The release of folklore took me by surprise. Thankfully, it’s a pleasant one, unlike the virus we’ve been struggling to fight for more than half a year. Did Taylor Swift make our lives a little more bearable during this pandemic?
I remember my nerves were at an all-time high a few hours before the release of “Cardigan.” Don’t tell me my anxiety wasn’t warranted. She opted to release “Me!” as a lead single for Lover instead of “Cruel Summer.” Or two years before that tragedy, she chose to be vengeful first with “Look What You Made Me Do” instead of being vulnerable with “Delicate” or showing the world what a lyrical genius she can be with “Getaway Car.”
All my worries disappeared when I heard the lead single. A sense of relief took over. While there was talk of sensual politics, there was no mention of quarantine or isolation. That was a tick for me.
And once she uploaded all the tracks on Youtube, I found the time on a Friday work afternoon to listen in. Soon, the feeling turned into adoration. Three weeks since, it’s still on loop in my iTunes. And with each play, I continuously find more reasons to fall in love with it.
If Taylor Alison Swift had a superpower, it would be songwriting. And her latest effort showed her return to form. No more “Spelling is fun.” She’s back reimagining if the outcome would’ve changed if one thing was different. The best storytellers are shaking – Shakespeare included! I have to admit I can’t imagine how tears ricochet. But she does make a good point – calling people angry or crazy can be self-fulfilling prophecies.
Besides “Speak Now,” most of her songs tend to be autobiographical. As a fan, that is rewarding as it gives me insight into her romantic affairs or public disputes. Now, she’s widened the net and offers different accounts, not just hers. This decision allowed her to venture into more perspectives and tap into more worlds. She opened herself to more material that will keep her audience engaged. She might have just found a way to increase her longevity. It doesn’t hurt that added ambiguity sustains interest in her songs. “betty” helped resurrect rumors of a previous spark with Karlie Kloss. And if you have the time (I did), the evidence isn’t compelling but undoubtedly entertaining.
She also continued to reinvent her sound. Before this, I’ve heard her do country, pop, EDM, and bubblegum. Now, it’s pop that can fit into alternative radio. Sonically, the influences of Aaron Dessner, Bon Iver, and Jack Antonoff took over. However, I would make a disclaimer that I have not heard of The National before folklore. The minimalist production and the dependence on piano and strings allowed her lyrics to take the front seat. And while she’s no diva that whistles, her voice is undeniably angelic and ethereal. We don’t expect Lana del Rey to have four octaves, why should we ask that of Miss Swift?
Many also commend the maturity she displayed. But she’s not over her issues. “mad woman” and “my tears ricochet” are apparent digs at the misogyny she experiences in the industry, and are references to her beef with her archnemeses Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta. To admit she lacked grace in these situations is admirable. She’s come a long way from “Bad Blood.” She’s now willing to humble herself and take some of the blame. And given how stubborn she is, that’s remarkable.
My favorite tracks are “cardigan,” “the 1”, “mirrorball,” “august,” and “exile.” I could elaborate further, but I’m conscious of the word count. If “betty” happened on Fearless, it would’ve made my top tracks. And simply because I keep on forgetting how they sound like or what they are about, “epiphany” and “hoax” are my least favorite.
Any artist on their 8th studio album would be lucky to have a critically acclaimed and commercially successful record like folklore. But I know it’s not fair to attribute all this to fortune. It’s her crazy talent, endless drive, constant hard work, resilience, willingness to experiment, and a passion for leaving a legacy that made this all possible. She even did it during what arguably is an unproductive period for most people.