After a semester of movies and food, I decided to switch it up a little and look at an album released during 2020. I wanted to step a little out of my comfort zone and listen to something I would not usually listen to. I remember hearing my sister, an avid Taylor Swift fan, talking about how much different her 2020 album Folklore sounded from her other albums. When I think of Taylor Swift, I immediately think of the pop culture sensation songs like “22,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “You Belong With Me,” and “15.” Personally, my favorite song of hers is “Love Story.” I don’t ever remember listening to it a bunch, but somehow, I know all the words. It seems like that’s the case with a lot of her songs. They are massively popular—so much so that you hear them over and over again, even if you aren’t trying to. I realized; however, that I’ve never actually just listened to an album of hers, so that’s what I did with Folklore. For the review, I paid attention to the sound and flow instead of the lyrics.
So if you’re looking for a deep lyrical analysis, I’m not your guy. But with that being said, let’s get into it!
The album starts off with two songs called “The 1” and “Cardigan”—which are two very pretty, slow songs with deep thought-out lyrics. They made me a little sad in truth; however, some of my favorite songs of all time do the same things. I feel like a well written song really is thought provoking. I was a little worried after these two songs that the whole album was going to be a little repetitive. However, the third track on the record, “The Last Great American Dynasty,” was much more fast paced and told a story. The story intrigued me so I googled the song on lyric genius and found out that it follows the story of Rabekah Harkness, a lady born in 1915 who was an avid supporter of the arts.
“Exile,” featuring Bon Iver, might be my favorite song on the album. In my opinion, “Exile” is the most beautiful song in Folklore. A verse from Bon Iver, a verse from Taylor, and then them combining into harmonies at the end really reminded me of her song “Everything Has Changed” with Ed Sheeran, just a slower, more mature version. “My Tears Ricochet” and “Mirrorball” are very pleasant songs, but nothing really jumped out at me about them. I really enjoyed “Seven” and “August.” They were more fast paced, and they broke up the monotony of the two previous songs.
“This is Me Trying” and “Illicit Affairs” are sad songs that seem to be written from about the idea of a failed relationship. “Invisible String,” “Mad Women,” and “Epiphany” all three were good, just a little boring. They might be better if they weren’t back-to-back to back in the album, because none of the songs are bad, just a little repetitive. “Invisible String” is my favorite of the three. The next song is called “Betty,” which I will come back to in a moment. The final songs, “Peace” and “Hoax,” pair well together, Peace is more fast paced, and Hoax is slower paced. However, both are very charming songs.
Now to the aspect of the album that I enjoyed most, the “teenage love triangle” as Taylor herself called it. When I listened to “Betty,” I really enjoyed the song itself, but I could tell it was telling
a story that I didn’t understand. This made me google the song on lyric genius and it turns out the “Cardigan,” “August,” and “Betty” tell the story of a love triangle. “Cardigan” is written from the perspective of Betty, “August” is written from the perspective of the other woman, and “Betty” is written from the perspective of James, the guy who cheated on Betty and broke her heart. These three songs in themselves were three of my favorites. However, when I read this I went back and listened to all three of them again, and it made me like them even more. I am a big fan of storytelling songs in general, and this aspect of the album made me like it more. There are some matching events in each of the songs, so it is cool to me to see the different character’s perceptions of the same event.
Overall, this album was very good. There wasn’t a bad song on the album, some are just a little more boring than others. In my opinion, the last third of the album lulls a bit, but “Betty” will make you forget about the lack of inspiration surrounding it. The front half of the album is definitely my favorite part of it. The “The Last Great American Dynasty” and “Exile” are my favorite individual songs, and the love story incorporated into the album makes me appreciate the work much more. There is no denying the beauty of the album and the songs. Each song sounds fantastic and again, there is no question that she has a elegant voice, but some songs are more boring than others.
This album was definitely much different than the Taylor Swift I have heard growing up, but the characteristics that made her as famous as she is today are still evident: incredibly catchy hooks, fascinating story telling, and very creative songs. Even though she may have lost the country or pop that some people loved in this album, it is hard to expect someone who has been famous since she was fifteen years old not to become reflective, especially during a lockdown. It seems to me that this album was inspired by feelings that a lot of us felt during the Covid lockdown: sadness, reflectiveness, and the urge to do something new. That is what Taylor did in this album, she changed her sound and wrote a very beautiful album that I enjoyed listening to.