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The Reckoning of Conventionality: Taylor Swift's Folklore

Taylor Swift. A rare pop phenomena. Transitioning from country roots to mainstream music, this star has transcended genres. In the present-day, she stands as a standard of multiple genres, messily crafting and reckoning with her own conventionality. Reflecting back on her distinctive palettes of the bright and bubbly 2019’s Lover to the heavily electronic production of 2017’s Reputation, Swift’s career has been a storied, decade-long narrative. One that delicately traces the trials and tribulations of romance and professional life. 2020’s Folklore introduced a new chapter to Swift’s narrative. A confessional masterpiece, it focuses on the fallout from the high of summer, a star reflecting back on the journey she’s traversed. As mentioned on one Instagram post, Folklore is spun from Swift’s imagination, an amalgamation of stories to be passed down just like folk tales.

Winding back to the summer of 2020, the schedule of festivals, ‘lover-fest’, and an international tour fell into the common tribulation of a global pandemic. With these plans scrapped, Swift was left with bountiful spare time. No longer restricted to rehearsals or performing around the globe, the results of an unforeseen isolation led to Swift’s endless hours of writing Folklore. The surprise release became a stark and uncharacteristic change to her usual deliberate and calculated release schedules. These tactics compliment the changed musical direction for Swift, a glimpse into this new world of folktales.

Over the course of seven albums, the world has seen Swift evolve from a young fresh-faced country girl to a sleek shiny pop star. Now in her eighth iteration… I wanted to dive head-first into the world of folk, alternative rock and indie music. For this challenge (and it wasn’t hard), I spent time revisiting my top five favourite songs in Folklore.

1. the 1

“In my defence, I have none For never leaving well enough alone But it would’ve been fun If you would’ve been the one”

A wistful beginning to Folklore, “the 1” brings us to a palace of yearning. The pivotal relationship in the ‘roaring twenties’ that could have been the one. Reminiscing through an older and mature lens, the song’s powerful yet delicate one-liners evoke moments of longing and regret. “the 1” brings back that painful ping of nostalgia, the age-old question ‘what would have been’ if that relationship worked out.

02 cardigan

“And when I felt like I was an old cardigan Under someone’s bed You put me on and said I was your favourite”

Breathy and forlorn over the soft drumbeats and delicate piano keys, “cardigan” brings a magical, glittery quality to the album. A guide through enchanted forests, a lifeline in the turbulent ocean. It is low and thoughtful, a nod to how music has always been there, no matter what life threw at her.

06 mirrorball

“Hush, when no one is around, my dear You’ll find me on my tallest tiptoes Spinning in my highest heels, love Shining just for you”

A dazzling haze, “mirrorball” is a shimmering tune of intimacy between Swift and her audience. This sparkling tune of vulnerability is Taylor’s true reckoning of conventionality, a confessional piece. Turning her suffering into art, she cries for the ordinary urge to be loved.

08 august

“But I can see us lost in the memory August slipped away into a moment in time ‘Cause it was never mine And I can see us twisted in bedsheets August slipped away like a bottle of wine”

It’s the delicate details that truly capture the essence of Swift in this album. “august” as the eighth track of the record is such a neat detail. The ephemeral quality of a summer fling, it starts off full of promise that it could be something but disintegrates before you know it.

09 this is me trying

“They told me all of my cages were mental So I got wasted like all my potential And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad I have a lot of regrets about that”

This song has the sharpest and most absorbing premise on the entire record. Its emotional core is palpable, realistically complex, and truly moving. It is a dreamy and remorsal track, coping with failures, where Swift seeks forgiveness, reiterating that she is really trying.

What makes Folklore such a shimmering gem in Swift’s discography is the vivid and confessional storytelling. The sincere words that string together like poetry revealing her yearn for self-reflection, growth and adaptation. The level of maturity and growth presented in Folklore compliments its longevity and timelessness. This reckoning of conventionally is what truly captivates Swift as the authentic artist of the decade.

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