T-Swizzle. Love or hate, this former country star turned pop princess has been topping charts since her adolescent years. But what nobody expected was for her to release an indie record amid quarantine. While unanticipated, Folklore has since been pretty well received, and dare I say, is her best record yet?
First of all, marketing. This album did not have an elaborate release, and instead was just dropped on our laps with barely any warning, proving to be just as effective. Though it has been argued that this was just another calculated release for the mega star, it doesn’t sound as premeditated the way like her repetitive 2014 hit ‘Shake it Off’ did.
The hit single off the album ‘Cardigan,’ is perfectly cutesy and catchy. Will it make you want to snuggle in your own cardigan? Yes. Did Taylor Swift also capitalize on that? Also, yes.
This album is simply a serendipitous surprise we didn’t know we needed, and undoubtedly the result of Taylor’s creative quarantine, and an album that would have likely not existed without it. It’s lovely to see someone being productive while many of us are still working on our summer bods we promised ourselves in quarantine (me).
From first glance of the album artwork, Folklore is a Taylor Swift outlier. This is not a self-portrait like nearly all of Swift's previous albums. She’s still present, but she’s much smaller and not in the center-- speaking volumes about her new direction. This is not an album about herself, this is an album with stories to tell; and sounds just like the cover looks.
Folklore is a perfectly fitting title as the stories are about a community, and follows an array of characters and points of view. While they are stories of highschool characters (an era Swift seemingly has not recovered from, with other familiar hits like ‘You Belong With Me’) she attacks them with a more mature and articulate lens.
One of the most obvious attributes to this album is the production done most heavily by The National’s Aaron Dessner. Taylor Swift knew exactly who to pull to influence her first indie rock attempt, and this master of sonic experimentation fit like a glove.
Swift’s music has always played it safe in terms of instrumentation and arrangement; one of her biggest 2019 releases, 'ME!’ relies heavily on drum and synth programming. While Folklore breaks this mold (of course this comes with the territory of being in a new genre) and enlists a spacey and atmospheric vibe complete with an abundance of instruments including strings, heavy piano, and mellotron.
There has been no question on Taylor Swift’s ability as a songwriter, but Folklore brings out another animal. Aside from the maturity and eloquence, she brings punchy lyrics that bite. In ‘Illicit Affairs,’ Swift sings “Tell your friends you’re out for a run/ You’ll be flushed when you return.” And in ‘My Tears Ricochet,’ she sings “And if I’m dead to you why are you at the wake?” These lyrics carry some weight.
As a truly perceptive crossover artist, she even has a tune to satisfy her country fans. ‘Betty,’ tastes just country enough with a harmonica and lap steel peppered in.
LONG STORY SHORT: Folklore attracts new fans while still allowing Swifities to rejoice. Whether this release was a strategic business move or not, it’s a home run.