As you might have heard, Taylor Swift blessed our ears and made our lives in 2020 a little better by dropping her 8th studio album, Folklore. To say I was excited is an understatement, and my expectations were blown out of the water. I didn’t know I needed an album with 16 songs to cry over, but Taylor Swift knew it, and I thank her everyday for it. Folklore is different from any album she’s released before, with a much more alternative vibe to her usual pop or even earlier country. I was nervous when I realized this, if I’m honest, but I should’ve known I had nothing to fear. Miss Swift gave us hit after hit in this album.
SO, because I love this album so much and have spent the last couple of months obsessively listening to it, I will share with you my official rankings of all of Folklore’s songs. This was definitely a difficult task, because her songs are just SO GOOD, but after much analysis and a bit of gut instinct I have finalized my rankings. I know there is bound to be some disagreements, but this is just my personal opinion of the songs. I’m not an expert in music, just an avid Swiftie. So without further ado, my rankings:
I feel like this might be a little controversial, but Cardigan has just never been my favorite. It feels almost more like poetry than a song, like “Archer” from Lover, but it lacks the same depth. I will admit I love the chorus - It’s impossible for Taylor to put out a song that I don’t like at all (“Me!” withstanding..) - but overall the lyrics and music don’t resonate with me that strongly. A good song, but it’s not one I have on repeat all the time.
15: This Is Me Trying
I think I’m a sucker for that vocal reverb effect. It’s my favorite part of the song. “This Is Me Trying” shows the desperation one feels when trying to save a failing relationship but doesn’t feel heard. It’s a pretty song, and one of the best examples of Folklore’s dreamlike essence, but it doesn’t create the same emotion for me as some of its whimsical cousins, like “My Tears Ricochet” or “Mirrorball”. This song feels like it's trying too hard (no pun intended) to be a tear-jerker and it’s just not. So although it’s a pretty song, it’s not much more.
14: The Last Great American Dynasty
I can’t find a way to describe this song except fun. It doesn’t have the same mystery or depth many of Swift’s songs have, but I think it showcases her talent in storytelling so well. Even without knowing the background to the characters, you can imagine everything so clearly. The little details, like “marvelous time ruining everything” and “she stole their dog and dyed it a key lime green” just add to the fun and almost whimsical feel to the song. Sadly, it’s never going to be at the top of the Folklore list, just because this album is stuffed with bop after bop that has more emotion and power to them. But it's cute, and I thoroughly enjoy listening to it.
One of the saddest songs on the album in my opinion. I love the simplicity of the piano and strings and the complexity of the lyrics. You have to listen carefully to understand the meaning of the song, and maybe listen to it a couple of times again! The grief and anger in Swift’s voice shows a different side to love that is rarely discussed but Swift, with her mastery of voice and lyricism, portrays it in a beautiful light. I’ve definitely fallen asleep listening to this song several times; despite all the sadness in the song, it’s oddly relaxing.
12: Mad Woman
A powerful retelling of Swift’s experience with the media and her struggle with members of the music industry (you know who you are..) but also a relatable anthem to most women. Almost every woman knows the struggle of being called “crazy” or “emotional” when trying to explain how you’ve been wronged, and the frustration when your claims aren’t believed. The music gives a bit of a dark tone to the lyrics, but the song itself doesn’t come across as “angry” or over the top. I really like the message itself in the song, and the lyrics are pretty clever (plus! Swift’s first f-word in an album!), but it’s more of a song you’d listen to when you’re in a particular mood or for a specific situation.
This song has such an interesting, childlike sadness. It reveals a desire to not grow up and truly understand the evils and griefs of the world. I love Swift’s little hints to her own childhood, like mentioning Pennsylvania and “sweet tea in the summer”, but I find the verses to be an interesting contrast to the chorus that doesn’t appeal to me as much as some of her other songs. It feels deeply personal, but because of that it's more difficult for others to relate to. Again, it’s a good song, but it just isn’t a powerful one. And most of Folklore’s songs pack a bit of a punch.
I’ve never heard Swift write a song from the boy’s perspective before, and that uniqueness really caught my attention! It feels incredibly similar to her roots in country. Betty definitely could be a song on Red, excluding the f-bomb Swift has gotten more casual about dropping, but you can definitely see how her songwriting has grown since her 4th album. The effortless storytelling is what really makes this song shine. It feels like a bit of a contrast from the vibes of the rest of the album, which both helps and hurts it in the rankings.
Did you know this song is about essential workers and nurses during COVID-19? I had no idea until I started writing this article. I love love love the comparison between soldiers in the army and our modern healthcare workers, two different types of American heroes. I love the dreamlike feel surrounding the song, and how it expressed both our dedication to our heroes and their dedication to us.
8: The 1
A beautiful song that reminisces on what could’ve been in a past relationship. What I personally really love the song is that it’s so relatable to everyone who’s had a relationship end. It voices out loud the “what if?” question most people have but never ask even months or years after a break up. Plus, the underlying beat is just so catchy! Ironically, it’s one of the more upbeat songs on the album, but I think it makes for a great intro to a lot of the fantasizing/imagining themes the album holds. It’s so hard to put this song kind of low on the rankings, cause it’s one of the songs I listen to the most! It’s just not as memorable as some of the others. Like I said before, this album is just so competitive!
This song recalls the beauty of a short fling, from the perspective of someone who clearly valued the relationship more than the person they’re singing about. It’s theorized to be part of the “Love Triangle Songs”, songs Swift said were from different perspectives of the same love triangle. It’s a super clever concept, and executed perfectly. The bridge and final verse really push this song over the edge for me. You can clearly feel the hope and love the singer pushed into a relationship she got little back from, and that complexity makes it one of the more beautiful songs on the album.
I love this song more because of the glimpse it gives us to Swift’s relationship with Joe Alwyn than what it means to me personally. The lyrics are so intimate, I almost feel like I shouldn’t be listening to it! It’s such a deeply personal song. It showcases the struggles Swift has gone through in her past and current relationships, but also the intense love and dedication she has to Alwyn. I admire the amount of herself Swift pours into her songs, and the beauty of the lyrics really stand out in my mind.
5: Invisible Strings
SUCH a romantic song! I love the wonder and joy in the lyrics and the upbeat guitar riff in the back. At the heart of this song is just musings about fate and how people, and love, come into our lives. Plus this is just such a cute nod to Joe Alwyn and it makes me want to lie in a hammock and fall asleep. Not all of Swift’s best songs have to be about heartbreak or tears. Invisible Strings showcases a wholesome love and it feels like a ray of sunshine amidst many of the sadder tunes on the album.
4: Illicit Affairs
OOF this song gets me. Swift really is just a master at telling stories through her lyrics, and this song is no exception. The exhilaration of being in love and the anger and grief of having to keep everything a secret are simultaneously demonstrated, and I think that takes real talent to express. Illicit Affairs has one of my favorite bridges of the entire album. “Don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby” is definitely one of those lyrics you’re always going to sing aloud when you get to it. The final lyric, “for you, I would ruin myself/ a million little times” perfectly shows to struggle of a forbidden love: knowing you’re in a bad situation, but knowing you’d still do anything for that love.
This song is so refreshing to me. It’s simultaneously happy and upbeat, but still has the constant longing aspect that is almost universal to Folklore. Instead of longing for what was, it’s a longing to keep what she currently has. I can absolutely imagine myself spinning around to this at a dance, in the kitchen, anywhere and everywhere. It gives me total 70’s Cinderella vibes, a really magical atmosphere. Does anyone else get chills when she says “Hush”? Just me? Interesting.
I have listened to this song approximately 10,000 times, and I still get chills when I hear the opening piano notes. Bon Iver’s deep bass is such a great compliment to Swift’s voice, and they display the longing and hurt of the lyrics just perfectly. The back and forth in the bridge is just BREATHTAKING. It’s such a beautiful way to showcase the two different perspectives of a relationship that clearly didn’t end too well. The pure emotion conveyed through this song, along with the masterful arrangement of it all, makes it one of the top songs on the album in my book.
1: My Tears Ricochet
I really struggled deciding whether or not to but this song above “Exile”. They both have the same beautiful raw emotion and wonderfully written lyrics that make the song a story, but “MTR” just has something extra to it that pushes it over the edge. This song emphasizes the conflicting feelings of ending a relationship with someone you deeply care about, and the combination of music and lyrics expertly displays the hurt it makes you feel. Like, this is the song you cry to over a tub of ice cream, or sing as loud as possible alone in your car, or add to the top of your “Sad” playlist on Spotify. When “MTR” comes on, you have to stop whatever you’re doing and just listen. The chorus, the bridge, a MASTERPIECE. I’m getting emotional. It’s just that gorgeous to listen to. The emotion the lyrics evoke from me places this song at the tippy top of my rankings.
So there you have it! My official rankings of Folklore’s songs. It was a much harder process than I expected. They’re all such beautifully crafted pieces of art, so put it simply, and I expect my opinions on them to shift around even more over the next few months. I also expect a lot of disagreement over these rankings. My roommate was NOT happy to see “Cardigan” in last place, and she fought for “Seven” to be a lot higher than it is. But that’s what makes Taylor Swift’s latest album so great! When the songs are this good, it’s easy for people to have many different favorites. I think the one thing we can all agree on, however, is that Folklore is an amazing album that everyone should go listen to, and that it truly has been a light in this weird year.
Photo Credit: Her Campus Media Library