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Ranking Every Song on Taylor Swift’s folklore

So, Taylor Swift can really do everything? Country, pop, and now indie-folk. folklore, Swift’s quarantine baby, was released with less than 24 hours notice to the public. As a self-proclaimed Swiftie myself, I was ecstatic for the release of this new album. The promotion pictures were giving me cottage-core meets dark academia vibes and I could not resist… The album has been out for a month and a half, and now that I’ve finally gotten time to fully take in the album, here’s my definitive ranking of every song on folklore.

17. hoax

The last song on the album has come in last. Almost every final song on Swift’s albums turns out to be a hidden gem and eventually becomes a fan favorite. “hoax” is a somber waltz, fitting right in with the melancholic tones of the album. However, “hoax” remains the least memorable on the album, lacking the excitement and fiery passion Swift fans love in her songs.

16. this is me trying

Similar to “hoax,” “this is me trying” is not quite as memorable as some of the other songs on the album. This soft ballad about Swift trying to repair a broken relationship is gentle and contains a great bridge, but it’s delicacy does not stand up to the more fervent songs on the album.

15. epiphany

This dreamy, war-inspired ballad tends to blend in with the last few songs on the album like “hoax.” Despite some impressive and interesting vocal moments by Swift, the song remains pretty unremarkable compared to the rest of the album.

14. my tears ricochet

Swift revealed the fifth track on her album is about an “embittered tormentor showing up at the funeral of his fallen object of obsession” and the first song she wrote on the album. “my tears ricochet” holds more of the passion Swifties are constantly looking for in her songs, but still remains unmemorable. Notably, Swifties believe this song is about Swift’s move to Republic from Big Machine Label, the latter which has been known for treating Swift poorly. 

13. mirrorball

The sixth track holds the same dreaminess as “epiphany” but with a bit of a lighter tune. Personally, the verses and chorus are less metaphorical and more simple compared to Swift’s usual lyrics. However, this song ranks higher than the ones before because of its bridge, which stands out from the rest of the song.

12. mad woman

With a similar theme to “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Blank Space,” Swift touches on female “madness.” This song almost seems like the ultimate release from Swift’s “good girl” attitude she was known for having until the 1989 era. Revealed in the Netflix documentary Miss Americana, Swift has always felt immense pressure to remain on the public’s good side. With reputation, she begins to let go of this and “mad woman” seems like the definitive end. This is one of Swift’s many clapbacks to sexism.

11. the 1

The first track in folklore starts a little more upbeat and lighthearted than the rest of Swift’s songs on the album. Swift reminisces about a past lover and what could have been. With clever songwriting and a more lively sound, this is classically Swift.

10. the lakes

Swift’s bonus track on the deluxe edition of folklore is an ethereal, romantic ballad. It references the UK’s Lake District, known for being a very romantic destination, and the “Lake Poets” of the Romantic Movement. Beautiful strings and lyrics that are reminiscent of poetry make this a great bonus track.

9. peace

One of Swift’s main themes across all her albums is growing up and maturation. With “peace,” she speaks to her changing views on love and romance as she grows older. The music in the song is relatively simple and calm compared to some of the more intense songs on the album, but that just makes the listener focus on the lyrics more. And they’re simply spectacular.

8. invisible string

“invisible string” happens to be one of my personal favorites on the album. With the eleventh track, the audience gets a quick break from the darkness of the album with this song and it’s plucky guitar and sweet lyrics. Describing her relationship with current boyfriend Joe Alwyn (a source of inspiration for Swift’s last three albums), the song is sung through rose-tinted glasses and is just simply lovely.

7. illicit affairs

This song is one of the most cleverly written on the album. Swift tackles infidelity and cheating with lyrics like “a dwindling, mercurial high/a drug that only worked/the first few hundreds times” and other lyrics that stick with the audience for hours after listening. Concluding with a powerful bridge that just makes you want to belt it with her, this song is one you’ll remember after your first listen.

6. last great american dynasty

In all honesty, the third track on the album was not one of my favorites at first. If I had ranked the songs a month ago, this one would be pretty low. But after letting it sink in for a while, I can safely say this is one of my favorites on the album. This upbeat song comes right after the darkness of “cardigan.” Swift touches on the “madness” of women yet again through telling the story of the previous owner of Swift’s Rhode Island home. The storytelling of the song is reminiscent of some of her past songs like “The Lucky One” and “Love Story.” Swift is able to pack a full narrative into an almost four minute song with a great chorus.

5. exile (feat. bon iver)

This depressing tune is personally not one of my favorites on the album, but deserves such a high ranking because of it’s clever songwriting and amazing vocals. This break-up song is a stand-out on the album, featuring Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and his melancholic voice which lends itself perfectly to the song. This collaboration is Swift’s best to date.

4. cardigan

The first single off of Swift’s folklore is one of her most memorable songs, quite possibly ever. The song establishes the album’s sorrowful tone while combining Swift’s ingenious songwriting, making it the perfect single. Strings and keys work perfectly together to create this magnificent song. Notably, this is the first installment in what Swift calls the “Teenage Love Triangle” trilogy. Each song tells the story of a romance from different perspectives.

3. seven

This song, another one of my personal favorites, has Swift reflecting back on the innocence of childhood and what it’s like to have that slowly fade away. The dreamy and gentle tune only furthers Swift’s theme of innocence throughout the song. Her vocals are lovely and lullaby-like, bringing the audience into this innocent dreamscape. This song is constantly on repeat.

2. betty

Did someone say harmonica? “betty” is the third and final installment in Swift’s “Teenage Love Triangle” trilogy. This track has become a fan favorite among Swifties with it’s folk-rock sound and storytelling elements. “betty” has a powerful build up to its bridge and ends with intense orchestrations, channeling the energy in what Swifties believe to be her best song, “All Too Well.” The song has also become a LGBTQ+ anthem for some. “betty” is told from the perspective of James, whose gender is never stated, and notably, is the name of one of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds daughters, with whom Swift is close friends. This is leading some fans to believe that this is a sapphic love story.

1. august

We’ve reached my number one: Swift’s eighth track on the album “august.” This track is the second installment of the “Teenage Love Triangle” trilogy, told from the perspective of an unnamed character with whom James cheated on Betty. This dreamy, nostalgic pop-ballad features amazing vocals from Swift, clever lyrics, and maybe the most iconic bridge of the whole album. Plus, an amazing outro? What more could you want from a song. This is my personal favorite, and quite possibly, one of my favorite songs Swift has ever released.

If you’ve made it to the end, congratulations. And I hope I did right by the other Swifties reading this. Click here to listen to folklore ranked in this order.

Seren Cho is a sophomore Media Arts Production major at Emerson College. Having grown up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Seren is excited to start telling stories in the city of Boston. Be warned: Seren is a nerd through and through, and is most definitely not afraid to show it.
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