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Taylor Swift’s Folklore: an honest review by a Swiftie in lockdown

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Hollie Richardson
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Taylor Swift Folklore review.

Taylor Swift’s new album, Folklore, just dropped. Along with Swifties across the nation, one writer got up at the crack of dawn to listen to all 16 songs while crying into her cereal.

This morning (24 July) felt like Christmas in lockdown for Swifties.

Overnight, Taylor Swift released her eighth studio album, Folkore. Just mere hours before, she had made the surprising announcement that she wrote and recorded the record during quarantine. Finally, a bit of unprecedented news to could get onboard with.

Sure, it has only been a little over a year since Swift released her previous record, Lover. But, as explained in her Instagram post, there is no such thing as the “perfect time” when it comes to releasing music. “My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world,” Swift wrote. 

For an artist who usually spends months teasing new work, this was a bold move. But, let’s be honest, lockdown has unleashed a lot of thoughts and feels we need to address – and Swift is here to do it.

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The critics’ verdict is in: Swift was right to follow her gut, because it’s some of her best work yet. 

The Guardian has given Folklore five stars, saying “this move to more muted songwriting is proof Swift’s music can thrive without the celebrity drama”. The Independent has called it “exquisite, piano-based poetry”. And NME says the album “might just feature Taylor’s best song ever”. 

This is, of course, all very good news. But, away from what the music experts have to say, what do Swifties think of the unexpected, stripped back offering? 

I have listened to at least one Swift song every other day during lockdown. That’s because I used to listen to at least one Swift song every other day before lockdown. Her songs navigated me through the heartaches, hilarity, hairy moments and highs of my 20s – and I still need them to get by. 

But this doesn’t mean I’m incapable of critiquing her work; there are a fair few songs I skip over (don’t @ me fellow Swifties). So, of course I woke up with butterflies in my tummy at 5am this morning ready to give Folklore an honest review after a first listen. That’s just what a Swifty does.

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Taylor Swift’s Folklore album songs

1. The One

Oh. My. God. Look, I don’t wanna be dramatic (“I swear I don’t love drama, it loves me…”) but this might be Swift’s best opening album song ever. There are some subtle zingers in there on the coulda, woulda, shouldas about the one who got away. 

2. Cardigan 

Who knew that likening a familial relationship to a lumpy cardigan could be so… beautiful? This is also the first song Swift has released, with an equally lovely music video (watch it below).

3. The Last Great American Dynasty

Rebekah is “the most shameless woman this town has ever seen” who “had a marvelous time ruining everything” in this imaginative tale and, quite frankly, I want to hang out with her.

4. Exile (featuring Bon Iver)

I have got the piano CHILLS. This also has strong vibes of The Last Time duet with Gary Lightbody, which is no bad thing.

5. My Tears Ricochet

Firstly, it’s a great song title. In fact, it might be better than the actual song. But Swift’s voice is doing a lot of lovely, echoing “ooohs” and “ahhhs”, especially towards the end.

6. Mirror ball

This jangly guitar ditty would definitely have made it onto The OC soundtrack back in the day. Make of that what you will.

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7. Seven

OK, this is the folk music I came for: am I listening to Joni Mitchell right now?

8. August

Ah, the young summer love stories that Swift tells so well. “August sipped away like a bottle of wine, because you were never mine” – SO good.

9. This Is Me Trying

This is sad and beautiful and too much before 7am – I’m actually crying. Need to get a cup of tea.

10. Illicit affairs

Approach with caution, folks. “Don’t call me kid, don’t call me baby, look at this idiotic fool that you made me.” Now I’m sad AND angry.

11. Invisible String

OK, I’ve made my cup of tea and am eating a bowl of cereal while listening to this one. Nice but just an easygoing breather after the gut-wrenching Illicit Affairs, really.

12. Madwoman

Ah, Tay Tay tackling the “blame the crazy woman” trope. Yes!

13. Epiphany

Thought I’d fallen asleep but no it’s just more dreamy vocals.

14. Betty

Guys, we have a harmonica. This feels like old school Swift but… mature, lockdown style. 

15. Peace 

So minimal and yet so wordy. I want to learn every last lyric that Swift has to say about not being able to bring peace to a relationship here.

16. Hoax 

Hmmm, Swift usually ends on an subtle banger but I’m not too convinced with this one. Let’s be honest, though, I’ll probably be singing along to it and crying after a few more listens.

The verdict: Swifties, what can I say? It’s practically perfect. I cannot believe that, while I was binge watching Normal People and baking banana bread, Swift created her best album yet. 

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Images: Beth Garrabrant

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…