In quarantine, emotions are heightened, and it seems that Taylor Swift wants to contribute to the emotions running high through her newest release, folklore.
Released just 11 months after Lover, folklore is Taylor Swift’s eighth album and contains 16 tracks. Taylor worked with several collaborators: pop producer Jack Antonoff, The National’s Aaron Dessner, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and a mysterious co-writer, William Bowery.
It’s familiar, with each song being reminiscent of the old Taylor Swift, only done with a genre twist. It’s also incredibly unexpected, considering that she gave the public less than twenty-four hours to prepare for the release. She announced it on Thursday, and on Friday, fans were treated to a full-length album.
The album, folklore, feels a lot like coming home, like being greeted warmly at the door, then being gently made to sit down, and told to listen—meaning, really listen—to each story and to feel each emotion laid out on the table.
And therein lies the album’s power. Taylor’s signature lyricism is present in each song, and yearning and melancholy permeate through the album’s most memorable songs. She features love in so many of its forms: before it really starts, at its blissful middle, at its bitter end, and long after, when dredging up memories and looking back at the past. The stories and the characters in the songs are visceral.
The very first song, “the 1,” is about reminiscing the what-ifs, someone who could have been the one. The way Taylor croons “And if my wishes came true / it would’ve been you” makes the listener want to pick up the phone and text an ex, “We were something, don’t you think so?”
The single “cardigan” is filled with imagery of all the ways you can be familiar with someone when you really know them. It talks of the wisdom of youth, though “when you are young, they assume you know nothing.” Taylor counters this through citing all the things the young persona in the song knows, and ultimately, how “I knew you’d come back to me.”
The song “exile,” co-written and performed with Justin Vernon, is a duet about two different perspectives on one couple’s relationship. Justin’s rough vocals contrast Taylor’s smooth timbre. The lyrics they sing also contradict each other. In the bridge, they bicker and counter each statement: “I couldn’t turn things around (You never turned things around) / ’Cause you never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs) / You never gave a warning sign (All this time).”
Ultimately, folklore is a study on relationships, on facing reality, on introspection, and on love. The album is filled with stories, those told at the end of a long day at the dining room table, while someone lovingly hands you a cup of tea, tells you everything will be okay, and gives you your favorite old cardigan to wear.