Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ Was the Indie Album We Didn’t Know We Needed

I have been a fan of Taylor Swift since I was a child, as I was born in rural Pennsylvania where everybody listened to country music. I saw the “Red” tour, I wrote lyrics down my arm everyday in seventh grade, and I have a box full of magazines from 2012 under my bed. So you can imagine my shock and enthusiasm when Taylor announced she was dropping an album in less than 24 hours. I cried, honestly, and I have officially dropped more money on merchandise than I am proud of. However, folklore is a beautiful album that manages to redefine Taylor Swift all over again, making her the indie singer I never expected but always needed. Behind all the theory and speculation of the song lies some of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard and probably the inspiration behind my next tattoo. Here’s a track by track review with the thoughts, theories, lyrics, and all the emotions that come behind listening to Swift’s newest album, folklore.

Track one: ‘the 1’

“I persist and resist the temptation to ask you if one thing had been different, would everything be different today? We were something don’t you think so, rosé flowing with your chosen family, and it would’ve been sweet if it could’ve been me. In my defense, I have none for digging up the grave another time.”

First of all, I absolutely love having her swear the first line of the album, completely iconic there. This song feels very personal to me, specifically the lyrics I mentioned above. This song was an instant favorite as soon as Ilistened and really strengthened that feeling of Taylor knowing exactly how I’m feeling and how to put into words. It also felt incredibly familiar in the first listen which is something that only Taylor knows how to do in my case. This was a strong song for the start of the album and I loved it from the first listen!

Track two: ‘cardigan’

“I knew you’d miss me when the thrill expired, and you’d be standing in my front porch light, and I knew you’d come back to me.”

A jam, for one. The whole song HIT HARD, quickly. Second song in, Taylor has defined my whole past relationships. This song really gives me “1989” vibes as it brings the whole on and off again relationship. From what I understand, this is supposed to be Betty’s POV from the love triangle described through “betty” and “august,”. There are mirrors to the cardigan Betty is described to wear in her title track, the sidewalk James walks skates down, and of course, the unnamed woman that we get the perspective of in “august.” Theory aside, this song is a great song to promote the album, and is definitely a completely different defining mark than what she has chosen to base her last albums after. Swift also announced a music video for this track, where she proves more of her talents by also directing the video and styling herself. She made her cardigan a signature mark in the video and promotion, and it is now for sale, proving the mastery of her merchandise campaign as well!

Watch the music video here:

Track three: ‘the last great american dynasty’

“There goes the loudest girl this town has ever seen. I had a marvelous time ruining everything.”

Okay, I love this song. I could get this tattooed on me. As the loud crazy feminist and black sheep of my town, I relate to this vibe. It definitely gives me “The Lucky One” feels, and I love the storytelling they’re giving. I feel like this song defines the folk story feel that folklore is supposed to be. Overall, this song is a bop, I absolutely adore it, and it’s great for reminiscing as I leave my town again.

Track four: ‘exile’

“I think I’ve seen this film before, and I didn’t like the ending.”

Every Swiftie on the internet right now knows how emo this song gets us all. It gives me similar feelings to “The Last Time”, but somehow, it hurts even more. I also think Bon Iver was such a significant addition to this album and really helped define the indie style she has given, especially for this being the only duet track.

Track five: ‘my tears ricochet’

“I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace, because when I fight you use to tell me I was brave. And if I’m dead to you why are you at the wake? Cursing my name, wishing I stayed, look at how my tears ricochet.”

The infamous Track Five that makes us all cry! As someone who is always the more loving one and always is the one fighting for it to work things out in a relationship, this song really hits my heart strings. It is one of those songs that make you realize the way other people have treated you and really digs up some past feelings. This song tells of how you can always try your hardest, be your bravest, and still have the story twisted by the “good guy.”

Track six: ‘mirrorball’

“I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try try try.”

The vibe of this song is very early 2000s to me, and that made the song feel familiar when I first heard it. I’ve read about how people equate it to social anxiety, which I completely understand, as the song speaks of how it feels to constantly be performing and never putting down your guard. This song seems very personal to Taylor, it very honestly describes how she spent her whole life being a performer, and the repercussions of that.

Track seven: ‘seven’

“Please picture me in the trees, I hit my peak at seven. // But I was high in the sky with Pennsylvania under me. Are there still beautiful things?”

This is my favorite song on the album. I spent my childhood on swing sets, singing Taylor swift songs. I picture being seven years old on my grandma’s swing set, the day I fell off and broke my collarbone. Also, I was diagnosed with my anxiety disorder at eight and had a really big loss in the family that broke me, so seven really was the last pure childhood year. This song already means the world to me and is my favorite track off the album. There is also the line about not having to hide in a closet anymore, as well as the sapphic feels of braids and downs, and it hit me pretty closely, as a queer woman.

Track eight: ‘august’

“Back when we were still changing for the better, wanting was enough, for me it was enough, to live for the hope of it all, cancel plans just in case you called and say ‘meet me behind the mall,’ so much for summer love and saying ‘us’ because you weren’t mine to lose.”

This definitely gives the most “Lover” album vibes out of all the songs (which I think it’s interesting how all the albums sorta built up to each other but folklore and Lover are so different). I love how Taylor portrayed the “other girl” side of the Betty love triangle, because typically, the person who is being cheated with is also being played as well. I have been in that situation a few times, and hearing this song brought back a rush of feelings. While being an upbeat song, it manages to crush my heart all over again.

Track nine: ‘this is me trying’

“so I got wasted like all my potential.”

At first I did not have a connection to this song, but then I thought of it in terms of mental illness. As someone with chronic depression and anxiety, I understand the feeling of never being enough. This speaks for those moments when no matter how much I try on my low functioning days, it is not enough. I have already cried in the shower to this song once and I can see that happening many times. It’s a terrible feeling to not feel like enough, but Taylor describes it beautifully.

Track ten: ‘illicit affairs’

“And you wanna scream, ‘don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby. Look at this idiotic fool that you made me.You taught me a secret language I can’t speak with anyone else.’”

If this song would’ve come out in my junior year, I would have been completely ruined. This song truly shows how an affair breaks down and how it harms everyone involved. It speaks of accountability and loneliness and the indescribable shame and pain. I also see a bit of “Cold As You” in this song, specifically in the “And you know damn well, for you I would ruin myself.” Having a call back to her first album like that makes everything feel like one completely linear story. Also, this song I personally see fitting into the love triangle, even if it’s not a certain POV.

Track eleven: ‘invisible string’

“Time, wondrous time, gave me the blues and then purple pinks skies. And it’s cool, baby with me. And isn’t it just so pretty to think, all along there was some invisible string tying you to me.”

This song is kinda the only real love song on the album, and it’s beautiful. The idea of fate is wrapped into this song, and she mentions the blues/golds, tying in Joe’s colors that she mentioned in “Reputation” and “Lover.” Also, the mention of blue, pink, and purple is significant for…other reasons. The rhythm, the story, and the colors make this song an instant love.

Track twelve: ‘mad woman’

“And there’s nothing like a mad woman, what a shame she went mad.”

This song holds POWER. When you’re consistently the “crazy girl” (as Taylor and I have in common) it becomes exhausting and this song speaks for that. I really feel like this is a giant fuck you to the industry, as well as it reminding me of “Blank Space” where she previously discovered her crazy girl label.

Track thirteen: ‘epiphany’

“Only twenty minutes to sleep, but you dream of some epiphany. Just one single glimpse of relief to make some sense of what you’ve seen.”

Once realizing the meaning behind this song, my heart shattered. This is an amazing addition to this album. Like “Soon You’ll Get Better,” it brings a whole different way of sadness that just shows how effective Taylor’s lyrics are. It is also one of those times when Taylor clearly writes about something other than love, which is admittedly significant, but just as beautiful. I cannot listen to this song without chills in my spine.

Track fourteen: ‘betty’

“If I showed up to your party, would you have me, would you want me? Would you tell me to go f*ck myself and leave me to the garden? // I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything but I know I miss you.”

First of all, I’m not gonna get too into the “James is taylor because James Taylor!” theory because I don’t want to over speculate, but I just need to say that hearing Taylor Swift sing about a woman with the word “fuck” being in the chorus is absolutely what I needed for 2020. This is the final piece of the love triangle, and while James seems to be in the wrong from what we are told, I love how she gives everyone’s perspectives. And what a beautiful, beautiful song. Specifically, the key change. The key change reminds me of “Fearless” and brings goosebumps every time. For an album full of sad songs, this song brings the hope of forgiveness, and is one I love to sing loud in the car.

Track fifteen: ‘peace’

“Most people think love’s for show, but I would die for you in secret. The devil’s in the details but you got a friend in me. Is it enough if I can never give you peace?”

This song is probably the one I have the least of a connection to, but the idea still resonates. It reminds me of being in an old toxic relationship, fighting constantly to make things work, but realizing there will never be happiness and peace within it. I have a feeling that when I keep listening to the album more, this song will find it’s spark in me!

Track sixteen: ‘hoax’

“Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in. Don’t want no other shade of blue but you. No other sadness in the room would do.”

I love this song more with every listen. Once again it reminds me of a toxic relationship where it’s impossible to get over them because you just want them, and everything that comes with them… the good and the bad and the ugly.The use of the color blue is also significant for how she refers to her current boyfriend Joe, and I’ll admit I worry a little there, mostly because I really root for them as a couple. This song is a perfect end cap to the album, finishing it with a heartbreaking flourish that makes me repeat the whole thing again.

This album is now at the top of my favorite Taylor albums (which isn’t a surprise because that happens with all her new albums.) I think the story telling in this album is amazing and I love to see the symmetry between past songs, past albums, and past theories. She did an amazing job creating her own folklore and I already hold so much of this close to my heart. I have definitely connected to the first songs of the album more than the last bunch, so I’m excited to see how my opinions and bond with the songs change as I continually listen!