Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ is a storytelling triumph

Singer’s surprise album showcases her impressive songwriting abilities

16-track album spins a compelling narrative.
On a seemingly ordinary Thursday morning, Taylor Swift threw fans for a loop with a simple Tweet and an Instagram post detailing the midnight release of her eighth album, Folklore
Teasing new music just over 12 hours beforehand is an unusual move for Swift who’s known for putting out radio-friendly singles, high-budget music videos, and elaborate social media campaigns during the months leading up to album releases.  
Folklore comes only 11 months after her last album, Lover, with Swift crediting the quick and surprise release to a gut feeling. Despite being released with little notice, the album has quickly smashed streaming records and topped charts.
Folklore’s 16 songs and bonus track explore an indie folk sound that’s new for Swift, who got her start in country music before transitioning to pop. The album’s consistent indie sound grants Folklore a sense of cohesiveness, a style that Swift’s previous albums didn’t achieve.  
Although it’s a pivot in genre, Folklore showcases Swift’s most impressive skill as an artist: her songwriting ability. 
Swift is credited as a writer on all 16 of the album’s tracks. While she’s long established herself as a talented lyricist when it comes to penning songs about her personal life, Swift flexes her creative muscles on Folklore to extend her writing to include characters and imagined stories. These stories are conveyed with the same conviction and vulnerability that had previously been reserved for only her most personal songs. 
Folklore explores themes that appear frequently throughout Swift’s previous music such as love, childhood innocence, and vulnerability, with a newfound layer of maturity and introspection. The album confidently dismisses the boundary between truth and fiction as it weaves between songs based in imagined narratives and Swift’s own experiences. Swift successfully emulates the timeless mysticism of the type of stories she named her album after, with its simple acoustic sound casting the focus on her elegant lyricism and the stories she’s telling.
The tracklist starts off with “The 1,” one of the lighter, more playful songs on the album. In it, Swift ponders the unanswerable question of how her life might be changed “if one thing had been different.” Though it’s not the album’s most impressive track, it sets Folklore’s tone as one of curiosity and self-reflection.
The most prominent example of Swift’s storytelling ability on Folklore is a triad of songs that she characterizes as a teenage love triangle. Fans have identified “Cardigan,” “August,” and “Betty” as songs from the perspectives of three different characters at varying points in their lives, each reflecting on their involvement in the same love story. Though Swift hasn’t confirmed which songs make up the narrative yet, her powerful and eloquent lyrics bring these characters to life. 
One of the album’s most memorable songs is “Mad Woman,” a continuation of the feminist dialogue Swift began in Lover’s “The Man.” The track criticizes the dismissal of women’s anger as madness. While “The Man” was a textbook view on gender inequality that felt impersonal, “Mad Woman” uses powerful imagery and a raw sound to convey Swift’s darker and more personal experience with gendered labels and double-standards. 
The album ends with “Hoax,” a mournful piece accompanied by a haunting piano which separates the song from the usually-hopeful conclusions to Swift’s albums. As a bittersweet finale, it closes out the album with Swift’s tragic desire to hang onto something she knows is a source of pain and sadness. 
Folklore may lack the high production and catchy choruses that have previously assured Swift’s new music a slot in the top 40, but the album represents so much more than an appeal for airtime.  
It’s a showcase of Swift’s continued artistic growth and willingness to take creative risks—the same risks that have allowed her to reinvent her music and find success in new genres. Folklore strips down Swift’s previous country-pop sound and builds her music up to new and impressive heights.

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