If there’s one thing Taylor Swift is known for, it’s her ability to cleverly hint at new music. That’s why fans were shocked when she announced her latest album, folklore, a mere 16 hours before its release (and at 8 AM, nonetheless). Like the devout Swiftie I am, I stayed up until 12 AM the eve of folklore’s release, counting the seconds until I could hear what Swift had been working on while I was obsessively baking banana bread and playing Animal Crossing- and it did not disappoint.
Watch the cardigan music video here
folklore is a much different vibe than anything Swift has done before, which is evident in her collaborators- notably, indie rock powerhouses Aaron Dessner (of The National), who co-wrote for the record, and Bon Iver, who is featured on “exile.” Starting off with “the 1,” it’s instantly clear that this isn’t 2019’s Lover as she sings “you know the greatest loves of all time are over now.”
It also diverges from her previous works in that it very much focuses on the power of storytelling, as evident in “the last great american dynasty.” “the last great american dynasty” details the wild adventures of Harkness, who once owned Swift’s Rhode Island home.
In the chat before the YouTube premiere of “cardigan,” Swift mentioned that “there’s a collection of 3 songs I refer to as the Teenage Love Triangle. These 3 signs explore a love triangle from all 3 people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.” For example, “august” is all about a summer love and is believed to be narrated by teenage Inez. She sings “August slipped away like a bottle of wine, cause you were never mine.” The country, self-titled-album-sounding “Betty” is written from the point of view of James, who had the aforementioned affair with Inez while dating another girl; Betty. Lastly, “cardigan” is Betty’s voice.
Of course, once you get past the fun of deciphering Swift’s various characters, there’s plenty of tear-inducing, emotional songs. “exile” (ft. Bon Iver) is my personal favorite, describing two lovers’ conversation after their breakup. Swift’s soft, light voice is a great contrast with Bon Iver’s lower, somber tone and the lyrics are beautiful; “I think I’ve seen this film before, and I didn’t like the ending… you’re not my homeland anymore, so what am I defending?”). “this is me trying” is another gem, all about the aftermath of a breakup (“And it’s hard to be at a party when I feel like an open wound, It’s hard to be anywhere when all I want is you”).
“mirrorball” is a hazy, dreamy depiction of someone who reflects the personalities of everyone around them, trying to entertain them, but is as broken as shattered glass. Perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching on folklore is “epiphany,” which references both Swift’s grandfather’s service during World War II and present-day’s COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, folklore is the “indie record that’s much cooler than mine” Swift referenced on 2012’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” It’s an autumnal album that dropped in the middle of summer, with no skips and lyrics that’ll have you discovering something new with each listen. With folklore, Swift cements her place as one of the most talented songwriters of our generation.