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Music Review: “Folklore” by Taylor Swift

folklore

Folklore | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons


Fans of the pop singer Taylor Swift were surprised and delighted when her latest studio album, “Folklore,” was released at midnight on July 24.

The reason behind the surprise? This record was sparsely promoted, and the first time her listeners heard about “Folklore” was a tweet posted just 16 hours before launch, advertising it as a completely “brand new album of songs I’ve poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into.” Even Swift’s label was not aware of the album until mere hours before the release.

Three singles will be supporting the album: “Cardigan,” “Exile,” and “Betty.” The collection of tracks on “Folklore” is a departure from the style established on Swift’s recent albums “Lover” and “Reputation.”

Here, the emphasis is more on laid-back piano and guitar-led tunes that play on the singer’s songwriting capabilities. Overall, the album is a very solid, focused piece of pop music that’s rather relaxing to take in and plays with the emotions to great effect.

Highlights

1. “The Last Great American Dynasty”

Swift tells the tale of philanthropist Rebekah Harkness, a former occupant of Holiday House (her mansion in Rhode Island), over an electronic beat while drawing parallels between Harkness and herself.

2. “Illicit Affairs”

Featuring dreamlike acoustic guitar, “Illicit Affairs” concerns an affair between the narrator and a man, and covers her efforts to keep this affair private.

3. “Betty”

Wrapping up the album’s “teenage love triangle” trifecta, this track is told from the perspective of a cheating boyfriend named James while utilizing a catchy chorus and calm acoustic guitar.

4. “Peace”

Containing a melodic guitar line and soft piano, “Peace” is subdued and swell with a hint of influence from Prince.

Background

American musician Taylor Swift has sold a total of over 50 million albums and 150 million albums, making her one of the best-selling artists of all time. She signed a record deal with Big Machine Records at the age of 15 and has released eight studio albums since 2006.

Swift has won a total of ten Grammy Awards, as well as an Emmy Award, and was given the title of Artist of the Decade for the 2010s by the American Music Awards.

“Folklore” was written and recorded during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic by Swift in collaboration with Aaron Dessner, a member of rock band The National, and Jack Antonoff.

The album’s fourth track, “Exile,” features Bon Iver vocalist Justin Vernon. “My Tears Ricochet” was the first song written for “Folklore,” while Swift and Dessner wrote “The 1” and “Hoax” last.

Two songs on the record, “Exile” and “Betty,” were written with William Bowery, a possible pseudonym. The album’s cover art, which features Swift standing in a forest, was captured by Beth Garrabrant.

Recording sessions for “Folklore” were completed at the home studios of Swift and Antonoff, and the album was mixed by Jonathan Low at Long Pond. Mastering sessions were completed by Randy Merrill at Sterling Sound.

The album shot to the top of the Billboard 200 chart upon release and every track on “Folklore” debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. It also shattered streaming records, including the Guinness World Record for the biggest opening day for an album by a female artist on Spotify.

Final thoughts

I absolutely adore the use of third-person narrative on “Folklore,” as it is a technique not usually employed by Swift throughout her discography.

Lyrically, it brings some variety to the album and, as I mentioned earlier, very much brings out Swift’s songwriting talents, along with her attention to detail in the story she is attempting to tell.

Her stories here have a relaxed yet powerful sound to them and deserve to be passed down to the next generation of Taylor Swift fans.