During the last few months when the world was in lockdown, people like Ryan Holiday spoke of alive vs dead time. What can you do during these downtimes to make a difference in your life moving forward. Whether it be working out, reading books, going for walks, working on relationships or various other projects. For Taylor Swift, that meant using the time that was meant for touring her Lover album and instead working with longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff as well a new working relationship with The National’s Aaron Dessner.
Swift’s eighth album, folklore appeared virtually out of nowhere on July 24th and was quickly followed by first single “Cardigan”, the first in a three song story about a teenage love triangle. The second in that cycle, “August”, co-written with Antonoff who called it the best thing they have ever done together. Here, it sounds like a track with other Anotonoff favourite Lana Del Rey with an earworm chorus. “Betty” takes on the point of view of a relationship from the male’s point of view as he tries to apologize for being a crap partner on his girlfriend’s doorstep.
On “Exile”, Bon Iver takes on the lead role of male in a song about a love falling apart. The piano takes centre stage with strings in the background, the production on the voices in the chorus is staggering. “The Last Great American Dynasty” sees Swift singing about Rebekah Harkness who previously owned a house that Swift bought and was constantly in the town’s gossip while she lived there. Swift turns the lyric on it’s head in the last chorus – “There goes the loudest woman this town has ever seen/I had a marvelous time ruining everything”.
“Mirrorball” sees Swift sing the type of song that soft indie pop singers would kill for. “You’ll find me on my tallest tiptoes/Spinning in my highest heels, love” “This is Me Trying” is a heartbreaking song where Swift’s voice hits an emotional high point as she pleads “I just wanted you to know that this is me trying/(at least I’m trying)” Her vocal inflections put in a good turn on “Invisible String” while “Mad Woman” tells of the men who drive the lady to madness behind the scenes.
Last year, the “Lover” duet remix with Shawn Mendes was a standout track. A warm and touching song that Swift duplicates here many times over. On folklore, she makes it sound so effortless to hit so many high points on various styles and emotions. Working with great producers certainly helps but she is the spark that lights the fire. This is a wonderful and story driven album that shows what Taylor Swift did during her alive time.