Taylor Swift: folklore Album Review

13 Dec

This is the review.

For the cross-referenced songs/lyrics:

https://kit10phish.wordpress.com/2020/08/02/taylor-swifts-folklore-album-cross-referenced-with-lyrics-songs-albums-events/

For the Analysis:

https://kit10phish.wordpress.com/2020/07/24/folklore-plausible-deniability/

The 1:  This song is like you’re sitting on the couch with Taylor and she’s telling you the story of all her past loves via song.  It’s soft, but an earworm none-the-less.  I like the thought experiment that is that song.  Taylor is going through her mind, wondering what her life would be like if she had gotten everything (and everyone) she wished for at that time in her life.

Cardigan:  This barely sounds like Taylor singing at all.  It’s very dream-pop.  The chorus is still that Taylor-Swift brand catchy though.  She does a good job of conveying emotion and longing here, and using imagery to show a safe, comfortable relationship.  

The Last Great American Dynasty:  A jaunty little pop song–and history lesson.  We learn America has always been misogynist, demanding women remain quiet and demure, and blaming females for all problems.  And at the end it’s a nice surprise to find out this is a profile of the person who had Taylor’s house prior to her.  And there are parallels between the two women and the societal conventions broken by both.

Exile:  Who knew Bon Iver has such a deep voice?  Have we ever heard that before?  This is in the top 5 of Taylor Swift duets.  They sound great together and nobody is overpowered.  The overlapping lyrics do a wonderful job, showing (vs telling) that nobody was listening to the other and that’s a reason for the discord in the relationship.  It also adds a lot of layers for the listener to enjoy.  

My Tears Ricochet:  A funeral start with the choral backing.  The softly sung lyrics lend to that feeling.  The title is a play on “Tears on my Guitar” an early single in her catalogue.  The symbolism is packed in this song!  It’s about Swift’s original label, her leaving on bad terms, and the battle for her masters.  

Mirrorball:  This is an album that calls for repeat listens and lyrical analysis.  It is packed full of information!  I dare to say Mirrorball is perhaps the catchiest tune in folklore, just because it was the song that attracted me most on the first listen.  It’s immediately palatable–where appreciation grows over listens on many others.  That it’s about Taylor being a people-pleaser, to the detriment of herself.  She wants her audience to be on her side and like her, and she’ll try till the bitter end.  Mirrorball is an image of how Taylor shows her audience what they want to see.

Seven:  Right in the beginning of the song, Taylor establishes she is about to tell about her childhood.  She brings up a friend and neighbor (we know she’s female because “braids like a pattern”) who has problems in the home.  Taylor wishes they could go to a fantasy world together.

August:  With this song, it’s back to more of a dreamy feel.  There’s an echo on some lyrics and some humming that puts in surreal, or memory territory.  It’s about a summer fling, but after Taylor is old enough to drink, “August slipped away like a bottle of wine.”  For whatever reason, this song always leaves me unsatisfied.  It’s short.  I want more detail.  Where is this. Who is this summer fling?  Taylor leaves me with more questions than answers.

This is Me Trying:  Another song about how Taylor tries to please.  It’s gentle and also lyrically echo.  There are so many great lines in this one!  It’s full of it.  “I got wasted like all my potential” “I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere, fell behind all my classmates, and ended up here.”  It really makes you think.

Illicit Affairs:  A song about an affair.  And it leaves the listener to wonder:  Who’s perspective is this song written from, and who are the two subjects of the song?  For my ideas on these matters, see my analysis posts:

Taylor starts singing in a stronger, more defiant tone in the last third of the song.  She makes clear that she’s ruin herself a million little times.

Invisible String:  What instrument is this, doing the plucking?  It sounds like something non-conventional.  And it makes the background music is an earworm, and the lyrics are a really sweet love song.  I like the idea that love is destiny, and all our smaller choices, and life events move us toward our soulmate.

Mad Woman:  Maybe my favorite song on the album (don’t ask me to choose which child I like best, type of thing).  Taylor is angry and I’m here for it!  “Everytime you call me crazy, I get more crazy…  And then you say I seem angry, I get more angry…  No one likes a mad woman–you made her like that.”  Yes!  Taylor gets it.  I’m pretty confident this is Taylor’s fuck you to the dude who stole her masters, who shall remain nameless here.  It’s a good bitter song.

Epiphany:  The slow organ(?) shows this will be another song about a depressing topic, maybe death.  It’s good foreshadowing.  And that’s where the positives end for this song, in my opinion.  My least favorite song on the album.  Is there a rule of 3s in writing?  If not, there should be.  Had Taylor tackled 3 topics, I would like this song better.  As it, she talks of war, and compares it (sort of, but not directly enough) to our current battle with covid.  It either needs to be a more explicit comparison, or talk about a third thing.   Because she didn’t, the song seems disjointed.I hate to criticize Taylor’s writing, because it’s one of the things she’s best at (second to embedding clues and utilizing symbols), but this song is just not the best writing.

Betty:  Harmonica!  What a welcome surprise.  This song is about a high school relationship, and Taylor is tricky about who exactly is narrating it.  See my other post on the matter:

One of the more catchy songs on the album, and for me, a nice reprieve from the slow, dream pop and funereal songs.  The guitar on the “I was walkin’ home” part, is upbeat and I like that a lot after the sort of mopey tone preceding this.  After two slow refrains, I love the triumphant, bum bum bum bum bum (that’s an onnawannapia of the notes) of the guitar to the end.

Peace:  Immediate dislike of the pulse sound.  These lyrics leave a lot of questions for the listener to deliberate:  Whos perspective is this song from?  Is it a happy song or a sad song?  Is the second party satisfied with this relationship?  I like the easy singing style, but it bothers me when things are left hanging and unresolved.  Maybe that’s the point with this one–Taylor is emphasizing exactly how she feels that ambiguity she just laid on us, her audience.  She put us right in her shoes.

Hoax:  I’m glad Taylor released an additional song, because I think this one is too negative and depressing to end an album.  It is melancholy and Taylor sounds a little defeated in it.  She basically says she’s sad, but nothing else will work, she is going to live with the sadness because her heart is taken with this person.  It’s a little bit, ‘victim of domestic abuse’ a mentality.  “This has frozen my ground”–pay attention, this becomes important later.  The piano and strings are beautiful, but the lyrics are just so dreary.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good song–I just wish Taylor was happy, and the subject was not hurting her.

The Lakes:  The first sounds remind me of when a movie shows a record player.  A litter antiquated and slightly degraded.  I think this song is chock full of poetry references, but let me be honest–that is not where my interests lie, so I didn’t take the time to do a true analysis.  The musical backing sounds much more optimistic than the prior couple of songs on the album.  And Taylor makes sure to indicate she wants to leave her life for this dreamscape–but not without her muse.  “A red rose grew up out of ice frozen grounds…” is a good symbol for the barren loneliness and horribleness that Taylor’s relationship with her lover grew out of.  Things were bad and cold and icy, but from the stemmed (pun!) a beautiful red flower.  Since it follows the depression of hoax, it shows Taylor has come through all of that negativity, that’s not where the story ends (a break up and toxicity) afterall.  It’s a more optimistic closer–thank goodness.  Also, Taylor is known to start the next album from the last song of the previous so this gives the listener a hint maybe the next album will be from some English chateaux where Taylor is holed up with her lover, doing what she does best–writing.

What a good album–it’s an understatement.  Taylor Swift again shows her dexterity as a writer and performer.  She really can do anything!  This album’s strongest feature was the layered writing, which embedded so much information, that it drove multiple listens–genius.  Like Apple’s work, Taylor shows she has a keen knack for saying, showing, and musically burying meanings everywhere.  Just don’t call folklore “Alternative” IT IS NOT IN THE ALTERNATIVE GENRE.  This is most definitely an attempt at dream pop like Lorde and an inspiration to Taylor, Lana del Ray.  But more hooks and catchiness.  Taylor can’t help but to write earworms.  It’s a good departure and makes me excited for whatever is going to follow.

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