On July 23, Taylor Swift announced a very unexpected eighth studio album would be released that she had been working on while in isolation due to COVID-19. The album has spent four straight weeks as no. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
The album has a very melancholic vibe as opposed to her previous mainstream, pop albums, Lover, reputation, 1989 and Red. The elements of indie mixed with country twang and dream pop, all work together in this album to make it unique from her other album personas.
Swift never fails to impress with her versatility and brilliant songwriting.
The first track of Folklore is “the 1,” which sets the tone for the rest of the album with opening lyrics “I’m doing good, I’m on some new sh*t.” These lyrics are fitting to be the first thing you hear, since this album is the first one of hers that has been placed under the alternative genre.
Folklore is a storytelling album, hence the title, so one of the major themes is the third-person narration of a summer love triangle between characters Betty, James and the unnamed “other girl” introduced in three of the songs.
“Cardigan,” “august” and “betty” are the tracks that Swift seamlessly connects with the different points of view of the people in the love triangle. Each makes exceptional lyrical allusions to each other, some even occurring at the same time stamps in each song.
“Cardigan” is the lead single of the album and begins the love triangle storyline with Betty’s perspective of being in a relationship with the unfaithful James.
“August” is from the “other girl’s” perspective, in which she recalls memories with James. Despite the sadness and inevitable doom between these two characters, this is one of the more upbeat songs and the closest to pop on the album.
“Betty” with a folky sound, concludes the story with James narrating, trying to win Betty back after cheating on her.
The somber tune of “illicit affairs” expands on the idea of the unfaithfulness of cheating in a relationship.
“The last great american dynasty” tells the story of Rebekah Harkness while Swift also draws some comparisons to herself and how she now owns her mansion in Rhode Island. “Mad woman” can also be interpreted to relate to this song, as well as “this is me trying,” since they all hint at madness. “My tears ricochet” is also closely connected to the theme of madness because it is an account of her struggles that she faced with her past record label.
In “mirrorball,” Swift uses the metaphor of being a disco ball which can be interpreted as trying to keep people’s attention even though she has a new folk sound.
“Seven” is a reminiscent song that recalls a friendship she had when she was younger, with mentions of folk songs in the lyrics, connecting to the album title. “Epiphany” also recalls history, but as the song progresses, it can be related to the current hardships of the pandemic.
“Invisible string” is the love song of the album referring to her own life. It alludes to the Asian folk legend that describes how two people are destined to be together and tied to each other with an invisible red string.
“Exile,” featuring Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, portrays ex-lovers seeing each other after they have broken up. Their voices work beautifully together to show you each ex’s perspective on post-relationship feelings.
“Hoax” and “peace” are the strongest lyrically. “Peace” has a calming vibe that shows her realization of what love is truly like, relating to the darkness that “hoax” brings in, that despite the pain of the “faithless love,” the love is so deep that it doesn’t matter.
Unlike Swift’s past albums, her storytelling in Folklore sheds light on the harsh reality of romance and love with these heartbreak tracks, making the record as a whole a lyrical masterpiece. Folklore is one of Swift’s best albums yet, if not ultimately the best.
Story by Camille Ham. Photo courtesy of Flickr.