Swift Showcases her Growth in new album folklore

Sarah Buchmann

Folklore is the eighth studio album by Taylor Swift

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I won’t pretend that I’m not a Swiftie. I’ve been an avid Taylor Swift fan since her 2008 album Fearless (and yes, I had the platinum edition).

But the release of her latest album, folklore, has created a new character for Swift. 

Each of her past albums have given Swift an identity, a character she performs as; this is much clearer in her later albums but can be seen as a progression throughout her entire career starting in 2006.

 Taylor Swift began as a country girl, with curly hair, cowboy boots and an acoustic guitar to accompany the twang of her voice. 

She transitioned to pop music soon enough, and with the Red album she turned into a clean-cut fashionista. 

In 1989 she was a New York gal; in Reputation she went full-on bad girl; she fully embraced her “soft girl” aesthetic with Lover; and folklore has given us a new mystery to unravel.

folklore, as not like the name suggests, is a telling of stories – or at least that’s how Swift described the album before its release at the end of July. 

Track three, “the last great american dynasty” (TLGAD), tells the story of Rebekah Harkness, one of the previous owners of Swift’s holiday house in Rhode Island. 

Remarkably factual and with some Gatsby-esque vibes like references to the roaring 20s, champagne fountains, etc., “TLGAD” is one of the more upbeat songs of folklore

The rest of the album is incredibly low key and mellow, which is a complete contrast from Lover, the album Swift dropped last year. 

Swift is for sure returning to her acoustic roots, but this time it feels like the soundtrack to an indie movie instead of the opening act of a Carrie Underwood concert. 

I’m not complaining.

 This is the most honest and emotional album Taylor has given us so far. 

Swift’s voice has such a raw quality to it that you can tell it’s her speaking, even when she’s telling stories like Rebekah’s in “TLGAD”. 

One of the more interesting plot points within folklore is a love triangle. 

Taylor teased her fans by telling them about the three-way narrative (one story from three different points of view) in the album, but still hasn’t yet confirmed which three songs contribute. 

The most popular theory is that the three songs are “betty”, “cardigan” and “august”, and are about a relationship between Betty and James, who cheated on Betty with a third person.

 Track 14, “betty”, is clearly from James’ perspective, while “cardigan” is narrated by Betty and “august” is told by James’ lover. 

But with Taylor writing a song from a man’s perspective, and a true love song at that, many fans also wondered if this was Taylor’s way of coming out as queer. 

The album already has some homoerotic undertones regarding hidden romances, and Swift has been completely open about her support of the gay community. 

Her music video for “You Need To Calm Down” featured queer celebrities and was a transparent message about embracing gay culture. 

Taylor also wrote, directed and starred in her music video for “The Man,” where she crossdressed as a ‘stereotypical’ man and made fun of the way the music industry is relatively male-dominated.

 Despite the love triangle theory and Swift taking on a new narrative form of a man’s voice, I believe “betty” is at least a little gay. But this is still all theorizing as Swift has never formally come out.

In comparing folklore to Swift’s other albums, this one feels the most real to me.

 I don’t know if it’s because of how kept under wraps the project was, as it was entirely written and recorded during quarantine without telling the media, if it’s because of the emotional connection to every song’s lyrics or if it’s just because I have been drawn into the new narratives.But folklore has quickly become one of my favorite Taylor Swift albums. 

I’m not ashamed to say that I listened to it on repeat for about a week, until I memorized the words to each song and participated in several online discussions and analyses. 

I also ordered a physical copy of the album, even though I could always stream it for free on Spotify. 

folklore is the latest chapter of Swift’s life, and a new era for her music. It is a remarkable album and certainly shows her growth and maturity as an artist. 

Album rating: 5/5 stars 

Folklore was released on July 24, 2020

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Official Ranking of folklore songs:

16. Epiphany

15. Peace

14. My tears ricochet

13. This is me trying

12. Mirrorball 

11. The 1

10. Mad woman

9. seven

8. Exile (ft. bon iver)

7. Invisible string

6. The last great american dynasty

5. cardigan

4. august

3. betty

2. hoax

1. Illicit affairs

Official Ranking of Taylor Swift albums:

8. 1989

7. reputation

6. Taylor swift

5. Speak now

4. lover

3. fearless

2. red

1. folklore