Exploring Solitude in Taylor Swift’s “Folklore”
Summer spent in a pandemic induced isolation warrants creatives to unleash some of their best work, and Taylor Swift is no exception. With multiple awards under her belt such as 29 AMA awards, multiple Grammys, and her most defining win: artist of the decade, Swift has become a household name within the USA and across the world. On July 24th, in the middle of the pandemic, Swift dropped an alternative album without one ounce of marketing or album promotion. Swift had managed to do what few artists have done: successfully navigate over into a third genre of music, all by the time she was thirty. Surprise at the drop was felt by fans and critics alike. While Swift has successfully crossed between the realms of country and pop, she has now entered uncharted, post-pop waters with her new album, “Folklore”.
Swift surprised indie record shops with unexpected shipments of her album. Local record store, Euclid Records, briefly showed off their own signed copies in their stores before selling out in a few days.
The title itself sets the tone for an album that creates its own mythical air. Swift’s personal lyrics seem even more rousing in this stripped back environment of this lore. Each song belongs to a collective group in what Swift calls chapters. The first track titled “The 1”, reminisces on a past lover and what their life could have been if he ended up being end game. This song is included in the “saltbox house” chapter. With a slow, soothing melody, the track gives the listener a melancholy feeling and a sense of longing is felt for a lost love.
Another song coupled in this chapter is “the last great american dynasty”, which tells a story about a woman named Rebekah, thrown into a life full of extravagance and riches after marrying a rich oil investor. Neighbors and socialites consider her as a tacky gold digger and after Rebekah’s husband’s death, the whole town blames her. With an upbeat cheery melody, the lyrics tie everything together giving the track an inside look to a character that has always been misunderstood.
There are other tracks that allude to Swift’s struggles as a woman in the industry. Her old label head, Scott Borchetta, tried to steal her master's out from under her. Without the knowledge or chance to buy her own music, Swift’s masters were sold to Scooter Braun, manager for stars like Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. What makes it even worse is that Swift alleges Braun has bullied her in the past, making the sale sour. One song I think alludes to this situation is “my tears ricochet”. A slow light vocal opens the track and almost sounds like angels in the background which is the effect I think Swift was going for. The song is a metaphor for the old Taylor who was polite and did what her label told her to do, but now that Taylor is “dead”. A funeral takes place in the song:
“You know I didn't want to have to haunt you/But what a ghostly scene/You wear the same jewels that I gave you/As you bury me”
These lyrics show the vulnerability of leaving her label to be true to herself. Bruschetta and Braun still benefited from her songs and creations, even though they had little to no hand in her success. With a slow melody and haunting chords played on an organ, the song resembles an actual march that would play at a funeral alluding to the death of the person other people wanted her to be. “Folklore” is an album that is poetic, raw, emotional, and true. It comes at a time in Swift’s career when she needs it the most, and is a true pivotal point in her lyrics, sound, and overall image. Swift has been known to take risks in the past but after her turmoil in a male dominated industry, her whimsical, therapeutic songwriting turned it into something magical that may just turn even the nonbelievers into Swift fans.