Taylor Swift ‘Folklore’ album review

Raffy Martis

Taylor Swift released her album Folklore in July of 2020, during the midst of quarantine when the world was deprived of new music. While many artists were taking breaks from music due to Covid, Taylor took this as an opportunity to create a whole new album. The album stands by its name Folklore and is told like one big folktale. 

This is one of Taylor’s stronger albums that she made. I admire the thought that was put into her lyrics and the way she sang those lyrics. Taylor sang each lyric with so much passion in this album. She expressed the emotions of each song in the album adequately. The instruments she used with each song increased the impact of the message she was trying to express. Swift’s use of the acoustic guitar and piano added to the folktale feeling you receive when listening to the album. The album defines the feeling of the end of summer when it slowly turns into fall. Taylor executed the folklore concept elegantly, which made the album feel like you’re listening to one big folk story. You can tell that each song on this album had a lot of thought put into it. 

 The main folktale in the album is a teenage love triangle. The songs about this love triangle are told from each character’s perspective. The three main characters are James, the boy in the middle of this love triangle, Augustine, the girl that was James’ love affair over the summer, and Betty, James’ first love who he wants back. Some songs are stories in themselves that aren’t a part of the love triangle. Taylor Swift was able to express each character in the album’s emotion in a way where you can feel remorse for each character.  

The song August is sung from Augustine’s perspective. The song represents Augustine’s feelings during the summer knowing that James’ love was temporary. Austine knew that James’ heart belonged to Betty, Taylor shows this when she sings, “But I can see us lost in the memory/ August slipped away into a moment in time/ ‘Cause it was never mine/ And I can see us twisted in bedsheets/ August slipped away like a bottle of wine/ ‘Cause you were never mine not truly love her and the love was only temporary.”  Augustine depended on James’ love for hope, and she’d go out of her way just for the love that she felt for James. Taylor makes this clear at the end of the song when she sings, “Remember when I pulled up and said, “Get in the car”/ And then canceled my plans just in case you’d call?/ Back when I was livin’ for the hope of it all (for the hope of it all)/ For the hope of it all/ For the hope of it all/ (For the hope of it all)/ (For the hope of it all)”

James expresses his feelings through the song, Betty. The song is about an exchange between James and Betty, about the regret that he feels for his love affair during the summer, and the way it’s affecting Betty when she found out. Taylor says this in the first lyric, “Betty, I won’t make assumptions/ About why you switched your homeroom but/ I think it’s ’cause of me.” James, later on, tells Betty that he regrets what he’s done and tells her that the love affair between him and Augustine means nothing and there was no true love built in that relationship. These feelings are depicted at the end of the chorus when Taylor sings, “If I told you it was just a summer thing?/ I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything/ But I know I miss you.”  This lyric pleads for Betty’s forgiveness. James is explaining that he can’t decipher his feelings or why he had a thing with Augustine, but he is certain that he loved Betty. At the end of the song, James concludes his feelings and thoughts for Betty by saying “But I know I miss you/ Standing in your cardigan/ Kissin’ in my car again/ Stopped at a streetlight/ You know I miss you”

Betty’s song is Cardigan, the song describes the loss of someone who had made you feel the hope of love. Betty communicates how she was always put into a corner and never a part of a conversation, but the love of a lover made her feel safe and comfortable like a cardigan. Taylor shows this in the chorus where she sings, “And when I felt like I was an old cardigan/ Under someone’s bed/ You put me on and said I was your favorite”  She expresses the grief that she feels after someone gives her the time of day and makes her feel special. Betty’s song also conveys that James should’ve known that he was going to lose her after the chorus. “A friend to all is a friend to none/ Chase two girls, lose the one/ When you are young they assume you know nothing.”  Betty shows that she feels like she is missing and that they didn’t have to do anything big to make her feel seen. During their relationship, Betty expressed how she’d been hurt before and how James turned the ugly into something too beautiful and not something to be scared of then he went and re-opened the wounds that were never fully healed. Taylor uses this in the bridge where she sings “To kiss in cars and downtown bars/ Was all we needed/ You drew stars around my scars/ But now I’m bleedin’”  The rest of the bridge is Betty realizing even though James hurt her he would always be a part of her, but now as a sour memory.  

Overall, Folklore was a well-received album. In the first seven days of folklore being released folklore gained 337.4 million streams. Swift also became the first artist in history to debut a song and album at #1 simultaneously. Many fans loved the genre change from Taylor Swift’s old pop music to her new folk sound in the album. Rob Sheffield mentions in a Rolling Stones article, “Folklore feels like the debut album of a whole new Swift”.  With a profuse amount of fans expressing their love for this album, it wasn’t long until it won album of the year in 2021 for folklore at the Grammys.  Folklore was the biggest-selling album of 2020 and sold over 615,00 copies.  It’s not an understatement to say that Taylor worked really hard on this album.