Over the span of the quarantine, you might have acquired a few hobbies. Painting, cooking, the works. However, while you were doing that, Taylor Swift was hard at work writing that “indie record that’s much cooler than mine.”
In late July, Taylor Swift announced that her newest album, “Folklore,” would be released the following night, stating that she had written all of these songs during her time in quarantine, due to the coronavirus pandemic. She also stated in her Instagram announcement, that none of these songs were about her. Deviating from her typical path of self-indulgent love songs, Swift said that among the eighteen songs on the album were: the story of her grandfather landing on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, and comparing it to the coronavirus pandemic (“Epiphany”), the fable of a man who gaslights women into starting witch hunts (“Mad Woman”), and the biography of the former inhabitant of her Rhode Island home, Rebecca Harkness (“The Last Great American Dynasty”).
Some have said this is Swift’s best album yet. Some have called it disappointing, as it didn’t deliver the usual pop songs one can scream their head off to.
It was fun and interesting to see Swift change up the types of stories she writes. Yes, there are the expected love songs, but these songs actually all interweave with each other to form one cohesive story, about a manipulative love triangle relationship (“Cardigan,” “August,” “Betty,” “Illicit Affairs,” “Mirrorball,” “Exile”). And the other songs that don’t focus on this love triangle are fascinating in their own regard.
For example, “Seven” tells the story of a ghost who lives in the house of a boy and his abusive father. Swift tackles childhood nostalgia, grief, trauma, and friendship, all in one beautiful song. We also see an interlocking of themes like this in “Mad Woman.” The imagery of the song allows for the listener to intimately know these women who are gaslit into burning each other at the stake. It encapsulates the strife the feminist movement faces, and is also theorized to replicate Swift’s current issues with her record label stealing her music, and her sexual assault case in 2017.
This album feels more intentional than Swift’s other albums, as well. As previously stated, certain songs overlap in story and theme, but they are also divided by these short stories that deviate from the story of this toxic love triangle. These different stories also fit the themes that are being established in the main storyline.
Swift’s imagery in this album is also a lot more grounded. She manages to use certain metaphors, such as “you drew stars around my scars, and now I’m bleeding” and “we gather stones, never knowing what they mean, some to throw, some to make a diamond ring,” and others in the same vein, to ground the listener and capture their attention more than before.
However, one of listeners’ favorite parts about this new album is the new sound Swift establishes here. She moves from a pop-y, highly-produced sound to a quieter one. It is more instrumental, and we can focus more on Swift’s voice, as opposed to before, when the bells and whistles of production would normally drown it out. She has always had a beautiful voice, and it truly gets to shine here.
Overall, Swift’s culmination of story and themes, mixed with her brilliant use of metaphor and a new sound from Swift, combine to make a beautiful new installment in her discography.
Caption: The album cover to “Folklore,” the latest addition to Taylor Swift’s discography.