In April this year, Taylor Swift tweeted, “Not a lot going on at the moment.” Three months later, “not a lot” turned out to be a full-length album, folklore.
The release came as a shock to all, even to her dedicated fans. Taylor Swift explains in a note, “In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result.” Her imagination gave way to a collection of songs and stories set to a beautiful indie-folk sound that encompasses all 16 tracks on the record. It is a sound that nobody would have predicted Taylor Swift would use to follow her pop album Lover, but it does set the perfect tone for all the stories.
In folklore, Taylor’s lyrics are rife with Easter eggs, as well as historical references and stories of people who don’t exist. As Taylor Swift herself sings, the devil is indeed in the details, and this album offers so much detail to dissect.
The album features a plethora of characters Taylor sings about or inhabits, all with different personalities and personal obstacles to get through. And therein lies the beauty of the album: there is something for everyone. Whatever experiences life dealt the listener, there’s guaranteed to be at least one song on folklore that they can relate to.
For example, as Taylor revealed, “there’s a collection of three songs I refer to as The Teenage Love Triangle. These three songs explore a love triangle from all three people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.” And the general consensus has determined that the three songs refer to “cardigan,” “illicit affairs,” and “betty.” Played one after another, they tell the story of teenage love, betrayal, angst, and heartbreak for all involved.
Taylor also tells the story of Rebekah Harkness, a middle-class divorcee who married the heir to Standard Oil, in “the last great american dynasty.” Rebekah Harkness was the previous owner of Taylor’s Rhode Island estate.
Adding another story of a historical character, in “epiphany,” Taylor sings of the experience of her own grandfather, Dean, when he was in the military. “With you I serve / with you I fall down / Watch you breathing / watch you breathing out,” Taylor sings tenderly, watching someone hoping to find peace and experience an epiphany in their dreams.
In “seven,” Taylor takes the listener back to a childhood, to a pure friendship with another little girl. In the song, she sings of a wholesome childhood hope to rescue friends with unhappy home lives. She croons, “And I think you should come live with me / and we can be pirates, / then you won’t have to cry / or hide in the closet.”
With rich imagery in all her songs, Taylor Swift proves to be a master storyteller, able to weave engaging tales about a myriad of topics and characters. The album proves to be an immersive experience, one that pulls the listener in and treats them to timeless folktales they can come back to whenever they want.Listen to Taylor Swift’s folklore on Spotify and Apple Music.