Updated: Aug 7
Photo Credit to Tumblr Article by Megan Vineberg with thoughts from Emma Saletta
folk·lore | \ ˈfōk-ˌlȯr \
Definition of folklore
traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances, or art forms preserved among a people
a branch of knowledge that deals with folklore
an often unsupported notion, story, or saying that is widely circulated
After nearly a year, following Lover, Taylor Swift has secretly dropped her latest album, folklore, in the midst of quarantine restlessness. I was surprised to find that Folklore has already been translated into several foreign languages, including Spanish and Turkish, and it is officially listed as an alternative record. Within the last few months, Taylor had meticulously planned out a tour to which she would sing to no one. Alas, Taylor’s tour plans fell through, she instead decided to keep herself busy writing new music. If you have heard “Red,” Taylor's cross-over into pop music, it is reminiscent of those golden days. The album includes 16 songs, and with one hour run time, it’s basically your new favorite background noise. Play it enough rounds through, and you’ll hear like I do: nods to “Sad, Beautiful, Tragic” and other songs off of Red that Taylor herself insinuates are tied to this album.
If my wishes came true, it would’ve been you/It would’ve been fun if you would’ve been the one/If one thing had been different, would everything be different today?
Taylor’s emotions are the floodgates, nostalgic memories coming in waves throughout each and every song. You can hear it in her voice, the familiar pain of having to put something to bed that had enormous potential. You can easily relate to the insecurity that seeps in on this record as she goes on about wondering, what if, on “the 1.”
There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen / She had a marvelous time ruining everything/There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen/She’s had a marvelous time ruining everything
You could easily place yourself in Taylor’s shoes as she boldly reveals her identity with authenticity, sin filtro on the “Last Great American Dynasty.” Instead of caring so much
about what others think of her and her actions, Taylor lets the listener know that this is not their game anymore--she is living in her truth and having the time of her life doing it. It also begs the question, if, as the saying goes, behind every great man is a woman who got him there, who’s behind the woman? Taylor answers this by suggesting that she stands behind herself. There isn’t always someone to cheer her on, and offer their full support. It’s been namely her all along. This could flash back to the days at her record label, when she no longer owned the rights to her entire body of work, and the aftermath of that.
It’s no secret that Taylor has become much more so involved in politics, especially to do with the people of her hometown. I feel another angle of “Last Great American Dynasty,” is much to do with that, of the current political climate, and being unafraid to be seen and heard for your opinions rather than as just a pretty face. Those who saw Taylor’s documentary, “Miss Americana,” know that in the end, Taylor announces her stance on politics in general, and makes some very solid points. Still, she is shot down by her team, who happens to be made up partially of family and close friends. She did say that wasn’t the last we’d hear of it, either.
While I don’t follow Taylor as closely as some might “stan” a celebrity, I have to admit that Folklore is a damn solid record. My favorite of hers happened to be Red because I’m a sucker for a good sad, slow song. I wasn’t much for Reputation and 1989...or any of the early stuff, really.
I do, however, love people dressed in vulnerability, wearing their heart on their sleeve, and what better way to do that than immortalize someone in a song? There’s a certain chutzpah that inspires in others, when you’re the one being honest. I noticed upon researching that the artwork for folklore, when placed next to that of the photoshoot for Red, is much more somber. It’s moody, out-of-touch, and old-school in the best way because it remains current.
“Exile featuring Bon Iver” is a one such song that cuts deep for those who’ve been in that headspace of no which way being the right direction. It brings me back to the feeling of two things: production-wise, and in arrangement. I’m hearing “The Last Time featuring Gary Lightbody” of Snow Patrol off of the Red album. Lyrically, I’m hearing “If This Was A Movie,” in which Taylor ends the song, “Baby, what about the ending?” and “All Too Well.” It also includes lyrics from “Haunted,” regarding “a thin line,” walking on eggshells not to offend a person, or make a misguided attempt to defend that same person.
“I never learned to read your mind/ (you never learned to read my mind)”
This person is claiming she never heard their argument (literally or figuratively, you decide), and that they had no warning of her being absent in their life, when Taylor herself is stating she did. It’s very interesting to see the psychology and relationship dynamics behind Taylor, and the people she writes about. From an outside perspective, it is clear that there are several problems here. Of course, when you’re in it, you’re looking too closely. Communication is not aligned. There is a lack of accountability from the subject, or so it seems. Neither party feels seen or heard to the other. Perhaps this wasn’t meant to be, or maybe, they both gave up too quickly in misunderstandings and reactionary shots being fired. Unsurprisingly, both were at fault but we only get to hear the perspective Taylor’s presents to her audience.
“My Tears Ricochet ” is one that reminds me of Reputation about people throwing stones at glass houses--turning pain into power-- and people acting as though it’s “cool” to throw shade. Cancel culture, unfortunately, has provided leeway for things like this to snowball, being overshadowed as a joke, or a sleight. One thing turns into another until the lines are blurred enough that you no longer know where the problem starts, and the solution ends. What people haven’t seemed to grasp is that a lot of what they’re hating on is projectionary. Something is being triggered from within this person or these people involved and it comes at the cost of Taylor being “the bad guy,” in her story. I’m not choosing any sides, I’m simply stating the fact that we should all have a little more mercy and grace for others because you never know what someone else’s experience is, and most importantly how you affect them.
“Mirrorball” is a great example of how the things that you say and do affect people, even in subtle ways, subconsciously. The things you do and say to yourself even have that impact to change the way you behave. Be kinder to yourself because over time, things go to your subconscious--might as well make sure that what you’re putting in is positive. Taylor lets her innermost self come out on “Seven.” It sounds to me remembering the last
time she felt unabashedly wild, happy, and free. The visualizers for this album had me changing up my tracklist ranking. There were songs I didn’t think I liked as much, like Mirrorball, that I ended up moving higher up on the list. I found myself having a new appreciation for “Exile,” in seeing the conversation played out on the screen. I realized it’s closer to home than I initially gave credit for. I do agree with the sentiment behind “Mad Woman,” I just feel it’s beating a dead horse. That didn’t change much, though anyone who knows me knows I’m enticed by flames, so that was a nice bow to tie it up with. “This Is Me Trying,” is like Exile, where the opening lines cut because they’re rooted in my truth of where I’m at in life, and while a song like “This Is Me Trying,” isn’t a grand gesture, it definitely makes a statement. While the album certainly has some “skips” on it, I award Taylor an 11/10 for a well-written record of pure storytelling.
My current tracklist ranking
the 1 (explicit)
my tears ricochet
exile (feat. Bon Iver)
this is me trying
the last great american dynasty (explicit)
* skips for me
Emma Saletta's Thoughts:
As an early Taylor Swift fan, I didn’t know what to expect from her first alternative album due to her previous crossover from country to pop. Although I had my doubts at first, after listening to this album, I can honestly say that this is some of her most genuine work. folklore is the first Taylor Swift album in which every song reached out and touched me on a personal level. Her tracks made me think of relationships, mentality, school, along with other memorable experiences one goes through in life. I commend Taylor Swift for her new album in this genre, as well as believe that her alternative music is better than her pop music that has been released within the last six years.
Songs to Watch Out For:
cardigan: One of her more popular songs on the album, Swift was able to take a song named of a popular clothing item and turn it into something that everyone can relate to. … “And when I felt like I was an old cardigan, under someone's bed, you put me on and said I was your favorite”. This song itself makes me relate to a friendship, a relationship, and love from my family. It’s a song to make you feel loved by those who are here and gone, which is what everyone looks for these days. Ironically enough, it was recently reported that Swift gave Natalia Bryant, the daughter and sister of the late Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant a cardigan following the release of her album.
exile (feat. Bon Iver): Most news outlets have reported that the collaboration between Taylor Swift and Bon Iver was a surprise, especially with their different musical styles. With an unlikely collaboration, it will either be incredible or disastrous. The good news is that it was nowhere near disastrous. This song was able to combine the personalities of both Taylor Swift and Bon Iver into one song. “I think I've seen this film before, and I didn't like the ending. You're not my homeland anymore, so what am I defending now?” It’s lyrics like these that can make someone think about a certain course of life, which is exactly what an alternative song sets out to do.
Photo Credit to Vulture
this is me trying: Never in a million years did I ever think a song by Taylor Swift would make me cry. As I listened to this song, it made me think about how the actions of one person can affect others around them… “And maybe I don't quite know what to say, but I'm here in your doorway. I just wanted you to know that this is me trying” For those of you who know someone who has gone through personal issues, I recommend listening to this song, as this song is what may help you not give up on them.
Listen to the album here: