Young romance has a way of being intense and all-consuming. If you grew up listening to Taylor Swift, then you’ve heard all the stages of falling in and out of love. Everything from planning on running away with your first high school crush to getting cheated on and burning their pictures. Swift has been said to write “only” about boys and breakups, but “folklore” is about so much more than just relationships. It’s about her personal growth and being comfortable with who she is as an artist. She managed to write each song like a personal diary entry, which is impressive because the majority of the ideas on this album are all from her own imagination.
She has always made music that was personal and contained real-life events from herself or those closest to her, but with this album, she only sprinkled hints about her real life. With all the reinventing she’s done throughout the years, this is the first time her music has been just her. No record labels, or fans affecting the process. Just her and her lyrics, making it her best album so far. The announcement for this album didn’t even come until a day before it was released.
The storytelling in this album is what makes it so impactful. In “august”, “betty”, and “cardigan”, Swift manages to tell stories from three different perspectives all at different times in the narrators’ lives. The love triangle in these songs must be discovered by listening multiple times, and with each listen you gain more information on what happened between the three of them. You’ll be drawn to continue into the stories to find out what happens, and it’s worth it. Writing songs from the perspective of James, a boy who cheated on his girlfriend and continuing the story with both girls led to amazing lyrics like, “Chase two girls, lose the one”.
This was Swift’s first time dipping her toe into the indie direction, and it went perfectly. She’s what the genre has been missing. She teamed up with Jack Antonoff, who she has worked with in the past, and for the first time she worked with Aaron Dessner, of the National. “Folklore” being released after “Lover” made this album seem much more mature in the best sense of the word. The music is personal, but it doesn’t read like a diary entry of the high schooler crying over a boy who doesn’t like her back. It would be better compared to a woman writing in her journal so she can continue to have open communication with those around her.
The love triangle isn’t the only time Swift has played around with a point of view. In “the last great American dynasty,” the song starts with the story of a Rebekah, who marries a rich man in high society. Rebekah doesn’t conform to the stuffy and condescending ways of her husband’s company. She’s called a “mad woman” and is said to be ruining the last great American dynasty. Towards the end of the song the lyric, “she had a marvellous time ruining everything,” turns into “I had a marvellous time ruining everything”. Swift buys their home named ‘Holiday House’ and continues where Rebekah left off.
Taylor Swift’s music career has been belittled down how often she writes about men she was in relationships with. Being in the public eye is something every artist must go through, but Swift’s songs were always more than just being about a breakup.
She would write about being taken advantage of and used. She even must re-record six of her previous albums because she doesn’t own them, even though she wrote them. One of the songs on this album that speaks to her personal life is “peace.”
There is no talk of breakups in this song, which may shock some people, but “peace” speaks on her being in the public eye. For someone who has had every relationship they’ve been in shared with the world, and used for front page news, Swift showed her audience her vulnerable side with these lyrics. She asks, “Can it be enough, if I can never give you peace.” Can she be enough if her relationships will never be private? She is so much more than just a girl singing about her breakups, and “folklore” proves it.
With this being her eighth album, the music speaks for itself. All the thought and detail put into the background vocals, and instrument choices for each song put this album at the top of any chart. Not only does every lyric have a deeper meaning, but every strum of the guitar, or note played from the harmonica, transports you into the world Swift is thinking up in her mind. That’s a world we should all hear more of.