Taylor Swift’s ‘folklore’ May Be The Best Album, Ever
The last thing I expected to happen this week was to be gifted with a new Taylor Swift album, but here we are with 16 new tracks (soon to be 17 once I get my deluxe album) to vibe with during our pseudo-quarantine. Here we are with folklore. And here I am with serious feels.
folklore Started With Imagery
Taylor has always been all about the aesthetics when it comes to her albums. Each has a different color palette, mood, unifying theme. folklore followed that tradition. From the minute her tweet and album cover came across my feed I knew exactly what I wanted folklore to be: folksy, moody, and introspective with lush instrumentals. I immediately craved a forest of poetry, piano, and strings.
And, damn, did she ever deliver.
folklore is pure supernatural magic.
I know I’m biased. I have cheered this woman on from the very beginning of her career. She came to my little town and performed at our Barbecue Festival as a favor to our local country station. Her first single had just started to get some airplay and no one knew her. She came and performed three songs totally acoustic before having to leave so she could open for Rascal Flatts. I had just graduated high school and she was a couple years younger than me, but her songs reached inside me and from then on I was hooked.
So, I’m not at all objective about her or this album. Every album she releases outdoes the last and after Lover I truly wasn’t sure how she’d reinvent herself. Lover felt like a culmination of everything she’d learned throughout her career.
I never once thought she might take it all back to basics — her storytelling roots.
Fairytales and folklore
This album reminds me of Speak Now and Red with a touch of that Reputation rebelliousness. She takes her expert storytelling skills that we all came to love with Speak Now and combines it with the angsty emotions she put into Red and then stirs in a little of the inky darkness she debuted with Reputation. The result is a dark, glittering, spiced potion that fills the air with a sense of mystical destiny.
I have never experienced anything like it. Not from Taylor or anyone else.
Taylor has never been shy about the influence folk-style artists have had on her over the years. We know about her love of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. You can hear both throughout this album. But there’s also traces of Judy Collins, Carole King, and Carly Simon. This entire album has a seventies folk sound that is incredibly relevant to the times we’re living through.
Carole King blew people away in 1971 with Tapestry. It was a special lightning in a bottle moment for music. I truly believe that Taylor has recreated that same electricity with folklore. Her imaginative storytelling has never been better and the melodies are innovative and fresh yet somehow feel familiar and worn. It’s truly remarkable.
Final folklore Thoughts
Tori Amos once declared Carole King’s songs to be “sonic movies” and I think that’s an apt descriptor for every track on folklore too. You want to be immersed in each song. You want candlelight, mulled wine, the light sounds of rain on a tin roof, and — yes — to be wrapped up in a cozy threadbare cardigan.
Taylor Swift has created an auditory universe for us to escape to whenever our current world becomes much too overwhelming or we need something to help us express those deep all consuming emotions. It’s breathtaking and indulgent and I am so grateful she chose to share it with us when she did.
I cannot wait for this coming award season. I wholeheartedly hope she sweeps every award at every ceremony. She’s created art with this album. It’s a flowing fantastical collection of fables and we will pass it down and whisper it around just as she hoped — like folklore.
8 Stand-Out Tracks From TS8
“And when I felt like I was an old cardigan,
Under someone’s bed,
You put me on and said I was your favorite.”
This track is the perfect lead single for this album. It, and the video, really represent the album extremely well. It’s warm yet bittersweet. It hurts and also comforts. It’s a song full of emotional contradictions just like real life. Oh, man I love it. And that video has fantasy written all over it. It’s a musical version of Narnia: secret entrances to secret worlds full of their own risks and rewards. Beautiful.
exile (featuring bon iver)
“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 now?
You were my town, now I’m in exile,
Seeing you out, I think I’ve seen this film before.”
That chorus just hits you square in the chest. God, anyone who has grown apart from a love, a family member, or a friend knows exactly how those words feel. The imagery of exile for distance that ends a relationship is impactful. “You’re not my homeland anymore” specifically murders my heart. I know that feeling. I’ve bled those words in the middle of friendship breakdowns numerous times over the course of my life.
my tears ricochet
“I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace,
‘Cause when I’d fight, you used to tell me I was brave,
And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake?
Cursing my name, wishing I stayed,
Look at how my tears ricochet.”
Picking out lyrics to highlight from this masterpiece was almost impossible, but I went with the lines that impacted me the most personally. “When I’d fight, you used to tell me I was brave” glares at me every time I read it. This song is illustrating an abuser putting on a show at the funeral of a woman he mistreated and, man, if that image doesn’t scream relevancy in a world where well known abusers give performative apologies then I don’t know what would. Since Reputation, Taylor has been layering misogyny call outs in so many of her songs and folklore continues that tradition. Don’t worry, we’ll be discussing “Mad Woman” later too.
“I’m still a believer, but I don’t know why,
I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try.
I”m still on that trapeze,
I”m still trying everything to keep you looking at me.
Because I’m a mirrorball,
I’m a mirrorball,
And I’ll show you every version of yourself tonight.”
I could probably have swapped this song out for one less underrated but this song is one of my personal favorites. It has a 90s alternative style that reaches into my teen rom-com adoring soul and gives me flashes of Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That. It’s nostalgic for me and has one of the most wholesome messages of any song on folklore.
While not featured in the lyrics above, “I’m still on my tallest tiptoes, spinning in my highest heels, love, shining just for you” makes me swoon and want to fall in love with someone immediately. To me, this song is bubbly like champagne and truly sparkles like a mirrorball. I visualize weddings, proms, and people dancing in formal wear with flirty smiles on their faces. I see effervescent happiness. I love it.
“Time, mystical time,
Cutting me open, then healing me fine,
Were there clues I didn’t see?
And isn’t it just so pretty to think,
All along there was some,
Tying you to me?”
When I saw this title on the track list, the first thing my writer brain screamed was, “Jane Eyre!” and my romantic soul immediately began having heart palpitations. While the song doesn’t exactly line up with Jane Eyre, it’s still romantic as hell.
My soul was satisfied and I celebrated by swaying with my arms raised in praise while all alone in my room. It was exactly what I wanted when I first read the title. I adore the notion that all the pain and broken relationships we go through are meant to shape us and lead us to exactly the right person. I’m not sure I believe it but I want to, and isn’t that what this song is all about?
“No one likes a mad woman,
You made her like that,
And you’ll poke that bear ‘til the claws come out,
And you find something to wrap your noose around,
And there’s nothing like a mad woman.”
Remember I said we’d talk about this one later? Well, later is here, and let me take a moment to give Ms. Swift a metaphorical standing ovation. On Lover she gave us “The Man” which was kick-ass and an anthem, but on folklore she gives us something that dives into a much more psychological take on the patriarchy and the ways women are portrayed to the world.
When we fight back, we are labeled over emotional and unhinged. We are portrayed as hysterical and illogical. We “lose our cool”. We are not allowed to show emotion in extremes without it being used as a weapon against us and that is what this song is all about. Thank you, Taylor, for giving me a song to blast when I need to be a mad woman. (Additionally, the lyric “It’s obvious that wanting me dead has really brought you two together” is an epic burn on a certain Mr. and Mrs. Moped — if you’ll allow me the nicknames.)
“Betty, I’m here on your doorstep,
And I planned it out for weeks now,
But it’s finally sinking in,
Betty, right now is the last time,
I can dream about what happens when,
You see my face again,
The only thing I wanna do,
Is make it up to you.”
The immediate acoustic vibe of this track grabbed me. It started with guitar and harmonica and before a word was sung I knew it was already a classic. The fact that this song is one of three that tells a “teen love triangle” story, according to Taylor, is also brilliant. (The other two pieces of the story are “august” and “cardigan” by the way.) The point of view she chose to explore here is interesting to me because most songs would be written from the victimized party, but this is a song about pleading for forgiveness.
The main character of the song knows he’s done something horrible and he doesn’t know if he can fix it. The theme isn’t unique on its own, but when combined with Taylor’s talent for melodical earworms and the acoustic charm of the instrumental it becomes something singularly unique. It’s one of the most striking songs on the entire album.
“No, I could never give you peace,
But I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm,
If your cascade, ocean wave blues come,
All these people think love’s for show,
But I would die for you in secret,
The devil’s in the details, but you got a friend in me,
Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?”
This track. This. Freaking. Track.
By far my personal favorite on the entire album. It rocked my world in one listen. The earnestness and honesty of the lyrics floored me. I was speechless for a full minute after my first listen. I want someone to feel this about me and for me. I want to feel this for someone. It’s a song that made me yearn to make this my own story. Someday, I want to be able to say I felt this strongly about another person because these lyrics to me encapsulate real love better than any song I’ve ever heard.
Just because a person loves you with all they have does not mean your life with them will be perfect. True love does not bring instant peace, but it should, in my opinion, bring you comfort. That’s the story of this song. It’s saying, “I can’t promise we won’t face hardships, but I can promise to hold your hand through them. I hope that’s good enough.” And that sentiment makes me want to cry.
It’s heartachingly gorgeous and I have never heard it expressed so accurately. God, I really thought I knew the limit on how powerful Taylor’s lyrics could be but I was utterly wrong. This woman’s mind has no limits. To me, this song is proof of that.
The Love Lasts So Long
It’s time to bring this rave review to a close. I could easily be here for days if I don’t take control of my emotions now. Let me end with this, I will never reach an age or a phase of my life where Taylor Swift doesn’t speak to my soul. That may sound over dramatic but to me music is part of the fabric of my life. It helps me express myself in ways I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. This album and the eight tracks highlighted here are prime examples of that.
Do you have different tracks from folklore that speak to you? Did I leave out your favorite? What song on this album reaches into your chest and wraps a hand around your heart? I am dying to know! Comment below with your opinions and preferences! We’d love to hear from you!
You can always come find us on twitter too! Follow @capeandcastle! Bring a glass of wine and a cardigan and we’ll vibe to folklore together! Don’t forget to check out the rest of our site for more pop culture and entertainment coverage!