In the past decade, Taylor Swift’s career as a mainstream pop artist has allowed her to achieve numerous accolades as well as selling millions of records. In fact, barring her 2019 album “Lover,” each of Swift’s albums has sold more than one million copies in their first week.
Swift’s promotional period for her albums has almost become predictable. Often times, she’ll release a lead single with a music video that same week. The next several months are spent meticulously gaining preorders and to gain as much mass appeal as possible.
However, Swift’s new album, “Folklore,” is not just any other Taylor Swift album.
Taylor Swift recorded her new album during quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic and released it with less than 24 hours of promotion. From an artist known for their music videos, merch bundles and concert tours, the subtle and quick promotion is a notable change of pace.
Because of quarantine, many artists can’t afford the budget for flashy production and bubblegum fantasy videos to sell pop records without taking social-distancing measures. However, Swift instead focuses on her strengths as a songwriter and continues to tell stories vividly through quiet indie-folk music.
“Folklore” consists of 16 tracks all written or co-written by Swift. Other collaborators include Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner of The National and Justin Vernon, who is featured on the track “Exile.”
“Exile” is a standout track from the album. Vernon, who is credited as Bon Iver, sings with a low vocal performance dueting with Swift about moving on from a broken relationship. The combination of the two singer’s voices creates a moody atmosphere that is a welcome addition to Swift’s discography.
The lead single “Cardigan” is a slow piano ballad with drums about a lost romance that almost evokes a loss of innocence. Don’t let the melancholic feel of several of these songs lead you astray. Swift still makes a few songs of these just as catchy as her pop hits.
Swift’s delivery in “August” where she sings “But I can see us lost in the memory/August slipped away into a moment in time/‘Cause it was never mine.” becomes almost instantly memorable.
“Invisible String” is an acoustic track that discusses two people in love possibly tied to an invisible string due to how fortunate their companionship is. The verses tell the story, while the chorus illustrates the literary allusion.
The songwriting on this album showcases Swift growing into her own. She showcases more third-person narratives that all have their own mini-universe.
Taylor Swift is at her absolute best when she puts her soul into lyrics. “Folklore” isn’t a statement against the media’s portrayal or her, nor is it a return to the top of pop music. It is a triumphant work of art that will be looked at later as a career-defining album in Swift’s career trajectory.