Review Summary: Execution more surprising than the release of the album itself
When looking at the cover of Lover
, much of the music resembles what it desires to portray: bright, vibrant pop full of colorful imagery and bubble-gum-pop atmosphere executed in a method that truly declared Taylor Swift’s style. With her eight full length on the line, she attempts to convey the album art through her music once again, but in an entirely polar opposite way: monochromatic, stripped down, yet beautiful simultaneously. folklore
shows a new side to Taylor, one that resorts back to her older style with a revitalized folk, atmospheric-tinge to it, assisted by the musical and compositional presence of members of The National, Bleachers, and Bon Iver. With this new side, she attempts to delve into the realm of ambient, dreamy, folkier style songwriting, crafting yet another evolutionary piece to her career.
Starkly contrasting her previous efforts’ upbeat, energetic pop style, folklore
shows restraint in the instrumentation, opting for a simplistic, almost melancholic, atmosphere accentuated by acoustics and orchestration. Deviating from the synth-laden pop of Lover
, the synths here ebb and flow with swelling atmosphere, creating a lofty soundscape that cohesively connects each track seamlessly together. Drifting over the sounds of dreamy synths lies the minimalist songwriting crafted by Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, combining simplistic, subdued drum grooves, beautifully shaped acoustic melodies, and stunning orchestral/piano harmonies. The celestial atmosphere contained within tracks like “illicit affairs” and “mirrorball” allow for Swift’s astounding vocal performance to fluidly sway over the lucid soundscape. The soaring ambiance purely complements her voice as they push and pull with each other as if connected as one. Opposing this uplifting atmosphere lies the almost melancholic aura of “seven” and “epiphany,” creating this droning sense of synths and overwhelming atmosphere accompanied by beautiful piano compositions and elevated melodies. When not steeped in pure atmosphere, Swift opts for a more authentic, organic sound that resembles much of her earliest work, dipping slightly into the realm of country and folk together in tracks like “invisible string” and “betty.” Such tracks allow for her voice to display her power over the progression, placing emphasis in her voice rather than the nature of the songwriting. However, despite the differences in musical approach, folklore
has one primary theme throughout: folk beauty. With each track, the theme progresses further and further, each contributing to the beauty through the various aspects they have been equipped with. Acoustics, orchestration, piano, dreamy atmosphere, lofty vocals, all of which culminate into this amalgamation of melody and beauty. The contribution of Bon Iver on “exile,” the mastery of Aaron Dessner’s songwriting and composition accompanied by Jack Antonoff, they all elicit this stunning presence of beauty within the folklore
Along with the beauty of the musical composition, Taylor Swift also utilizes a new approach to her songwriting perspective, opting for created narrative rather than personal reflection. With these new created characters, folklore
tackles the story of love in all of its forms, both beautiful and failing, uplifting and ending. The sad realization of failing love in “exile” shows both Taylor Swift and Bon Iver crooning over lost love saying ”You were my town, now I’m in exile; seeing you out.”
The self-aware reflection of desiring love and striving for the very depths of affection prevalent in the desperate appeals of “this is me trying” and the shattering heartbreak of “mirrorball” delve deeper into the true appeal of what love is. The maturation and growth with lines like ”Hell was the journey but it brought me heaven”
and recognition of shortcomings in “peace” elaborately detail the accounts of learning from love itself. With the various narratives of love, the beautiful performance of Taylor Swift captures each moment of hurt, gratitude, joy, failure, and pure love
. Encapsulating herself within each character, she pursues a vulnerable approach of openness and transparency, crafting each story in a personal, relatable manner. Much like the album art insists, her lofty vocal performance and natural lyricism conveys the same atmosphere of the openness of the bleak forest it represents: bare and exposed filled with grand discovery.
With perfect execution as surprising as the release itself, folklore
is a beautiful addition to her already diverse repertoire in her discography. This venture into stripped down atmospheric instrumentation shows Taylor Swift at her best, not only musically, but lyrically with her vulnerable approach and powerful relatability. Despite the polarizing effect folklore
may have on listeners of her previous records, she seems to be the most unified as an artist she has ever been, crafting a truly cohesive, stunning, and massive magnum opus.