Taylor Swift’s new album folklore casts a bittersweet shadow over me

Taylor Swift's new album folklore casts a bittersweet shadow over me

Taylor Swift has bounced from genre to genre within the music industry. 

She started off as a country girl with a guitar in hand, but then she made a switch to strictly pop. Then, in 2017, she had an entire personality change when she came out with “Look What You Made Me Do.” But today, in modern-day 2020, she has reunited with her old self; no, not back to her cowgirl phase, but more to her old identity that she had left her country style.

Her newly released album Folklore consists of seventeen songs all with a similar vibe: sadness, hopelessness, and ignorance. Those three words are what overwhelmed me on my first listen. Plus, the cover photos represent these feelings too; they’re all shot in hues of black and white. I’ve always viewed the colors black and white as wistful and somber. They’re sad, dim, and used quite frequently for a more dramatic and negative effect. Furthermore, I think those feelings were exactly what Swift was aiming for within this album.

“Before this year, I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the ‘perfect’ time, but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed.””

— Taylor Swift

One of the tracks in the album, “exile,” featuring Bon Iver—an American indie-folk band—is no doubt my favorite. This bittersweet duet is surrounding a failed relationship. In the first verse, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon sings about how he felt seeing his ex in a new relationship, and that ex happens to be Swift’s character when she responds in the second verse:

“I can see you starin’ honey, like he’s just your understudy.”

However, the chorus has a different approach; it reveals the heart of the song. It showcases the complicated feelings after a breakup. A breakup that was bound to happen but still left lingering feelings behind. When Swift sings, “I think I’ve seen this film before, and I didn’t like the ending,” she’s expressing that she’s anticipating their future and that she knows deep down this will evolve with more complications than before.

Exiling means that you’re leaving someone or something behind. In this case, Swift’s character is leaving Vernon’s character behind after their past relationship. Therefore, her titling this song “exile” was very appropriate in the sense that she felt it was best for her to leave him behind after seeing the aftermath of their failed love.

On a lighter note, her song “Cardigan” is once again surrounding romance, but it highlights this aspect of life in a significantly happier way. It is set within a teenage setting as she says, “Vintage tee, brand new phone.” Swift is setting the mood to be more modern and regarding a teenage relationship. 

“Cardigan” is about both first love and first heartbreak. The lyrics in the song are extremely raw, especially since it was composed by an adult. It is all sung in past-tense—creating the message that you can always move on from heartbreak and leave the memories in the past, even if they’re depressing.

Releasing a surprise album is very unlike Swift, but I’m not complaining. This album was filled with so many different emotions, but somehow they all linked back to one another. Each song illustrates similar emotions to the one prior. The actual definition of folklore reads that it’s a belief that’s been widely circulated without any supporting evidence. With this knowledge, Swift coming up with this title connects the dots perfectly; this unprecedented time we’re living in is both hard and frightening at times, but our core belief systems are being put to the test in regards to moving forward. 

In an Instagram post the day of Folklore’s release, Swift wrote a message that was extremely eye-opening and something that truly embodied the idea of this album: “Before this year, I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the ‘perfect’ time, but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed.”