The allure of Folklore: a review of Taylor Swift’s new album

There’s nothing like the feeling of nostalgia that comes with listening to a Taylor Swift album after school in your angsty, existentialist teenage years. Taylor makes it personal and has an unmatched quality which makes her lyrics sound like something straight out of your diary. Her new album, Folklore, remains nothing short of this sentiment.

Irredeemably, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an overwhelming sense of stagnation in all facets of life, especially that of the arts. But, as the saying goes, the devil works hard, but Taylor Swift works harder. While we were all drinking wine on our couches, rewatching Gossip Girl for the 5th time, Taylor was ruminating on a masterpiece: a cottage-core indie-folk dream album.

Though Folklore remains a far cry from her pop-driven signature style with a side of country twang and heart wrenching ballads, the essence of Swift still remains in her ability to capture such particular and personal feelings through her way with words.

In her surprise announcement, Taylor described her experience making Folklore as this:

“In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result. I’ve told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder, and whimsy they deserve. Now it’s up to you to pass them down. Folklore is out now”.

As the title suggests, Folklore’s magic lies within its storytelling. “The lines between fantasy and reality blur and the boundaries between truth and fiction become almost indiscernible” says Swift. She had to step into the minds and realities of curious legends and mysterious folklore ranging from the rich of Rhode Island to a 17 year old boy lamenting his love to a young girl – all stories to which she has no personal attachment to.

Starting with the lead single Cardigan, we are immediately brought into a fantasy-like world - the Folklorian universe if you would – where we are introduced to people and places which seem paradoxically familiar and unfamiliar. Additionally, songs like The Last Great American Dynasty and the whimsically delightful Betty emulate this: we don’t know who these people are, but at some point in our lives we have been a Betty who was intentionally screwed over by a teenage boy or have been entangled in an affair which has left us in a permanent stupor and melancholy.

Not to leave out the honorable mentions, Swift’s collaboration with indie group Bon Iver on exile leaves a lasting impression on the soul with its gothic, wistful and sultry tone which thematically links to her raw and emotion-filled acoustic ballad Illicit Affairs, both about a lost love that was never meant to be.

Rightfully, Folklore remains an album that is so Swift and so unlike Swift at the same time, and this amalgamation creates a tender and irresistible conflict that cannot be explained. Nevertheless, Swift fan or not, it is worth the time to explore Swift’s Folklorian world filled with lust, longing, sorrow, nature-filled imagery and young love.