Taylor Swift’s eighth studio album “folklore” has been getting a lot of media attention for its strong departure from her regular style of pop music into something more akin to indie or (pun intended) folk music.
Swift stated that the sixteen-track album was created while under isolation for the pandemic and described “folklore” as “…wistful and full of escapism. Sad, beautiful, tragic. Like a photo album full of imagery and the stories behind that imagery.”
Going into the album, I was hesitant. I had seen the media storm that followed the release and was pleasantly surprised. I had enjoyed Taylor’s music in my younger years. However, as I grew older, I grew out of her music.
My taste changed, and I only heard her music in passing on the car radio. Now it has become very apparent that my taste was not the only one that changed: Swift’s did as well.
She went from country, to pop, and now “folklore” marks a new chapter in Swift’s musical career. She has shown momentous range over the course of her career, and this album is the pinnacle of that ability.
An overarching theme in the album is time. Clearly being in isolation prompted a lot of reflection for Swift, and she manifested that into a several different tracks that take the listener into different eras of one’s life. This is evident within the songs, such as “the last great American dynasty,” “seven,” “invisible thread” and “the 1.”
She reflected on the power of time itself and the control it has over our lives. She muses on it so elegantly that it prompts deep thought for the listener and evokes a truly eerie feeling that you can’t shake for hours after the track is over.
Swift also utilized her new range to not only transport the reader to different times, but to also write from the perspectives of different characters.
Swift has a group of three songs on this album that has been referred to as a teenage love triangle. She writes each song from the perspective of one of the teenagers involved in the relationship and how this one event had completely different impacts on each of them.
The songs in this group are “cardigan,” “august” and “betty.” “cardigan” is from Betty’s perspective after James cheats on her, while “betty” is from his perspective.
“august” is from the perspective of the girl that James cheats on Betty with. Swift does an excellent job at weaving different motifs and lines between these songs to make them clearly about the same event, but differentiates between them enough to make them feel like completely different voices.
Swift’s own voice is something that also comes through very clearly on this album. Taylor’s time in the music industry has left scars on her, and she displays them for us on several tracks of this album.
Her songs “mad woman” and “peace” are very obviously referencing issues Swift has had with the media and people in her industry vilifying her and heavily criticizing her behavior, especially in her relationships.
The way she approaches these issues displays a maturity about her situation that is very clearly honed from years and years of being criticized harshly by the music industry and the press.
“folklore” is an exceptional body of work that details many different emotional life experiences with a signature haunting tone that persists throughout the entire album.