Full disclosure; until not long ago, I had never listened to a Taylor Swift album the whole way through. Yes – shock horror – I was one of those people who would listen to “Shake it Off” and nothing else.
Being the awful type of ‘I’m not like other girls’ kind of teenager I was, I listened to Royal Blood, All Time Low and a hefty number of hours were spent on Bastille songs (although they still are, to be honest). Swift was never really on my radar – and if she was, I wouldn’t admit it for fear of being ‘uncool’. Years later and my music has changed a lot, thank god. It’s much better to listen to a bit of everything; like Rosalía’s El Mal Querer and learning all 20,520 words of Hamilton (and regularly annoying my boyfriend by reciting them). But when it came to Taylor Swift and all these love songs? I just never understood the hype, nor did I ever even try to understand it.
Don’t get me wrong; I respected Reputation, and thought it was pretty badass to just flip every expectation of her on its head. But when Lover came out in 2019, the pastel/sweet looking aesthetic just didn’t draw me in to listen (except “You Need to Calm Down” because bloody hell that is an incredible song). And then out of nowhere, Taylor bloody Swift goes and announces an album that looked like it was made for me, and not just because Bon Iver features on a track.
There was no grand opening to Folklore being released. No deleting of Instagrams (Reputation) or big music videos. The cover itself in black and white, the track-list quite subtle, with titles I didn’t feel put off by (see; “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince” from Lover). It was a ‘hey, I made an album I think we all need at the minute, but rather than make you wait I’m just going to release it now’. For once, Swift wasn’t asking for out attention, because she was confident that she already had it. And I fell for this hard. The very first line of this album is “I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit” and if that doesn’t imply change, then I don’t know what does.
It’s the kind of album I wish someone would’ve whacked me over the head with when I was 17 and trying to be perfect for everyone. “A friend to all is a friend to none”, after all. It’s full of stories about being imperfect; hell, if we’re gonna dig deep here, even the severe lack of capitalisation is an imperfection. “illicit affairs” understands the wrongs formed on both side of the relationship. The gluttony of new money and champagne filled swimming pools in “the last great american dynasty”. Seeing every side of yourself, even the ones you don’t like, in “mirrorball”. Falling for the wrong person in “cardigan”. Speaking of…
Like Taylor, I am a big fan of cardigans (although I’m yet to write a song about it). They’re the podcasts of the clothing world – in and out of fashion but never given enough attention. And in a weird way, they encapsulate Folklore as an album. All the songs feel cosy and warm, the kind you’d play on a rainy day with animal crossing and buckets of tea (10/10, I can recommend this experience). They feel like the kind of autumnal weather you’d need a cardigan for, because like the clothing, they’re reliable, dependant, and something you always come back to. If 2010 was the year that Katy Perry asked us if we ever felt like a plastic bag drifting through the wind, wanting to start again – 2020 is the year Taylor Swift recognised those of us who feel more like a forgotten old cardigan; picked up in the colder months and dropped by the summer. Been there, done that, got the cardigan.
2020 is the year Taylor Swift recognised those of us who feel more like a forgotten old cardigan
There’s so many lyrics I could pick out and write essays on (but I won’t bore you with that just yet). “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace” in “my tears ricochet” feels especially important. Under the scrutiny of media outlets looking for sensationalist stories on her love life, Folklore feels like Swift acknowledging that she doesn’t owe anyone anything. She doesn’t need to be the country singer she was before, nor is she defined by the romances everyone seems to continually associate her with. She doesn’t have to go with grace if she doesn’t want to, and neither, dear reader, do you.
So, Taylor Swift fandom – another member has joined your troops. I’ll bring cookies if someone ships that lovely cardigan from the US store for me.
Last modified: 31st July 2020