folklore Album: Track by Tracklbum Cover
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folklore by Taylor Swift | Track-By-Track

Taylor Swift became the indie record that’s much cooler than hers and that’s what we call range, baby. Welcome to the folklore Album: Track by Track.

I didn’t think that I would be writing two new album posts by Taylor Swift in less than a year. But here we are and I’m more than okay with that. This is an entire 180 from the Lover era. Taylor dropped the album at midnight on July 24, 2020. Only mere hours from when she dropped the surprise announcement that an eighth studio album was even coming – let alone in the works. So naturally, this sent everyone straight into a frenzy. This is the first time that she’s done something like this.

The first time she is giving us an album and we have no idea of what it might sound like. No single. Nothing. All we had was the album cover. So from that, it was giving autumn vibes because the lead single she announced is “cardigan” and a song featuring Bon Iver. But what the album is, I don’t think anyone was expecting what it is – at least I certainly didn’t.

folklore Album: Track by Track

The Lover album is what I described as a magical, pastel daydream. However, folklore is an outstanding example of her songwriting. That personally we’ve all known we’ve had since 2006 stanning Taylor but glad y’all are finally catching on. This album is peak Fall vibes, yes. But it’s all “All Too Well” level writing x 16. I’m very glad this album has entered my life and it’s already forming a meaningful impact on me. I can’t wait to see how it grows in my life alongside me as all her other albums have. However, I am grateful that I didn’t have this album around this time last year. That would have been some next level ugly crying. This album still makes me sob for past and unknown love.

Trust me when you hear that Taylor Swift did not make this album for the charts. This album is the artwork in itself. It’s a lyrically driven album. A more indie style album if you will. Queen of switching genres from country to pop to a more alternative sound. We love to see it. Even though it’s an emotionally heavy album, it still feels rather mythical and grounding to me. 

folklore Album: Track by Track

folklore Album: Track by Track
folklore Album: Track by Track

As I stated in my Lover album review, if you’re looking for an in-depth critical analysis of the folklore album, this isn’t it. This is a hopeless romantic, daydreamer, once brutally heartbroken Taylor Swift loving woman’s take on the album. I’m just here to talk about why I’m obsessed with this entire album. So set the mood, turn the lights off, light a candle, and get cozy with a bottle of wine and fall down the dark, whimsical rabbit hole that is…folklore.

the 1

Favorite Line: “But we were something, don’t you think so? / Roaring twenties, tossing pennies in the pool / And if my wishes came true / It would’ve been you / In my defense, I have none / For never leaving well enough alone / But it would’ve been fun / If you would’ve been the one / I, I, I persist and resist the temptation to ask you / If one thing had been different / Would everything be different today?”

I think this was the perfect opener for the album because it is an entirely different era from the previous one. Something about it opening with, “I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit” just hits right. This is one of my most favorites off of the album for several reasons – personally and lyrically. It most definitely alludes to “I Almost Do” from Red when in this song she says, “I persist and resist the temptation to ask you if one thing had been different, would everything be different today?” and in “I Almost Do” she says, “It takes everything in me not to call you” the same hesitation illustrated. The difference here is now the pain of the previous song has dwindled now down to a “what if” or what could have been. 

folklore Album: Track by Track

There’s also a nod to “ME!” where here she says, “For never leaving well enough alone” and in the previous song she sings, “I never leave well enough alone”. I see this as almost the tragic aftermath of the relationship in “ME!” where it’s an upbeat, happy song of a new relationship full of optimism but somewhere down the road, the relationship broke down over time which led us to this song.

The narrative of lost love or “the one that got away” almost always intrigues me. And I think she captured the painful curiosity beautifully. Because sometimes just wondering had the slightest thing never have happened or been different, would that relationship have sustained or would you still have ended up where you are now? 

cardigan

Favorite Line: “But I knew you’d linger like a tattoo kiss / I knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs / The smell of smoke would hang around this long / ‘Cause I knew everything when I was young / I knew I’d curse you for the longest time”

So I watched the music video premiere before listening to the album. The ending of the music video brought me to tears in a way that I can’t explain why. She shot this during the COVID-19 pandemic. But took all the precautions stating that it was overseen by a medical inspector, everyone stayed away from each other, wore masks, and she even did her own hair, makeup, and styling. 

It’s another song about lost young love and she talked about in a live Q&A about how it leaves such a permanent mark on us and prominent in our memories. Taylor then elaborated on that thought to BBC 1 saying, “This is a song that’s about long lost love and looking back on it and how special it made you feel, all the good things it made you feel, all the pain that it made you feel.”

This song is one of the three speculated to be the “Teenage Love Triangle” told from the POV of “betty”. And reading and listening to the lyrics the storylines all come together to create the classic young tragic romance. Because despite if you’re 17 or 21, sometimes breakups feel like they just might actually kill you. And you go through those flashbacks like a film reel of the happiest moments together and the feelings with that person but then you remember what they did and you’re angry about it. 

the last great american dynasty

Favorite Line: “Fifty years is a long time / Holiday House sat quietly on that beach / Free of women with madness, their men and bad habits / And then it was bought by me”

Again I’m hearing remnants of Red songs like “Starlight” and “The Lucky One”. More so “Starlight” because of the narrative in this song and that song match up in era and setting. And “The Lucky One” matches in theme especially in that song when say says, “It was a few years later / I showed up here / and they still tell the legend of how you disappeared / How you took the money and your dignity and got the hell out.” I really love songs like this that are just a story and in a way romanticizes parts of history (minor history, not like white-washing a history book). The storytelling here is just impeccable.

Taylor wrote this song about Rebekah Harkness (also “betty”) from Rhode Island, and the glaring similarities between the two are incredible. Both are overly scrutinized by media/people and throwing dazzling parties. And if you haven’t seen what this house looks like click here because it is absolutely beautiful and Gatsby-esque (which would also bring in reputation into the mix with “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” but I digress).

Sonically, this sounds more “pop” than the rest of the songs but still seamlessly fits into this album with folk elements. She sings in a lower register the entire song up until the end.

exile (Bon Iver)

Favorite Line: “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, seein’ you out”

This song is incredibly heartbreaking and similar to “The Last Time” on Red. The bridge and end of the song are them singing over each other with contradicting statements and tones like “you didn’t give me any signs” answered with “I gave you so many signs” like they’re arguing over each other. The song follows Justin Vernon’s part of being confused and hurt that an ex moved on so quickly with no warning signs. While Taylor’s version is that it’s awkward but shouldn’t be a surprise because she gave him so many signs in the failing relationship. It’s dark, it’s chilling, it’s fantastic.

folklore Album: Track by Track

my tears ricochet

Favorite Line: “Even on my worst day, did I deserve, babe / All the hell you gave me? / ‘Cause I loved you, I swear I loved you / ‘Til my dying day / I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace / And you’re the hero flying around, saving face”

Welcome to the track 5 club. Personally, I’m already seeing several different meanings for this song like “Clean”. She said verbatim that this song is about an, “embittered tormentor showing up at the funeral of his fallen object of obsession”. From her perspective, this could be about the whole injust debacle with Big Machine, Scott Borchetta, and Scooter Braun. It also alludes to reputation’s “Look What You Made Me Do” when she says the old Taylor is dead and this song with the funeral imagery. 

She said that this is the first song that she wrote for the album and she wrote it alone. The strings and saxophone on this track and the vulnerability in her voice are what bring it so painfully to life.

mirrorball

Favorite Line: “And when I break, it’s in a million pieces / 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”

The way this song was produced sounds vintage and nostalgic. And the way that she used a mirrorball to describe herself as reflecting and entertaining others and shattering like glass when her heartbreak is phenomenal. Of course, the queen of bridges, and this one being fantastic is no different. She sees the relationship coming to an end but she’s doing everything she can to keep the person focused on her. Only hoping it won’t end if she can hold his attention just a little bit longer.

There is something about this song that makes me want to go outside in the grass with bare feet after it’s rained and the sky is still shades of gray with a long dress and cardigan and dance with my hands in the air. I mean the whole album makes me feel this way, but especially this one.

seven

Favorite Line: “I hit my peak at seven / Feet in the swing over the creek / I was too scared to jump in / But I, I was high in the sky / With Pennsylvania under me / Are there still beautiful things?”

Some of y’all have this song too low on your favorites rank. The way she’s telling a story of her childhood and with her friends. Her friends having a seemingly unhappy living situation and she’s offering help from the perspective of a child. Because when you’re young you think complex situations could easily be solved. Like when she says that her friend’s house must be haunted because the dad is always mad and that the friend should come live with her because then the friend won’t have to cry or hide from the angry parent. 

The simplicity in the lyrics as told from a pov of a child is emulated sonically with hints of a haunting feeling because of the realization of messed up situations once you get older. It reminds me of “It’s Nice To Have A Friend”.

folklore Album: Track by Track
folklore Album: Track by Track

august

Favorite Line: “Back when we were still changin’ for the better / Wanting was enough / For me, it was enough / To live for the hope of it all / Canceled plans just in case you’d call”

August is track 8 and it’s the eighth month so that’s worth taking note of. This is believed to be the second song in the teenage romance trilogy. In this one, the story is told by the girl who cheated with James on Betty. It’s a classic summer love story that fades once school returns similar to “Tim McGraw” off the debut album.

It also perfectly captures how August feels like as a month with the line, “August sipped away like a bottle of wine” because we all know a bottle of wine doesn’t last long (a nod to Kelsea Ballerini’s hole in the bottle? Probably not but I like to think so because it makes me happy). This song along with “my tears ricochet” are Jack Antonoff’s favorites to have worked on with her. He also worked on many other songs with her throughout the years like “Cruel Summer” and “Out Of The Woods”.

There’s also saxophone and flute in this song which really adds to the mood of the song.

this is me trying

Favorite Line: “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”

Throughout her albums, you can see her growing as a person and recognizing and acknowledging her faults in relationships. From “Back To December”, “Afterglow”, and now this track. You see her taking ownership of things she does in relationships too and trying to heal and learn from it. Here she is trying her best to make things right. She’s putting herself out there even if she gets rejected and doesn’t have all the answers to the problem.

The repetition here is important. Healing includes doing things over and over again to get it to sink in and help. It’s the almost desperation in her voice when saying, “this is me trying” that really gets to me. And of course, the bridge. Sonically, with the organ, strings, bass, and saxophone add wonderfully to the track.

illicit affairs

Favorite Line: “Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me / You showed me colors you know I can’t see with anyone else / Don’t call me “kid,” don’t call me “baby” / Look at this idiotic fool that you made me / 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”

If I’m learning anything from this album, it’s new words like “mercurial” and “clandestine”. While we all know cheating is one the vilest thing you can do someone in a relationship, this song takes a sympathetic look at “the other girl”. Here she illustrates that it can be “a high” for those involved but someone is bound to get heartbroken. 

Looking at this without an infidelity take, it can be from “a secret” relationship in a sense. Where the other person says they want to be with the narrator but not willing to completely commit and wanting to keep it a secret from the world. Which in turn can be damaging. As she said in 1989 with “Wonderland”, “it’s all fun and games until somebody loses their mind”. The pov of the narrator wants to be public about this relationship. But seemingly the other person wants the exact opposite. They can have their moments in private but acts like they aren’t anything in public. It’s hurtful.

folklore Album: Track by Track

invisible strings

Favorite Line: “Hell was the journey but it brought me heaven / Time, wondrous time / Gave me the blues and then purple-pink skies / And it’s cool / Baby, with me / And isn’t it just so pretty to think / All along there was some / Invisible string / Tying you to me?”

This song is incredibly pretty. It has several nods to her past work like “Bad Blood”, “Red”, “Delicate”, and “Daylight”. It would probably have fit the Lover album because of it’s gratefulness to everything that led her to Joe Alwyn. However, the folk elements of the song, again, make it fit seamlessly into this one.

She wrote about the imagery of this song that, “A single thread that, for better or for worse, ties you to your fate.” and is that not the coolest and most terrifying thing to think about. We all have invisible strings tying us to past, present, and future people in our lives. There’s no shade to Joe Jonas and Sophia Turner with, “For the boys who broke my heart / Now I send their babies presents”. It’s showing growth in both their relationship with each other acknowledging their past but now being happy for each other.

mad woman

Favorite Line: “Does she smile? / 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 / and there’s nothing like a mad woman / What a shame she went mad / No one likes a mad woman / You made her like that”

I am in love with this song. What I love about this song is that it’s calm angry. You know, the scariest kind. The music has a steady pace with the piano gradually getting louder with her as the song progresses with her. It feels like it can fit with “Blank Space” and “Look What You Made Me Do” about media, Kanye, and the Scott/Scooter situation.

It also has nods to Rebekah Harkness’s narrative in “the last great american dynasty”. Just the power this song holds is immaculate.

epiphany

Favorite Line: “And some things you just can’t speak about / Only twenty minutes to sleep / But you dream of some epiphany / Just one single glimpse of relief / To make some sense of what you’ve seen”

This song feels rather close to the state of our world right now with COIVD-19. Nurses and doctors seeing some horrific and depressing sights and very little time to rest and process what’s happening. Taylor also touches on at the beginning of the song of her grandfather’s, Dean, experience in the military landing at Guadalcanal in 1942.

The soft trumpet and trombone in the background given some spotlight halfway through the song are beautiful. With her voice echoing herself in a higher pitch in the background gives it that dreamlike yet haunting feeling.

betty

Favorite Line: “If you kiss me, will it be just like I dreamed it? / Will it patch your broken wings? / I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything / But I know I miss you / Standing in your cardigan / Kissin’ in my car again / Stopped at a streetlight / You know I miss you”

Taylor said that there is a trilogy of teenage love songs on this album but left it up to us to figure out what those three are, and I strongly think it’s “betty”, “cardigan”, and “august”. But that thought didn’t click until I got to this song. There are a lot of speculations on what this song could be about but either way her mind is incredible to have three different songs from different perspectives at different times in the character’s lives. It could be about a boy who cheated on a girl and tried to get her back. It could not be, but either way, it’s a masterpiece. Plus, we get more of Taylor swearing which is absolutely fantastic. Yes, she did it on her debut, reputation, and Lover BUT this one she really literally said “f*ck it” and gave us an explicit album.

folklore Album: Track by Track

It’s also going around that Inez and James are the names of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ daughters, and since the genders are not explicitly stated in the song it could be a lesbian narrative. Which is pretty cool, we love to see it. And I know I keep referencing Red, but “The Last Time” is given a nod in verse three when she says, “Betty, I’m here on your doorstep / And I planned it out for weeks now / But it’s finally sinkin’ in / Betty, right now is the last time / I can dream about what happens when / You see my face again”

Sonically, I am obsessed with this nostalgic feel that almost emulates Fearless and Speak Now. The harmonicas that open the song filled me with immense joy. Not to mention there is also a saxophone and clarinet in this song so there’s so much going on lyrically and musically – phenomenal.

 

peace

Favorite Line: “Give you my wild, give you a child / 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 it enough?”

Another calming yet haunting track. The song almost feels like it’s her telling Joe all of her worst fears. It’s essentially asking if that’s enough and/or okay. It feels similar to “The Archer”. Can we talk about the line, “But there’s robbers to the east, clowns to the west”? Because the “clowns” out west are the Hollywood stars and media and the “robbers” that are in the east also sit in the White House. At least that’s my perception of that line.

It’s bass, piano, and synthesizer led and it’s outstanding.

hoax

Favorite Line: “You knew the password so I let you in the door / You knew you won so what’s the point of keeping score? / You knew it still hurts underneath my scars / From when they pulled me apart / But what you did was just as dark / Darling, this was just as hard”

The album is dark and melancholy and so that’s how we’re ending the album. This song hurts so good with the haunting lyrics and soft viola in the background. It’s a story of not being able to let go of an essentially toxic relationship; not being able to leave even though it drives you to the edge. You’re not ready to give it up just yet. 

If you’re verbally asking your partner in a relationship “give me a reason”, it’s over and doomed to end eventually. The song alludes to the narrator of the song puts the most work into the relationship. It’s a pure hurt song that we can all cry to in the dark. The prominent piano especially at the end really adds to the track.


folklore Album: Track by Track Conclusion

The album is in itself a folklore that will be passed down. It’s stories about past loves, current loves, old and new friends, and her childhood memories. It’s stories made up from her imagination running wild in quarantine. There is a seventeenth track, “the lakes” that’s only on the deluxe version of the album.

If you don’t like this album or find it boring, you’re simply wrong. Taylor Swift saved 2020 by making us stay home because we’re all sad from the songs. She said to stay at home and be sad and like it. I honestly am having a hard time picking a favorite. Each one that comes on I’m like, “no this is my favorite” and it repeats until the end of time. Basically, I will be talking about this album until the end of time. 

What are your top five songs off the album?

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