There is no doubt that Taylor Swift is one of the most incredible songwriters our generation has ever seen. What stands out the most about her lyricism is the storytelling she can portray through her music and the imaginative words that bring it to life. Her most recent album, her eighth studio album, titled Folklore was a surprise release that dropped on July 24th. She recorded all of it while being in quarantine during the Coronavirus, and there were no hints or promotions for this album; just a twitter post with eight emojis, which some believed was a possible hint (spoiler: it was.) Within this album, Swift lets her imagination run wild with stories that are not her own, and brings listeners into a world she created offering an escape during these trying times.
The albums starts off with “the 1,” a playful, yet pretty, piano-filled song that starts hopeful with Swift singing the first lines, “I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit / Been saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no.’” This song is reminiscent, and sets the mood for the rest of the album. “Cardigan”, track two on the album, is the lead single off of Folklore and is a part of what Swift calls the “teenage love triangle.” What Swift did here was create three fictional characters: Betty, James, and August. “Cardigan” is the track from Betty’s point of view where she sings about love that made her feel special but then haunts her. This song is about Betty being cheated on by our second character (James). “A friend to all, is a friend to none / Meet two girls, lose the one,” Swift sings through Betty’s voice.
The next song in this trilogy is titled “August” where we meet the girl James cheats on Betty with. The lyrics are filled with optimism, but the character still knows she is the second choice. Fans rave about this song due to the stunning lyrics in the bridge. Swift sings, “To live for the hope of it all / Canceled plans just in case you’d call / And say meet me behind the mall / So much for summer love and saying ‘us.’” The last song in this trilogy is conveniently titled “betty,” where James sings about his mistakes. The lyrics of this song place us right inside of a high school, where rumors and gossip flourish. You can feel the regret and desperation through our young and naive character James as Swift sings “In the garden, would you trust me / If I told you it was just a summer thing? / I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything / But I know I miss you.” With this love triangle, Swift proves her masterful songwriting by creating a descriptive, and well thought out storyline for her fans to follow and make theories about.
Another standout song that tells a fictional story is “seven” which captures childhood nostalgia, friendship, and fondness. When listening to this song I could immediately imagine a big house in the countryside where kids would play in the grass for hours without a care in the world. Track three titled “the last great american dynasty” is also an extremely creative song as Swift writes about a rich woman named Rebekah Harkness who owned Swift’s Rhode Island mansion before her.
Despite the many fictional endeavors on the record, Swift gets deep and personal with other songs. “Invisible string,” a song all about fate, references a yogurt shop her current boyfriend used to work at in the United Kingdom. The song “epiphany” is about her grandfather who served in the military during World War Ⅱ, and “mad woman” is about her damaged reputation and being made to look like a villain.
The stories told in every song on this album, whether they are from Swift’s personal life or fictional, are so vivid that you can almost see the narratives playing out in your head like a movie while listening to them. This collection of 16 songs feels timeless and fresh, instantly making this record a hit. Folklore was a gift given to the world in a dark time, and has given me and many others a summer getaway without actually going anywhere physically during the Covid-19 pandemic.