Sorry for not posting on here in a million years. But Taylor just dropped an album, so I'm back. When I saw the tweet announcing Folklore I didn't actually believe it for like 10 minutes. I saw the blue checkmark by her name, but it still didn't seem real. Taylor took the idea of everyone just making something while we're all stuck inside to a whole new level. I had expected some new music from different artists (Lauv dropped a great EP, I'm still waiting for Niall's quarantine album), but with Taylor's strictly scheduled life that's so carefully planned, I didn't see this coming.
I guess no one has an excuse now. This album completely made distanced and digitally is a total masterpiece.
I'm so glad it did, though. I doubted anything could make me feel better about this year or life in general. This album delivered just that. The second it started pouring through my earbuds while I sat in the dark, I knew that this album is special. That it's magical. I feel more in love with Taylor than I think I've ever been. After Lover, I wasn't sure if I'd ever match that Reputation level of excitement. That's been proven, thankfully false.
Taylor isn't looking for her pop radio #1 or a record breaking pop run. She's been there and done that. This album is for us, but it's also for the critics and the Recording Academy that have made it their singular mission to snub her year after year. Seeing how crushed she was in Miss Americana after Rep got snubbed, it's clear that's what she's after again. Also, Bon Iver (Grammy Darling) was a clear tip off.
But I also think there's a freedom in this album where goals and expectations just stopped existing. This sounds like an album made by someone who's done playing against themselves. In not trying to out-do herself, Taylor might have just created her most universally beloved album yet. My whole timeline in love with Taylor.
If I had to sum the album up in terms of her past work, I would say this is the album version of "Out of the Woods", which is probably why I'm so in love with it. So many of these songs feel like they're tracing the scars of OOTW's wounds. It's also a little bit of "Death By A Thousand Cuts" extended out. It's proof that Taylor can write a sad, thoughtful break up album regardless of what's going on in her personal life.
That's another point to keep in mind about the album. It's a true concept album. Taylor has mentioned pulling from history (most clearly in "Last Great American Dynasty), stories from other people, memories, and past failed relationships examined from other points of view or just relooked at with the benefit of age. I think the listener can definitely sense that and draw parallels with past songs.
There is not a skip on the album, and I'm having a super hard time figuring out how to rank them or if that's even possible.
I think I will force myself to rank them for an upcoming YouTube video (make sure you're subscribed to my channel here so you don't miss it), but for now, I just want to celebrate. Let's talk about each one from favorite lyrics to little things I noticed and who worked on it.
1. "the 1"- Arron Dessner & Taylor Swift
I love the clap beat and piano chords that open the song. It's the perfect simple backing to let the lyrics shine.
This album has some of Taylor's best plays on words and lyricism in general. It's so evocative and inventive. The song revolves around reflecting on a past, failed relationship that's long over now and never coming back but ripe to what if about. When Taylor opens the album with "I'm doing good, I'm on some new shit", you know she's ready to take you on a whole new ride.
I just love that Taylor is back to that 1989 theme of perfect, powerful, amazing loves that are inherently broke and that will never make it. But they're still special and important.
"I"m doing good, I'm on some new shit/Been saying "yes" instead of "no""
"You know the greatest films of all time were never made"
"And if you never bleed, you're never gonna grow/And it's alright now"
"And if my wishes came true/It would've been you"
"In my defense I have none/For never leaving we'll enough alone"
"You know the greatest ones of all time are over now"
"I have this dream you're doing cool shit/Having adventures on your own/You meet some woman on the Internet and take her home"
"If one thing had been different/Would everything be different today?"
Can you tell this is one of my by far favorites?
2. "cardigan"- Arron Dessner & Taylor Swift- Produced by Jack Anttonoff
This is the lead single for the album and got a music video (that I couldn't help getting "Falling" vibes from the video; I mean, cleaning to a piano while drowning). The video plays heavily off the Peter Pan reference in the chorus, "Peter losing Wendy". It's a brilliant choice in lead single, breaking the usual pattern. Though, there's really no wrong choice with this one.
While answering questions on the video page, she prefaced the song by saying, "The song is abotut a lost romance and why young love is often fixed so permanently within our memories. Why it leaves such an indelible mark". And that comes through in her metaphor about an old favorite cardigan. She talks about how she knew how the relationship would end before it started, and now she can confirm that she's 100% correct.
I love the moody feeling and how rhythmic her voice is. It has the dark vibes of Reputation with subject matter akin to 1989 which fits together just as well as I imagined it would. This song is another stunning storytelling run that gets better with each listen.
"Vintage tee, brand new phone/High heels on cobblestones"
"When you are young, they assume you know nothing"
"But I knew you/Dancin' in your Levi's/Drunk under a streetlight"
"I knew you/Your heartbeat on the High Line/Once in twenty lifetimes" (I love all the New York references)
"You drew stars around my scars/But now I'm bleeding" (some of my favorite lyrics of all time)
"Marked me like a bloodstain"
"But I knew you'd linger like a tattoo kiss/I knew you'd haunt all of my what-ifs"
"I knew I'd curse you for the longest time/Chasin' shadows in the grocery line"
Reminds Me of Past Songs
"I knew you'd miss me once the thrill expired/And you'd be standin' in my front porch light"- this reminds me of "I Wish You Would" where she talks about him driving past her house multiple times before coming back. "2 AM, here we are/See your face, hear my voice in the dark"
"And I knew you'd come back to me/You'd come back to me"- "This Love" is built around a very similar idea.
3. "the last great american dynasty"- Arron Dessner & Taylor Swift
This is the most obviously pulled from the history book. It's about Rebekah Harkness who was an arts patron and owned Taylor's Rhode Island home before Taylor.
In the song, she discusses Rebekah's harsh treatment by her neighbors and society people for not being their typical type. They claim she ruined everything for her husband's legacy, but Taylor relishes in it. Then the song twists around and makes it about Taylor, the new owner. I think Taylor definitely sympathizes with the way Rebekah was turned into tabloid fodder. This song immediately struck me as the grown up version of "Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince". This track is much more upbeat and poppy than the first two.
"Who knows, if she never showed up what could've been/There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen/She had a marvelous time ruining everything"
"And then it was bought by me"
4. "exile" (feat. Bon Iver)- William Bowery, Taylor Swift, Bon Iver- Produced by Arron Dessner
It's so rare that we get to see both sides of a broken relationship in a single song, but this duet delivers exactly that. With deliciously moody piano chords and impeccable production when it comes to vocal layering, this song is meant to be in listened to through headphones. I also didn't know what Bon Iver sounded like until this song, but I'd always wondered.
He plays the roll of a confused ex watching his girlfriend move on what feels like suddenly. Taylor picks up the narrative, telling him that it wasn't sudden. He missed all the warning signs that were so obviously there. I love the tension of this happening at a run in. I particularly love the ending where they sing together and he goes "you never gave a warning sign" and she's layered over singing, "I gave so many signs". I feel like that's a sentiment so many people can relate to.
This song also carries on the motif of movie mentions- especially doomed, sad ones.
"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?"
"I can see you starin', honey/Like he's just your understudy/Like you'd get your knuckles bloody for me"
"I'm not your problem anymore/So who am I offending now?"
"You never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)"
5. "my tears ricochet"- Taylor Swift- Produced by Taylor Swift & Jack Antonoff
This song was written alone and was the starting point for the album. This is also Jack's favorite project with Taylor along with "august". This song has a dreamy, ghost-like quality that perfectly suits her death of a relationship turned into a funeral metaphor. She doesn't get why he broke things off with her just to come back to her funeral. Why he treated her so poorly just to regret it. This song is both incredibly soft and powerful at the same time.
I am also deeply in love with how her voice sounds over "Look at how my tears ricochet".
"I didn't have it in myself to go with grace"
"And you're the hero flying around saving face"
"And you can aim for my heart, go for blood/But you would still miss me in your bones"
"And I still talk to you (When I'm screaming at the sky)/And wen you can't sleep at night (You hear my stolen lullabies)"
"Cursing my name, wishing I stayed/You turned into your worst fears/And you're tossing out blame, drunk on this pain/Crossing out the good years."
6. "mirrorball"- Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift
This song stands out from the bunch for its shiny production and guitar sounds. Her voice is dreamy, but in a weightier way than the ghostly vibes in the last couple songs. The heavy use of metaphor does definitely carry through here where Taylor likens herself to a mirrorball with both the ability to reflect the world around her and stand out from the crowd. This is one of the most joyful songs on the album. There's an awareness of the end, but there's also a will to ignore it.
"I'll show you every version of yourself tonight"
"Hush, when no one is around, my dear/You'll find me on my tallest tiptoes/Spinning in my highest heels, love/Shining just for you"
"And I'm still a believer, but I don't know why/I've never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try" (This is another of one of my all time favorite lines)
7. "seven"- Arron Dessner & Taylor Swift
This is another sonic shift for the album- not particularly pronounced, but still different. Her voice almost sounds like an angelic choir before she drops into the chorus. She's singing about an old friendship or love from childhood that's faded but still stays with her. The instrumentation makes me think about kids skipping in circles in a field. It's a very simplistic, childish version of fixing a massive problem by just running away. Taylor referenced talking about running away and never doing it in the letter she posted along with the album. It has the quality of an early memory- fuzzy around the edges but the emotion there is so strong.
"And though I can't recall your face/I still got one for you"
"Love you to the Moon and to Saturn"
8. "august"- Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift
This song has such a delectable swing to it. It's the run through the fields, soak it all in song. It's a lot like Red in the sense that it's focused on a forgotten summer that morphed into a lonely fall. This is my favorite upbeat song. Like the whole album, it is very reflective on young love and re-examining it. It has a lightness and a hope to it, even though that love story has already finished.
In the love triangle of songs from all the different sides, this song seems to be about a faded summer love where the main character here wasn't the only girl. She realizes that too late.
"But I can see us lost in the memory/August slipped away into a moment in time/Cause it was never mine"
"And I can see us twisted in bedsheets/August slipped away into a bottle of wine" (Lyrically, this makes me think back to Reputation where bedsheets and wine first entered the narrative.
"Your back beneath the sun/Wishin' I could write my name on it"
"Back wen we were still changing' for the better/Wanting was enough/For me it was enough"
"To live for the hope of it all"
"So much for summer love and saying 'us'/Cause you weren't mine to lose/You weren't mine to lose, no"
9. "this is me trying"- Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift
I love the drums that lead into this song with the building, etherial hum behind them. It brings the mood back down. The horns as the song progresses is an interesting addition to the sonic profile of the album. It's also one of the shorter tracks. I love this song so much, and I knew I would from the moment I saw the title. This seems like this might be one of those songs that flip point of view. I also really like this one because it's the most self reflective song even though it's being sung to a love interest. There's a lot to relate to as the lyrics feel like a lament to not living up to your past self. This song puts it all out there. I also feel like it heavily relates back to where she is in "Back to December".
"I've been having a hard time adjusting"
"I didn't know if you'd care if I came back/I have a lot of regrets about that"
"And maybe I don't quite know what to say/But I'm here in your doorway"
"I just wanted you to know that this is me trying"
"They told me all of my cages were mental/So I got wasted like all my potential"
"And my words shoot to kill when I'm mad/I have a lot of regrets about that"
"I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere"
"And it's hard to be at a party when I feel like an open wound/It's hard to be anywhere these days when all I want is you"
10. "illicit affair"- Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift
This is a song I keep coming back to over and over again. I think because I find this particular story so fascinating in a very Romeo and Juliet way. This song is like all the emotions of "Out of the Woods" and the fallout from "I Know Places" which was always ominous with the recording clicks. This picture is so complete and emotional and reflective. It hurts, but you understand why it happens over and over again. Every line is brilliant. It's another proof of extremely vivid details making a song feel relatable even if you never shared in that experience.
"Make sure nobody sees you leave/hood over your head, keep your eyes down/Tell your friends you're out for a run"
"What started in beautiful rooms/Ends with meeting in parking lots"
"And that's the thing about illicit affairs/And clandestine meetings and longing stares/It's born from one single glance/But it dies and it dies and it dies/A million little times"
"A drug that only worked/The first few hundred times"
"Don't call me "kid", don't call me "baby"/Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me"
"You showed me colors you know I can't see with anyone else"
"You taught me a secret language I can't speak with anyone else"
"And you know damn well/For you, I would ruin myself/A million little times"
11. "invisible string"- Arron Dessneer & Taylor Swift
I love that "invisible string" has plucky, very stringy sounding guitar to open it. This whole thing gives me "Mine" and Speak Now vibes in general. In Taylor's piece about folklore, she wrote about the song, "A single. thread that, for better or worse, ties you to your fate." Interestingly, when I was pursuing Genius, I found out that the 16 year old yogurt shop employee she references in the first verse is probably Joe Alwyn who worked at a fro-yo shop with teal uniforms before making it as an actor.
There's also an apparent nod to "Bad Blood" in the lyrics, "Bad was the blood of the song in the cab/on your first rip to LA". This song seems to be the only song about a love that lasts on the standard version of the album.
There's also a callback to the dive bar from "Delicate", "Out of all the wrong arms, right into that dive bar"
And, finally, the much speculated line after talking about having an ax to grind with all her old ex-boyfriends, "Now I send all their babies presents". Joe Jonas, who is having a baby with Sophie Turner, was definitely one of the more offensive break ups (a 27 second phone call anyone?).
The song is a wistful story about fate and soul mates. It might almost make me a believer.
"A string that pulled me/Out of all the wrong arms/Into that dive bar"
"Time, mystical time/Cutting me open, then healing me fine"
"And isn't it so pretty to think/All along there was some/Invisible string"
12. "mad woman"- Arron Dessner & Taylor Swift
This song feels like "The Man" 2.0. moved past looking at the man, and now we're looking at all the women who are painted as "crazy" and made out by a toxic society to be a certain way. She's been mentally tortured by society and those around her that she snaps. It's a fascinating portrait, though not one of the standout songs for me. I think a lot of people an relate to the prechorus.
"Or does she mouth, "Fuck you forever?"
"Every time you call me crazy, I get more crazy/What about that?/And when you say I seem angry, I get more angry"
"No one likes a mad woman/You made her like that"
"They say 'move on' but you know I won't"
"It's obvious that wanting me dead/Has really brought you together"
"Cause you took everything from me/Watching you climb, watching you climb/Over people like me"
13. "epiphany"- Arron Dessner & Taylor Swift
This is another dreamy, ghost-like song. Swift says it's partly about her grandfather's experience in the military which comes forward heavily in the lyrics. This is another major sonic shift. She discusses an escape into a dream to try to get away from all the horrible things you have to witness while awake.
"Only twenty minutes to sleep/But you dream of some epiphany/Just one single glimpse of relief/To make sense of what you've seen"
"'Doc I think she's crashing out'/And something you just can't speak about"
14. "Betty"- William Bowery & Taylor Swift- Produced by Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, & Taylor Swift
This was an instantly crowd favorite based on Twitter. It feels like country Taylor through and through, and it's interesting that she chose that genre for her most teenage story. The harmonica completely sets the mood of a sad, summer, bonfire song.
The story is from James's point of view trying to make up for the summer fling they had (think back to "august") even though they allegedly wanted Betty the whole time. There's so much lyrical content in this. It's also interesting because they acknowledge their mistakes, but they don't know how to make it better. They just hope it can get better.
"Betty, I won't make assumptions/About why you switched your homeroom, but/I think it's cause of me"
"You heard the rumors from Inez/You can't believe a word she says/Most times, but this. time it was true"
"The worst thing that I ever did/Was what I did to you"
"Would you tell me to go fuck myself/Or lead me to te garden"
"Betty, right now is the last time/I can dream about what happens when/You see my face again"
15. "peace"- Arron Dessner & Taylor Swift
The continual almost beeping with the strings over it is an interesting combination. They feel like they come from two different worlds. It's a very simple love song that's hesitant and not quite sure of itself. She's asking if she's good enough for her love interest. She's devoted and so in love, but she also know it comes with complications that are unique to loving her. It's something she touches on in almost all of her albums from 1989 on.
"Our coming of age has come and gone"
"Would it be enough, if I could never give you peace"
"You paint dreamscapes on the wall"
"Give you the silence that only comes when two people understand each other/Family that I chose, now that I see your brother as my brother/Is that enough?"
"I'd give you my sunshine, give you my best/But the rain is always gonna come if you're standing with me"
16. "hoax"- Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift
For some reason, "hoax" has very similar vibes to "Clean" for me even though they're almost opposites in subject matter. Instead of washing off the relationship, she's still caught in the past here, unable to escape. She reminisces about how good and bad the relationship was and almost how she wants to revel in the pain of it for a while. For how sad the subject matter is, the music and her soft voice feels like lullaby.
I love the bridge in this song. It's so direct and feels so current. It allows her to reclaim a bit of agency after feeling held to this relationship. This song seems to hold a place for those relationships you're forced to move past but never totally heal from.
Also, there are so many songs about artists leaving a part of themselves in New York. I can think of three off the top of my head.
"Stood on the cliffside screaming, 'Give me a reason'/Your faithless love's the only hoax I believe in"
"You know I left a part of me back in New York/You know the hero died so what's the movie for?/You knew it still hurts underneath my scars/From when they pulled me apart"
"You knew you won so what's the point of keeping score?"
"But what you did was just as dark"
- Final notes: This album is the master of the shifting choruses so that there's always a bit different, fresh, and new. I love when this happens in music.
- This whole album sort of relates back to one of the opening lines in "the 1". Why do we keep watching when we already know the ending isn't good? What does that say about what we're looking for in stories? I've never liked a happy ending so I find it really interesting.
- Taylor tends to end her albums on a hopeful note even if things aren't perfectly tied up. This is a major departure from that.
- I love that Taylor is embracing storytelling from all angles. I also really like that she's re-examining her past relationships because, with time, I think feelings around them continue to grow and change.
- I think this album is proof to anyone in doubt that Taylor has so much raw talent, she'll be able to continue innovating and putting out stunning albums as long as she desires.
- Even though this drop didn't come with its usual lead up and Easter eggs, I feel like both invested fans and peripheral ones were more invested in this launch than ever.
- This feel like the perfect place for Taylor to land, and I can't wait to keep listening and finding new pieces. Want more Folklore content? Make sure you check out my YouTube channel for all my music reactions including my full Folklore reaction and my follow up video about the lakes. Watch them and subscribe here.