Taylor Swift
Folklore


3.2
good

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
July 25th, 2020 | 1204 replies


Release Date: 2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Taylor Swift once again changes her skin, only this time it's drained of color and spirit.

As monochromatic as its eight versions of album art, Taylor Swift’s folklore is yet another of the singer’s dalliances with a sound that will go unrefined and unexplored when she decides to start her next era. Her best work remains Speak Now because it was a synthesis of the preceding albums. Since then, she has mostly released mishmash records that lack identity. With folklore, Swift goes too far in remedying that problem by packing the album with 16 songs that are almost all made up of the same musical and songwriting elements. Aaron Dessner’s piano is the album’s anchor, but by the fifth or sixth song bolstered by similarly resonant piano chords played at the same tempo, the listener is faced with the realization that the album isn’t even half finished.

Once the novelty of listening to a surprise Taylor Swift album wears off, the cracks start to show. The storytelling of “the last great american dynasty” is klutzy, full of lyrics that don’t quite fit the song’s rhythm, and the shift in perspective at the end doesn’t work. The focus on an acoustic guitar instead of Dessner’s piano in “illicit affairs” (courtesy of Jack Antonoff) is encouraging, but on an album rife with songs that drone interminably on, it ends suddenly after a scant three minutes. “invisible string” shows, yet again, her tired obsession with using colors as lyrical crutches, and some of the lines border on nonsense (“Cold was the steel of my axe to grind for the boys who broke my heart”). Speaking of, “I want you to know I’m a mirrorball” may be the worst lyric of her career.

There is promise here, but it will inevitably go unrealized when she decides to abandon this foundation next time around. “the 1”, advantaged by its place in the tracklist and Swift’s “I’m on some new shit” confidence, sets the tone but loses a little luster once its songwriting elements pop up in almost every other song, including “cardigan”, the song that immediately follows. The presence of Justin Vernon on “exile”, the record’s best song, is a considerable step up from Gary Lightbody or Ed Sheeran, two of her previous duet partners. His baritone in the verses is a little nondescript, but when the signature Bon Iver belting comes in halfway through, the wait is justified. “peace”, with its sliding, repetitive guitar backing, also has Vernon’s influence all over it, though he is only credited for the pulse that backgrounds the track.

As with Lover, folklore wears out its welcome by containing too many tracks. A tighter song list would have done a world of good, but the album’s lack of rollout should not belie Swift’s slavish devotion to moneymaking practices (as if the aforementioned eight album covers didn’t already reveal it). Once again, listeners must dig through a veritable mountain of songs to find the gold nuggets that are always present on her albums. But they are becoming fewer and farther between.



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user ratings (696)
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Tyler White STAFF (5)
Execution more surprising than the release of the album itself...

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Taylor Swift is definitely trying....

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Comments:Add a Comment 
gordodustin
July 25th 2020


526 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Interesting take, and a good review! I agree, that at first the surprise of a different sound drew me in, but the album needs to be about 5-6 tracks shorter. It's a breath of fresh air, but I don't think it's a sound that will draw most of her fans in.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
July 25th 2020


70246 Comments


to what extent/capacity does Taylor Swift actually "songwrite" out of curiosity?

pop stars are all over the place in that regard and for me there is a difference in how i perceive pop stars who get the songwriting credit for actually contributing to writing the music and the ones who get the songwriting credit for just singing - sometimes not even their own lyrics - on a song other people wrote for them. it's always interesting to me to know those details..

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
July 25th 2020


60851 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Chan this review cured my hangover and I love it, thank you

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
July 25th 2020


26301 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

https://imgur.com/a/Yf2XtGB

dmathias52
Staff Reviewer
July 25th 2020


1799 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I want to love this a lot more than I do, but it loses so much steam for me around track 12. Hard to stay focused on it.

That track with Bon Iver though. Hot damn.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
July 25th 2020


70246 Comments


honestly faded into the background after like 1 song for me but it was fine to have there, i didn't feel super embarrassed at any point or anything like i would have if i was just casually jamming the last one

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 25th 2020


2407 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

My understanding is that she basically has music and lyrics written for all the songs, then her collaborators step in and flesh them out. However, Speak Now is the only album where she wrote every song herself in their entirety

Slex
July 25th 2020


16645 Comments


This album is too damn long
Honestly feel like my rating could go up or down idk

Lord(e)Po)))ts
July 25th 2020


70246 Comments


My understanding is that she basically has music and lyrics written for all the songs, then her collaborators step in and flesh them out. However, Speak Now is the only album where she wrote every song herself in their entirety


thanks. anything beyond guitar instrumentally?

Lucman
July 25th 2020


5537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Nice review Chan. It is pretty long and the quality begins to somewhat decrease in the back half. This is way more consistent than Lover, though, and has higher highs too. Speak Now and 1989 will always be her best work but I think I'd put this above Reputation and Red. Too early to tell.

Sowing
Moderator
July 25th 2020


43990 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nah this is one of her best.

Very well articulated review though, and it's hard to refute the arguments made (especially in terms of how they relate to your opinion, which is well-founded).

For me this is like an album full of "Cornelia Street"s. I love the focus shift away from "the haterz" and back to personal relationships, and I actually think the lyrics shine here. The atmosphere is pretty tight throughout and songs like Mirrorball sparkle in a way I haven't heard since she released Enchanted.

Lucman
July 25th 2020


5537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Spot on, Sow. "Mirrorball" and "Cardigan" are truly some of the best songs she's ever written. "Betty" is also a much better country throwback than "You'll Get Better Soon" was.

proscett
July 25th 2020


101 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

anyways this is pretty good

mrdogthrow
July 25th 2020


2116 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

very nice

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 25th 2020


2407 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@silentpotato She plays piano, too.

brainmelter
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2020


8347 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

nice write up

McTime50
July 25th 2020


1021 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

actually her best ever

Sinternet
Contributing Reviewer
July 25th 2020


26604 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

i know this is gonna be one of those albums that just grows, she's always struggled for consistency but i think she's finally broken that curse, can't think of a weak track

tectactoe
July 25th 2020


7431 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

August, Invisible String, and Betty are the standout tracks for me; nothing even close to the magic of Cornelia Street or Death By a Thousand Cuts, though.

mvdu
July 25th 2020


992 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I disagree and would like to also see this represented by a review that is of a higher rating. Writing is fine, though. I think there is enough of her pop backbeat that it never gets boring. She has made great pop albums IMO and now has shown she can do just as well in other genres.



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