Taylor Swift has spent the best part of her career defying all odds. From her humble beginnings as the darling of country to her more recent successes in the world of pop, she’s very much incapable of putting out anything short of stunning.
In the style of Beyoncé à la her surprise eponymous album, Swift announced just yesterday that she would be dropping Folklore at midnight EST. Fans weren’t sure what to expect based on the tasteful, black-and-white promo photos and the promise of a Bon Iver collaboration on the record. Would it be a folk album, hence the name? Or perhaps Swift was returning to her Tennessee country roots?
The fact of the matter is, neither of these theories rings true. Folklore is certifiably an indie-pop album, but one that has an emotional intelligence that you don’t always find in modern music. Swift’s heart and soul have gone into the cultivation of these tracks, showing a side of her that most listeners haven’t been familiar with before.
‘the 1’ starts the record off boldly, a track that is no-frills lyrically, and is followed shortly by ‘cardigan’, the first single release. Swift managed to shoot a video despite restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic, proudly stating that she had done her own hair and makeup to avoid having more people than necessary on set. It’s a gentle offering but has no issue in showcasing Swift’s incredible talent. It wouldn’t sound out of place on an album like 2012’s Red, which proves that Swift knows how to play to her strengths.
The collaboration with Bon Iver, as mentioned earlier, ‘exile’, determines itself as one of the strongest points on this record. Justin Vernon’s vocals blend so effortlessly with Swift’s; there’s no fight for dominance here, just two very different styles complimenting each other to perfection.
It quickly becomes apparent when listening to this record that Swift is going for a specific “vibe” here; each and every song is a story to be told, hence the Folklore aspect. These stories are not necessarily her own either— at one point, a tale unfolds involving her grandfather (‘epiphany’), and another about an eccentric widow (‘the last great american dynasty’). More often than not, the lyrics are haunting in their delivery too, she’s molded her signature range to still be recognizable but to now really go that distance in carrying these words. What results is something beautiful in tracks like ‘illicit affairs’ and ‘hoax’; a strange new world for Swifties though, but given their blind dedication to the singer over the years, we have no doubt that they will take to this new ground like ducks to water.
In short, there’s not a single point in which this album falls flat. It’s vastly different than what you might expect from someone like Taylor Swift, but that is in no way a bad thing. She’s evolved several times over the past seventeen years, so what’s one more time for luck?
Also, if you’re planning to run off into the woods to never be seen again— here’s your soundtrack.