folklore is my favorite: an album dissection

I’ve listened to Taylor Swift’s folklore close to two dozen times since its release.

And, yes, despite my big research project not too long ago, my beloved reputation has been ousted by newcomer folklore.

Folk is a very natural fit for Taylor Swift’s vocal stylings – I’m surprised no one thought to explore this pairing sooner.

folklore feels more vulnerable than past albums. It ups the yearning quotient to levels we haven’t seen since “You Belong With Me” and includes plenty of POTENTIALLY QUEER CONTENT. (Yes, I know what Taylor said about “betty.” She is wrong.)

I wanted to talk about each track individually because, even after a month, I can’t stop thinking about them.

the 1

“the 1” is Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm” meets Alabama Shakes’ “Sound and Color.”

The song recalls the similarly titled “The One” by The Chainsmokers, another bitter sort-of breakup song.

My point is I really like the opening track.

It’s a soothing, nostalgic jam that sets the tone for the rest of the album.


“cardigan” is folklore’s biggest single. I’ve heard it called the track with the most Taurus energy.

As a love song with excellent imagery, “cardigan” is easy listening.

I also think it’s kind of bland.

At this point in the album, I zone out.

There are other songs I’d rather hear.

the last great american dynasty

“the last great american dynasty” is fun and summery and a favorite of many.

To me, this song sounds like it belongs on a completely different album.

Though the song has great energy, it feels like a preview for Taylor Swift’s ninth album rather than a fitting inclusion on this one.


In general, I like music that’s fun and bright. When my favorite music gets angry, it does so with bite and a few well-placed one-liners. (Some examples: Lily Allen’s “Fuck You” and Linkin Park’s “No More Sorrow.”)

Therefore, I never understood why people liked Bon Iver. Who cares about shimmery countermelodies when there are dance parties to be had?

I get the appeal now.

“exile” is perfect, a melancholy tragedy detailing the dissolution of a relationship.

It’s the first track to trigger tears every time I listen through folklore.

my tears ricochet

The opening vocals of “my tears ricochet” are so haunting.

I don’t fully understand the scenario described in this song, but I am hit by its devastating effects on the speaker.

This song has some of the album’s best lines, including, “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace,” and, “If I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake?”

The speaker sounds so tired, an emotion that speaks to the many of us struggling during quarantine.

This song will give you chills.


“mirrorball” isn’t my favorite.

It feels VERY ’70s, moreso than any other song on the album.

Disco balls and fringe aren’t my vibe. (Please ignore any Loverrelated posts that provide evidence to the contrary.)

“mirrorball” sounds more like a First Aid Kit single than a Taylor Swift song.

It can join “the last great american dynasty” on Taylor’s ninth album.


“seven” is hard to pin down.

The sound is ethereal, filmy, like a distant memory.

It sounds like “This Love” and “Wildest Dreams” had a child together.

Several people have pointed out this song’s inherent queerness and I think they might be right.

Listen, a lot of us were really upset by the “betty” reveal. Let us have this.


“august” manages to out-summer “the last great american dynasty,” a song about a LITERAL BEACH HOUSE.

This song does for me what “Cruel Summer” never could.

Then again, I just learned this song is part of the teen love triangle trilogy, which makes me like it a little bit less.

I assumed the trilogy was cardigan-illicit affairs-betty, but I GUESS I WAS WRONG.

this is me trying

Musically, this song is pretty simple.

Lyrically, it’s the strongest song on the album.

Even though I don’t completely vibe with this song, I think about it often.

At least, I’m trying.

illicit affairs

One of my FAVORITE song types is the grief song. I love songs that talk about hindsight and how much growing up sucks.

“illicit affairs” combines anger and regret in a weirdly catchy tune.

It’s enough to make me conduct an illicit affair that I could later spin into a thought-provoking novel or coming-of-age film.

I could be the American Carey Mulligan, baby!

invisible string

This song replaced “exile” as my favorite track the very first time I listened to it.

Like “Red,” “invisible string” uses a color motif, though its use of color is much more effective than the 2012 title track.

I’m a sucker for soulmate songs and I love the concept of lovers being tied by invisible strings.

The guitar-picking makes the song sound vaguely Appalachian and you know what? I DIG IT.

I feel like this song somehow improves upon Taylor’s legendary duet with The Civil Wars. I didn’t know that was possible.

mad woman

I’ve listened to reputation dozens of times on loop, so I feel confident saying this:

“mad woman” is the angriest track Taylor has ever written.

This song is BRUTAL. There’s a jarring lyric that sounds like an explicit sex act. Your parents WILL notice and they WILL comment on it.

This song reminds me of reputation in the best way possible. It feels like Taylor funneled all the frustration from that album into this one track.

“mad woman” is dark and twisty and reminds me of Lady Macbeth.

This song has a dress code and the theme is all black.


This song had me tearing up from the OPENING CHORDS.

“epiphany” chronicles some of Taylor’s grandpa’s experiences in World War II, which perhaps explains why it’s SO DEVASTATING.

It reminds me a lot of high church music. I don’t know why the inclusion of the organ is inherently tragic, but it enhances the song’s vibe.

The strings and the background vocals destroy me every time.

This is my favorite song on the album, hands down.


“betty” is vintage Taylor, a mash-up of “Our Song” and “Love Story” with a harmonica thrown in for flavor.

It’s catchy and sweet and full of rumors and saucy images.

The line “Would you tell me to go fuck myself?” tickles me.

I love hearing explicit lyrics in a song a younger Taylor could have written.

DESPITE ALL OUR THEORIES AND HOPES, “betty” is not canonically queer. The song’s narrator is a teenage boy named James trying to win back his dream girl (the titular Betty) after cheating on her with the narrator of “august.”

Anyway, THAT’S WHAT TAYLOR SAYS. You can hold this song in your heart as a queer anthem.


I like “peace,” but I don’t LOVE it the way some of my friends do.

It reminds me of a pared-down “False God” (another song I don’t like that much.)

Emotionally, this song feels very low-key compared to some of the others.

I love the line “robbers to the east, clowns to the west.”

Though “peace” is a beautiful song, it hasn’t made me cry yet.


Unlike “peace”, “hoax” made me cry A LOT…and I’m not even sure why.

I just know that I feel SO SAD when I listen to it.

The lyrics feel very hopeless and that really gets my emotions going.

The speaker sounds stuck. I know the feeling well and I hurt with them.

I don’t think I will ever recover from the line, “Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in.”

Let me say again how much I LOVE THIS ALBUM.

I have since moved on to other albums (more on that in a future post), but I return to folklore at least once a week.

If you haven’t listened to it yet, please give it a chance. It’s worth your time and attention.

I will make you all Swifties yet.

9 thoughts on “folklore is my favorite: an album dissection”

  1. I’m not a huge Taylor Swift fan (please don’t hate me) I definitely appreciate and respect her immense talent and I think it’s ridiculously cool the way she crafts lyrics and hides Easter eggs everywhere but her style just isn’t my preferred musical style. Folklore is really pretty awesome though and, I love this post because it’s an awesome example of how you can love something and still critique it, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh really? I didn’t know that! That could be why, but it’s like you get to the end of the album and every time I find myself with tears rolling down my cheeks!!
        Like it’s a nice song for the end, but I just wish it didn’t make me so sad… but then I just loop back to the beginning!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha, same! If I have it up on Spotify, might as well play it again!

        A friend of mine has a theory that the entire album is about the love triangle? Obviously I have to keep listening!!!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s