A Complete Review of Taylor Swift’s ‘folklore’

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Margaret Holmes

Taylor Swift’s 8th album, “folklore”, dropped unexpectedly on July 24th, 2020. The theme in Swift’s new album is seclusion. The songs were all written during an isolated quarantine, but that doesn’t mean that the songs are solely about her. In fact, the majority of her songs are written from different perspectives. An example of this is with her three person love triangle highlighted with “cardigan,” “august” and “betty.” Either way, the tracks have certainly found a way to brighten up such a dark time. 

Co-written with Aaron Dessner and Jack Antanoff, “folklore” has broken away from Swift’s previous pop numbers and looped back to more closely follow the songs from her earlier country albums. The album can be more clearly described as folk music, but one can certainly hear the country influence. Using mellow guitar and piano, many of the tracks convey a sort of melancholy nostalgia. The album received many positive responses, with her track “betty” even being performed at this year’s CMAs. So what is it that makes “folklore” so special? Read below for a more in-depth analysis of each song.

“the 1”:

Swift starts off her album with a fresh song about looking back on relationships in fondness. “the 1” is a reflection of a relationship that ended but still brought her joy. This is a great song to listen to a few months after a breakup. 

“cardigan”:

Arguably her most popular track from “folklore,” “cardigan is one of the three songs about the love-triangle Swift created through her music. The second track “cardigan” is about a relationship souring through betrayal and dwindling optimism. The song is told from Betty’s perspective about her relationship with James (more on that later). The only song to have a music video, “cardigan” uses a lot of symbolism to convey her messages. Of the whole album, “cardiganis my personal favorite. 

“the last great american dynasty”:

This song is about Rebekah Harkness, an heiress who previously owned Swift’s Rhode Island estate. The song tells the story about her marriage and the social response from the town she lived in when it ended. “the last great american dynasty” is one of the faster tracks within “folklore”, and has an excellent melody. 

“exile”:

This duet with Bon Iver sounds almost like a soft lullaby. It isn’t though, with the two narrators painting a picture of the sad truth of people growing apart and moving on with others. The solo piano adds to the feeling of despair brought by the duo. 

“my tears ricochet”:

Despite a few semi-cringy lyrics, “my tears ricochet” overall has some great lyrics about trying to move on after a breakup. Disimarlily to “the 1”, this song has a more melancholy feeling about a breakup and seems to pin the blame on the ex. This song might be a good listen right after a breakup. 

“mirrorball”:

 This seems like that one song that everyone dances to at prom. It is slow yet hopeful, painting the picture of a couple whose relationship stays new and shiny for years. This song is one of the few in the album that seems to be about Swift and her boyfriend Joe Alwyn. 

“seven”: 

While listening to this song the first few times it’s easy to hear the beautiful instrumentals and skim over the lyrics, but “seven” is really about a young child of seven who lives in an abusive household. It is also about being young and free and not understanding the pain of the adult world. 

“august”: 

The second song in the love triangle is told from the perspective of the other girl. It tells the story of a summer love affair and the struggle of knowing that your love will never belong to you. The track “august” is performed in such a way that one can almost smell the salt air and see the ocean waves crash over the summer of love. 

“this is me trying”: 

This song is about regrets and trying in a relationship even when it seems like hope is lost. Swift gets real in this song, and you can hear the pain in her voice. The steady beat of the drums highlights her voice perfectly. 

“illicit affairs”: 

The track “illicit affairs” starts as instructions for keeping a relationship under wraps, but it moves on to be a song about how relationships die a little bit as time goes on. This song can be linked to Swift’s relationship with actor Joe Alwyn. 

“invisible string”: 

This song sounds like a lullaby and is rather like a dream sequence with its floaty vocals and soft music. The track “invisible string” uses many specific details to make the story even clearer. Listen to this if you want to relax and reflect. 

“mad women”: 

This song is about sexism and how society still views emotional women as “mad” or crazy. The song suggests that calling people crazy reflects upon your own craziness. This song is best to be listened to when you want to blow off some steam. 

“epiphany”: 

This song is very quiet and thought-provoking. Like “invisible string” it sounds dream-like. Despite this, the song is about Swift’s grandfather’s time fighting in World War II. It also touches on the PTSD that plagued him after the war. 

“betty”: 

Completing the love triangle, “betty” is told from 17 year old James’s perspective. James is looking for forgiveness from Betty for his infidelity. Swift sings about James’s regret and how he would do anything to make it right. The song ends on a bittersweet note with James talking to Betty. It remains up to interpretation whether or not she forgives him. This is the most country-sounding song in the album. 

“peace”: 

This song is about what it takes to make a relationship work. Swift offers up what she would give to the relationship, but insists that she could never give them peace. She goes on to sing about the highs and lows of their relationship. 

“hoax”: 

This song is about faithless love and devotion to someone, even though they have hurt you. She calls their love a hoax, and that is the only hoax that she believes in. She sings that even though their love makes her sad, she needs it in her life. 

You can listen to Swift’s “folklore” on all music streaming platforms. Even if you haven’t listened to Swift before or liked her earlier music, giving this album a try won’t be a mistake.