Taylor Swift: Folklore album review

Taylor Swift Folklore cover art

A Taylor Swift album has just come out which means I have to review it, it’s like tradition. I’ve given it a few listens now and here are my thoughts.

When Taylor surprised us all with the news that she was releasing an album, I was thrilled, but I approached it with some caution because the lead single Cardigan didn’t do it for me on my first listen. I was like, “Oh no, I hope the whole album isn’t like this”. And although it is and it’s all very different to what we’ve heard from her lately, it isn’t actually a bad thing. And besides, Cardigan has grown on me more and more with each listen and is now pretty high on my ranking (which I’ll reveal below).

I came to love Taylor from Red onwards so I’m best acquainted with her catchy pop tracks with heavily-produced electronic beats. I do still prefer that side of her, but I actually enjoyed listening to hear tell stories in a more stripped back way, accompanied by a piano, guitar, and minimal instrumentation. I love that her storytelling and lyrical talent is put in the spotlight, front and centre, for all to plainly see, whereas, with the pop, it could be missed if you’re not listening hard enough. Folklore forces you to listen and concentrate on the lyrics.

I love that Taylor refuses to be defined by genre and put into a box. She’s gone from country to pop and now she’s experimenting with alternative/folk/indie. She’s pivoted to each genre easily but I hope Folklore is more of a one-off experimental album that she felt inspired to do by lockdown than a complete change in sonic direction. Basically, I hope she comes back to pop!

Back to Folklore. On my first listen through, I had it on the background and none of the tracks particularly stood out to me – Folklore lacks a killer single – but for the second listen I watched the lyric videos and really focused on them and I started to appreciate them more and more. With Lover, there were a few songs I genuinely didn’t like but I don’t have that with Folklore. My least favourite is Mirrorball, but I’m just indifferent to it. Lover felt like a mixed bag, whereas Folklore feels more cohesive. It has an introverted, reflective, low-key vibe throughout and it is lyrically beautiful in every track, even if some are more my taste than others. They are also some gorgeous melodies and some bridges that turn a good song into a great one.

From my first listen to now (fourth listen), The 1 has been my favourite and Mirrorball has been my least. I knew I loved Seven, Invisible String, and August from the get-go but the order has changed many times. Similarly, I keep reordering Hoax, Peace, and Mad Woman in the middle. Looking back at my past Taylor album reviews, the order always changes over time so I imagine my ranking below will only be accurate for a short while. Here it is:

Taylor Swift Folklore track ranking

To sum up, I like Folklore for its storytelling, impressive lyrics, beautiful melodies and piano accompaniments, and The Witch-inspired album artwork. But will I listen to it as a whole as much as 1989, Reputation, or Lover? I don’t think so.

Let me know if you agree with my verdict. What are your favourite tracks?

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