‘folklore’ Stuns Listeners with New Sound



A day before releasing ‘folklore’, Taylor Swift posted this image on her Instagram, which included the discography of her album. The songs on it were vastly different from what she has sung before, but still paid homage to her past experiments in music. Overall, listening to ‘folklore’ was a wonderful experience that deserves to be repeated, considering how well Swift’s talent shines through. Photo Courtesy of @taylorswift

A pleasant surprise in the middle of a pandemic, Taylor Swift released her album folklore on July 25. She had only announced the release of her album the day before, shocking many and once again taking the world by storm with her powerful lyrics and incredible songwriting capabilities.

My personal experience with Taylor Swift’s music has had its ups and downs. While I was a fan of her music before Reputation, the release of that album and even Lover didn’t really resonate with me. However, folklore completely surpassed any expectations I had about it and made me happy to find Taylor Swift’s genre-crossing music suited to my tastes.

I went into the album by putting it on shuffle, and I definitely did not regret it. seven was first, a song about a childhood friend with an abusive father, and it absolutely made an impact on me. I was blown away by the lush and magical sound of it, as well as the portrayal of innocence and confusion. This makes me want to move into a forest and I am still in shock over how soothing and beautiful it is. Though the entirety of folklore is a masterpiece and worth listening to multiple times, seven has to be my favorite track.

Swift also mentioned songs about a, “teenage love triangle,” that would appear on this album, and fans believe the tracks in question are betty, august, and cardigan. I personally believe these three songs are in fact those tracks, since they seem to explore each side of that triangle from a different perspective. 

betty was the first one of those three that I listened to and while the instrumental was a good throwback to her country days, the lyrics are what really resonated with me. The song is from the perspective of a boy who cheated on his girlfriend, but can’t seem to realize that what he did was wrong. The unreliable narrator as well as the sheer amount of pining and feeling in the way Swift sang really helped me realize how much darker and emotionally complex folklore is. The addition of a harmonica to the track just made it even better. august was equally if not more haunting, and the words in the chorus just seem to flow and fall together in a very aesthetically pleasing way. This track makes me want to lay down under a tree during autumn and watch the leaves fall, but also go on a long drive. Her voice seems very hollow but also echoes in a unique way, which is perfect for the vibe of this song. This seems to be from the perspective of the girl the boy cheated with, and further drives home the point that no one in this love triangle is truly happy. cardigan seems to be from the point of view of the girlfriend and just makes me sad, talking about how people can have an impact on you no matter how much you wish it wasn’t so.

Other songs which stood out to me were mirrorball and the last great american dynasty. mirrorball is incredibly lush and atmospheric, with Taylor Swift’s impressive runs and range. It really exemplifies how low her voice can go, and the vivid imagery and lyrics reminds a listener of how talented of a musician Swift is. the last great american dynasty appealed to me with it’s simple start which grew into something more complex as well as the steady rhythm. The tune is catchy and tinged with bitterness, continuing to move in a way that juxtaposes the heavy lyrics. This song understands the longing to break free from society and just do what you want, disregarding expectations which Swift has made a point of emphasizing in her past music as well.

After listening to illicit affairs, I realized that this album seems to be a bit darker than the rest. folklore seems to dive deeper emotionally and portrays a complexity I hadn’t really heard much of before. The emotions I received from this album were mostly regret, melancholy, and hopelessness but illicit affairs had a certain rage to it that set the song apart. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it- I am glad that Swift was able to take this next experimental step in her music and produce songs that she cares about instead of simply catering to an audience. This conflict is embodied within mad woman, a track that alludes to her fight with Scooter Braun over the rights to her music. Even a casual listener is able to understand the vengeance and need for closure that drives her, and it makes them sympathetic to her cause. This song seemed to be more vulgar and angry than the rest, and it fired me up in a way other parts of the album didn’t. It was meant to convey justified revenge and I think it did so perfectly. The piano and string instruments in the backing as well as the slow-moving pace help convey the misunderstanding the narrator feels, helping us sympathize and root for them.

Despite folklore being a step in a new direction, I am still able to hear remnants from other albums, which provides a nice throwback and keeps this one from becoming too monotonous. the 1, the first track on this album, is reminiscent of Lover with the chill, ballad-like vibes. While it took me a while to get into, the song ended up being decent but not Swift’s best work. exile reminded me a lot of The Last Time from Red, with gentle piano crescendoing into something more intense and heart-rending. While I was unsure about this track at first, the way Swift and Bon Iver’s voices blend and swell together along with the brilliant songwriting convinced me to add this song to one of my favorites.

Other songs on the album, though not as soul-touching as the rest, still had their own unique qualities that made them good to listen to and a strong asset to the album. my tears ricochet was interesting with the way Swift’s voice layered. invisible string and epiphany were both appropriately titled songs whose sound and lyrics reflected the name. The swelling sound and meditative feel of epiphany did make the track feel like a realization while invisible string utilized plucky string sounds reminiscent of the title. this is me trying was lighter than other songs on this album, and it perfectly encapsulated the feeling of chaos with an instrument that sounds almost like a war horn in the background. peace was also distinguished by the more optimistic vibe of it, about the acceptance of people’s flaws and loving them anyway. Placing this track second to last on the album was a good move on Swift’s part, kind of like a light at the end of the tunnel in contrast to the darker themes of the rest of the songs.

hoax was the final song on folklore, a beautiful but sad end to the album. It’s more stripped down and raw than the rest, but no less impactful. The best word I could use to capture the essence of this song is hopeless, since it’s about an unhealthy relationship, but the sense of an ambiguous ending and the heavy lyrics left me feeling strangely satisfied. Swift’s choice to finish a fantastic album with this song was entirely reasonable and I look forward to listening to it repeatedly.

folklore ended up being an amazing listening experience, surprising me as well as others with the new direction Swift successfully took in her music. While I hadn’t heard her attempt folk and indie songs before, she did not disappoint with this album. The wonderful music as well as the incredible lyrics really caught my attention, and left me looking forward to seeing what she does next.