T Swift's lockdown surprise: folklore

I have been a fan of Taylor Swift since her self-titled album (2006) so it’s safe to say that I think her dropping a sixteen-track album, folklore, out of nowhere is probably the best thing to come out of 2020. Straight from the first listen, you can tell that Swift has been doing a lot of self-reflecting during the lockdown, with the overarching theme of the songs being looking at past relationships in retrospect. If you’ve listened to any Taylor Swift song ever then you know she is  infamous for writing breakup songs however this album feels as though she has shifted the focus from whichever ex is in question, to herself and the part she played in the relationship. Taylor has clearly had time to step back and review different aspects of her life, giving a sense of clarity in this album more so than the others. 

Let’s talk about some of the tracks.

the last great american dynasty 

This track tells the story of Rebekah Harkness, the previous inhabitant of Swift’s Long Island home. Harkness and Taylor Swift’s lives definitely have some parallels and we know Taylor loves a good metaphor; there were always eyes on Harkness for being nonconformist, her group of friends were even labelled ‘the bitch squad’ by Long Islanders. As we’ve seen throughout Taylor Swifts albums, she loves the era of the roaring twenties and whereas Harkness’s era was more the nineteen forties and fifties, she lived a life akin to Zelda Fitzgerald, causing controversy in high society just the same, “she had a marvellous time ruining everything”. 

mirrorball 

I think this song is significant to the idea of a ‘lockdown album’, spending this time mainly with well, yourself, has positively affected many people because they’ve started to understand themselves on a deeper level than ever before. In this track Swift suggests that in previous relationships she’s tailored her personality to fit that of the other person, to become more appealing to them. I think that is something everybody can relate to, romantically motivated or otherwise we’ve all wanted to impress someone so badly that we weren’t our true selves around them, which inevitably never ends well. 

seven

In true Taylor Swift style goes back to her hometown roots. I think this is a very honest and heartfelt track, her childhood home means so much to her and in seven she reminisces her Pennsylvanian roots that are so different from the life she leads now, constantly in the spotlight. She has so much love for that place and the people there, as well as who she became as a person, as a result of her childhood home. In this track, I think we see her hoping that they reciprocate the feeling, “please picture me in the weeds, before I learned civility” and don’t feel that fame has changed her too much. 

this is me trying

I think this is the most raw and exposing song on the album, Swift identifies that in the past she has been a difficult person to be with but she wants to try and be better. It reminds us that even Taylor Swift who seemingly lives the dream life of the rich and famous can have personal struggles just like the rest of us, and is just doing her best like the rest of us too.

A love triangle of songs?

Three of the tracks on the album are thought to be linked as Taylor announced that “there’s a collection of 3 songs I refer to as The Teenage Love Triangle”, saying that these songs explore a love triangle from the three different perspectives. Fans think that these tracks are, ‘cardigan’, the albums first single, ‘august’ and ‘betty’. All three centre around short-lived and passionate love affairs that will forever be in the backs of the minds of all involved, “you’ll haunt all of my what ifs”. There are clear links between these songs through Swifts hidden Easter eggs, for instance the line in cardigan, “you’d be standing on my front porch light” links directly to the lines in ‘betty’, “I’m here on your doorstep” and “will you kiss me on the porch”. Therefore if ‘cardigan’ and ‘betty’ are from the perspective of the couple, ‘august’ is about the third member of this triangle. This person knew that they were being kept a secret “meet me behind the mall” and even knew that she wasn’t the only girl in this mystery man’s life “cause you were never mine”. This clearly that didn’t mean her feelings were any less intense, “so much for summer love”. For all our speculation I’m sure we’ll never know who the real identities of these characters are, or if it is just a Sapphic story created by Swift in all her spare time during lockdown. 

Throughout her career Swift has explored several genres, starting with country and up until ‘folklore’ she was firmly rooted in pop. This album feels like a juxtaposition between the two, its nostalgic for the old fans who love her stories of heartbreak and romance and still has some upbeat tracks for fans of ‘reputation’ and ‘Lover’. So, if you’re a fan or just want to listen to something new because you’ve heard your lockdown playlist a thousand times, give folklore a listen. 

Written by Kate Mitchelhill

Edited by Alice Colton