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Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – Folklore by Taylor Swift

Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better: – Folklore by Taylor Swift

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series:
Critiquing Albums Like I Could Make Anything Better

First thing’s first, it is 2021. If you still hate Taylor Swift, you have some severe internalised misogyny to unpack. It’s cool if you don’t particularly love her music. Still, undoubtedly she has completely dominated the mainstream pop industry for the last decade and deserves the respect and revere that 32 Grammy nominations suggest. She’s great at what she does, and she’s had an irreplicable impact on pop culture, even if it’s not your cup of tea musically.

Secondly, I love Taylor Swift. I have since I was maybe 10 years old. I’m almost certain that I’ve heard everything she’s ever put out or leaked. There’s a tiny handful of songs that I *don’t* know word for word. And it pains me to say, but (personal nostalgia put aside), I genuinely think this is her best work. In fact, for the first time in three years, Frank Ocean wasn’t my top artist in my Spotify Wrapped. It was Taylor Swift by miles because I listened to this album over and over.

Folklore is the first album she’s made that worked as a concept album, and she changed her sound up HARD. Taylor is known for her eras – and I adore that – every album is completely different (honestly except ‘Speak Now’, that one blends in very closely with ‘Fearless‘ and wasn’t really doing anything new, but we forgive it because it’s a flawless completely underrated album with no skips). ‘Red‘ is probably my favourite album of hers for nostalgia reasons – and I think, if Folklore has a sister album, it’s Red. So the (very sudden) release of Folklore was one of the few great joys of 2020 for me.

It’s kind, warm and the most ambitious divergence from the pop archetype she’s attempted since ‘1989’. It’s understated and atmospheric in terms of production and possibly her best most natural-sounding vocal work to date. There’s a real sense of maturity, closure, exploration and honesty in every track.

If you’re not familiar with her discography to a certain degree, I’m not sure I can say this post will make sense to you, but I don’t know how to talk about Taylor Swift as an isolated matter when I’ve got a spare brain’s worth of random Taylor Swift information that frames everything else. I’ll include links instead of ranting for 5 years, though.

the 1

She started this album off in a similar tone to how ‘Lover‘ started with ‘I Forgot That You Existed’ – a poppy banger that could be a single (but isn’t), and ultimately ends up being the underrated happy song of the album. Also, before this song, we’d heard Taylor Swift swear ONCE on record. This is a Taylor Swift indie album with an explicit language warning. That is not a sentence I ever expect to write.

cardigan

This song grew on me, and now I know all the words accidentally. When it first came out as the first single, I thought “why?”, I thought it was underwhelming. But the fact is that most of her best lyrical work does not climb the charts, and happily, in this instance, such issues were resolved. The music video looks exactly how I had expected it to.

Taylor Swift – Cardigan
the last great american dynasty

This song is about the lady who used to own Taylor’s house. Rebekah sounds like an absolute legend, but the story behind this song is genuinely so interesting. Highly recommend reading the Genius Lyrics notes for it. There’s a song on Red called ‘The Lucky One’, which shares this general concept. “I had a marvellous time ruining everything” is such a fun sentiment.

exile (Ft. Bon Iver)

A gentle piano ballad breakup duet! It’s simple, effective and calming, but overall I wanted to like this song more than I actually do. It’s great, but I don’t feel as though they reached the full potential of a Taylor Swift + Bon Iver song could have. It grows on me at every listen, though.

my tears ricochet

This song has been the biggest grower on folklore. I thought it was boring for ages and then one day it got stuck in my head and never left. It’s now one of my favourites. I love the orchestral layers of atmosphere she created with the production on this track. The lyrical melodies feel like a slow cold breathe. “I didn’t have it in my self to go with grace” is one of my favourite lyrics on the album. It was the first song she wrote for Folklore. The amount of references to other lyrics from throughout her career that this song (and the album on the whole) holds is insane. It puts the Scooter Braun fiasco to bed emotionally and maturely.

mirrorball

This song has gotten a lot of hype from fans, and in all honesty, I think I’m missing something – I know it feels personal to so many people. But I don’t relate, and I think as a result of that exclusionary feeling, it’s just kind of my least favourite song.

seven

One of my favourite songs on the album. I was sceptical at first, but upon becoming unreasonably attached to the lyrics- I am proud to announce that I am a big big fan. Also, I’m not sure why people equate ‘Betty’ with Gaylor when she literally says ‘we’ll hide in the closet’ in this song.

august

In my opinion, the saddest song on the album, but also the most upbeat with the most 1989-ish production.

this is me trying

I love the vocal echoes in this song and the string instruments. It feels very very dreamy – I’d love to see a Lana Del Ray cover of this song. It’s very similar vibes to “Back to December.”

illicit affairs

The bridge slaps SO hard! It was also one of my initial favourites. I love how full her voice sounds in comparison to most other songs on the album. The topic matter was grabbing from the get-go and had everyone confused about her being in a happy, loving relationship when she writes songs like this completely from imagination.

invisible string

Lyrically this seems like it should have been on Lover, but anything that is so clearly about Joe Alwyn seems like it should be on Lover.

mad woman

This song was basically a calm sounding hangover from “Reputation“, meaning it’s probably about Kanye. It’s a sister song to “The Man“.

epiphany

This song feels like an interlude. There’s no substantial build or fall which is crazy for a Taylor Swift song. I like it though. It’s calm. There are lyrics in there that reference the pandemic. This album I find is very indicative to the time in which it was made and released. This would be a great song for when someone dies in Grey’s Anatomy.

betty

Storyteller Taylor makes me so happy – this song puts such a specific image and scenes in my head, I would not at all be opposed to a cheesy cliche 80’s teenage romance movie with this exact plotline.

peace

I saw a TikTok that said that peace is her most mature song and will surpass ‘All Too Well‘ in retrospective listening. I agree. I don’t think it’s her best song – but it was my immediate favourite – it felt the most personal to me, and I think it’s criminally underrated.

hoax

This song ended Folklore very dramatically and without much closure. Lucky she put out another album two seconds later.

Trank Ranking:

  1. peace
  2. betty
  3. illicit affairs
  4. the 1
  5. the last great american dynasty
  6. my tears ricochet
  7. invisible string
  8. seven
  9. epiphany
  10. cardigan
  11. exile
  12. mad woman
  13. august
  14. hoax
  15. mirrorball
  16. this is me trying

“I wear T-shirts”

Tyneesha Williams

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