Taylor Swift’s eighth studio album, Folklore, is here.
A bit of an unexpected release, Folklore was warmly welcomed by listeners as it surpassed 1.3 million in sales globally in its first 24 hours, according to Deadline. But that’s not surprising for this megastar.
Veering away from the pop-heavy vibes of Reputation and Lover, this latest work leans more toward Swift’s 2012 release Red, while becoming something wholly unique. Rooted in folk and alternative sounds, this 16-song collection, featuring Bon Iver, is by far Taylor’s most mature, both lyrically and emotionally.
The disarmingly honest “this is me trying” finds Taylor admitting the ways in which she wants to change: “Could’ve followed my fears all the way down/And maybe I don’t know what to say/But I’m here in your doorway/…And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad/I have a lot of regrets about that.” In “august,” Taylor remembers a time that she was “still changin’ for the better,” a time when she lived in the present.
In “the 1,” Taylor reminisces on an old relationship, wondering if he could have been the one for her and, though she concludes he wasn’t, she now knows that “it’s okay to bleed to grow.” Similar themes are heard in “exile” featuring Bon Iver.
In “invisible string” and “peace,” Taylor seems to have found the man with whom she wants to start a family. In the first she says, “Isn’t it just so pretty to think/All along there was some/Invisible string/Tying you to me?” And in the second: “I would die for you in secret/…Give you my wild, give you a child.”
Taylor suggests that she’s also learned how to embrace the love and acceptance of someone close to her in “cardigan” (“And when I felt like I was an old cardigan/…You put me on and said I was your favorite”).
Taylor thanks those who have put their lives on the line in “Epiphany.” In “the last great american dynasty” Taylor is thankful for her home.
Taylor thinks back on the best parts of her childhood and gives refuge to a friend who had a rough upbringing in “seven.” Taylor shows resiliency in “my tears ricochet” and “mirrorball.”
Time spent between the sheets and hints of sexuality are present on “august” (“I can see us twisted in sheets”), “illicit affairs” (“Tell yourself you can always stop/What started in beautiful rooms/Ends with meetings in parking lots”).
A jealous ex-boyfriend thinks of causing bodily harm to his ex-girlfriend’s lover: “I can see you starin’, honey/Like he’s just your understudy/Like you’d get your knuckles bloody for me.”
In “the last great american dynasty,” Taylor tells the story of the woman who owned her beach house before she did. A woman who “filled the pool with champagne and swam with the big names/And blew through the money on the boys/…And losing on card games…”
“my tears ricochet” hints that there is someone, or multiple someones, who have taken personal songs and memories from Taylor while dragging her name through the mud: “You had to kill me, but it killed you just the same.” Similar themes are heard in “mad woman.”
Taylor uses some pretty harsh language in a few songs. And while she has dropped a few curse words in her previous records, she takes it up a notch with multiple uses of the f-word along with words like “s—,” “b–ch” and “d–n.”
Alcohol consumption paired with a few references to inebriation pop up on songs like “cardigan” “mirrorball” and a few others.
Folklore blends some of the best of Taylor. If you harken back to her earlier works, she channels that same graceful vibe that makes you want to slow dance in the kitchen. But this time she does so with a maturity that hasn’t always been present. We hear themes of growth, resiliency, love, commitment and self-acceptance.
But there’s more. Unlike her former albums, Taylor uses the f-word multiple times, along with other harsh profanities. There are also references to toxic relationships, revenge, inebriation and time between the sheets with a lover.
Folklore may be a lyrically dense, aesthetic album that asks the listener to take a personal journey. But it’s not the expedition that all parents will want for their children.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).