Taylor Swift, Folklore | Album Review 💿 (2024)

Taylor Swift, Folklore | Album Review 💿 (1)

Versatile, Grammy-winning musician Taylor Swift delivers the undisputed tour de force of her career with her eighth studio album, folklore.

COVID-19 has been all-around bad for all parties involved. People have become sick, people have died, and everyone has had their mental health tested due to quarantine and isolation from friends and family. Musicians have been hurt by the pandemic because touring was halted. Many musicians, like Taylor Swift, do what musicians do – get creative and write and record new music. Swift shocked the world by announcing the release of her eighth studio album, folklore, less than a year after releasing the critically acclaimed Lover. Though recorded during quarantine, folklore is by far the best Taylor Swift album to date – her tour de force.

“the 1”

“I’m doing good, I’m on some new sh*t.” Indeed Taylor, indeed. From the ‘opening tip’ of “the 1,” it’s crystal clear that Swift is opting for a different direction following four country albums and three pop albums. “The 1” lies in the realm of folk and indie pop. Swift, always an accomplished songwriter, places more emphasis on her craft here, as she recollects previous relationships and imagines how things would’ve been “If [he] would’ve been the one.” Not only is the songwriting sublime, Taylor sounds lovely, particularly against the Aaron Dessner produced backdrop.

“And when I felt like I was an old cardigan / Under someone’s bed / You put me on and said I was your favorite.” Following the marvelous opening statement, “cardigan” keeps the momentum afloat – understatement. Love plays a pivotal role as Swift (her character) explores the beauty of what ends up being long lost [teen] love. Even though she felt unworthy, he made her feel extra special. Losing him stings, something she explores on the emotional third verse. This “new sh*t” that Taylor Swift is on – pretty awesome.

“The last great American dynasty”

“The last great American dynasty” doesn’t miss a beat, continuing to place emphasis on top-notch songwriting. Here, Swift imparts a compelling narrative where Rebekah essentially ends a great American dynasty, or so is the perception of those who knew Bill. On the chorus, Taylor sings:

“And they saidThere goes the last great American dynastyWho knows, if she never showed up, what could’ve beenThere goes the maddest woman this town has ever seenShe had a marvelous time ruining everything.”

Eventually, there’s a plot twist, where Taylor becomes Rebekah, living as she deems fit, yet also being judged as “the loudest woman this town has ever seen.”

“I think I’ve seen this film before / And I didn’t like the ending / You’re not my homeland anymore / So what am I defending?” Things only get better four tracks into Folklore – 💯. “Exile” featuring Bon Iver is arguably the crowning achievement, and that’s saying something considering how elite folklore is. First and foremost, the musicianship truly stands out here, with the expressive vocals of Justin Vernon complementing Swift exquisitely. Taylor never forces things vocally, and it really pays off. As with the previous trio of songs, the writing is gorgeous, both lyrically and instrumentally. The crème de la crème? The chorus is exceptional, but maybe the nod goes to the extended outro, where we’re blessed with that incredible chemistry established between Swift and Vernon.

“...All this timeWe always walked a very thin lineYou didn’t even hear me out (Didn’t even hear me out)You never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)All this time...”

“My tears ricochet”

“Exile” is a tough, tough act to follow.” “My tears ricochet” is up to the task though. The poetry certainly doesn’t stop on this record about an “embittered tormentor showing up at the funeral of a fallen object of obsession.” Within the context of the record, Swift was wronged, the relationship with this individual was tumultuous, yet now that she’s dead, he’s haunted and realizes the scope of the loss. While the imagery and poetry is breathtaking, many believe “My tears ricochet” isn’t really romantic, and has a real life connection to Swift. Can you say, the Big Machine Records feud?

“I want you to knowI’m a mirrorballI’ll show you every version of yourself tonightI’ll get you out on the floorShimmering beautifulAnd when I break, it’s a million pieces.”

On “Mirrorball,” Swift takes us to the dance floor, at least lyrically. Swift’s mirrorball is often referred to as a disco ball, in which you can see reflections everywhere. Musically, of course, “Mirrorball” remains firmly planted in a well-suited indie pop sound that also hearkens back to her country sound of the past. “Seven” revisits her childhood in Pennsylvania as she seems to remember her own experiences positively. For her friends, things don’t seem as positive, something that’s clear in the second verse, particularly lines like, “I think your house is haunted / Your dad is always mad and that must be why.” Listening to this radiant, ‘wild’ cut, Aaron Dessner production, the sound definitely reminds me of a song I could hear The National record.

“August”

“August” ranks among the top tier of folklore without a doubt. Jack Antonoff and Taylor Swift deliver one of their best collaborations yet. The music is a gorgeous blend of acoustic and electronic guitars that construct a masterful folk-pop, adult alternative, indie pop amalgam. Swift opts for her ‘ace in the hole’ where the writing is concerned, singing about a lover who ultimately was never hers. “August slipped away like a bottle of wine,” she sings on the chorus, continuing, “‘Cause you were never mind.” Two other marvelous moments that stand above the rest are the bridge, where Swift sings incredibly overtly, and the outro.

“This is me trying” is another moment from folklore that leaves you speechless. It’s in a major key, but it’s a darker record nonetheless that grabs your attention from the start. Some of the biggest selling points include the orchestrations, the vocal production (and vocals themselves), and of course, the ‘regretful’ songwriting. This three-and-a-quarter-minute track is definitely a vibe and a personal favorite on a stacked album. Naturally, “Illicit Affairs” has two very tough acts to follows. As she has throughout folklore, Swift doesn’t relinquish the momentum. The bridge gets the highest marks from me.

“Invisible String”

Imagery continues to be a driving force on folklore. This time, it’s “Invisible String,” where Swift asserts on the chorus, “And isn’t it just so pretty too think / All along there was some / Invisible string / Tying you to me.” Also, like other moments on the album, she references her own songs. “Invisible String” shouts out “Bad Blood” for example.

“What do you sing on your drive home? / Do you see my face in the neighbor’s lawn? / Does she smile? / Or does she mouth, ‘f*ck you forever’?” Yes, Taylor Swift shocks with an f-bomb on “Mad Woman” which perfectly fits the tone of the record. Though “Mad Woman” arrives late on folklore, it’s among the most important songs in my opinion. The message definitely has an element of feminism, highlighting the poor perception of mad women. “No one likes a mad woman,” Swift sings on the chorus, adding, “You made her like that / And you’ll poke the bear ‘til her claws come out.” Facts! We’ve already seen some of this with the perception of Rebekah on “The last great American dynasty,” so it’s great that Swift makes that connection, making folklore more cohesive.

“Epiphany”

The final quartet of songs on folklore remain notable and worthwhile. On “Epiphany,” Swift references her grandfather (“Keep your helmet, keep your life son / Just a flesh wound, here’s your rifle”) as well as the healthcare workers in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic (“Something med school did not cover / Someone’s daughter, someone’s mother / Holds your hand through plastic now”). The record speaks to coping with experiencing and seeing such trauma. On “Betty,” Swift dives back into her ‘teen love triangle’ narrative, sung from the perspective of James, the lover on “august” that never belonged to Taylor. That’s because he (we assume, but aren’t 100% sure) belonged to Betty, hence, why the record is addressed to her and the lover that wronged her is repentant.

Penultimate record “Peace” features some of the clearest vocals of the albums – great vocal production. The overall production is sweet as well, with a minimalist, somewhat mysterious vibe. This is very much an Aaron Dessner helmed record – that’s a compliment. “Hoax” caps off the album slowly and melancholically. Perhaps it’s not that bright, sunny closure you’d hoped for, but “Hoax” is another stunner on an album with no shortage of them. “You know I left a part of me back in New York,” she sings on the bridge, continuing, “You knew the hero died so what’s the movie for?”

Final Thoughts

So, how good is folklore? This, my friends, is the album that Taylor Swift has needed to make. While Swift has proven her versatility bouncing between country and pop quite successfully, folklore feels more artful and more meaningful. This is some of the best songwriting and singing I’ve personally heard from Swift throughout her illustrious career. Lover was her best pop album top to bottom, even if 1989 was her most important. That said, folklore is perhaps the first album by the artist I can get behind without reservation – it’s her tour de force.

Gems: “the 1,” “cardigan,” “the last great american dynasty,” “exile,” “My tears ricochet,” “August,” “This is me trying,” “Mad Woman” & “Betty”

Taylor Swift, Folklore | Album Review 💿 (3)

Taylor Swift • folkloreRelease: 7.24.20
Photo Credit: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift, Folklore | Album Review 💿 (2024)
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