I will never forgive any of you for convincing me Taylor Swift writes bad music. I saw Taylor Swift in concert when I was in high school. So consumed with the need to have “good taste,” the best compliment I gave her was that she was a great performer. Which, to be fair, was true! She is a great performer. But, she’s also a literary poet; she has a knack for writing music that cuts you to your core. This likely comes from being in an industry that is both infatuated with and contemptuous toward young women; but in Folklore, Swift reclaims her vulnerability without shame.
“the 1” begins with a statement, “I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit.” This song encapsulates a feeling similar to nostalgia, but not quite. Maybe resignation, or a lament for missed opportunities. It proclaims an era of growth, that acceptance of how things end are sometimes out of your control.
Folklore sets itself apart from the beginning. Each song has a strong bridge that catches you by surprise, sounding almost like spoken word poetry. As we fade into “cardigan,” we’re thrust into a darklit, noir soundscape. With subtle piano and sweeping strings, this song has a mysterious, reverabitive energy that is all encompassing.
“exile (feat. Bon Iver)” was the very first song I heard on this album when it was released as a single, and I hated it. I loved the instrumentation, I could clearly hear the Justin Vernon influence on the sound as I’ve been a huge fan of his for years, but I’ve always been anti-duet. Now, months later, this is one of my favorite songs. Swift’s warm tone mixed with Vernon’s deep, gritty vocals serves for a heartbreakingly beautiful track.
“mirrorball” was one of my favorite tracks when I first listened to it. Its dreamy guitar riffs create an ethereal sound behind Swift’s harmonies. “mirrorball” is a self critique, looking at what it means to reflect the best character traits of everyone around you, to try so hard at life to keep the attention on you despite not knowing who you really are.
“seven” is a nod to Swift’s youth, seemingly written for a friend of hers whose father created an unsafe home life. In lines like “I think your house is haunted/Your dad is always mad and that must be why/And I think you should come live with me/And we can be pirates/Then you won’t have to cry/Or hide in the closet,” we get a glimpse into Swift’s mind as a child, escapism into imagination as a form of coping. Swift’s sweeping vocals are reminiscent of the wind, a peek into the vast openness that’s beyond their homes.
“august” is the most interesting song on this album. I mentioned already that this a record filled with standout bridges, and this song is the blueprint for that. This song is the near definition of “yearning,” aching for a feeling that came and went too quick. This track is devastatingly reminiscent of adolescence, “Back when we were still changing for the better/Wanting was enough/For me, it was enough/To live for the hope of it all,” before reality about life and love sets in.
With an abundance of atmospheric horns and guitar, “this is me trying” is perhaps the most vulnerable and raw song on this album. Here, Swift is painfully aware of her shortcomings, “And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad/I have a lot of regrets about that.” In just over three minutes, she perfectly portrays the feeling of hitting a dead end: knowing that you need to do better but, despite your best efforts, can’t. This is her asking to be forgiven and accepted as a flawed human being, who simply is trying her hardest.
“betty” is gay. I refuse to listen to the theories that say otherwise. I was convinced at first listen that this was Taylor Swift’s bisexual coming-of-age song, and even if it’s not, I will continue to pretend. This track is another beautiful example of how strong of a lyricist Taylor Swift is. “betty” chronicles a redemption arc that culminates at Betty’s party, where the narrator makes amends with her and they get back together. The lyrics are hopeful and revealing, “will you kiss me on the porch/in front of all your stupid friends?” This is one of those songs that always makes me cry without fail.
Folklore doesn’t have a single bad track. Each song, in its own way, showcases a different part of Taylor Swift’s talent. Her vocals shine on tracks like “seven” and “exile,” and we can hear the acoustic country influence in “illicit affairs” and “betty.” This album is an open letter to the human experience and what it means to find yourself through other people. Taylor Swift has always been and will continue to be a world class artist, it’s a shame that it took a step away from pop for people to realize. But, if anything, Swift has gained even more fans through her ability to change her style and do it well.
Favorite tracks: “betty,” “this is me trying,” “august,” “exile (Feat Bon Iver)”
Least favorite tracks: there are no bad tracks on this album <3
Article By: Danielle Ciampaglia