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Released: 2020

Label: Taylor Swift

Featuring: Bon Iver

There are few artists who manage to consistently command attention and shape trends quite like Taylor Swift. With her 2020 indie-inspired record “folklore,” she defiantly shredded her former country-pop princess image and steered into a more introspective, alternative territory. Leaning into the storytelling that has always been her strength, ‘folklore’ is a masterclass in emotional excavation and lyrical prowess.

No other pop artist could jump from mainstream pop bangers to alternative indie without batting an eye, but for Taylor, it was a seamless transition. From the heart-wrenching duet with Bon Iver on ‘exile’, to the earnest, vulnerable narrative of ‘cardigan’, to the still waters that run deep in ‘the lakes’ bonus track, each song adds a new nuanced layer to Swift’s narrative prowess. There’s ‘the 1’ which opens the album with a nostalgic could-have-been love story, ‘my tears ricochet’ which explores the palpable anguish of betrayal, and ‘invisible string’ that weaves a narrative of soulful connection. Swift’s ‘folklore’ unleashes an uncensored, lyrically complex exploration of the human sentiment, making this deep-dive into its lyrics an enticing treat.

So let’s get into it. From ‘the 1’ to ‘the lakes – bonus track’, here are the Delving into the Lyrics on ‘folklore’ album by ‘Taylor Swift’

1 the 1

Swift uses her lyrical prowess to deftly weave a narrative of love lost and opportunities missed. The melancholic nostalgia is intense with lyrics like, “I thought I saw you at the bus stop, I didn’t though.” This song digs deep into the narrative of a love story that didn’t quite fulfill its potential, a recurrent theme throughout ‘folklore.’ There’s an artfully observed yearning in the line, “But we were something, don’t you think so?” which hits all the harder for its simplicity. Swift’s ability to capture the complexities of romantic regret shows a deftness with lyrical subtleties that is hard to beat. This track, with its somber tones and contemplative lyrics, sets the stage for the emotional journey that is ‘folklore’.

2 cardigan

The lyrics unfold like remnant memories from a past romance, as Swift vividly reimagines her innocence and encounters with what could be interpreted as the high school love she’s long outgrown. The standout line, “And when I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed, you put me on and said I was your favorite,” is a poignant metaphor that not only underscores Swift’s remarkable lyrical prowess for spinning emotive narratives, but is also a heartbreaking recall to her feelings of being seen, loved and cherished in a relationship that was fated to end. The entire song is a dive into the wistful exploration of a love story remembered, and Swift’s capacity to dredge up the visceral, striking emotion of such experiences is powerfully felt in every line.

3 the last great american dynasty

The rich tapestry of lyrics tells the vivid story of Rebekah Harkness, the previous owner of Swift’s Rhode Island home. The track whisks you off to an oil-heir’s wedding, champagne-filled pool parties, feuds with neighbours, and the rich history of the so-called “Holiday House”. Swift shares an ironic empathy with Harkness, drawing parallels between their vastly different, yet scrutinized existences through the power of storytelling. The standout hard-hitting line, “She had a marvelous time ruining everything”, strikes a chord, echoing the criticism women often face when they push boundaries and dare to live unapologetically.

4 exile

Features: Bon Iver

It’s a gut-wrenching exploration of love lost and the lingering bitterness of a failed relationship. Swift’s lyrical artistry is in full bloom as she laments over a love that’s escaped her grasp and the devastation that follows the death of a deep connection. Accompanied by Iver’s soulful echoes, Swift croons “I think I’ve seen this film before / And I didn’t like the ending / You’re not my homeland anymore / So what am I defending now?” as one of the most potent lines in this mournful ballad. It contrasts the fading nostalgia of a once cherished bond with the agonizing reality of its dissolution. “Exile” is a poignant reminder of Swift’s ability to mix pop and poignant storytelling, pulling us into the heartbreak and leaving us in the post-mortem contemplation of a love that once was.

5 my tears ricochet

From its haunting opening line, “We gather here, we line up, weepin’ in a sunlit room”, Swift paints a vivid picture of a funeral metaphor for a relationship’s end. The lyrical labyrinth of the song carries a spectral quality, imbued with cryptic references to past loves and layered with a shroud of melancholia. Standout lyric, “And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake? Cursing my name, wishing I stayed”, evokes powerful imagery, showcasing Swift’s expertise in capturing the emotional wreckage of a fraught relationship. This song isn’t just a departure from the pop princess diegesis; it’s a testament to Swift’s artistic evolution, fully embracing the poetic, introspective nature that ‘folklore’ encapsulates.

6 mirrorball

The lyric “I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try” is a gut punch, underscoring a naked honesty rarely seen in pop’s glittering halls. It’s a moment of self-awareness that’s as shimmery as a disco ball. Swift juggles the idea of changing herself to fit in while acknowledging the loneliness of the act. The silver-tongued Swift saves her best for the quietly devastating line: “I’m still on that trapeze/I’m still tryin’ everything to keep you looking at me”. In a career built on deeply personal yet universally relatable lyrics, “mirrorball” stands out as a stark, heartfelt confession draped in a beautifully melancholic melody, adding an irresistible depth to ‘folklore’.

7 seven

Swift’s lyrics portray a vivid picture of an idyllic rural childhood in Pennsylvania, with evocative images such as “Feet in the swing over the creek” and “Sweet tea in the summer.” The song’s captivating narrative reaches a deeper level with lines like, “And I’ve been meaning to tell you, I think your house is haunted, Your dad is always mad and that must be why.” Here Swift carefully intertwines nostalgia with the harsh realities of childhood, encapsulating an honest portrait of growing up. Yet despite the bitter undertones, the resilience of the human spirit shines through with Swift promising to pack dolls and a sweater, move to India forever, and ensure their love lasts as long as folk songs. “Seven” is an emotionally charged ode to friendships that shape us, and an affirmation of humanity’s enduring heart.

8 august

She flavors her words with tangible sensory details like “Salt air, and the rust on your door,” vividly painting the picture of a love affair destined to fade. Her lyrics “August sipped away like a bottle of wine, ‘Cause you were never mine” is a knockout punch to the gut of any hopeless romantic. Here, Swift excels at transforming personal experiences into universal emotions. We’ve all experienced that fleeting summer connection that was never meant to be, making “august” a poignant track that perfectly captures the ephemeral nature of some relationships.

9 this is me trying

The lyrics reveal an agonized internal dialogue, unflinchingly honest about the struggles of personal growth. Point of interest? “I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere / Fell behind on my classmates, and I ended up here.” This line serves a double-jab – it encapsulates the pressure of early success and the disillusionment when expectations tumble. An introspective journey, “this is me trying” is a raw exploration of Taylor’s self-awareness journey, her battles, and her ongoing struggle to do better. It’s Swift in the trenches, penning a letter to anyone who’s ever fought their inner demons and yearned for understanding. The lyrics, painful yet powerful, are Swift writing the narrative of her resilience.

10 illicit affairs

Embedded in its narrative is a telling commentary on clandestine relationships that ascend from “beautiful rooms” but ultimately descend to “meetings in parking lots.” Swift’s lyrics weave a poignant story of love lost in discretion, of “stolen stares” and “longing glances,” of lies and truths. Her voice echoes a potent mix of pain and resentment, as she sings, “Don’t call me ‘kid,’ Don’t call me ‘baby,’ Look at this godforsaken mess that you made me,” laying bare the humiliating unraveling of a once-thrilling affair. With “Illicit Affairs,” Swift taps into the universal human experience of fallible love, embodying the profound hurt that can come with it.

11 invisible string

Swift’s magic in this song lies in her introspective narration, rummaging the corridors of her life, painted in hues of ‘green’, ‘teal’, ‘gold’, wavering between serendipity and the struggles of love and self-discovery. Her genius flourishes in partnering life’s intricate details with vivid colors, embedding them into lyrics that map out a journey of growth and redemption. Swift’s narrative in the song acknowledges the invisible forces that guide life’s twists – the unexplainable connections and the heart wrenching regrets. The standout line “Time, mystical time/ Cutting me open, then healing me fine” potently captures the paradox between life’s agonizing wounds and their eventual healing. The song is a reminder that our life and mistakes, bound by an ‘invisible string’, invariably lead us home.

12 mad woman

The queen of country-turned-pop, Taylor Swift, is no stranger to addressing her critics, and boy, does she pack a punch. With lush vocals cloaked in acoustics, she serves up a lyrical feast, channeling feminist rage simmering beneath a cool facade. A standout?’ “And there’s nothing like a mad woman, What a shame she went mad. No one likes a mad woman, You made her like that.” Here, Swift pulls no punches. It’s her savage retort to the pattern of men framing women’s justifiable anger as madness. The lyricism is raw, self-aware, and strikes with the venomous sting of a scorpion. This isn’t just another pop ditty, it’s a damning societal critique. And that’s why, though folklore may be a departure from her previous sound, it’s a homecoming to Swift’s narrative genius.

13 epiphany

Drawing a parallel between war-torn soldiers and front-line medical workers, the song is a hymn of empathy, underscored with melancholic melodies. It’s a heart-wrenching verse – “Something med school did not cover, Someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, Holds your hand through plastic now” – that particularly rings out, addressing the trials of health care workers in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Propelled by Swift’s haunting vocals, “epiphany” resonates on multiple layers, provoking a reflection on the human capacity for resilience in the face of unspeakable horrors. An introspective masterpiece, it solidifies Swift’s stature as an inimitable storyteller in pop music.

14 betty

The lyrics reflect a raw, unfiltered look at puppy love – complete with its heartaches and missteps. Swift, in a narrative shift, speaks through the voice of ‘James’, a 17-year-old who messed up and yearns for a second chance with Betty. One line smacks you right in the feels, “The worst thing that I ever did was what I did to you,” showcasing Swift’s ability to strike right at the heart of universal emotions. This track gives you a pure taste of the cathartic storytelling Swift is celebrated for, taking us on a roller-coaster of regret, redemption and the recklessness of young love.

15 peace

The line “But I’m a fire, and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm / If your cascade ocean wave blues come,” serves as a stark admission of her internal struggle – she is a force of nature, destined to disrupt, but simultaneously determined to provide comfort. Swift is profound and introspective here, her lyrics akin to a poignant love letter packed with vast imagery and raw vulnerability. The coda “Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?” carries a desperation entangled with the acceptance of flaws — a sentiment that is deeply relatable, making ‘peace’ a standout track on ‘Folklore’.

16 hoax

Departing from her signature breakup anthems, Swift dives into the depths of despair and betrayal, painting a mournful picture of love gone wrong. The line “Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in” hits like a tidal wave, underscoring the theme of disillusionment that permeates the song. Swift’s ability to beautifully merge metaphoric images like “My only one / My smoking gun” drives home the dichotomy of love and pain, a perfect paradox. This reflective, poignant track puts a bow on ‘folklore’, perfectly echoing the contemplative and introspective tone of the album.

17 the lakes – bonus track

Manifesting a lyrical love letter to the isolated tranquility of nature, Swift declares her defiance against the cynical, vapid celebrity life, embodying a real leap from her earlier, more radiantly pop-centric songs. Her words – “Is it romantic how all my elegies eulogize me?” – reveal an introspection and self-awareness reflecting her growth as an artist. The Windermere reference, a famous lake in England, links her struggle with fame to the shared solitude of the poets who’ve taken refuge there. Determined to escape from the “hunters with cell phones,” she yearns for serenity and demure isolation, encapsulating the lyrical depth and maturity that ‘Folklore’ embodies.

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