Taylor Swift channels her inner storyteller as she tells the listener tales of heartbreak, infidelity, vulnerability, and struggle on her latest album, 'Folklore.' She has explained that these songs are inspired by her imagination and other people's stories, but can be tied to her life too. It's hard to argue that Swift is not a lyrical genius, and she further proves her talent on her latest album "Folklore." This album flows wondrously and cohesively, making it an enjoyable listen for everyone. I decided to try and rank each song from "worst" to best, which was extremely difficult.
In "Peace," Swift gives a warning to her lover about the hardships of being in a relationship with her. In connection to Swift's own life, this song could be seen as her singing to her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, to ask him if he is willing to stay with her throughout all of the drama and fame she experiences. Lyrics like, "But there's robbers to the East, clowns to the West, I'd give you my sunshine, give you my best, but the rain is always gonna come if you're standin' with me," ode to the singer's past feuds with Kanye West and the Kardashians, as well as her feuds with record executives Scott Borchetta at Big Machine Records and Scooter Braun. No matter how hard Swift tries, drama always seems to follow her. Although this song has some beautiful lyrics and a calming melody, it is one of the more boring tracks on the record. It never really picks up or hits a climactic point to grab the listener's attention.
16. "Invisible String"
Cute string instrumental melodies fill the background of this song with a light-hearted innocence as Swift puts us in the story with colorful descriptions of the setting. This song details the coincidence of having small connections to others without being aware of it or seeing it coming. She seems to sing about the ways she and Alwyn were connected before meeting each other, and how those connections eventually tied them together. Swift battles with the concept of time on this track, as she has in many of her other songs, but she seems to make peace with it this time. She sings, "Time, wondrous time, gave me the blues and then purple-pink skies," to describe how she has started to find the beauty in time. This song is very light and contagious, but it lacks excitement and a turning point.
As the first single chosen off of 'Folklore,' this song is filled with imagery and is written from the perspective of someone reminiscing about a relationship with their lover. This song has a catchy melody with piano and percussion used to support the vocals. It makes the listener want to sway back and forth while thinking about their own past romances. One of the most poetic lyrics in the song is, "You drew stars around my scars, but now I'm bleeding," which implicates that the lover once helped this person heal their scars, only to turn around to hurt them. "Cardigan" is also part of the love triangle series that Swift has talked about in interviews; this song takes on the girlfriend's, named Betty, perspective. Similarly to "invisible string," I placed this song lower on the list merely because I think some of the other songs have stronger lyrical content and emotion in them.
14. "The Lakes"
Miss Swift really took out her dictionary when writing this one. Listening to this song feels as though you are being transported back to the days of Shakespeare with the way she poetically describes her hope to someday run away from fame. The singer utilizes words and phrases like, "elegies," "eulogize," "calamitous love," and "insurmountable grief," forcing us all to search for the meaning of her lyrics. Swift aims to convince her lover that the two of them should escape from the glamorous lifestyle of being celebrities to live a more modest life within the countryside of the U.K. She sings, "Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die, I don't belong, and my beloved neither do you," to persuade him of her plan. Despite the fact that this song is rather beautiful and enchanting to listen to, I find that the message sometimes can be lost within the large words she uses. When I hear words like "calamitous" it almost distracts me from the rest of the song because my brain is trying to understand what she is singing.
On this track, Swift remembers a childhood friend who lived in a potentially unhealthy, abusive home. This song has a haunting melody led by piano and guitar while Swift sings softly to her friend. The line "And I've been meaning to tell you, I think your house is haunted. Your dad is always mad and that must be why," references the possible abuse her friend was enduring by her father. She sings it from the perspective of a young child trying to make sense of the way her friend's father acts. The chorus is reminiscent of childhood because of the common phrases like "cross your heart," and "love you to the moon and to Saturn" which are usually things said to young kids. I remember when I first heard this song, it took a while to grow on me because of its unique sound. I feel like this song is a very different style for Swift and it might sound better with someone else singing it, but overall it is a solid track.
12. "The 1"
This album-opening song is written from the perspective of someone reflecting on one or multiple past relationships that she feels could have been great. Throughout the lyrics, she contemplates how her life would have been if she had stayed in her past relationship. The singer-songwriter states, "You know the greatest loves of all time are over now," which is her way of saying that all great romances inevitably die. This song is the perfect way of opening the record with its light piano and guitar melodies and Swift instantly telling the listener, "I'm doing good I'm on some new shit" to dismiss any haters. It sets the tone for the album and has a catchy feeling to it.
When I first heard this song, I thought it was a breakup song. However, after further examining the lyrics, I realized that it details the difficulty of breaking down the emotional walls of the protagonist. Swift sings about the pain she had to face in order to let her lover in and in order to grow more maturely throughout their relationship. She expresses her willingness to step up to the challenge of being more vulnerable with her significant other when she sings, "Don't want no other shade of blue but you. No other sadness in the world would do." I find the depth of this song to be incredibly brilliant and introspective. It almost sounds like a lament to Taylor's past immaturity, which is beautiful and haunting.
In "August," Swift tells the story of the woman who the man, James, cheated on Betty within the love triangle trilogy. She details the tale of their summer romance wistfully wishing that it could have lasted. The song gives off a happy, romantic feeling when in reality it shows the woman painfully looking back at someone she loved and wishing the relationship could have lasted. The woman remembers when she would "cancel plans just in case [he] called," and she states, "you weren't mine to lose," meaning that he was never hers in the first place. The storytelling in this song puts you in the shoes of this woman and makes you feel sad for her. The string instrumentals used in this song takes you to the youthful feeling she once felt with James.
"Exile" featuring the indie folk band Bon Iver, is a melancholy track with beautiful piano and string instrumentals. The song takes on the two perspectives of each person in a past relationship watching each other from afar. Tension builds up between the couple as they miss one another, then remember the toxicity of their relationship. Both sing "I think I've seen this film before and I didn't like the ending," meaning that they know how things could go south if they were to rekindle their romance. Many fans love this song, and so do I, but I placed it lower than some may like because it becomes very repetitive. However, this song is one of my personal favorites.
8. "Illicit Affairs"
Written from the perspective of someone who has ended a secret, forbidden relationship, "Illicit Affairs" shows the heartbreak this woman faces after realizing how wrong and terrible her actions were during the affair. Her anger pours out through lines such as "you wanna scream don't call me 'kid,' don't call me 'baby,' look at this godforsaken mess that you made me." She reflects on the way she acted with regret and realizes the foolishness of the relationship. The use of string instruments throughout the song is gorgeously orchestrated as well as the background vocals of Swift to add to the emotion. The bridge of this song is particularly chilling because you can feel the anger in the way Swift sings the lyrics. This song has one of the best climatic points on the record and has a beautiful melody.
Swift expresses her need to fit in with society and the anxiety she feels to impress those around her in "Mirrorball." Just like a mirrorball reflects all of the light shining around it, Swift sings, "I'll show you every version of yourself tonight." The lyrics on this track form a brilliant metaphor for social anxiety as she writes, "I'm still on that tightrope, I'm still trying everything to get you laughing at me," to demonstrate how she feels like she must put on an act in order for others to like her. However, her lover is the one person who does not need her to perform for him, unlike the "regulars" who are "watch [her] shattered edges glisten." I love the use of the effects on her voice in this song and the electric guitar with the mellow percussion transport the listener to an eighties prom setting. This song would fit perfectly in any John Hughes film.
With reference to the global pandemic the world is facing currently, "Epiphany" sends chills down my spine as Swift eerily sings about trauma caused by war and loss. It uses synthesizers, piano, and string instruments to create this heavy feeling of grief and sorrow within the listener. The reverb and effects placed over her voice make it sound like Swift is singing from some distant place as she watches the world endure mass chaos. She pays tribute to coronavirus pandemic when she sings, "something med school did not cover," and "hold your hand through plastic now," which feels so powerful and somber. The way that she mentions the pandemic is refreshing compared to other artists who directly say the words "pandemic" or "coronavirus." The singer emphasizes trauma with lines like, "just one single glimpse of relief to make some sense of what you've seen," and "some things you just can't speak about," to really showcase the challenges of experiencing something so scarring.
5. "The Last Great American Dynasty"
Have you ever had a neighbor who never failed to get on your nerves? Well, this song tells the story of Rebecca and Bill who had no problem annoying their neighbors. Rebecca is described as "mad," "shameless," and so crazy that she even dyed her neighbor's dog key lime green after an argument. In fact, the lyrics are actually based on a true story. The couple previously lived in the Rhode Island house that Swift currently owns, and this is where the entire story within the song takes place. The singer explains how the house sat empty in peace for fifty years until Swift herself purchased it. Swift herself grew quite the reputation at that house because of her massive fourth of July parties thrown there. Overall, the way she connects her story to Rebecca's story is genius. The song is very catchy and light-hearted.
Tying the love triangle series together, "Betty" comes from the perspective of the cheater himself. Swift writes from James' point of view while trying to apologize to Betty, practically begging her for forgiveness and asking her what she would do if he showed up to her party. He pleads with her by saying, "I don't know anything, but I know I miss you." He goes on to tell Betty that he dreamed of her all summer and that when he looks back, he regrets cheating. Sadly, we never know how the story ends for the couple. This song does an excellent job at storytelling and it reminds me of Swift's old music. The use of the harmonica and country-sounding instruments like banjo makes the song unique and cozy. I love the build-up of James apologizing, to telling her that he showed up at her party. The listener easily becomes invested in their tragic love story.
3. "Mad Woman"
Swift has tackled sexism and double standard before on her album 'Lover' with the song, "The Man," but "Mad Woman" is on a whole other level of spectacular. I love the way that this track does not throw feminist cliches in the listener's face but instead creates a character whose experience we can understand through her eyes. You can feel the burning anger that Swift feels while singing this and it is enough to make the listener feel angry too. Swift has been labeled as crazy and obsessive countless times herself. She has taken on this concept in songs like "Blank Space," "Look What You Made Me Do," and "I Did Something Bad," in a more theatrical way, but on this track, the tone is much more serious. One of the best lines in the song is "and women like hunting witches too, doing your dirtiest work for you. It's obvious that wanting me dead has really brought you two together." This line takes on the idea of women bringing down other women to impress men, and I think it is incredible. Many believe this song is a jab at Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta along with any artists who support them, like Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato. The piano in this tune somehow fuels the anger even more, despite the piano's gentle sound, which just adds to the brilliance of this track.
2. "This Is Me Trying"
Personally, for me, this is one of the most relatable songs on the entire 'Folklore' album. Something about the way Swift opens the song with "I've been having a hard time adjusting, I had the shiniest wheels now they're rusting," just cuts me to the core. Adding this song to the current situation of a pandemic just makes it that much more relatable because we are all trying our best to make it through this rough time in history. This song does not necessarily have a set story to it, but it seems to be about someone attempting to mend fences with someone whom they had a falling out with in the past. The song feels like an open letter to whoever it is about and it tells the tale of her struggles with mental health. Examples of this can be seen in lines like, "They told me all of my cages were mental, so I got wasted like all my potential," along with other lyrics that describe challenges with depression, anger, suicide, and even drinking. The way Swift sings "at least I'm trying," makes me want to give someone a hug and tell them I am proud of them. That is how powerful this song is to me.
1. "My Tears Ricochet"
Swift really cuts deep to the heart on this track. She takes us along the story of a funeral, most likely surrounding her parting from Big Machine Records. It takes on the point of view of a ghost watching her own funeral and seeing someone there who supposedly hated her. She expresses this in the lyric, "And if I'm dead to you why are you at the wake?" Circling back to her feud with her previous record label, Swift aims at Big Machine Records in lines like, "when you can't sleep at night, you'll hear my stolen lullabies," and "you wear the same jewels that I gave you as you bury me," which both laments to Swift's masters from her debut album to "Reputation", which she is no longer in possession of after her departure from the label. I could go on to explain every lyric in the song because of how phenomenal they are, but we would be here all day. Every line in this song is a lyrical masterpiece with hidden double meaning and the singer's background vocals mixed with what sounds like a church organ sound, sounds so haunting. The song really picks up at the bridge when she declares that she can go anywhere she wants, just not home, referencing how Big Machine Records used to be her home. This song is extraordinarily heartbreakingly beautiful and the best song on the album, hands down.
'Folklore' truly is an amazing album and I hope you check it out!
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