By Ashley Farnie
After her hiatus following the release and tour of her sixth studio album, 1989, Taylor Swift’s music career has provided more content than ever.
Singles like “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” featuring Zayn Malik on the soundtrack of Fifty Shades Darker and “Only the Young” written for Swift’s Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, bridged the gap between album releases. In the summer of 2019, Swift released Lover preceded by much anticipation by fans and not-so-subtle hints dropped by the singer leading up to the release.
Swift is known for dropping “Easter eggs,” leading her fans to make assumptions about upcoming singles, albums, or music videos to make her career enjoyable for everyone. Due to social distancing regulations amidst the worldwide pandemic, Swift strayed from her typical, monitored songwriting and engaged in some “illicit affairs,” letting her imagination run wild…
On July 23 Taylor Swift gave fans a 24-hour notice about the upcoming album drop for folklore including 16 new tracks, plus a bonus track on the physical CD and vinyl copies. Swift’s versatility in music genres has been proven with her switch from country to pop and is now further validated with her endeavor into the “alternative” realm.
folklore has many sonic similarities to Swift’s 2012 country-pop album, Red, including tragic, heart-wrenching lyrics and slow ballads. With similar instrumentation and aspects of folk and country, Swift’s unique artistry continues to show through her work despite different genre classifications. The new album also contains lyrical similarities to that of her 2006 self-titled debut album, in which Swift abides by typical country songwriting, crafting a story through lyrics.
When listening to folklore an intricate storyline can be discovered, woven through lyrics and alternating points-of-view; primarily, the love triangle between Rebekah (Betty), James, and an unnamed mistress. This story describes a feud that spans a lifetime
Beginning sometime in grade school as alluded to in “Betty” with the lyrics, “Betty, I won’t make assumptions about why you switched your homeroom, but I think it’s ‘cause of me,” and following through to the death of Betty’s husband in “The Last Great American Dynasty,” Swift lays out the perfect plot for a movie.
The plot for the love triangle follows James as [s]he chooses another woman over Betty and then profusely apologizes, begging for Betty back. Swift includes songs on the album taking different perspectives, giving listeners a panoramic view of the love story. The lyrics flow throughout the entire album connecting into a solid storyline.
“Betty” is James’ song apologizing to Betty, telling her that the relationship with the other girl was simply a summer romance, while “August” is the other woman’s point-of-view regarding her relationship with James.
In James’ apologetic track, [s]he recalls that she (the third person in the love triangle) told them to get in her car, thus beginning their summer romance and their betrayal of Betty. In her response reminiscing on her and James’ temporary relationship, she asks them to “remember when I pulled up and said ‘get in the car’”, connecting the two songs in the storyline.
Tying the album into Swift’s personal life, Rebekah (Betty) Harkness was the owner of her Rhode Island mansion in the 1900s. The track “The Last Great American Dynasty” gives insight into Betty’s adult life and includes actual elements from her life.
Although there are some factual events written about in the album, the naming of other characters after Blake Lively and Ryan Reynold’s daughters, Inez and James, alludes that the love triangle was likely fictional. The character of James being named after a female adds an element of confusion regarding whether the story includes three females or if James is a male.
folklore holds to its title in telling a story, and Swift’s ability to pass down the story through song further proves her capabilities as a songwriter. Swift’s ability to appeal to a wide demographic by alternating musical genres does not hinder her talent, and her intricate lyricism follows through her discography effortlessly.
Featured image via folklore album cover.