#MusicalMuses: Third Person Narrations and Stories Haunt Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’

Imagine the absolute screeching brakes sound that resounded when the entire world, affected by COVID-19 pandemic and still dang bored in quarantine, when Taylor Swift posted the image announcing her new album was written and recorded entirely in quarantine, and with no warning was released on July 24, 2020.

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Folklore is the eighth studio album by Taylor Swift who recorded the entire album while in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With elements of indie folk, alternative rock, electro-folk, and chamber pop it brings Taylor Swift’s natural storytelling ability to life without the upbeat pop sounds. It is written in entirely in third person narrative flowing from a stream of consciousness.

It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and also helped Swift gain a Guinness World Record for the biggest opening day for an album by a female artist on Spotify.

Song by Song Review

Click here to listen to the entire album while reading this review.

Taking us back to her RED album era, Swift’s Folklore is a book of lyrical poems and stories that will peak your curiosity, inspire you, and educate you. Few songwriters have the power of achieving all three in one album.

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The 1: Driven by a danceable, bouncy arrangement of trickling piano, minimal percussion and electronic accents. Lyrically it centers around the nostalgic remembrance of myths and lost loves. It contemplates a what if scenario with at person being possible.

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Cardigan: With elements of folk and soft rock ballad driven by a stripped down arrangement of a drum sample and moody atmosphere, it discusses the teenage love triangle which follows a love triangle from three people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.

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The Last Great American Dynasty: Features a glitchy alternative production with classical instruments. It tells the story of Rebekah Harkness, who was hated by the town and blamed for the death of her then-husband and heir to Standard Oil. Swift makes parallels to her own career and the harsh criticisms she’s received.

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Exile: A melancholic duet with Bon Iver over dramatic strings. The weepy song begins with a plodding piano, advancing into a climax of chorused vocals, synths, and glorious harmonies. This song describes two ex-lovers seeing each other following a break-up.

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My Tears Ricochet: A Gothic song encompasses twinkling music box instrumentals, backing church choir vocals, reverberated ad-libs in the bridge, and shuddering drums. Sung from the perspective of a deceased lover’s ghost, it is one of my favorites off the album.

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Mirrorball: Folk-tinged jangle-pop and dream pop song with a nervous dance-floor sensibility, swirling vocals, jangly guitars and pedal steel. It depicts Swift as a reflective disco ball: she sees herself as reflecting all the personalities around her, she entertains others, and she shatters like glass when her heart is broken.

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Seven: A nostalgic escapist song sung in her upper register about Taylor’s childhood friends who seemed to have an unhappy life at home.

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August: This track’s musicality is my favorite off the album, driven by acoustic guitar, shimmering vocal reverb and Swift’s perfectly timed key-changes. This gloomy pop rock song and dream pop ballad talks about a summer fling that is ill-fated.

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This is Me Trying: Musically, an orchestral grandeur surrounds Swift’s ghostly vocals drenched in reverb, talking about accountability and regret.

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Illicit Affairs: I kept this track on repeat for an entire day. Over a stripped down arrangement, finger-plucked strings and soft horns narrates infidelity and highlights the measures the disloyal protagonist has to carry out in order to keep the affair between a man and herself a secret.

Her wordplay in this track is absolute fire.

 

Invisible String: Banjo-driven with an airy-folk production consisting of acoustic riff and thumping vocal backbeats. It references an east Asian folk myth about a red thread of fate tying two soulmates together.

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Mad Woman: A song that tackles the taboo associated with female rage making comments referencing her battles with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta over owning her music and rapper Kanye West who defamed her on his song, “Famous.”

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Epiphany: A Coldplay-like song; it’s an ethereal hymn that depicts the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic paying homage to healthcare workers and comparing them to her grandfather, a military veteran who served in World War II. The reverent vocals in the song are supported by “glacial” piano.

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Betty: A folk rock and country song with intertwining harmonica, it concludes the third perspective of the teenage love triangle from the perspective of the cheating boyfriend James.

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Peace: Musically, a pulse juxtaposed with a lush guitar bassline, a calm tune describing Swift’s maturation and changing view of romance.

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Hoax: A despondent note of hopeful sadness compromises this piano ballad that closes out this incredible musical work. Filled with melancholy and darkness, “Hoax” narrates the struggles endured in a toxic relationship.

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