By Olivia Merrick
It’s been almost six months since Taylor Swift dropped her eighth studio album, folklore, and calling it the highlight of her outstanding career is an understatement. Swift, who dropped her first studio album at the age of sixteen, has become one of the most prominent and critically acclaimed artists of all time, thanks in part because she has solo-written or co-written every song she has ever released. Her powerful lyricism, coupled with her ability to conjure up catchy melodies and tunes that never seem to leave your mind, have allowed her to have continued her success for fourteen years. In addition, she is one of the most awarded artists of all time, from winning Album of the Year at the Grammys twice to being the most awarded artist in AMA history, with eight more awards than the second place artist, Michael Jackson. Last year, she was named Artist of the Decade at the AMAs, making her the first woman to ever win the award.
One of the things that makes Swift so talented is her ability to constantly reinvent herself as an artist. She said it best in her documentary, Miss. Americana, explaining that she’s, “constantly finding new facets” of herself that the world finds, “interesting enough to entertain, but not so crazy that it makes [them] uncomfortable.” And with her newest album, Folklore, Swift does just that.
The album falls under the category of “alternative”, and serves as a perfect 180 from her seventh studio album, Lover, which is full of synth-pop and bubbly romantic lyrics that show just how truly in love she is. The utilization of producer Aaron Dessner creates a new tone of nostalgia and melancholy in her work that hasn’t been seen since her release of her fourth album, Red, released back in 2012.
Some things didn’t change with this album, particularly in Swift’s choice to stick with Jack Antonoff, one of her long-time co-writers and producers. The two have put out countless masterpieces, from “You Are in Love” off of 1989 to “Cruel Summer” off of Lover, and continue to create absolute magic on this album. Adding to some of their strongest work, the duo co-wrote and produced three of the best songs on folklore: “mirrorball”, a deceptively sparkly tune about social anxiety and desperation, “august”, a longing love song for a romance that never was, and “illicit affairs”, a heart-clenching song of reflection on a relationship that fell apart, even though you knew it would never become anything real.
In addition, Swift maintained her reputation as the queen of songwriting and storytelling with some of her best lyrics to date. In “this is me trying”, she explains, “It’s hard to be a party when I feel like an open wound, it’s hard to feel anything these days when all I want is you.” And in “epiphany”, she reflects on the pandemic, heart monitor beeping in the background of the song, as she sings, “Someone’s daughter, someone’s mother holds your hand through plastic now.”
Perhaps that may just be the most impressive part of folklore. The entire album was written during the pandemic, while in lockdown, and Swift recorded the majority of her vocals remotely, yet her vocal strength is just as powerful as ever. The majority of the songs off of this album are, according to Swift, storylines she created in her mind while at home, storylines that blossomed into work that has touched countless lives.
For many people, folklore has become a true place of escapism, as it was one of the first albums released by countless artists following the pandemic. From “betty”, a harmonica filled tribute to her country routes, to “the lakes”, a bonus track complete with a clarinet and vintage vibe, Swift has put out an album that not only pays perfect tribute to the young girl who first dropped “Love Story”, but also offers a beautiful and exciting look to what the next chapter of her career looks like. folklore has proven to be the album of her career, integrating what Swift does best with envelope-pushing ambition. Knowing Swift and the influence she’s had on the music industry, from mainstreaming country music to starting the wave of 80s synth now commonly used in pop music, folklore may just be the beginning of another legacy Swift will leave on the music industry forever.