Written by Kiana Giddings
The country music sensation turned pop, Taylor Swift has yet again made a genre jump with her new album “folklore.” In her newest album, Swift broadens her range to a mellow alternative album. Her breakout from her traditional pop sound was widely acclaimed by fans. “Folklore” was the No. 1 album on the Hot 100 and Billboard Top 200 albums chart, making Taylor Swift the first artist to debut at No. 1 on both charts. All sixteen songs on the album made it to the Billboard Top 100 songs, which broke her own record of fourteen songs from her prior album, “Lover” (Billboard). “Cardigan,” “the 1,” and “exile” (featuring Bon Iver) all were among the top ten songs on the Billboard Top 100 chart.
Her self-made quarantine album, recorded in her home, gives us the peace of mind 2020 has not provided. The album’s songs are soothing, soft, and showcase the airy tones in her voice that leave listeners enchanted. Unlike her past albums, “folklore” does not have the catchy, repetitive pop music sequence that we are used to hearing from her. The use of soft acoustics of guitars, soothing drum beats, and gentle playing of the piano creates “folklore”’s mystic. Even her use of a harmonica brings back the nostalgia of her country days. Swift’s lyrics are poetic and telling. Each song tells a beautiful, eerie, and charismatic story. Songs about break ups, make ups, and love are all told through her organic and cryptic lyrics.
Topping the charts at No. 1, “cardigan” showcases “folklore”’s new sound and poetry of the album. Swift does not capture her audience with her vocal range, but rather her intentional tones throughout the song. She has a simple, beautiful tone and emotional conviction in her voice. She trails her notes with an airy and seemingly continuous trail off that leaves a listener with goosebumps. “Cardigan” is a nostalgic song about an old love that Swift is reminiscing on. She uses cardigan as a metaphor that describes herself, and it is also represents a physical object in her song “betty.” In “cardigan,” 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,” while in “betty” she sings “Standing in your cardigan / Kissin’ in my car again /Stopped at a streetlight.” Swift’s trails of detail are found crossing songs throughout the whole album.
Her song “exile” was the only song with a feature on the album. Choosing to collaborate with Bon Iver on this album worked in perfect harmony with her venturing into alternative music. Bon Iver has been among one of the pioneers of modern alternative music, most well known for his song “Skinny Love.” Swift’s new sound on “folklore” resembles the same type of structure that Bon Iver has used in his music for years. “Exile” starts with a simple piano riff and tells the story of a breakup. The song is structured featuring both sides of the split having Bon Iver and Swift portray both songs. Bon Iver’s deep raspy voice contrasts Taylor’s light airy falsetto singing It is a deeply revealing duet between the two. In the bridge, they both sing interchangeably,
“You didn’t even hear me out (You didn’t even hear me out)
You never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)
All this time
I never learned to read your mind (Never learned to read my mind)
I couldn’t turn things around (You never turned things around)
‘Cause you never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)
So many signs, so many signs
You didn’t even see the signs”
In previous songs, Taylor Swift has always alluded to her past break-ups, but this song is especially powerful having the lyrics write out an actual breakup scene. Having a male duet only strengthens the emotions of the lyrics.
Taylor Swift did not disappoint with “folklore.” Whether her genre exploration is short lived or not, she continues to show her versatility as an artist and exceeds her last album with the next.