I should not be writing this article and that is just the honest truth. I am physically incapable of speaking negatively about Taylor Swift, so this won’t be a fair review, and I’m going to start with that.
If you’re looking for an actual musical critique, don’t continue reading because this is just going to be an entire article praising every song on Taylor Swift’s first surprise album, “Folklore” that was released during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Swift also released a second surprise album during the pandemic titled, “Evermore”, but due to word count restraints, we will only be talking about “Folklore” today.
Now that we have an understanding, let’s talk about this musical genius!
I assume as a late birthday present to me, “Folklore” was released completely out of the blue on July 24th, 2020.
Much different than her previous albums, “Folklore” has a very dark “cottagecore” vibe. I imagine it would be perfect to listen to whilst mournfully gazing out the window of a cabin in the middle of the woods while you daydream about your long-lost lover.
The album starts off with “the 1”, a brisk and catchy track about reminiscing about the highs of a past love, coping with being alone and moving on through the toughest parts of a breakup. This song is reminiscent of previous Swift songs that describe her disappointment in the actions of a significant other, examples being “The Moment I Knew” and “Death by A Thousand Cuts”.
“Folklore” is the first of Taylor’s albums to include a running story.
The songs “Cardigan”, “August”, and “Betty” tell the story of a teenage love triangle including James, Betty and an unnamed “other woman” (Quick side note, James, Betty, and a side character in the trilogy, Inez, are all the names of the children of Taylor Swift’s close friends, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively!).
“Cardigan”, written from the perspective of the character Betty, looks back on her time spent with a past lover, who we later will find out is named James. Betty is wistfully remembering the times they spent together when they were young and reminiscing on what could have been. Listeners soon learn that James betrayed Betty in some way, hearing the lyrics, “’Cause I knew everything when I was young. I knew I’d curse you for the longest time.”
Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
“August”, written from a very unconventional perspective, tells the story from the other woman’s perspective. Long nights splayed out on the beach together, yet knowing that James was never hers to keep. We learn through the lyrics, “To live for the hope of it all, cancel plans just in case you’d call,” that this woman is looking back from an older perspective, realizing her naivety and just how badly she wanted to spend time with James, knowing that it was wrong. We then learn that this whirlwind romance lasted for only one month, hearing, ‘August slipped away like a moment in time. ‘Cuz you were never mine.”
“Betty”, my personal favorite of the trilogy, is written from the perspective of James, the so-far proclaimed “player” and heartthrob of the story. James details the story from beginning to finish, giving the listeners a sense of closure and understanding of the situation Swift sings about. James confesses that he spent the month of August with another woman and feels immense guilt for what he feels that he did to Betty. “The worst thing that I ever did was what I did to you.” He goes on to ask her what would happen if she tried to make amends. “But if I just showed up at your party, would you have me? Would you want me? Would you tell me to go f*** myself, or lead me to the garden?”
As he explains his side of the story, the listeners get to hear from his perspective how and why he made this mistake, eventually listening to the end of the song in which James details showing up at Betty’s door to beg for forgiveness. “Betty, I’m here on your doorstep and I planned it out for weeks now, but it’s finally sinking in.”
The storytelling that Swift is capable of producing through both the musical aspect of the songs and the lyrical structure is absolutely astounding.
But I’m not about to spoil the ending, so to find out, you’re gonna have to go listen for yourself. Get her those streams she deserves.