When Miss Taylor Swift dropped Folklore in July 2020, I’m pretty sure the world had a collective cry. The album was perfect for the moment — not only was most of the world angry about being stuck indoors but people all over the planet were forced to watch loved ones live their last moments through computer screens. We were traumatized, and Folklore felt a little bit like therapy. Its introspective, romantic storytelling and acoustic sound allowed us to escape to somewhere better for just a moment — a breath of fresh air in the woods.
Any casual Taylor Swift listener knows that Folklore is a HUGE departure from its 2019 bubblegum pop predecessor, Lover. Taylor Swift, like most pop artists, has a habit of reinventing herself for every album cycle. Lover was the sunny “I-don’t-give-an-eff” response to the anger and darkness of Reputation. And Reputation was a response to the damage her image received in the years following her “rich city girl” 2014 offering, 1989.
Taylor’s albums have always been autobiographical, so every rebrand is tied to a new development in Taylor’s personal life. This relationship between personal and professional seems to be toxic for our girl at times. I can’t stop thinking about something she said about the music industry in her Netflix documentary, Miss Americana:
“Be new to us, be young to us, but only in a new way, and only in the way we want. And reinvent yourself, but only in a way that we find to be equally comforting but also a challenge for you. Live out a narrative that is interesting enough to entertain us, but not so crazy that it makes us uncomfortable.”
Poor Taylor is expected to change herself every 2-3 years to remain interesting to her audience… and she knows her days of being interesting are numbered, as the public tends to throw away female pop artists once they turn 30. Oof.
And yet, at 30 years old, Miss Taylor Swift releases her eighth studio album, Folklore, to universal critical acclaim. And she follows this album up with a similar album, Evermore, less than six months later. No rebrand, no reinvention. What’s the deal?
It seems that our girl Taylor has defied the very standards she expresses concern about in Miss Americana. Unlike in Reputation and Lover, Taylor Swift isn’t using Folklore or Evermore to prove anything to anybody. I feel as if she’s recognized that the bubblegum pop space is filled with younger, snappier artists with more to prove. As a seasoned songwriter, she can pretty much write whatever she wants… so why should she write an album in quarantine for anyone except herself?
In Miss Americana, Taylor says something about how celebrities often stop maturing at the age they get famous. At the time she recorded the documentary, she was 29 and in the process of promoting Lover. She herself admitted that she had a lot of growing up to do. (Don’t we all?) As an outsider and avid Taylor Swift fan, it seems as if the quarantine was her chance to get going on all that growing up… and Folklore and Evermore are the results of that process.
Like many women my age, I’m a bit of an OG Swiftie. Sometimes, when no one’s looking, I’ll still put on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and dance around my room in my jammies, pretending I’m 11 again. Even though I’ve never met Taylor Swift and probably never will, I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve grown up together. I’m sure many of you fellow Swifties feel the same way. Folklore and Evermore are the ultimate evidence of this new artistic and personal maturity that reflects who I am now, just like Speak Now reflected who I was in 2010. To watch this same incredible artist — my childhood idol — win Album of the Year for her eighth studio album in 2021… what a wonderful gift for fans like me.