Taylor Swift has just released her surprise eighth studio album titled “folklore” which she has created during her time in quarantine. This was obviously a huge surprise for everyone including the Swifties as there was no leadup single or promotion. I listened to the album the day it came out and by the end of it, I was a tired, overwhelmed mess. I have started to listen to more albums this year and I can say with confidence that folklore is one of the most draining experiences I have ever had.
If you have followed my blog from last summer when I reviewed Lover, you would know I am a huge Swiftie. I love her music and style but even as a person, I really like what she stands for. What I love the most about her music, (other than her fantastic lyrics) is how she reinvents herself every era. With that in mind, I expected folklore to be different from her past albums but not to this extent. Different is obviously not a negative but when it comes to a matter of preference, folklore really made me step outside of my comfort zone.
On my initial listen, folklore proved to be a challenge for me to get through. The entire process was so emotionally draining, I didn’t know what to do with myself after it was done. I didn’t have any concrete thoughts on the album or any song, really. I really dreaded re-listening to it but I knew I had to because of this review. The second listen definitely helped. Some songs definitely grew on me and now I feel like I have a better grasp on what the album is about. The album definitely challenged me and I didn’t expect it to. It wasn’t like any other album I’ve listened to, not musically or lyrically. If I had to describe this album to someone, I would say that it’s similar to a book of short poems. It does imitate that feeling of reading something somewhat abstract which evokes a familiar emotion. I feel like instead of it being one joined story, folklore reads more like a book of songs where each entry is it’s own contained story. That being said, there a few pages which could have definitely been kept out.
My biggest problem with folklore on my initial listen was the actual sound of the album. I really liked it in the first couple of songs but after that, it started to feel really monotone. The unnecessarily long runtime of an hour and three minutes doesn’t really help an album which suggests that less is more when it comes to an instrumental. When done right, I love simple instrumentation but considering the entire album consists of nothing but it, I started to lose interest around the halfway point. There wasn’t anything that really interested me musically. When I listened to it again, I knew what I was getting into and this time the melody really helped save a song for me. Ironically though, the lyrics never felt like they didn’t belong with the music. I never felt like they would have been better with a poppy instrumental. As an album, folklore is definitely a grower for me. The same thing happened to me with Chromatica earlier this year. I love every song on that album now. All of this being said, I don’t think folklore is a weak album, I just know that there is a specific audience for its sound and I’m not really in it, at least not yet.
When it comes to my taste in music I like to think that lyrics are the make-it-or-break-it judgement of a song for me. With this album, I can say with confidence that folklore is Swift at her best when it comes to creating an atmosphere out of the rich lyrics she creates. This is without a doubt a masterclass in songwriting. It was consistent and I feel like every single track had something unique to offer. My favourite songs lyrically are “cardigan”, “seven” and “this is me trying”. Her lyrics paint clear pictures, some familiar to us and some from a time we’ve never known. I really love how she incorporates previous imagery from her albums and uses them almost like a motif here. While listening to the album I kept having flashbacks to Red and reputation, specifically the songs “Red”, “The Last Time” and “Delicate”
As for the actual songs themselves, I do have a couple of favourites. On my initial listen there weren’t really any standouts, it was more a case of liking an aspect of a song rather than the entire thing. So far I’ve marked six songs which I know I’ll revisit. While that’s a short amount considering the album is sixteen songs long, I don’t consider the other songs weak or flawed. With time I may even come to enjoy them more but for considering this is a sound I don’t usually go for, six songs are more than enough. There are also a couple of songs which would’ve worked well as spoken poetry, maybe they could even work as interludes. Tracks like “the last great american dynasty”, “illicit affairs” and “epiphany” would have sounded better spoken than sung but that’s just my opinion. Looking back, those three songs didn’t really add a lot to the album not lyrically or musically so they really didn’t help with the pacing for me.
Overall Taylor has created yet another unique, enchanting and emotionally-rich album. Lyrically masterful and gut-wrenching when it wants to be, folklore gives us everything we expect out of a Taylor Swift album while still remaining original. It might not be my favourite Swift project but I was never disappointed by it. I accepted it immediately that this wasn’t really for me. That being said there are still a few standouts which I’ll revisit plenty of times.
Ranking of Songs:
2. this is me trying
4. the 1
5. invisible string
8. mad woman
9. exile (feat. Bon Iver)
10. my tears ricochet
11. illicit affairs
13. the last great american dynasty
Do not come for me, I know I don’t have taste. In all seriousness though, please be respectful if you are going to comment. With that being said, I hope you enjoyed my honest review. Don’t forget to stream folklore wherever music can be streamed.
What is your favourite song off of folklore?