“In isolation, my imagination has run wild and this album is the result. I’ve told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder, and whimsy they deserve,” Taylor Swift said in a tweet on July 23rd.
Taylor Swift dropped a surprise new album in the middle of a pandemic- Folklore– on July 24th of this year. This album was a departure from Swift’s previous albums, Lover and Reputation, as her sound is soft and whimsical rather than her upbeat, pop music feel. Love, innocence, betrayal, and heartbreak are common themes in Swift’s music; Folklore explores these themes as well but in a different and unique way. Instead of placing herself as the main character, Swift takes upon the role of the narrator.
Folklore truly highlighted her captivating songwriting and storytelling talent as she climbed into the perspectives of different people and created and retold tales. The essence of true beauty and the complexity of finding another perspective heard throughout this album demonstrates Swift’s growth as an artist.
Folklore has been given rave reviews. Rolling Stone said, “Folklore really feels like the debut of a whole new Swift—her narrative scope has opened up, with a wide- ranging cast of characters for 17 songs, without a dud.”
Swift is not a stranger to genre changes, as she remains one of the few artists to excellently transition from country to pop music. On her new album, she explored something new entirely- the indie/ folk genre. “Folklore will forever be known as Swift’s “indie” album, a sweater- weather record released on a whim in the blue heat of this lonely summer, filled with cinematic love songs in search of a film soundtrack,” said Jillian Mapes, a senior editor from Pitchfork.
The songs on Folklore are revealed to be intertwined and contain hidden messages, leading many fans to speculate. Three songs off the album portray a teenage love triangle- “August” which portrays the perspective of the other woman, “Cardigan” is the portrayal of Betty, the girlfriend, and “Betty” is the perspective of James, the cheating boyfriend.
Although Swift was using her imagination as inspiration for her songs on this album, she referenced her own experiences. People were quick to realize that two of the names mentioned on “Betty” are the names of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynold’s children, James and Inez. On Country Radio, Swift confirmed the speculation. Swift said, “I named all the characters in this story after my friend’s kids, and I hope you like it!”
Furthermore, on “Invisible String” Swift sings, “Cold was the steel of my axe to grind, For the boys who broke my heart, Now I send their babies presents.” This references Joe Jonas, Swift’s ex- boyfriend, who is a new father with his wife, Sophie Turner.
Swift’s ability to emotionally connect to her audience, even through fictional characters, explains how she has sustained popularity throughout the years. This album was a breath of fresh air that she and her audience have wanted but never knew they needed.