
I’m not saying the story of Betty and James would be better if it was written about sapphic lovers, but I’m not not saying that.
Larocca: This one is gay, and if you try to tell me otherwise, I will simply ignore you.
But Courteney, it’s from the perspective of a guy named James. James and the other character, Inez, share the same names as Reynolds and Lively’s kids (will leave it up to you to decide if that means their third daughter’s name is Betty). James is their daughter. Get out of here with your antiquated ideas about which names connotate which genders.
To me, the James named in this song is a woman and a lesbian and this song is for the gays. I will not be saying anything else or accepting any feedback on this opinion, thank you.
“Peace” is honest and raw.
Ahlgrim: This song’s intro sounds like LCD Soundsystem had a baby with “The Archer.” The gentle guitar riff is also lovely.
With Dessner’s echoey production, Swift’s voice sounds like a warm little fire in a cave – fitting, since she sings in the chorus, “I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm.”
OK damn, I’m getting really emotional. This songwriting is beautiful and haunting. “Peace” perfectly captures the ambient dread of feeling your partner slip away, of wondering whether love can be enough.
Larocca: If you’re a “Call It What You Want” stan, you’re going to love its mature older sister “Peace.”
I will hereby forever be thinking about the parallels between “But I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm” with “He built a fire just to keep me warm” and between “Family that I chose, now that I see your brother as my brother” with “Trust him like a brother.”
Also, “Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?” has the same emotional impact as when Swift changes the lyric in “The Archer” to “I see right through me” and that’s meant as the highest form of compliment.
Swift’s vocals are so crisp, that guitar riff is so stunning, and these lyrics are so gut-wrenchingly vulnerable. A perfect song, through and through.
“Hoax” is unlike any other album closer in Swift’s catalogue.
Ahlgrim: I don’t know if Swift is going through a traumatic breakup, but if she isn’t, the woman is one convincing creative writer.
The National makes some of my favourite music to cry to, so when I heard Aaron Dessner had co-written and produced much of this album, I knew I was in for some glossy cheeks. Until now, I think I’ve felt too captivated by Swift’s artistry to really let myself get there.
But finally, “Hoax” is making me cry.
This is heart-wrenching stuff for anyone, but for a fan and student of Swift’s work, this is like reading a friend’s diary entry.
“Don’t want no other shade of blue, but you” must be a reference to “Delicate,” in which Swift sings: “Dark jeans and your Nikes, look at you / Oh damn, never seen that colour blue.” Later, she croons, “You know I left a part of me back in New York,” perhaps regretting the move to London that she detailed throughout “Lover.”
“You knew it still hurts underneath my scars / From when they pulled me apart,” recalling the public shaming she endured and demons she exorcised on “Reputation.” “But what you did was just as dark.” Whoa.
Personally, I love having a good cry set to moody music, so I appreciate Swift’s soul-bearing. “Hoax” is one gut-punch of an album closer.
Larocca: Swift has a habit of ending her albums on an uplifting, hopeful note and I always eat it up. But if “Folklore” hadn’t made it clear by now that it should be consumed differently than any of her previous works, “Hoax” brings that message home.
Instead of reveling in all the ways that love has made her stronger, happier, or more whole, “Hoax” deconstructs everything Swift has learned about love and leaves a bleaker picture about how maybe even the best of relationships hurt.
But at its most tragic, this love still isn’t something Swift will ever let go of: “Don’t want no other shade of blue but you / No other sadness in the world would do.”
Finishing a Taylor Swift album has never been so devastating.
Final Grade: 9.7/10
Ahlgrim: Truthfully, I’m in awe.
I’m clearly a Taylor Swift fan, and I’ve always considered her one of our generation’s preeminent songwriters. But I am under no illusion that she’s a faultless artist; she’s had her hits and misses, like the vast majority of major musicians.
I never expected her to produce a 16-track, no-skips album of cohesive, shimmering, emotional folk-pop. And yet, this feels like the Taylor Swift album I’ve been unconsciously awaiting for years.
Top to freaking bottom, “Folklore” is a masterclass in storytelling and poetry. The new sonic direction fits her lyrical talent like a tailored pair of vintage jeans. By scaling back the production and leaning on more subtle textural details, her precise writing and world-creation shine brighter than ever before.
And just to add another layer of awe, Swift began working on this album in April. That she was able to write some of her best lyrics ever in a matter of mere months, record and produce these songs entirely in quarantine, and craft a mellow tracklist with nearly zero lulls or cringes or moments of lost intrigue? Like I said before, whoa.
I can’t wait to listen to this album again, over and over, for the rest of my life.
Larocca: Full disclosure: I named “Red” the album of the decade for Insider in December 2019. I have cultivated an entire identity around being a Taylor Swift fan and I can honestly say, with enough sentimental attachment, “Folklore” could supersede “Red” to becoming Swift’s magnum opus.
It’s exactly why I love Swift. This is what I’ve pictured for her since “Red” was released in 2012, and it almost doesn’t feel real that it’s out in the world.
I knew she was capable of crafting this singer-songwriter folksy acoustic album full of lyrically marvellous ballads and I can sigh a breath of relief knowing that everything I’ve been trying to explain about Swift for the past 14 years of my life has so concisely come to fruition in this hour-long perfect package.
And as bad as the world is, I don’t think this album ever would have existed without the confines of quarantine freeing Swift from every structure that constricted her songwriting process.
Like, what does Swift’s music look like when it doesn’t need to lead to a worldwide stadium tour? What does she sound like when no one can hold a top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for longer than a couple of weeks? Who is she when the fate of next year’s Grammys is up in the air?
“1989,” “Reputation,” and “Lover” were all mere detours on her path to her true destiny. If “Folklore” doesn’t break a single Billboard record or earn a single Grammy, it doesn’t even matter – because she made an album for the ages.
This is the kind of work that we’ll look back on wistfully 10, 25, and even 50 years from now. It’s like she listened to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and said, “Hold my white wine.”
And for a work that pulls lyrical inspiration so directly from previous albums, it’s astonishing how non-diaristic it is, how it’s meant to be consumed so differently from any of its predecessors.
Folklore is stories that get passed down by generations, and due to the very nature of that decades-spanning game of telephone, one will never truly know how much of it is based in fact or fiction.
Did any of this happen to Swift herself? Did she and Joe Alwyn break up?
We may never know the truth behind each tale she spins – but isn’t it just so pretty to think she had this in her all along?
Worth listening to:
“The Last Great American Dynasty”
“Exile (feat. Bon Iver)”
“My Tears Ricochet”
“This Is Me Trying”
*Final album score based on songs per category (1 point for “Worth listening to,” .5 for “Background music,” .5 for “Split decision,” 0 for “Press skip”).
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